Friday, September 03, 2010

Quote of the Day

Homosexual practices, found throughout nature, have probably been part of human life since it first evolved, but homosexuality, as we understand it, has existed for barely more than a century.

. . . Homosexual identity, often viewed today as a central and absolute character trait, was seen through most of history as a quirk affecting very few. Men – like Lincoln and Joshua Speed – embraced each other, and slept together for warmth; men took sexual advantage of slaves they owned, boys they mentored, servants they employed; prisoners, soldiers, and sailors, apart from women, engaged in clandestine mutual pleasuring. But most of them assumed that, when conditions altered, they would engage with women and presumably produce children. Few, no matter which role they played in the act, would have assumed an exclusively homosexual preference; a great many might have been startled to know that people who thought themselves exclusively homosexual even existed.

Today life’s different. Gay is an identity, and a highly politicized, assertive one at that — an inevitable reaction to the millennia during which homosexual acts were stigmatized, outlawed, and persecuted, often violently. Every concern that gays might confront, from coming out to one’s parents to becoming parents, has taken on an absolutist mentality, apparently subscribed to by both its adherents and those who wish they would disappear. The secondary cultural traits through which gays in the clandestine era once signaled their shared interest have become a kind of instant public shorthand. Quarterbacks who enjoy showtunes are instantly suspect; 10-year-olds with a gift for classical music conceal their interest for fear of being bullied at school.

Future generations may come to regard our time’s extreme emphasis on sexual identity as nearly equal in absurdity to the frantic hostility and repugnance that kept same-sex attraction clandestine in preceding centuries.

– Michael Feingold
Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party Queries US History
The Village Voice
September 1, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality - Toby Johnson
The Gifts of Homosexuality
"Gaydar," "Gendermaps," and the "Fundamentally Social Purpose of Homosexuality"

Recommended Off-site Links:
Insights from History into "Exclusive" Orientation - Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, September 1, 2010).
Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party Goes Off-Broadway (August 4, 2010).
Affirming Our Essential Goodness The Leveret (February 26, 2009).
Gay Identity The Leveret (April 9, 2008).

Images: The Vintage Photo Memories Gallery at

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