26 Jul

HomosexualityAmongst men the levels of tactile sensuality differs given the cultural context of the individual. I have a young friend, Brazilian by birth, with whom I work on occasions. Due to his background, we touch, stroke and have our arms around each other on a regular basis. He comes to me with that expectation, and I know I can respond without it being misinterpreted. However, many British men, whom I have know for many years, do not have this tactile expectation, and would misinterpret any such intimacy. This comes directly from a fear of being perceived as being gay, so they do not ‘hug’. This represents such a monstrous misrepresentation of a well-intended and natural feeling, as to be beyond belief. Those men who would instinctively like to give one another a cuddle, without sexual charge, feel intimidated and guilty. This is not natural. Living in the Middle East you see men walking the street hand-in-hand every day, and yet these men are not gay. Such behaviour is expected and normal. There is no denying that our culture has a homophobic edge and it affects all of us. When we suppress gay men, we suppress all men. The oppression and ignorance around homosexuality is worldwide now. When I lived with the Samburu, a nomadic tribe in Kenya, there were discussions around homosexuality, and the elders were very keen to tell me that no Samburu was gay. And yet the warriors had a 15-year apprenticeship during which time they could not mix or stay with women, and had to be together with men. There was an implicit but unspoken agreement that the things occurring during this apprenticeship were tolerated and then ignored. All the warriors married a woman, whether they wanted to or not. Like ourselves, they were in denial. Homosexuality is a biological fact, and the suppression of it a very recent phenomenon. Suppressing homosexuality only came about with the puritanical fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. It is not a recent ‘evil’ and sign of the moral decline we are presently in. It is not unnatural and cannot be changed by ‘reparative therapies’. Such ideas are abnormal. Homosexuality was (and still is) a very common practice. Recent research has shown that 60 percent of American men have, by the age of 49, had a homoerotic experience to orgasm. We need a more inclusive and enlightened society, which honours and accepts homosexuality and bisexuality. In order to do this we need to be clear about what we are dealing with. There are a small percentage of men (between 3 and 7 percent) who are biologically disposed to homosexuality, for whom there is no bisexuality at all. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a similar percentage, who do not have any homoerotic experiences. This leaves about 90 percent of men in the middle with varying degrees of heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. For them, homosexuality can be a thought, a phase, an experiment, can be a life style choice. When we look at our ancient roots we see how this way of being was incorporated into society not suppressed. Indeed if we step deeper into our shared histories homosexuality was revered and acknowledged as vitally important. In most traditions there is a communality around the concept of homosexual marriages which is the union of the older man and the younger man. These occurred in China, Africa, America, everywhere, but the Greek tradition can be used as an example. The old man (erastes) marries a younger man (eromenos) at the time of his mid-teens, such relationships could only be undertaken with the consent of the eromenos father. In nearly all cases, taboos existed against homosexual rape, and most such societies had taboos or laws intended to protect an unwilling junior partner from an aggressive senior partner. America The First Nations tribes revered and honoured their “Two-Spirit” people. The name indicates the belief that such men were spiritually adept, had insight into spiritual matters and were in that sense a gift to the people. The “Two-Spirit” was able to mediate between the spirit world and the every day, and the tribes people encouraged and supported such behaviour. Amongst the Hopi and the Zuni of Arizona and New Mexico this was especially the case. The gay men kept the traditional stories alive, were involved in healing work, and in many ways became the keepers of tradition. By being between genders, they upheld and maintained the village and were referred to when matters of traditional law were at stake. In other words the gay men were the keepers of the tradition- the establishment -what an inversion we have performed! The First Nations concept was very different to our own, in that they believed there was a continuum of gender – from on one side, male, to on the other, female. This continuum was unbroken and the “Two-Spirits” represented the middle ground between the two extremes. This enabled them to see into both worlds – the male and female – and therefore bring great gifts to the whole community. Their insights and visions were seen as pure and untainted by bias and gender difference, for