Published on April 29th, 2014 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles
The Demise of Queer Culture
by Roger Goodman, M. Mus., M. Div.
The greatest threat to Queer culture is the desire of so many LGBTQ people to “fit in” to be “just like them,” to “not antagonize the straight community,” to “not make any waves,” to “not put any fear of Queer people in the hearts and minds of the straight world.” Why can’t we get married, just like them and have all the rights that they do? That’s a great question, and one that should be on the hearts and minds of all LGBTQ people. Indeed, why can’t we marry? After all, we are just like them, right? We want six-figure salaries, a large 3 bedroom condo overlooking Lake Michigan, or the Hudson River, 2 dogs (preferably golden retrievers or 2 pugs, or, perhaps one of each), belonging to the best gym, having season tickets for the Lyric Opera (preferably in the Dress Circle or a Box) or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (preferably in the first ten rows of the orchestra level or the first 15 rows of the first balcony or both), shopping only at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for groceries, having formal dinner parties with only the best china and silver service with Baccarat crystal water glasses, or Sunday brunches with the special brunch china and cheaper water glasses. You get the picture. We are destroying whatever sense of community there is left of a distinct Queer culture.
Quite frankly, I wonder when LGBTQ people will come to the proud realization that we are not like straight people, and I, for one, celebrate that difference with great joy and jubilation. We are distinctly different from them. We have our own culture and our own aesthetic. Moreover, we have our own history, our own spirituality that is indigenous to us that comes from time out of mind, our own mythology, our own arts, our own rituals and symbols, our own anthropology, our own psychology which comes from our own collective unconscious which is THE fundamental thing that sets us apart. Our collective unconscious comes from centuries of violence against us that was/is physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual, and the worst violence came from and still comes from the Christian church and the Muslim mosque,, which used and still use a few Biblical and Koranic verses to justify their own hatred and violent bigotry.. We have experienced pogroms against us, burnings at the stake and rapes with red-hot pokers, genital amputation and mutilation, beatings, and unspeakable torture. Our unique spirituality that is intrinsically ours was considered as dangerous to the patriarchal, heterosexist church as the women who were called witches during the massive witch hunts of the late 15th century Spanish Inquisition under Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castille, throughout the rest of Europe, and also in colonial America. We were burned at the stake with the women, used with bundles of twigs (called faggots (!) of wood) as kindling for the fires. Ours was a spirituality of the Earth and, in many cases, of the Mother, a spirituality that was matriarchal. This was the same as the spirituality of the women, the so-called witches. It’s modern equivalent is Wicca, a powerful Earth spirituality and a spirituality of the Mother and the moon, which had little use or need for the men in the church hierarchy. Gay men were seen as male witches, and so, were burned at the stake along with the women.
Queer spirituality is one of equality and consensus, of power with rather than power over, and of the circle, the Dharma wheel, which is ever turning with no beginning and no ending. More importantly, it is a spirituality of unity with the Divine, of non-dualism, rather than that of the cross, which is a thoroughly hierarchical symbol and one that is dualistic with its horizontal and vertical beams, which clearly have a beginning and an ending. Our spirituality is sex-positive and involves the all-important body, which is thoroughly antagonistic to the sex-negative, body-mortification spirituality of Christianity. Mortification of the flesh is still prevalent to a great extent in the spirituality of modern Christianity, which is most definitely sex-negative. This was engendered from the still strongly held Christian theology of St. Augustine of Hippo. To put it into the simplest of terms, Augustinian theology says “body bad, spirit good, and never the twain shall meet.” This is the polar opposite of indigenous Queer spirituality and Queer Liberation Theology which says that both body and spirit are, indeed, very, very good, and that our sex celebrates that truth as well as the deeper truth of the body/spirit connection that is inexorable. Our uniquely Queer spirituality is one of both/and rather than either/or. It is rooted in the complete destruction of dualism and the embracing of a mutuality that is thoroughly feminist.
Our collective unconscious coming from all those centuries of pain has produced magnificent Queer art, Queer ritual and symbol, Queer mythology, Queer feminism, Queer sexual mysticism wherein there is a total blending of body and spirit between the two or three people engaged in the sex act, wherein the meld between them is so powerful that one cannot tell where the other person ends and we begin. Such passionate and deeply spiritual sex is the movement of Tantra in the world.
There are those among us, the LGBTQ community, who would take us back to a mind set that is pre-Stonewall. If Stonewall was nothing else, it was an action that put an end to shame and invisibility, of hiding in plain sight. It ended the isolating self-hatred of the closet. It made a most important statement regarding not just our sexuality, but even more importantly it made a most important statement regarding sex and our birthright for us to be utterly sexual in celebratory and visible as a blatantly sexual people, a people of possibility, a people of no-shame. More than anything else, Stonewall gave us a visibility and authentic presence in the world, a place of identity where before there was none. Assimilation, however, takes us to a place of non-identity, of effacing our magnificent and unique culture in all its aspects, and of the end of the celebration of sex as the good, powerful, and spiritual thing that it is. That alone, just the change in attitudes from dropping the shame to engaging riotously in unabashed and unashamed sex, opened up the accessibility of our collective unconscious which, given the right circumstances, can influence our sexual play.
