Monday 7 March 2022

Beyond queer theory to the experience of living

Exploring our humanity and expression

Reading of the death of Professor Leo Bersani which occurred a few weeks ago at the age of 90, got me thinking of an area of study defined as queer theory that I have not before explored, yet on perusal suggests many of us of a homosexual persuasion might have lived. To codify the lives of homosexuals and sexuality in academic terms definitely makes for an essential area of research. [Advocate: Leo Bersani, Author on Gay Identity, Dies at Age 90]

Only recently, I was reading up on Anti-LGBT rhetoric which to many extents has been to those of the LGBT persuasion lived rather than rhetorical, in discrimination, in ostracism, in queer bashing, sometimes resulting in death, in legislation that delegitimises and dehumanises our person in the pursuit of some nebulous family or culturally based ideal that seeks to set us apart for repudiation and castigation.

The corruption of conformity

Obviously, at once in our suffering and then in our understanding, we are caught in a situation where our difference from heteronormative structures set us up in conflict with family and relations, in community and society as we seek to have a human voice to exist in a humanity is more diverse than the conformity that is expected of us.

For instance, sex to me has always been utilitarian for the simple reason that my first experience of it was from the age of 7, the innocence I lost has had consequences and it would not have mattered whether I grew up for be heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual, once that childhood naivety was given the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, my eyes, as much as anyone else exposed to child sexual abuse were opened.

What at first seemed coercive became immersive and the pleasure it provided was natural and untainted by philosophy, religion, or morality. Sadly, the criminality of such was rarely prosecuted, rather, it was hushed up in shame and embarrassment with the hope that the child would outgrow the memory of it. They never do.

Understanding how different we are

Then within the conflicts of appreciating, understanding, and accepting one’s sexuality against the requirements to present as ‘normal’, in that one should subsume sexuality for the heteronormative and fulfil all the necessities of such.

This morning, on my walking exercise, I thought about the many males from adolescence with whom sexual relations have been explored who now deploy their heterosexuality in marriage, procreation, and the profession of faith and creed that supports that existence in their collective amnesia of the past. Grandfathers they are today even as some preach the gospel in various forms.

Yet, as Leo Barsani wrote in his 1987 essay, titled, Is the Rectum a Grave? he lambasted as quoted in the Advocate article referenced above, “the tendency among some gay activists to respond to AIDS by downplaying their sexuality and emphasizing the need to replicate bourgeois heterosexuality.” The point, we are not heterosexual, we have never been, we have to define ourselves as who we are, not in the context of others who have no idea of our lives. [Amazon: Is the Rectum a Grave?: and Other Essays] Ordered today.

Having sex without angst

In that is the tendency to rail against the apparent promiscuity of homosexuals, but fundamentally, once we begin to understand that homosexuals are not governed by heterosexual constructs and norms, we can also deconstruct the viewpoint of seeing homosexuals only through the lens of sex, lifestyle, and inclination, for we are just as valid an expression of our humanity that has existed from the beginning of humankind.

What seems to dog the homosexual is the tendency to want to ape the heteronormative, and so we read personals that include straight-acting, moralising the concept of monogamy, even though polygamy has defined many human relationship until it was morally and legally constrained by recent Judeo-Christian hegemonies seeking to decide the use and utility of sex, whilst removing from public knowledge the pleasure and enjoyment of sex.

We are schooled to think sex as nothing to derive any stimulation or pleasure from except for the sake of procreation, yet, in our private places, we all know that sex is considerably more pleasurable than we are told it is not.

A remembrance and celebration of lives

Amongst us homosexuals, the enjoyment of sex cut a swathe of death in our population with AIDS for almost 20 years when we lost men in their prime at never nearly 40 into the mid-1990s and the AIDS Memorial Instagram page speaks of lives of men who we have refused to forget, for What Is Remembered Lives. We stopped enjoying sex, seized by fear and loathing, exacerbated by bad faith actors depicting a human disaster as divine wrath. Yet, it is human progress and advancements in medicine has contained this epidemic.

I lost a partner and many friends, I mourn some still, though for the society I lived in, I mourned alone, because until 1995 we had no effective long-term treatment and therapies for HIV. I also was touched by the scourge of AIDS, I survived, and I am grateful for the gift of life.

My AIDS encounter has however not diminished my appetite for sex, for it is essentially part of human nature and it is only those in denial that would suggest we do not have that need. Our world presents us with exploration along with some caution and care, but to become puritanical about sex is to censure human expression.

We were never the same in outlook

When for the heterosexual, it might define uniquely lifelong bonds, it would for the homosexual be once of tryst to which you do not need to attach any emotion. It is very possible to separate the act which is practically animal expression from the higher human state of intelligence. That ability to compartmentalise the functions of the physical, the body, the mind, and the heart, devoting the right attention to the fleeting from the significant is something that probably takes the mimicry of the heterosexuality out of homosexuality.

It does not mean we do not understand commitment, it is just not predicated on sex, either through objectification or deification, its utilitarian function is just that, and where intimacy between partners is involved, there is a totally different dynamic at play than when there are liaisons with strangers.

Through generations, we have been on the margins of society, the only thing we have ever asked for is not to be persecuted or prosecuted, to be able to live our lives equally as part of our diverse humanity, contributing to the advancement of our civilisation all around the world.

For that, we can be grateful for the likes of Leo Barsani, Paul-Michel Foucault, James Baldwin, and many more helping the discourse about sexuality and its full expression.

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