this they were revered and held in great respect. Rome As with all warrior tribes, the Romans were familiar with homosexuality, and were not ill at ease about it at all. Cicero, a Roman jurists, defends Cnaeus Plancius from the charge that he had taken a male lover into the country to have sex with him, by stating categorically that “this is not a crime.” In Augustinian Rome, not only were male prostitutes allowed, they were even taxed. A Roman historian, Martial, not only mentions many prominent citizens and their male lovers by name, but admits to having engaged in such activities himself, and comments on it without the least evidence of shame. There was no difference in Roman law between homosexual and heterosexual sex or marriage. This all changed in the year 313 when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Homophobia Amazingly, the persecution and suppression of homosexuality relates directly to the hyena. In Greek times it became popular to look to nature for indicators of how to behave, many people wrote about it, these texts became known as the Bestiaries. They identified certain behaviours with particular beasts, and these wild assumptions were accepted without question. The weasel was not eaten because the female received from the male in her mouth, became pregnant, and gave birth through her ears. The Bestiaries were not only accepted as truths, the Christians adopted them as laws! Translated in the Middle Ages into every medieval vernacular, from Icelandic to Arabic, their influence was worldwide. Fatefully for us all they stated “You shall not eat the hyena or anything like it.” The reason you shouldn’t eat hyena was that it was extremely ugly, dug up graves, and indulged in homosexuality. The Physiologus wrote of it as male-female, at one time male and another female. It was an ‘unclean’ animal because of this sex change. Jeremiah wrote “Never will the den of the hyena be my inheritance.” The laws said you must not become like the hyena, taking first the male and then the female nature, in other words “men with men doing that which is unseemly.” This became ‘fact’, Bernard of Cluny, a thousand years later, said “a man dishonours his maleness, just like a hyena” and everyone knew what he meant. Despite not wanting to be a hyena, the priests, monks and abbots continued to indulge in homosexuality with (pardon the pun) gay abandon, many great poems, texts and literature celebrating their love in erotic and very beautiful prose still exist to this day. The persecution of Pagans, witches and druids gave way to a more ‘sophisticated’ state. The twelfth century in Europe began a move towards conformity and the stranglehold on civil liberties which has continued unabated for hundreds of years. The ruling classes and church realized in order to retain power they needed to keep their people in fear, and this led to the persecution of those deemed ‘deviant’ or different. Let’s blame others for our woes (sounds familiar). Starting with Jews and Muslims the persecutions began, and in order to re-inforce this difference the Muslims in particular were associated with homosexuality. “According to the religion of the Saracens [Muslims], any sexual act whatever is not only allowed but approved and encouraged, so that in addition to innumerable prostitutes, they have effeminate men in great number who shave their beards, paint their faces, put on women’s clothing, wear bracelets on their arms and legs and gold necklaces around their necks as women do, and adorn their chests with jewels. Thus selling themselves into sin, they degrade and expose their bodies; “men working that which is unseemly” they receive “in themselves” the recompense of their sin and error. The Saracens, oblivious of human dignity, freely resort to these effeminates or live with them as among us men and women live together openly.” William of Ada 1167 to 1222 The reaction of Islam to this propaganda, was, of course, repression of its own. To prove the Christians wrong, Islam came to a repressive stance of its own, eventually outdoing even Christianity in its repression of homosexuality. Wrapped within this astonishing tale of ignorance and mythmaking lies our present homophobic attitude. Homophobia is the result of a misunderstanding of the behaviour of hyenas. I am seeking to reclaim the place of the homosexual within society. As the bridge, between male and female, between the every day and the spiritual, as the catalyst for understanding and compassion. In many traditions the concept that a man would wish not to have children was perceived as remarkable, as a sign of true spiritual dedication. It was revered, and such a decision was seen as not being taken lightly. Having made that decision, the man was honoured, and most importantly accepted. His role within society was not on the fringes, but as the keeper of the stories, the keeper of the traditions. He performed this task, because he chose not to have children, so he could devote time to maintaining the connection to spirit, without the distracti

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