If you were going to attempt to describe gay male identity I wondered where you'd even begin. Written in 1992, in this convoluted, complicated meandering through the thickets I bump into every hazard along the way in search of some transhistorical, crosscultural definition or at least parameters. A bit of a slog I'm afraid, and probably of no interest to anyone but myself. For me it was the walk through the woods that was interesting. Any conclusions were chimeras, changing with the light.


When I was sitting around the Canadian Gay Archives [2023 note: renamed the CLGA and now The Arquives] a few years ago, surrounded by all that evidence of gay people, I began to wonder what it all added up to. Some of my musings on gay identity made their way into a discussion of Toronto Area Gays that I was writing at the time. Such thoughts can get rather precious and that made me nervous. Why were they so insistent and persistent, what was really on my mind. In my concern over identity it became apparent I was projecting my own needs onto gay people in general. Was there any basis for that? Maybe, maybe not, but it does provide me with a convenient excuse for talking about such things.

Without going too far into the facts of my life, by the time I was sixteen I was only hanging on by my fingernails. In the conflict between my long evident if still closeted sexual nature and a heterosexual culture's notions about sexuality it's not enough to say my sense of self-worth had been dislodged. In fact my entire sense of being had fissured, broken apart. In retrospect I'd say this conflict had involved a gay identity I didn't even know I had, would barely have understood had such an identity been proposed.

My escape to the city at that point was a matter of survival, a bid to hold together whoever I was, against the confusion that surrounded me. While my new freedom eased a great deal of social pressure and those first years were tremendously exciting in more than a sexual way, the disruption to my sense of self had also left me with few emotional defenses. The result was a gradual sinking into numbness, an emotional state of shock that only began to unwind years later and still leaves me wary. It continues to show up in my life at times as an insensitivity towards other people. There's a desire to be close to them, but a contradictory coarseness designed to keep them from invading a space that has been so difficult to clear. People are too quick and too willing to impose their own definitions of who you are and who you should be.

This is also why I distrust a good deal of current thought on gay lives, even though this comes from gay people. There's an indiscriminate imposing of preconceived definitions and formulas. It seems to me if we let ourselves be bullied by regurgitated dogma, whether of an academic or socio-political nature or some other variety, we simply end up replacing one cultural tyranny with another.

As the years passed and I thawed, a sensation of being human, a person, has also returned. But it's different than that sense of myself I had as a child, the immediacy. I get only a vague feeling for this person I am now, he is always out of focus, slightly out of reach.

One of the things I think I'm doing in writing about gay identity, is giving myself some room to manouevre, room to reach out and as if with my fingers, feel this being whom I can no longer see with an inner eye. If my tone in doing so is aggressive and didactic, it's the result of a perception that this space to manouevre and to speculate is rapidly becoming restricted by a gay movement and gay theorists with other things on their minds. At least in my own life, I'm trying to preserve as much space and freedom for conjecture as possible.

Be warned that my meanderings here are just an attempt to sniff out some of the borders of gay identity, take a few ideas for a walk. They don't lead to much that is definite or specific, are more a stirring of the pot. I don't believe in a one, true, and only way of seeing things. There are, admittedly, some suggestions that I prefer to others though.

One of the attractions for me in the idea of identity itself is the possibility it offers of speaking of gay experience in a way that has more a sense of dignity to it (and to some degree, legitimacy) than has seemed possible so far. Really what I'd like is a framework in which to place gay experience. For the record I think gay experience, the experience of being a person who is gay, requires neither that a person acknowledge their own sexuality nor that they know of the existence of other gay people or any concept of gay sexuality.

This gay sexuality, the basis of gay identity, is reasonably described as a predominant erotic attraction to other persons of the same sex, in other words who we suck, fuck, lick, rim, yearn for, love, erotically respond to on some level. Whether or not that eroticism is a conscious one, or is acknowledged by either side, it forms a significant part of the means by which gay males relate to other males, gay or not. It's always there in the background, as a factor in one way or another. It affects the way we view ourselves in relation to everyone else, the way we respond to people, male and female. In other words it helps to shape human interaction for gay males, it's part of the structure in which such interaction is placed. On a very personal level it affects how we see everything around us, forms an additional framework: a mental kaleidescope that makes up our view of the world is tumbled into alignment with our sexual nature and that world is subtly rearranged. This isn't unique to us, it's true of all humans. This arranging of the view to reflect the viewpoint, the way this rebounds on all aspects of our lives, is our gayness. It comes directly out of our sexuality, is an expansion of the ways we understand life, a counterpoint to our cultural conditioning.

