Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Same Sex Love

There's something personal in the air at the moment. Maybe it's to do with today's eclipse in Cancer (in my third house, that of communication). Roland Boer has been documenting his father's dying in a series of posts over at Stalin's Moustache for some time. And my friend, Nicotina the Fag, not only put up a rather personal piece on gay love over at Hamiltonian Decomposition last week but also emailed his friends to check it out and respond to it. I had been wanting to write about a number of topics biblical, and also maybe something on St Mary's, and certainly something on prayer but maybe it was today's eclipse and maybe because I spent this afternoon with someone that I love that has prompted me to take up Nic's offer and respond to his thoughts. I do so with considerable trepidation because it will no doubt entail me getting very personal; I tend to be very protective, cautious of things very personal, close to my heart (I am a casebook Cancer). I find it hard to talk about such things and yet here I am about to write it all on a blog for all and sundry to see, including my friend who I love.

So Nic begins:

Gay love, by its very definition of sameness, and from the bi-modal gendered society we live in, often manifests itself in different ways to straight love. Straight love is often constructed around ideas of difference which reflect the stereotypes and differences of male and female. For the gay person, a lover might not only be an object of desire but a competitor, a role model, a reflection of ourselves or a validation. Such aspects may play a role in straight relationships, but only in gay love are the acts of wanting someone and wanting to be someone so cryptically intertwined. Sometimes the two desires are difficult or impossible to separate.

I would probably not use the term gay love but rather same sex love, but that's just a semantic quibble on my part. Otherwise I would probably pretty much agree with most of what he says here. I would probably augment by saying that straight love works on stereotypes and gender differences that are constructed in patriarchal terms; it's hierarchical and to do with ownership of the womb and its products. And then there is the Oedipal dimension that Freud documents and Irigaray deconstructs. The woman is as much mother as lover to the man, who himself traditionally takes the role of the woman's father (hence the giving the bride away in traditional weddings). The woman's role is determined by male projections onto her which Irigaray refers to as the Father's law of the Same and why my friend Julie Kelso says that heterosexuality does not exist yet, only heteronormativity.

Homosexual love does not operate on such a paradigm, in part, because it exists outside the norms, has in the past been excoriated and condemned, abjected. It's also not reproductive and so has no value in the the property dynamics of patriarchy and progeny. That's not to say that same sex love is not impacted by heteronormativity. We are all conditioned by the heteronormative and it remains our prime model of what it means to love and be in intimate relation. But as Nic points out, there are differences, differences of mode and energy between same sex love and straight love (one of the reasons marriage is a completely inappropriate institution for same sex relationships). I strongly agree with Nic when he says about same sex love "a lover might not only be an object of desire but a competitor, a role model, a reflection of ourselves or a validation." I'm not certain about competitor, I've never quite felt that myself but I'm Cancer and Nic is Aries, very much a competitive sign. But certainly role model, reflection and validation. When I love a man it's because I see something estimable in him, and often because I see an aspect of myself in him. Validation? Actually I want to validate him, more than anything else sometimes and that's certainly the case with my friend today.

I think Nic left out one other important aspect of same sex love and that is the mentoring aspect, but then he was looking at validation of self from other. Mentoring works the other way round and it's most commonly associated with age variant relationships but I don't think they have a monopoly on it. The thing is mentoring works best when it's mutual. The danger of the age variant relationship is that it becomes a one way process, the older moulding the younger Pygmalionesque. But all true pedagogy is reciprocal, it's the basis of the pedagogic eros, and there is an eros to pedagogy. Homosexual love has a long association with pedagogy, teaching, apprenticeships, mentoring (and why I think My Fair Lady is very rich with queer reading potential). Perhaps the self validation that Nic refers to comes from the feedback loop of mutual mentoring.

In my case, I am someone who is attracted to younger guys. Love, falling in love for me involves some kind of recognition of something in the other, something beautiful, precious, and something that must be nurtured. Desire, of course, is there but I can desire guys without necessarily falling for them and while there is a particular look that really turns me on - dark hair, dark features (I have a particular thing for South Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean/Latino guys) amongst other things - the guys I've loved or had crushes on are all types. Marc who died three years ago and who was the great love disaster of my younger years was a redhead! And certainly the friend I love does not fit my standard turn on at all. Astrologically, I can see the various points of connection between our charts. Oddly I had a go at his chart for him many years ago when we first met and I never recognised the connections then. And yet on reflection I think I've loved or felt a strong affection for him in some way for a very long time. At the same time I only really became aware of it in the last few months when amongst other things we began engaging intellectually with each other.

