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    If you believe in faeries

    I’ve finally found my gay spiritual leader, and sugarcakes, I haven’t been this excited since Kylie hooked up with the Scissor Sisters.

    I mean, finally! A gay public voice that’s willing to cut the crap and speak the uncomfortable truth we so often try to avoid facing:

    “Straight folks, all our problems are your damned fault !”

    You know, I realize that op-ed writers with bylines speak for themselves and may have actually been chosen, at least in part, for their idiosyncratic, conversation-starter sorts of opinions. I also realize that The Village Voice likes scare-the-soccer-moms assertions of combative leftism. There’s nothing wrong with shaking people up a little on the opinion page.

    But couldn’t some editor somewhere have given a thought to basic coherence before publishing this? Writer Patrick Moore makes a few passing, ritual acknowledgements that gay individuals might in some sense be responsible for their own conduct. He specifically uses crystal meth use as a point of departure for a discussion of what he thinks is a more general dearth of mentoring among gay guys. But the promising idea that we (as in, gays ourselves) need to change the environment in which gay men come of age is backed-and-filled into meaninglessness:

    There are some problems with environmental prevention. First, if used in a simplistic way, it can lead to judgmental sexual repression that is anathema to gay culture. Second, the approach does not help those who have already entered into active addiction. So the question remains, how to create a healthier environment in the gay community.

    The questions Moore asks about what we can do to help keep more people from wrecking their lives are important, but some of the answers are more apparent than he makes them seem. Sooner or later, anyone in a position to give spiritual and moral guidance to rudderless gay guys is going to have to address a few facts: exposing yourself to the mucous membranes of multiple partners a week is hell on the immune system. The problem is not just STDs per se: it’s also the lowered resistance to colds, and the mysterious sore throat that keeps you from making a key presentation at work, and the tiredness from fighting things off all the time.

    Then there are the psychological issues. Moore relates that he frequently asks residents in a drug rehabilitation program what it is that getting high allows them to do: “[F]or most, their fantasy is no more than to get fucked and to connect with another man. Albeit in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways, these guys are basically looking for love.” Well, no. They’re looking for the self-affirmation that comes from being loved without the self-discpline you have to exercise to love back.

    Mentorship from older guys with their heads screwed on straight is, indeed, necessary to help the young and lost to avoid falling into the trap of short-term gratification that eventually turns into long-term disaster. Moore never seems to get around to explaining how that’s supposed to work, though, if we’re not going to tell guys that a little “repression” wouldn’t hurt them. The most specific his advice gets is…okay, I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to laugh.

    Seriously, promise?

    Okay, here it is:

    Coming out of the gay faerie movement, the Gay Men’s Medicine Circle continues to create rituals that encourage spiritual growth. These organizations and their rituals may seem like quaint reminders of a more innocent time. However, they are vital models for the kind of programs that might actually change the tone of gay life in America.

    Bitches, you promised! But then, I sprayed my tea all over the monitor when I first read that paragraph, too, so who am I to judge?

    Speaking of exercising judgment: I can only assume that the, erm, “gay faerie movement” has developed rituals that celebrate nature and our place in it. As an atheist, I’m not troubled by the obvious paganism there. However, I do have to wonder what good such practices are for “spiritual growth” if they’re incompatible with acknowledging that nature favors procreation and does not favor indiscriminate promiscuity. Our human civilizations are founded on defying and fending off the power of nature, true; but there are limits within which we must work, and there is ample evidence that screwing around all the time almost always leads to a sickly, short, destructive, miserable life. You would think that even those for whom monogamy has nasty bourgeois associations would be able to recognize that.

    Added on 21 June: I stuck back in some stray phrases I’d cut out of the draft of this post when finalizing it. I hope it reads better. Also, Eric (to whom I sent a somewhat intemperate honey-will-you-get-a-load-of-this-crap! message when I started thinking about Moore’s article) has a post of his own that comments more generally on the annoying tendency for people to ask to be protected from themselves.

    10 Responses to “If you believe in faeries”

    1. Eric Scheie says:

      This raises so many issues that it’s tough to know where to begin. While Moore is honest enough to acknowledge a problem, his biggest mistake is his assumption that “behaviors” are caused by (and thus can be changed by) external influences — a mistake all too typical of wannabe leaders. Getting off drugs requires ferocious self honesty, and in my opinion that can only come from within. To the extent that “leadership” can play a role, it’s quite limited. Engaging in “outreach” to people in denial — whether about promiscuous sex, drugs — is a waste of time, because only they can help themselves, and only when they decide to be honest with themselves. Prattling about how it’s someone else’s fault (in this case the “heterosexist power structure”) won’t really help anyone, because external political crutches are as about dishonest as drugs — without as good a high. It would be one thing to offer a real support system with built-in teeth (like the Nation of Islam) but dishonest rhetoric alone can’t hold a candle to meth.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, as always, you’ve made me realize that I could stand to be less flippant, Eric. :/

      But I wasn’t trying to pooh-pooh the problem of self-destructive behavior. Perhaps because I’ve been fortunate enough to know mostly even-keeled people whose problems don’t extend far beyond funky-neurotic, I like to think that you can at least nudge people toward unsparing self-criticism by showing that you care what happens to them. But then, as you say, how do airy political abstractions that put most of the blame on other people and evade reality help?

      I try not to link to things just to belittle the hell out of them all the time, but this piece kept bringing up real, important points and then swerving away from them into La-La Land. It drove me nuts.

    3. I’ve never suffered from substance abuse (nicotine and caffeine, fine, but I kicked cigarettes), but I grew up in a family of junkies — literal junkies — heterosexual all, and I’m 100% with Eric above regarding what it takes to kick a drug habit. It’s mostly an internal process.

      The one thing I’d love to see more gay people do, however, is stop holding back judgment! I realize that many of the scars gay men carry are born of harsh judgment, but being silent when somebody is destroying their own life is not being non-judgmental — it’s being a lousy friend. If you know someone into “raw” (read: unprotected sex) who keeps talking about it, let them know if you feel it’s unhealthy and dishonest and risky and not okay. If you have a friend who’s on meth, let them know where that road inevitably ends, and whether you’ll be willing to follow them on that road.

      I realize that fundamentalists and other anti-gay groups feel their being loving when they tell us that being gay is immoral and unnatural and dangerous to children and whatnot — but the difference is that THEY’RE WRONG! Fucking without a condom is *proven* to be unhealthy. Meth is *proven* to be unhealthy. Wanting to see Roger Clemens without a shirt on…I think the jury’s out on that one.

      Public education isn’t as powerful as private conversations. I’d rather see money spent on teaching gay men to reclaim their right to make moral and ethical decisions.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      That you, John? I miss you over at Dean’s place.

      Thanks for emphasizing that, BTW–as often happens, i realized that this post was way too long and scattershot, and in the process of tightening it up a bit, I took out the part about being judgmental.

      When I read Moore’s passage on that topic, my reaction was something like, “Speak for your own gay culture, buddy!” Everyone I’m friends with is perfectly willing to judge someone for being an unrepentant skank. Shun him, too.

    5. Protection from helplessness?

      One of the things which most disappoints me about people is their frequent inability to think. Perhaps even there I’m being charitable; inability is more excusable than unwillingness, because mental slowness cannot be helped, and what annoys me cannot fairly…

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