After everything is said and done though, we are, after all, as much a part of our societies as anyone else. We are all schooled in a basically heterosexual culture, absorb things through its eyes, understand its language, how it sees and interprets, and we share with it a human pyschology that is intertwined with sexuality. There's no deficiency in our ability to learn from these surroundings, but rather there's a problem in their refusal to properly learn from us.

Heterosexual culture is reluctant to admit that it is just one part of human culture, unwilling to expand its own understanding of the world. In its quite literal and deliberate subjugation of us it refuses to acknowledge we are an equal contributor to human society. Our gayness, as much as heterosexuality, brings many things with it, provides its own lessons. As just one part of this it reminds us how things may be turned around, sideways, inside out, or removed to reveal whole new patterns. The interplay of gayness and human culture, the ability to supply new viewpoints, the existence and the juxtaposing of differences, the alignments and realignments and the insights these bring, the new twists, alternatives and expansions in all human relationships they provide, all of this and more, is yeast to the social brew, part of the engine which drives the human universe.

But gayness, that bridge of eroticism which connects us to the world, is not gay identity. The part of gay identity that is common to, shared by, gay people lies somewhere in a shared sexual nature, a shared gayness, and a shared need to in some way accomodate a gay sexual nature within our individual lives. (With a passing nod to other factors, I'll add that I think this is the case whatever the individual or cultural variations on that gay sexual nature, however that gayness is influenced by various cultural attitudes, and whether or not individual cultures formally structure the means by which we do accomodate a gay eroticism. I say this because either a culture is going to reinforce gay identity or it's not. To qualify things beyond that is to lose sight of gay identity altogether, to risk not seeing the forest for the trees.)

I think these three factors of sexual nature, gayness, and need for accomodation also shape the individual portion of gay identity. (This is in turn affected by the way we each absorb our individual experience and absorb cultural attitudes. Naturally when gay identities are based in a common culture, they may express themselves in ways that are more easily compared. But I repeat, either a culture is going to be supportive of gay identity or it isn't. If we are overcome by, let ourselves get bogged down in sorting out the details of that process, if we take our eyes from the prize, an understanding of gay identity will remain beyond our grasp.)

Do such concepts as "sexual orientation" and "homosexuals" say that much about actual gay identity, do more than link gay sexuality to a heterosexual culture? Sexual orientation does admit a gay sexual nature and the need to accomodate that nature. I don't belittle how effectively we've been able to manipulate the idea, use it to our benefit, but because it says little about gayness it has its limits.

As a concept and an identity it leaves open the possibility of gay people turning themselves into a form of honorary heterosexual in return for some sort of recognition. The cycle of oppression and repression could continue along quite merrily with the only good gay people those who behaved themselves in the approved manner, those who agreed to live their lives within the approved social structures and along the approved social guidelines, those who agreed to conform to social patterns designed specifically for a heterosexual culture. There'd be nothing new in that.

I do realize sexual orientation has become our foot in the door, but if gayness, if gay sensibilities and a robust gay viewpoint, don't make it through that entrance along with a newfound respectability, if we're assimilated rather than liberated, it may not be quite the epiphany we were expecting. It's possible to accord gay sexuality improved social status while still oppressing gay identity.

The very inability of human culture to keep gay sexuality in line speaks for the possibility that there is strong gay identity which only social conditioning and constant bombardment keep from rising to the surface. It also speaks for identity that is crosscultural, however it works itself out within individual cultures.

To suggest there is more identity attached to a gay sexual nature than we have so far uncovered, is not to mouth a form of biological determinism, is not to say if you are gay you are limited to or meant to fill certain roles in human society. Among other things it is to suggest that perhaps there are doors that gayness may open if allowed, possibilities it may help to explore, things it adds to human culture and community. In some cases gayness may not even be the point, only a signpost.

To speak of gay identity is to put gay sexuality within the context of what it is to be human. It is to suggest perhaps there are ways of thinking about ourselves that have been denied us; and that these may better express the ways we actually are than current gay identities that centre strictly on sexual orientation.

