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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Who Are The Radical Faeries?

rad-faRev. Malcolm Boyd writes a review of Mark Thompson’s book The Fire In Moonlight:

“When developing gay life in America starts to surface in books about the era, gay spirituality will emerge as one of the more fascinating subjects. A significant new book that deals with the subject has just appeared. It is “The Fire In Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries,” edited by Mark Thompson, assisted by Richard Nealy and Bo Young and published by White Crane Books. The book has been nominated as one of 74 LGBT Books for Adult Readers by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.

Described as “the gay community’s last authentic global grassroots movement,” the Radical Faeries had their inception on a remote site of the American Southwest in 1979. The book honors two men who played a key pioneering role, Harry Hay and Don Kilhefner. That historic “First Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries” gave Hay an opportunity to pronounce: “I am saying to everybody who will hear that now we must begin to maximize the differences between us.” In other words, Hay was talking clearly about “shedding the ugly green frog-skin of hetero imitation.”

Will Roscoe, author of “The Zuni Man-Woman,” which received the Margaret Mead Award of the American Anthropological Association, has written a brilliant Introduction to the new book. “Same-sex love is distinguished from heterosexual love by the sameness and equality of those it united,” he says. Roscoe cites Walt Whitman as a gay teacher of primary significance. He finds that Harry Hay took Whitman’s insights one step further, “giving a name to the distinct mode of awareness this love of sames and equals fosters–subject-SUBJECT consciousness.””

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