Forging A New Both/And Approach To Our Lives

mark-thompsonBy Joe Perez

Mark Thompson in the “Introduction” to Gay Spirit (1986):

“In creating new myths for themselves, gay people need to return to the questions asked by the founding members of the Mattachine Society nearly forty years ago: Who are we? Where have we come from? What are we here for?

The self-definition sought by members of America’s first gay political organization is also to be found in the writings of such gay visionaries as Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, Gerald Heard and others who are included here. In an attempt to answer these questions, gay studies today have been polarized, stymied by the absolutes implied in the nature versus nurture discourse currently employed. To simplify: An essentialist view holds that gay people have existed throughout recorded human history, an errant offspring of nature; a constructivist view says that our notion of gay people has been formulated by the values of contemporary society and that it would be impossible to draw an analogy between homosexuality as practiced in ancient Greece and, for an example, as it is define today in America’s excessive gay subculture. Both concepts are largely irreconcilable, one trying to link feelings and behavior across vast stretches of time and variant cultures, the other destructuring modern perceptions of homosexuality as medical and psychological conceits.

The quest for a gay identity cannot be contained within a dialogue of opposites, a rational either/or approach. Perhaps answers lie somewhere in between, waiting to be forged from a synthesis of biological and social factors — that is, a situation of both/and….”

Thompson’s words, written incredibly more than 25 years ago — have been prophetic. His vision of an understanding of gay identity which is a synthesis of the best insights from biological, psychological, cultural, and sociological studies is definitely in keeping with an Integral approach to gay spirituality. He recognized before virtually any other writer that I know of the importance of bringing together seemingly irreconcilable views into a greater synthesis, and he saw that the great frontier of gay liberation is not oppression studies nor narcissistic self-expression but spiritual exploration and development. In his words, the great subject of our interest is “that most personal possession of all, our dreams… a world of our making.”

Again and again, in both Gay Spirit and Gay Soul, Mark says or implies that he is only presenting questions rather than answers. But I think many readers are smart enough to read between the lines. There are answers implicit in the questions he raises, perhaps the greatest answer being that life lived with “Gay-centered eros” can illumine existence with a noble quality which is its own reward. While I have many differences with Thompson as readers of Gay Spirituality will notice, I can nevertheless appreciate the virtues of leaving questions unanswered.

Among my differences with Mark and many other writers is my aversion to the notion that gay people need to create new myths for themselves. I have read some attempts by individuals to create myths for themselves and others and not only were they not vehicles for the transformation of culture, but I don’t think they made much of a difference for the author either. There is a problem with myth itself. Myth has culminated in such vehicles as X-Men and nearly run out of steam as a vehicle for transforming culture. Gay people need to Create — And what We Create will be beyond myth if it is creation from our Souls.

Out of our collective Co-Creations at the Foyer of the Third Millennium ought to come a re-birth of the Gay Movement. A movement founded on both philosophical and political goals has often lost sight of its philosophical impetus to change the way our culture views love. But we must never forget that gay liberation is human liberation and when our political goals are won we must continue the work of changing hearts and minds to create a renewed culture. We do this not only for future generations, but also for ourselves to continue giving out of our spiritual realization until we have nothing left.

There is a force at war with our Creativity and it wears a familiar face. It is the face of our complacency and self-satisfaction and at times also the face of our self-absorption and laziness. Nietzsche often wrote about the prevalence of a herd mentality as a great challenge to greatness. Ever the human spirit struggles to find its place, whether it be the fear to leave a herd or the fear to join a new herd. The gay movement is in a way a community of Nietzscheans, men and women who have lifted themselves above the prevalent heterosexual structures of society and are weary of joining any new group. We must overcome our resistance to being included if we are to rise up to Our Higher Natures in the challenges before us. We must be Both/And in our creativity, for ourselves and for the community.

About Joe Perez

Chief Blogger, Gay Spirituality. Joe Perez is a Seattle-based author, blogger, poet, language creator, and Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Integral Wisdom. His spiritual memoir Soulfully Gay is published by Integral Books/Shambhala. He is an Honors graduate of Harvard University and has earned a Certificate in Integral Leadership from Pacific Integral. [Full Bio].