Some people argue there is nothing attached to sexuality, nothing to gay or human identity beyond what is manufactured by human culture. Does someone want to try and untangle all the relevant factors, strand by strand? Are we talking practical terms here? If so then to make this argument is to say little. Culture, after all, is human experience and one of the primary filters of human experience is human sexuality. While there may be a strong overlay of manipulation to culture that reinforces power structures and consequently obscures many things (the social prohibition against gay sexuality being the obvious example) culture is not all artifice. Further than this, gay sexuality, like other sexualities, provides its own experience and out of that its own cultural context, however that is imposed upon by other contexts. In other words the idea that gay identity is rooted in human culture neither makes it necessarily artificial nor restricts it to particular cultures, nor prevents it from being, to repeat, crosscultural.

How about the idea that gay sexuality and therefore all gay identity are spurious cultural offshoots of a generalized human sexuality, a sexuality that at its base is non-specific in its object choice. This isn't a prominent suggestion these days but taking a brief look at it allows for a couple of comments that might be relevant to other debates. It's worth noting in passing that sexuality and a generalized capability for sexual response are not the same thing, as the number of gay people in heterosexual marriages attests to.

As far as a loosening up of sexual categories goes, of course I'm in favour, even wrote an article to that effect a couple of decades ago. There's social manipulation of most sexuality, whatever its orientation, and this hampers all sexual expression in one way or another and in ways we haven't yet realized. But that's a different thing than saying familiar sexualities themselves have no intrinsic part whatsoever in human nature, that specific sexual inclinations are only the product of social circumstance.

Certainly for purposes of a useful discussion of gay lives this is an idea of limited value. The survival of our sexuality despite all efforts to eliminate it, despite a history of encountering unfavourable social circumstance, tells us that gay eroticism in some form is central to the sexual nature of many humans. Both in discussing sexual natures and in many other discussions there's a genuine non-political basis, as well as a real political one, for grouping people in terms of gay sexuality.

Beyond that, to argue that all human sexuality is essentially non-specific, and/or fluid, that modern sexualities are entirely artificial cultural constructions, is to open the door for a claim that society, in that case, has the right to decide how sexuality should develop and be expressed, based on perceived social needs, social good or other issues it may define. We've been down that road, it's called institutionalized heterosexuality.

All this serves to reiterate that gay identity, as an expression of gay sexuality, is a very political thing. But that's hardly news. My fear is that currently understood gay identities are not strong enough to command loyalty, to hold people together as a community of interests over the long term. A wider net needs to be cast, more territory for identity staked out. Cultural identities need to reflect gay identity more strongly than the concept of sexual orientation by itself is capable of doing. Yet that's hard to accomplish when gay identity, itself, remains so difficult to recognize.

Unfortunately the keys to identity, the words and ways by which it is comprehended, do not seem to fit our situations easily, do not bend to our use. It's a heterosexual world with much invested in the way identity is defined, investigated, understood and expressed. The breaking open of this area would be as large a step for gay people as the original assertion of our sexuality.

Speculating on identities flowing from a shared sexuality is a way to both investigate and bring coherence to a gay experience that reaches beyond a tale of injustice. Setting up simplistic and confined definitions of identity, as has sometimes been done, that cannot be transferred from culture to culture or era to era defeats the purpose. Such definitions both present a barrier to learning about ourselves and ultimately become another negation of gay experience. Thoughts about what identity consists of and how it is to be outlined need to be as generous as possible if we are to be able to see ourselves. The ideas around, and definitions for identity we inherit from heterosexual society by their very nature exclude us and function to keep subversive notions like gay identity within controllable bounds.

A part of any inquiry into identity is simply an interpretive look at how we've adjusted ourselves to various societies. In our own society how do we see ourselves within the social structure, how are we relating to it? Are there any patterns to social roles, jobs, professions, whatever, among gay people in general? Is there any way of finding this out? To what degree are we nursemaids to culture and social structure? Overtly and covertly are there particular roles we're allowed and not allowed? Is homophobia a way of taking advantage of our talents without acknowledging us; in other words is it a way of allowing us to take part in society while seeing to it we don't acquire status and power as a group, as gay people? If we did acquire status and power as a class, what would it mean for the social structure? Is our sexuality now in the process of being domesticated so we may assume new functions?

We are mouthpieces of authority on one side and explorers of the horizons on the other. We are administrators and organizers of things on the one side, and disrupters and reorganizers of things on the other. And we are propagandists, entertainers, and purveyors of the dreams that make both sides of these equations slide down the social sluiceway so well.

We are clerks and wigmakers and truckdrivers. But who are we? The answers to that are to be found in looking at ourselves. Despite all the bullshit about having done that and found nothing, in truth we haven't even begun.