Assimilation smacks of Gay shame and a powerful unconscious internalized homophobia. It is not any different than the words “straight acting, straight appearing” in Gay personal ads. Why would I want to appear straight? Why would I want to act straight? Acting Queer is a most beautiful thing and thoroughly authentic to my identity as a self-loving Queerman. There is a great deal of difference between being Gay and being Queer. For me, “Gay” is an adjective that defines what I do in bed with another man. “Queer” is a noun that identifies who I am in my entirety. Being simply Gay allows one to assimilate, to blend in, to be “just like everybody else”, that is, to be invisible. Gaymen often say, “I am so much more than my sexuality” or “I don’t define myself by my sexuality”. To be Queer requires that one identifies one’s Queerness as a core definition of one’s self, as one who is connected to the Queer collective unconscious, as one who understands completely that everything we do, everything we say, all our relationships, our livelihood, our spirituality, our gestalt are filtered through that core definition as Queer.
Quite frankly, I don’t understand heterosexuality at all. A male/female coupling completely baffles me. That always astounds straight people who truly believe that one is born heterosexual and chooses to be Gay at some point in one’s life, and that everyone naturally understands heterosexuality. For Queer people, that is not at all the case, not ever. Because I don’t understand straight relationships, why would I want to act like them? I also find most straight people, especially straight men, quite boring, actually. There is little if any color, any majick in the straight world, particularly the straight male world. I cannot define for anyone but myself what it means to be Queer, to be Queer acting and Queer appearing, but I know that I am because everyone I meet immediately knows that I am Queer without me saying a word. I wear my Queerness on my sleeve like a badge of honor. If there were a pill that I could take to make me straight, and a person in power says “take the pill or die,” I would choose death without any question. It took me far too many years to find my Queer myth, and I am not about to give that up, just because so many of my brothers and sisters want to assimilate. I am deliriously happy as a Queerman with a thoroughly Queer culture embedded in me. Why would I want to change that?
Finally, I have to state quite clearly, that one need not necessarily be homosexual to be Queer. In fact, I have a number of dear straight male friends, and even my brother, who are utterly Queer. They relate to Queermen with no trepidation, relate to women with an extraordinary respect and are often themselves feminists, can feel their feelings deeply and express them in authentic and powerful ways, have a deep spirituality, are thoroughly empathic in their relationships, and have not one drop of macho in them. My friends Jay and Boris, for instance, both straight men, are utterly Queer and I love them both beyond the beyond. As I said, my brother, too, is a straight men who is beautifully Queer. They all have utterly Queer sensibilities. The only thing that separates them from me is that they don’t have sex with men. Big deal!! They are all magnificent men who would stand by me no matter what. In many ways they “have my back” more than a great many Gaymen I know who would rather see me out of the community, even as a Stonewall veteran, than claim me as one of their own. And then, there is the extraordinary community of Queermen with whom I surround myself. They keep me alive and filled with gratitude that after coming out as Gay in 1965, I found my Queer myth in my early 30’s and have been a powerful Queerman ever since. For this, I thank the Spirit of the Universe that watches over me and keeps me on track with my sexuality, that guards me and keeps me safe, and that tells me that, in the words of Julian of Norwich (14th century English mystic), “all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of thing will be well”.
Roger Goodman, M. Mus., M. Div. attended Oberlin College during the tumultuous 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and protests over the War in Vietnam. He was present at the watershed Stonewall Rebellion in NYC in June, 1969. He had an international career as a concert harpsichordist, teacher, and recording artist. He was on the faculty of The New School for Social Research in New York City, the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, and the School of Music at DePaul University as Director of the Baroque Program, a post he held for 23 years. In 2009, Roger left the world of music to become a filmmaker. He is Executive Director of his 501(c)(3) corporation Tribal Elder Productions, NFP which he formed in 2010 and is the screen writer, and director for his documentary film “From the Ashes Risen ” for which he is currently seeking funding through grants and the private sector. His new book is entitled, Thoughts of a Tribal Elder: One Queerman’s Journey From the Ashes Risen. Roger has been HIV+ since the early 1980’s and was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in 1995 when he died during a lengthy coma, but, miraculously. he came back from death. He says the reason he came back was because he had important transformational work to do in the world for Queer people everywhere. His speaking and workshops on college and university campuses, his teaching/performing, his film, and his book are the fruits of that extraordinary journey with the Death Crone. A sex and drug addict in 12-Step Recovery, he has been clean from all drugs and sexual acting out for 8 years, since 2005. He is thoroughly grateful to his Higher Power that his life was given back to him so that he could do the work he has been given to do with enthusiasm, humility, and unending joy. Websites: www.queerwitness.com and www.tribalelderproductions.org.