It's really odd to think of falling in love through the intellect, and writing that I realise it's the first time I've used the term falling in love in his context. Because I suppose I have, but at the same time it doesn't feel like the other times I've fallen in love and it certainly doesn't feel like those old crushes. I've told him that I feel a very deep love for him. And what I really want to do is affirm him, validate him. And I suppose if I recognise something of me in him then it's a form of validating myself. But is what I termed recognition of something beautiful and precious to be nurtured seeing something of me in him? Or maybe it represents something I would like to be - by the way I don't know what this something is in my friend's case I only know it is beautiful and precious - and that's another pattern of love for me. I have a very strong admiration for the guys I love - they become my heroes, even if they/we fuck up and it turns disastrous. I never lose that admiration.

This has probably gone further than a simple response to Nic's musings. But then Nic goes on to talk about his own infatuations and attractions in terms of jealousy of people who have something that he doesn't. That's probably an Aries thing too because I can't recognise that feeling at all. Nurturing is probably the stronger drive with me (yeah, yeah I'm a Cancer). I'm not jealous of my friend. I love him because there is something beautiful about him and I'm not talking physical beauty here but a beauty of soul and heart. I've learnt a lot from him - he's a good teacher. And what's also really interesting is the unexpected dimensions of myself that I've discovered through our friendship. I've told him that he's had the most amazing impact on my prayer life. I wont go into details as to why but suffice to say he's been through a rough patch and he indicated to me that he saw value in prayer, intercessionary prayer. So I've been praying for him, including Mass on an almost daily basis. When I was in Newcastle I was staying just around the corner from the Anglican Cathdral where they had a daily Eucharist so in Newcastle I did daily Eucharist each morning before the Bible and Critical Theory Seminar.

I realise I will have to follow up this post now with one on prayer but for the purposes of this post I should qualify that he's not the only recipient of my prayer intentions. But on top of my other prayer commitments I have added a whole additional layer for him alone. And he is probably the main motivation for the near daily Mass/Eucharist practice now. Prayer is an important act of solidarity regardless of whether one believes it has other benefits (which I do) and so my prayer is an act of solidarity with him, an expression of support and an attempt at spiritual nurturing. He wants to go to Mass with me soon and I want that very much too (and maybe I need to write about the Mass sometime too). The Mass, the Eucharist has always been important to me. It's probably the one thing that has kept me not only connected to Christianity but Catholic Christianity. While I can see its parallels and background in other religions, still no other religion has the Mass. It's a profound rite of communion and healing.

So I seem to have wandered away from love and my love. I wrote a while ago that coming out is a journey without maps. I think homosexual love is a journey without maps. All our culture offers is marriage and its variants as models of love and relationship. They don't really work for straights. They certainly can't work for us. And with my friend there is no model, not even my past loves. As I said above I'm only realising that I have probably fallen in love with him except that it doesn't feel like those other times when I fell in love. Maybe because I'm older now. Does age change things that much? Maybe because we engaged on such an intellectual level and also there has been such a mutual engaging in matters spiritual. I've always wanted that in any sort of loving friendship. But I have no guidelines which is scary because I don't want to damage the friendship. And of course I can't get too neurotic about that either. I might not have any guidelines but I know what my flaws are. And my prime commitment is to the friendship. I don't want to do anything that would jeapordise that. His friendship is too important.

Elizabeth Stuart has argued that friendship should be a model for our most intimate and committed relationships. I'm inclined to agree. The people I love will always be my friends and I will always love them. And I don't necessarily restrict intimacy to sexual intimacy alone. And at my age I don't really have any expectations physically. That would be delusional and I'm making sure I keep such delusions under close control. They can't be gotten rid of but just let them fool around in the backyard and, above all, don't let them in the house. Because there's more to intimacy than sex. Mind you it's curious that Nic never spoke about intimacy in his post.

I've just read through what I've written. I've pretty much come to the end and it's late. There's still a lot left unsaid I realise and that's the problem with writing. It follows its own course and thus determines what will get included and excluded and now I'm just going around in circles deciding whether to publish because once I do it's out there for all, for him to see. Ah well, a leap of faith shouldn't be a problem now.

UPDATE: From Astrodienst, my stars today

Something transcendental
This influence deepens the emotions and creates a greater need to belong to an individual or to a group. Friendships are extremely important to you today, and they may change your life. Love relationships are more intense, and physical sexuality is experienced as something transcendental. This is a good time to try to understand your emotions and how they affect your relationships. Today you can enrich and enhance a relationship as you realize the strength of your feelings, in a moment when you experience the full force of your emotion. Certainly any emotion that you feel today will have extraordinary force and vigor. No experience under this influence is superficial, nor would you be satisfied with any that was.
The interpretation above is for your transit selected for today:
Venus Sextile Pluto, , exact at 17:24
activity period from 22 July 2009 to 24 July 2009

It began yesterday, so no surpise I'm thinking about love, transcendence and so forth.

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