How gay people actually picture themselves in terms of their sexuality depends on what concepts are available for plundering at the time. The appropriation and adaptation of the pyschoanalytic model of homosexuality is a modern example of this. This model though, was a necessary precondition only for a particular modern gay identity and not for gay identity itself.

In the emergence of what are considered modern identities, the twentieth century public sexual identity "homosexual" and the classification of this as a "sexual orientation" are useful as a way of resisting social pressure, heterosexual cultural intimidation. And that's the way gay people have employed them. But these things don't fully describe gay experience or fully encompass gay identity. And that puts limits on their use and usefulness in the lives of gay people.

Insofar as modern identities have been embraced by those gay people who have done so, it's as material for a costume individually and privately cut to measure, it's as a validation sewn to fit and outline something that was in many ways already there; with bells, whistles and adornments added so we may feel comfortably queer. That's what all my own thrashing around here is about, it seems. Who knows? Certainly when placed in the context of the pysche, it gives new meaning to a gay reputation for talented interior decoration. However the idea of homosexuals as people who have existed throughout history strikes you, I think there is truth in the idea of the historical, eternal, interior decorator. "Homosexuality" and "sexual orientation" as ways of thinking about ourselves, are just this century's colours, ideas purchased from the shelves of the elite shops of heterosexual culture. In other words it's a case of that aforementioned plundering of concepts which gay people engage in for the purpose of attempting to adapt their gayness to their times.

This leads to another issue. There are those who insist sexualities of different eras and/or cultures can't be categorized together and that what our conceptual redecorating has caused us to term a gay sexuality can't be spoken of except in a modern context. Well obviously not only might people perceive themselves differently at different points in history but social structures that define, control, and channel sexual expression also vary. It isn't necessary to go back into history at all to be aware of those possibilities.

What we're being told goes beyond this though. Supposedly each and every human sexuality (sexuality itself being a disputed concept) is unique to its own epoch, its own time and place and has absolutely no meaning in common with any sexual expression in any other time and place. In other words we can't speak of gay people and historical times in the same breath, there were no people in any way similar to us in prior eras and there is no such thing as gay history beyond a hundred years.

While the contexts of sexuality do vary and do have bearing on sexual expression, it seems to me that the context of it being a "human" sexuality provides gay sexuality with enough of a constant. Humans are not, as a species, so full of unimaginable sexual potentialities that we can't draw lines of connection between us in relation to our sexual behaviour. (Of course I think claiming otherwise also misses much of the point in terms of gay sexuality's interaction with the world. But that's just my own way of looking at things.)

If you say sexualities that exist in different contexts can't be regarded as in any way similar, the implication is that in different contexts humans, themselves, are entirely different creatures and can't be regarded in this way either. Why bother with history at all then? or socio-economic contexts for that matter since these only exist in a human context? We are left with nothing but chicken and egg debates over which context supersedes which, when it does so, and what it all means. This sort of thing sounds more like a medieval Christian theological discussion than gay history, and perhaps that says something about the quasi-religious nature of some of the theories involved here.

Our modern cultural pilfering hardly places us in a position of such intellectual superiority to gay people (pace Social Construction) of other eras and places that it would allow us to assume they were incapable of taking note of erotic inclinations similar to our own, that is, a predominant attraction to members of their own sex. But in the end, whether or not their concepts and conclusions about sexuality were different than ours, or whether or not they consciously dabbled in concepts at all, is not important to considering these people a part of gay history.

I don't question there's a need for cultural sensitivity in looking at the past. However in proclaiming the absolute uniqueness of the cultural processes of each era perhaps there's a point reached where this begins to patronize both history and historical beings, where it starts to confuse historical anachronism with historical condescesion. Condescension, of course has been an honoured weapon in the gay arsenal, and practically a tribal ritual in some academic and political circles. But there are better ways to celebrate gay tradition.

As far as contemporary ideas go, there's no doubt that over the past twenty five years thanks to a change in gay perception of gay sexuality there's been the beginning of the lifting of a great pyschological burden from many people. Nevertheless might even this adjusted understanding (in societies where it's relevant) be characterized in some ways as the continued displacement of authentic gay identity? Are we still saddled with an identity imposed by heterosexual society? Though we may be using current ideas to our own ends, to what extent are we still talking in heterosexual terms, still dealing in concepts that owe too much to the relentlessly heterosexual culture which spawned them?

