Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Hustle and Flow: It's Hard out Here
It’s hard out here for a, well what. With all the advances towards gay equality and all of the utterances of constitutional principles when talking about gay marriage and the military “don’t ask don’t tell” one still comes down to making specific decisions about one’s own life. In retirement, at age 63, I do look at the practicalities differently, even today, even if I came of age during that horrible, McCarthy Cold War era.
Typically, gay men (and to a lesser extent lesbians) have succeeded in life by putting points on the board early in life (like in the first quarter), using their own individual talents and content-deployment skills. This gets way beyond the 50s hairdresser stereotype or even the genteel fun of The Fab 5. It has to do with specific talents in areas like art, music, drama (whether acting or writing), film, or often enough in the sciences (particularly medicine), sometimes law.
There are a lot of areas of life that are relationship dependent rather than content dependent. True, there are borderline areas (like teaching). But many areas of business commerce reflect old fashioned patriarchal competitiveness, with the most extreme example being the professional warrior class – the military. Typically, a man believes his progeny to be his ultimate self-extension, because it is a biological, usually genetic extension and for many men that is the one opportunity they have, regardless of social circumstances. Therefore, the conventional man (The Organization Man, The Man in a Gray Flannel Suit, etc.) will prove that he can compete in selling other people’s wares to prove that his family prevails over other families. That is the way it is for so many people. This all does get mixed up with religion.
People naturally tend to expect that you make your mark on the world in some conventionally competitive endeavor, that would relate back to providing for a family, or at least providing for others. That is getting more critical again as eldercare becomes growing demographic problem, threatening to grow quickly into an economic crisis.
I had a lot of trouble with this. So I speak out, give my tome, without it being clear what my standing or stake in the world is. I refuse to “compete” in a partisan manner. Yet, male homosexuality, at least, ultimate reflects another personal value, that one knows, in his own aesthetics, who is beautiful and who would make the most “competitive” ancestor. It’s a thought with disturbing implications. It sounds like the old “knowledge of good and evil” problem, even the Original Sin. Or think about it this way: Vatican moral teachings on sexuality (especially abstinence) seem designed to blunt the idea that sex involves competition, so that everybody gets saved, everybody participates somehow (even in heterosexual family or as a properly celibate and spiritually challenged priest). Homosexual values seem to stress competition again with the mechanism of upward affiliation. That sounds sinful. But get real. Marriage and family are inherently competitive in any society that values individuality and freedom. Just watch “Days of our Lives”.
So it’s hard out here for, well, a gay retiree. Hustle and Flow, all right. Of course, modern culture does offer many people individually opportunities to mentor others and become socialized without marriage, that I missed out on. But I do understand how marriage and family do drive the way most people succeed. There is no getting around that.
(See the entry on Nov 11 on this blog for the latest news on the Jan. 2 Massachusetts vote on gay marriage.)
Related essay "Narcissism, Affiliation, and Polarity", 1998, at this link.