Friday, September 07, 2012

Family

The September 3, 2012, issue of The Chronicle Review has a beautiful article by David M. Halperin called "How To Be Gay." Halpern writes about "the notion that homosexuality is not just a sexual orientation but a cultural orientation, a dedicated commitment to certain social or aesthetic values, an entire way of being."

That distinctively gay way of being, moreover, appears to be rooted in a particular queer way of feeling. And that queer way of feeling—that queer subjectivity—expresses itself through a peculiar, dissident way of relating to cultural objects.... As a cultural practice, male homosexuality involves a characteristic way of receiving, reinterpreting, and reusing mainstream culture....

What this implies is that it is not enough for a man to be homosexual in order to be gay. Same-sex desire alone does not equal gayness. "Gay" refers not just to something you are, but also to something you do. Which means that you don't have to be homosexual in order to do it. Gayness is not a state or condition. It's a mode of perception, an attitude, an ethos: In short, it is a practice.
Many of my fellow queers would say, "Girlfriend, I don't have to practice. I was born this way!"

In any case, the article is worthy of a read. My original reason for citing it, though, is the accompanying photo and the ponderings that photo triggers.


This...is a family. A beautiful family.

And what the image recalls to me is the idiom I learned as I was first coming out in the early 1970s. When gays and lesbians want to reassure each other about a new acquaintance without outing that person to passers-by, here's what we say:
"He/she's family."
People, This is our WHOLE point.

We are family. Our relationships—however weirdly astray from the conventional—are family relationships.

As Walhydra said in a rant long ago:
As far as I’m concerned, the real problem is that most people have the ridiculous notion marriage is about sex!

And that includes queer people. It’s ridiculous! Marriage isn’t about sex. It’s about kinship....

Look. Anybody can have sex without getting married. They can even have on-going affairs, lifelong relationships—families, for Goddess’ sake!—without being married....

But If they want their chosen kinship to be acknowledged and affirmed publicly, if they want their families to be honored and protected by the government, they HAVE TO GET MARRIED!

In a sane world, people would be glad to take a couple’s word for it when they said they intended to put up with all the hassles and grief of taking care of each other for years on end. People would rush to celebrate and support them, do everything possible to help them stay together.

Instead…, instead…. It just doesn’t make any sense!
It's not that hard to understand.



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