This whole area is one of qualifications. While they may not be the total miracle our modern conceit would suggest, the changed perceptions that result from such ideas as sexual orientation possibly do provide us with a sturdier collective framework upon which to place our sexuality. This may help gay identity to emerge sometime in the future at a conscious level even if for the moment it remains submerged. It can't be taken for granted though. We'll need more of a revolution in our thinking than this if we are truly to climb out of the pit we're in. What I've been suggesting is that underneath modern gay identities there are gay identities that those modern identities must expand to fit if they are not to function as limiting factors themselves. We shouldn't be so mesmerized by our fancy packaging efforts, our coloured foils, our silver ribbons, our modern gay identities, that we fail to realize this, fail to see there is something inside these packages.

It may be that we had reached a point in our history, in our consciousness, where the identity permitted gay people was no longer socially tolerable or sustainable. It would be nice though to have a clearer view of this process of change we're now undergoing. One of the things that does appear to be happening so far, with the acceptance of the the idea of a gay sexual orientation, is that we're being bribed with a new identity more bearable than the old.

But this new identity still keeps us in a subservient position. As a way of thinking of ourselves, as an identity, it doesn't threaten any actual fundamentals because it imagines gay sexuality and heterosexuality bring entirely and only the same things to the table. It assumes that the way the heterosexual model plugs into the system is not only adequate and acceptable but that it should provide the framework for gay sexuality's participation in that system also. In other words it articulates only a gay version of heterosexual life.

It approaches our sexuality as something that can be isolated, a sort of ethnic sexual custom that needs to be accomodated but has no ramifications beyond that. It doesn't allow us to conceive of ourselves as an independent and necessary part of human life that has a right to design other ways for sexuality to fit into the structure than those that are presently available; and it doesn't let us realize how vital we and gay sexuality may actually be to human society and social evolvement.

Through sexuality we conduct mental, physical and emotional conversation and debate with ourself and with others. There has always been a gay voice, whether it's understood as that or not, at all levels of social intercourse. It affects all human processes and adds its own things to them. Rather than simply rifling gay experience for patterns of oppression, discarding all further meaning, we should investigate gay lives in a way that attempts to recognize and give credit to that voice, that allows it to speak more directly. Only when we've done that, only when we've outlined a world that is inconceivable without us, will we have successfully described gay identity.

As it is, the possibility of underlying gay identity continues to be neglected or denied. These denials don't really refute the idea there is a wider base for identity than has so far been acknowledged. They don't satisfactorily account for the effect, beyond the play of other social forces, that human sexuality has on human identity. (Here I'm referring to the effect of sexuality itself and not simply how our ideas about sexuality influence how we see ourselves.) They also make no real attempt to come to grips with how gay sexuality and gayness function within human society. To my own way of thinking, this bears out the suggestion that we have not yet put ourselves in the context of our sexuality, that we have yet to discover and explore the full boundaries of gay experience and what it is to be a gay human being. I've said elsewhere that I think we'll remain at the mercy of society's attitudes as long as the only way we possess to discuss gay lives is in the context of those attitudes, in the context of homophobia and discrimination. To become strong enough to withstand shifting external pressures we'll need to develop a more encompassing, liberating and independent view of gay people.

I'm quite prepared to be wrong about much I've written here. It takes me a while to absorb things and work them through. It's no false humility, simply a statement of fact, to say my intellectual limits are obvious. But that also serves to make me a cautious person, not a bad thing a lot of the time. I like to look a gift horse in the mouth and count its teeth before I get taken for a ride. Then at least I'll be less surprised where we all end up. When it comes to the view we've formed of ourselves over the past few decades, modern gay identity, I'm suspicious. I'm not ready to climb into the saddle and ride off into this particular gay sunset just yet. There are these doubts that keep nagging at me, I keep thinking there's something more to all of this, to our story.

It isn't necessary for us to be conscious of the kind of gay identity that I'm speculating about, the kind that has to do with what gay lives and gay experience actually add up to, for such an identity to exist and for it to form a part of our own identities. Only a classifier would insist that a thing had no existence until it had been appropriately articulated, defined and classified.

For myself, the thing I can say is that from the time I was quite young, my sexuality, my orientation, had a great deal of influence on how I related to the world. This may not be everyone's experience but it was mine and all the rhetoric in the world will not simplify it to a clash of sexual urges with societal structure (that clash only came with time) or explain it with a reference to the historical forces gathered around the expression of sexuality. So pardon me as I hold the concept of identity in my hands, turn it this way and that, toss it in the air, watch to see which way it bounces.

