From outward appearances, I am simply a middle aged white guy who blends easily into the larger society. However, like many gay men I don’t fully fit in. Although I have long been openly gay in both my personal and professional lives, there have been times when I have felt the loneliness that comes with being an outsider. Having spent a lifetime on both sides of the Atlantic, not being fully of one side or the other is akin to the feeling of being gay in a largely heterosexual world. However, out of this in-between kind of life I have come to love the richness of living at the edges of two worlds.
As gay men, we have unique perspectives on what it means to be a man, and ones that can be of value to straight men. This really hits home when I find myself talking to straight friends and colleagues about the power and beauty of male touch. Some have told me they wish they could push the boundaries of their own lives to include such things. When it comes to touch between men, we live in one impoverished touch starved society. Even at the clinical level, just think about the last time your doctor did the perfunctory examining of the boys and butt. Before the laying on of hands, there usually is a little apology – hell, I’d pay him extra if he would just say bend over and take it like a man. During my last prostate exam, I thought I would lighten things up by telling the doc that if he were up there any longer I’d need a cigarette – yes, you can see how NOT funny that one ended. Too bad because my doc is one of the boys, yes he’s gay! I only hope he had a good laugh later sharing my line with other docs.
As gay men, we are always looking for parallels that can shed some light on our situation. For a while, I have been curious about the berdache, or two-spirit people, often found in the first nations of North America. Evidently, they were recognized as being of two spirits, of an in-between kind of existence. If they had a special status, it did not always protect them from discrimination or harm. Nevertheless, they were often recognized as healers or people with magical powers. They sound strikingly similar to our contemporary gay world and to my own life between worlds.
When I think of being gay and of two spirit people, I realize how wonderful it is not to be completely of one world. Living between worlds has the advantage of giving us more space than others have – something to be grateful for and respectful of. Living in a touch starved society, we gay men have the privilege of being able to expand our touch consciousness to engage in deeply erotic friendships and relationships. We can follow our inner faeries to enter into the dance of eros. The taboos begin to melt away as we find others in tune with ourselves and the magic dance. Get into its rhythm with your partner, lose your clothes, forget what the neighbors think, and celebrate the fireworks that come from the magic of two flutes playing in unison.
How often have you heard guys being castigated for thinking with our heads and not our, well, heads? Do you honestly think our cocks really evolved to be the trouble makers they are reputed to be? From what I can tell about evolution, if our guys were such problems they would have become extinct long ago – though I shudder to think what mutilations would have resulted. No, the problem is with all the social and religious constrictions placed around quite natural sensations. I am hardly an expert on bonobos but I am impressed about what I know of their ability to resolve conflict through erotic interactions and think we can learn from them. For one, I have often wondered about suicide bombings and if they would have happened had the youths in question been able to consort with the promised virgins on earth rather than putting faith in IOUs for trysts in heaven? For another, I have not infrequently pondered on the aggressiveness of some of the more prominent members of church and society and wondered if they would not have benefitted from a good shag?
A theme of mine that runs through these posts is the healing power that men have with each other through intimate touch, especially when it culminates in the profound calm that permeates our bodies after orgasm. Unfortunately for gay people, it seems to be a constant struggle of asserting our right to be who we are against deeply negative beliefs held by the larger society. I’d like to believe that one benefit for society would be a reduction in violence as a result of lowering the barriers, the taboos, constructed against men loving men.
Fear is a potent force, and one that can be dangerous. But the inherent wisdom of our little soldiers is also a powerful force, and repression of it has its own negative consequences. The more we can be in harmony with our erotic rhythms, the healthier not only we will be but those around us as well. A phrase I heard years ago, and one that speaks to me, is that our time on earth is meant for us to discover love. When I think of this, I think of how rewarding it is when I am physically able to express the connectedness I feel with another. Sure there are taboos against me and my way of thinking, but if I wait for society and religion to catch up I will have been a long time dead. If you prefer to wait for the world for fall into place, go for it. But, if you tend to see things my way all I can say is, boys, unsheathe thy swords!!
Is one of my fantasies to run starkers through the streets of Seattle, or any other city for that matter? No, but I am wondering if there are any cities where the sheer beauty of the nude male body is openly celebrated? Even in Vienna, there was controversy over the recent exhibit of male nudes at the Leopold Museum. How is it that we, the so-called scions of ancient Greece and renaissance Italy with their public celebrations of male nudity, have come to inhabit a world where we do not question the cloaking of the jewels of empire? Come to think of it, how did our jewels get downgraded to junk? Jewels are gems, junk is…well junk. What happened? Not being an historian, I really do not know. But the feeling of loss is something I can speak to.
The other evening, I was chatting about this with an SI friend Steve, who teaches for Body Electric and has a really insightful mind on such topics, and it was he who gave me the idea of focusing on the idea of loss. So I’m wondering what is this loss and can we reclaim that which we no longer have? There are two cities in the world where I feel most rooted to the earth, New York and Berlin. Both have been a significant part of my life, both have similar energies yet are very different on the issue of male nudity. I have often wondered why it is that in Berlin it’s commonplace to see nude men comfortably strolling not only on some of the many beaches around the city but in urban parks as well? It has been a very long time since nude bathing was even “tolerated” on New York beaches let alone in Central Park – a bare butt there would be enough to get a citation slapped against it. Ouch!
Why is it that even in the sanitized rooms of museums you glimpse eyes averting the interesting bits of nude males? I mean, really! Are we that uncomfortable with eros? Little wonder the porn industry has exploded with the rise of the internet. Having banned eros from the public sphere, where else can people go but to private spaces. Sure nudity does not equal eros, but the penis is so charged with erotic energy that society has tried to push it out of public view. We all suffer from that loss.
Life, however, is about hope, and something as powerful and healing as eros will always win. That’s my belief, and gay men have the potential to show the positive power of healing touch in all its erotic glory. Sure, we break long established taboos, but keep in mind that those taboos have exerted a destructive power over so many people who have ended up in touch starved lives. It’s time to claim the positive and healing power of intimacy between men through healthy touch relationships. Our whole beings are built for intimate connectivity, and it is time to reclaim the beauty of looking at and touching our bodies.