Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gifts of Homosexuality

Books are definitely one of my weaknesses – or rather, the purchasing of books. I am getting better, but last week I found two books at Magers and Quinn (in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis) that I couldn’t resist – Sheridan Morley’s Dirk Bogarde: Rank Outsider and the latest from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine.

Catholic priest and “deep ecologist”
Thomas Berry contends that Matthew Fox “might well be the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America.”

Following is an except from that part of The Hidden Spirituality of Men in which Fox talks about honoring and learning from the gifts of homosexuality.


It really is quite astounding to me that nature is so committed to sexual diversity and homosexuality. Studies have shown that about 8-10 percent of any given human population is gay or lesbian, and most of these persons are born from heterosexual parents. What are the odds of this happening randomly? Why does nature insist on homosexuality as an ordinary and persistent sexual diversity? There must be a reason or reasons. My own guess is that homosexuals offer humanity certain vital gifts that society would be foolish to refuse. Here is a list of four:

1. The gift of creativity. No one can look at the work of homosexuals and not be struck by the inordinate amount of creativity that homosexual individuals and communities provide to society. This creativity is evident in the arts as well as the sciences, and it extends to the exercise of sexual practice itself.

2. A flexible perspective on gender provides a kind of bridge between men and women. Heterosexuals in particular can become stuck in their society-created gender roles, and homosexuals remind everyone that sexuality exists in the realm of metaphor and not literalism. When one’s sexual role is not determined by one’s body parts, life, imagination, and passion come alive. David Deida observes that “the gay and lesbian community is acutely aware that the sexual polarity is independent of gender. But you still need two poles for a passionate play of sexuality to persist in a relationship: masculine and feminine, top and bottom, butch and femme – whatever you want to call these reciprocal poles of sexual play.” Gays and lesbians have much to teach the straight world about sexuality and about restoring passion to relationships.

3. Humor. By definition, role-playing does not take things literally. To see gender as a “role” moves us beyond the ego, and it creates a space for fun and humor in sexual play. So often, sexuality becomes burdened with shame, guilt, fear, or self-consciousness, and so it becomes too serious. But healthy spirituality is unselfconscious (as Eckhart pointed out), and so too is healthy sexuality. Yes, sexuality can lead to children, and the Lover becomes the Father (or the Parent), and that is a serious thing with serious responsibilities. But sexuality itself is about process as much as procreation, and the Lover does more than create babies. Sex can be funny, clownish, humorous, and full of laughter. An Inuit saying is that to make love is to make laughter happen. Within homosexual and transgender communities, sexuality and gender roles are sources of humor and play. That is a very important teaching. Don’t take sexuality and gender literally. It is too important for that and too much fun for that.

4. Spirituality. There is a long history in many cultures of homosexuals as spiritual leaders. Many years ago, a Native American woman took me aside and said to me that it is well known among Native Americans that gay persons have always been the spiritual directors to their great chiefs. Homosexuals, it seems, don’t just bridge male and female worlds, but human and spiritual worlds. A homophobic society deprives itself of a deeper spirituality. This same woman (who was also a Catholic sister) said: “When I give retreats to gay people, it is always a deeper experience than just giving a retreat to a mixed and mostly heterosexual crowd.”

. . . For all these reasons I am convinced that there can be no authentic masculine spirituality without exorcising homophobia. In the face of a frequently homophobic society, it takes a spiritual warrior to do so. But every man must refuse to hide and dare to stand up for their homosexual brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, fathers and mothers, children and nephews, nieces and co-workers. The gay liberation movement is everyone’s movement, just as Martin Luther King Jr. taught when he said that justice denied anyone is justice denied us all.

. . . In the realm of lovemaking, what heterosexual man isn’t interested in accessing more of the four gifts of homosexuality I listed above: creativity, role-playing flexibility, humor, and spirituality? Eros wants all that for us. Overcoming homophobia is a way for heterosexual men to become not just better lovers but spiritual and cultural healers. Overcoming homophobia provides gifts for everyone, since it also helps heal the shame, abuse, and marginalization that many homosexual men have experienced, both as boys and as men. It also provides a liberation for gay men and women, and resolving homophobia can heal generational differences. No matter what our parents and grandparents might have believed, we are the parents and grandparents of the next generations, nearly one in ten of whom will be gay. Healing our homophobia helps heal them before they even arrive.

Recently a newspaper article quoted a heterosexual man who was told by a very attractive woman, “I thought you were gay.” About this, the man replied, “I was flattered. Gay men are as a rule smarter, in better shape, and more alive than their heterosexual men I know.” Over the years a number if women I know have told me they kept falling in love with gay men (not knowing they were gay) because gay men understood women so much better and they projected a more attractive interest in life and the arts and their own bodies. As these stories give evidence, a healthy, attractive masculinity and spirituality is more than sexual preference and gender identity, and this is something heterosexual men can learn from homosexuals.

- Excerpted from The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine by Matthew Fox (New World Library, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Homophobia? It’s So Gay
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
What Is It That Ails You?
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Making Love, Giving Life
The Non-Negotiables of Sex
“Gaydar,” “Gender Maps,” and the “Fundamentally Social Purpose” of Homosexuality
What Straights Can Learn from Gay Marriage
In the Garden of Spirituality: Toby Johnson

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Hidden Spirituality of Men - Matthew Fox (Ode Magazine, October 2008).
The Gay Male Quest for Democratic, Mutual, Reciprocal Sex (Part 1) - The Leveret (August 7, 2008).
The Gay Male Quest for Democratic, Mutual, Reciprocal Sex (Part 2) - The Leveret (August 17, 2008).


colkoch said...

I may have to run out and get this latest effort of Mathew Fox.

I work with a number of very gifted Native American spiritual elders and one told me that other than alcoholism, one of the most damaging imports his culture had accepted from white Christianity was homophobia because it killed off a potent spiritual and sexual source for his people.

He said even though they still had the Heyoka societies, they had no real Heyokas because none of them would admit to being gay and gays were the true Heyokas.

Heyoka societies are known for doing everything backwards or contrary and their incredible humor, some of which is very cutting, but all designed to punch holes in people's egos.

Catholicism could sure use it's version of a heyoka society.

Anonymous said...

Has Matthew Fox left Anglicanism (he was ex-communicated by Rome) and hosting Rave Masses with his witch sidekick? All those nuns (not that many) at Holy Names have a closeted homosexual dropping ecstasy for communion and dancing around the altar. I thought he died when Bishop Swing died, and Episcopalians became Unitarians.

Alas, freaks find god (and vice versa) in the most unusual personas.

Anonymous said...

Let me add, however, that I concur with Fox's sentiments entirely -- separate from the person of one-time Dominican Friar and Eckhardt devotee, retained by Holy Names to be the RC equivalent of Esalen.

Does he also suggest the "shaman thesis?" I sort of suspect so.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip. The best book I ever read on GLBT spirituality is Judy Grahm's Another Mother Tongue. She is a poet and feminist. The book is not written from a Christian perspective but definitely echoes the best in our tradition. Plus it is filed with gay trivia. Where des Bull Dyke come from? Why was Thursday queer day at school? Why is lavender the gay color? Check it out.

Anonymous said...

You may also like "Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy" which talks about the value of gay spirituality for all men, gay and straight: http://tinyurl.com/desl9s

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for the recommendation and the link. It certainly sounds like a book well worth investigating.



Anonymous said...

I'd tick a hetro box if I was forced to choose, but definitely feel that all this fearful rigidity around sexuality, gender and the denial of the homo-erotic is a block to spiritual progress.
I think it's really important work you're doing here. Thanks for bringing your courage to it. Keep it up.