Commonplace Book: The Gay Sensibility

Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.

Jean Genet. Dual exile. Convict and homosexual. Drag queens and superhung studs. Strength and passivity, violence and tenderness. A stud becomes a queen, a queen becomes a stud – easily in Genet’s world.
Michelangelo. The huge, fantastically muscular figures – and the gentle faces. Soulful angels and powerful men.
Proust. The spiraling identities of his male-females and female-males allowed him to convey both the heterosexual and homosexual experience – in one superb metaphor.
Oscar Wilde. The often flippant wit of his plays coupled with the outlaw courage of his life, especially in his trial.
Djuna Barnes. The somber vision and the lush, narcissistic prose.
Pasolini. The religious communist.
William Burroughs. The passivity of heroin and the frenzy of orgy.
Tennessee Williams. Repression and liberation. Blanche Dubois, whore and poet.
Gertrude Stein. The ostensibly flat, conversational prose disguising the poetic rhythms.
Truman Capote. The “high-drag” style exploring violence.
Shakespeare in the sonnets. The dark lady and the mysterious youngman.
Carson McCullers. The tenderness within the grotesquerie.
Visconti. The obsessions with inner disorder and madness and visual order and composition.
I continue: Conversely, the avoidance of one aspect of sexuality and the extreme acceptance of the other has kept many artists from their full potential. Ronald Firbank produces a precious literary sundae. Andy Warhol creates lifeless grotesques.
Hemingway, the hairy godfather of homosexual writers; his suffocatingly heavy breathing stifling the tender part of himself. Significantly he came close to realizing a fusion in The Sun Also Rises – where he deals with a castrated hero.
And take the Tarzan-howling of Norman Mailer.
(Sorry, in a way, that there’s a ripple, a very slight ripple, of applause, and some laughter. I like Norman Mailer, despite his bullish fuckups.)
More intelligent than Hemingway – and a far better writer – …
(I’m making up with Norman.)
… – he faces the possibility of intellectual homosexuality. But that can be a greater subterfuge, doubly restricting him from his sensual potential.
And Kerouac. Eternal jock buddy.
No, the artist doesn’t have to be a homosexual to produce good art; and certainly not all homosexual artists are “good.” But the artist who represses either the male or female aspect of his or her being produces unfulfilled work. James Joyce, Shakespeare, Picasso, Flannery O’Conner, D.H. Lawrence, and many, many other finally heterosexual artists have accepted, often joyously, the female and the male sides of themselves.
And I forgot to mention the silently symphonic, intricate, instinctively choreographed beauty of the promiscuous sexhunt.


From The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary: A Non-Fiction Account, with Commentaries, of Three Days and Nights in the Sexual Underground, by John Rechy (Grove Press, 1977)

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