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.”

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