I've been on the spiritual path for many years. For the past four years I've been formally celibate, having taken a five-year vow. After only a few months of celibacy, one simple thought crossed my mind that stopped me dead in my tracks: "What if I find out that I'm not gay?
" The mere thought of such a possibility gave rise to sheer panic. It became clear that my identity as a gay man was something that I did not
want to question. After recovering from the disorienting tremors of this deeply visceral response, I thought to myself, "If I'm not gay, then who would I be?"
At that moment I was faced with just how deeply identified I was with being gay. It was frightening to discover that I would literally not know who I was if I gave up this fundamental sense of myself. My response had very little to do with giving up sex and relationships with men—I was already renouncing this through the practice of celibacy. This was about something deeper than that. It was about who I AM.
Over time I've realized that, without having given it much thought, my most fundamental identification as a human being has been "I AM GAY MAN." Not MAN who is also GAY, but GAY MAN. MAN and GAY MAN were distinctly and intrinsically different from each other. MAN was "those big, hairy brutes—insensitive, aggressive, unrefined." I was GAY MAN—sensitive, gentle and an expression of the higher levels of human potential.
While I made a conscious effort to distance myself from MAN, there was not any need to distance myself from WOMAN. A large part of the justification of GAY MAN's superiority over MAN is that GAY MAN embodies many "feminine" traits that he holds in high esteem—i.e., the ability to express a broad range of emotions and an appreciation for aesthetic/artistic matters. I could more easily relate personally to WOMAN than to MAN. And yet it never occurred to me to align myself with WOMAN.
Nor did I see GAY MAN as any sort of synthesis of MAN and WOMAN. I simply was who I was, always had been and always would be—GAY MAN. Gay manhood was something intrinsic to my being in the same way that I imagine manhood is to MAN and womanhood is to WOMAN. When I encounter another GAY MAN, I experience a kinship and intimacy with him that arise from an instant recognition of him as "self." Although I would never have put it in these terms, I considered "GAY MAN" to be its own distinct gender.
This fundamental sense of difference I now recognize to be an almost unconscious conviction in the inherent superiority of GAY MAN over both MAN and WOMAN. This is in essence no different than the positions that MAN takes with WOMAN and WOMAN takes with MAN. My dubious alliance with WOMAN was that we shared the same unflattering view of MAN and were united in our superiority over him. The unspoken alliance with MAN was in our shared and unquestioned assumption of an a priori
superiority over WOMAN.
Some propose that gay men hold a unique role spiritually on the planet. One example is that gay men serve as keepers of the arts and culture. Another is that we provide a unique conduit to the sacred in the role of priest or shaman. Ever since I was a boy, I was aware of being different from other boys, and somehow special
. I felt special because of a sexual and emotional attraction to other males as well as a powerful attraction to the sacred.
Probably the single most liberating aspect of being GAY MAN is breaking out of the cultural, social and religious stigmas around gender and sexuality. There is extraordinary freedom in rejecting all limitations on something as powerful as the sexual impulse. Just knowing that you're free
to break the barriers, and have already broken one of the most fundamental, is intoxicating.
As a result of questioning my fundamental identity as GAY MAN, I no longer feel special. Soon my celibacy will come to an end. Having seen through so many of the ideas that held my world in place, I wonder . . . "What would it be like to be back in a sexual relationship with a man?" And, I sometimes wonder, "What would it be like to be in a sexual relationship with a woman?"