Although there appear to have always been some gay people who knew exactly who they were and what it meant to them, what might be argued is that our situation continues to be defined by the flight from, destruction of, gay identity. Cultural hostility, circumscribing us and holding us in our place, still denies gayness both real resonance and viable context. In such circumstances it is possible that, whatever our individual embrace of our gayness, a particular kind of self-awareness is still overwhelmed by the lack of a vocabulary that would allow us to recognize it. There are still too many mechanisms of repression at work to fully grasp their effect.

Rather than being proof there is no gay identity beyond what we have already articulated, what all of this speaks to is the ability of social controls to cut people off from themselves. What it is evidence of is the self-alienation that is a product of oppression.

It does seem clear there is no one way to express what it is to be a gay male. On the other hand this shouldn't keep us from continuing an attempt to outline what we do have in common. Part of the problem here may be the directions in which we've been looking, the way the question has been taken too literally sometimes. If we probed gay sexuality with more patience, gayness and gay identity with more respect, and gay experience both more deeply and within the framework of these other things, then we'd learn more about ourselves and the world. As much as anything, by what we have in common I mean this wisdom, these lessons of a different sexuality. Two decades into gay liberation it feels as though we are farther away from acknowledging even the existence of that wisdom than when we started.

The further we explore the full range of gay existence, beyond discrimination, beyond being sacrificial offerings on the altar of heterosexuality (what sort of identity is that, after all?), the further ahead we'll be.

Simply put, the more clearly we are able to see the collective extent of our lives as gay people, and can place this in the context of human culture, the likelier we are to understand and regain what has been lost by society's destructiveness; and the more apparent it will become how to protect future generations.

At the least, an insistence on gay rights that isn't accompanied by a more complete knowledge of gay experience, the experience of being gay, leaves us still too vulnerable as individuals to the cruelties of the world; and also perhaps finds us collectively too willing in our acceptance of societal distortions of life itself.

This, finally, is about as much sense as I can make of the mixture of my instincts, thoughts, the feeling that something vital was and is not being dealt with properly by the gay movement, the feeling this reluctance to deal with it was as much the result of cultural conditioning and inhibition, a colonized mind, as a matter of strategies and priorities. Here, I look no farther than myself to see the manifestations of a brain that can't rid itself of these shackles, the timidity in the face of uncharted seas, the wobbling and the waffling, the courage that comes and goes. Well I'm trying to work it out, as I have for years.

The lack of honour given to difference, and fear of difference, have played a part in the mess we've been trying to extract ourselves from. If we are to avoid simply recreating what we are trying to escape we have to keep this in mind in a discussion of the personal and societal aspects of our lives as gay people. (As an aside, one of the things a civil rights strategy, for instance, must do is find a way for concepts of difference and equality to coexist more comfortably.)

We need also to consider how the existence of different sexual natures, and the dynamics of difference itself have a role in the effect of human sexuality on human culture.

Gayness and gay experience are the things we must learn from, we must celebrate, and which must guide us. They are the keys to understanding and interpreting our lives. Rather than being beside the point in a fight for civil rights, they are the point. Treating an exploration of these things as secondary to that fight rather than essential, attempting to shunt them aside like so much excess baggage, is self-defeating, is only further evidence of a homophobic culture at work.

The private and somewhat rhetorical conclusion I come to, after all this wandering down the sideroads of identity, is that I've allowed myself to be boxed in for too long by the word "gay", by other people's interpretations of what this stands for. The limited image that word now conjures up for me is unsatisfactory, has too little to do with my life, distracts me from seeing what that life actually consists of. Too much potential meaning has been drained and it's become as inadequate a descriptive as "homosexual". Admittedly I still need "gay" itself as a sort of codeword that allows people to relate in some way to who I actually am; and as a way of naming a particular part of the world I live in and the people who live there with me.

In the larger framework, it was the original lesson of gay lib that they who control the definitions of things control the world. Sometimes when pessimism overtakes me it seems that the power to define ourselves, that glorious opening up of all avenues, was in our hands only briefly. Perhaps it has already passed, flown away, leaving us behind; and stranded in a world of someone else's making. Or could it be I just took our own propaganda too much to heart in the first place?

On the other hand once the door to self-definition has been opened, can it ever totally close again? Even if it were no longer open to gay people as a group, could we slip through individually? And so I try to keep this small space clear for personal speculations. That's part of another gay tradition.

It's also where I'm coming from. Where I'm going to, I have no idea. Once again.