Why ‘Gay’ Still Matters

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THERE ARE GAY STORIES—mythologies, poetry, cultural artifacts—that set gay people apart, giving a tone to our music, a palette to our art, a philosophy to our wandering. What are the great themes and recurring mythologies—those metaphors of truth that are impossible to convey rationally—that can get at the great questions? To paraphrase Gauguin: Who are we? Where have we come from? Where are we going?

            My argument is that there is something archetypal, natural, deep, philosophical, and cultural about being gay. There was a gay story being told from the beginning. There was a gay story here before gay people were here. We are remembering who we are. Stories take us home. They are the trail from the individual and the culture to the soul and beyond. As poetry, they bring words as symbols that connect our reality to ultimate reality, something that can only be done through a kind of transcendence, an experience of greater being.

Let us take a step back for a moment, into story itself. In his 2016 book Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia, mythology scholar and storyteller Martin Shaw examined the place of myth and story in the modern world, a world that he feels has fallen away from storytelling into a kind of collective amnesia about who we are. The great philosophical questions go unanswered by most modern people, ignored in favor of the latest technology, the fashionable polemic, the recent swings of the economy, or the furious quest for originality as personality rather than as substance or “soul.” Here I’m talking about myth not as the opposite of fact but as each culture’s attempt to get at life’s deeper truths through story, philosophy, poetry, and religion. Myth as the hero’s journey, the initiation of youth into adulthood, the holy quest, the wandering and searching for home (say, that of Odysseus).

            As I watch, and sometimes participate, in what happens with the current protests, I wonder what is being sparked in me; what stories or deeper currents of feeling are being stirred? I connect with Black Lives Matter in many ways, but most essentially through my struggles as a gay man: struggles for rights, for recognition, and for meaning. This struggle was always twofold for me: the revolution that is televised (AIDS, marriage, etc.) and the internal revolution that is not televised (who am I, where have I come from, where am I going?).

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Brian Gleason, PhD, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist in private practice in L.A., has contributed to White Crane Journal, Psychological Perspectives, and The L.A. Blade.He is executive director of Rise Up And Shout, an LGBT youth mentoring organization.

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