Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Philosophical Bear on Gay Purpose



Why are we here? It's one of the deepest and most basic questions we can ask. Why do we exist when nothing could exist? On a smaller scale, I have to ask why is anyone gay? If it were possible to create a vector virus that when released destroy the gay gene thereby eliminating homosexuality forever, what would be the positive argument for not doing such a thing? In other words, what is the purpose of being gay? I've been stuck on this question for a while because we're not a unified group of people. While there might be some patterns, any observations I make about gay people wouldn't apply to a large number of us. Still, it's a question I'd like to investigate.

In the study of evolutionary psychology, sexuality plays a huge role in how it informs our experience. When researchers look at the origins of human behavior, sexuality is key to understanding how those actions bestow a reproductive or survival advantage. Looking through that academic lens shapes the world we pay attention to. There's no doubt that this perspective existed in our ancestors and ultimately shaped the very nature of humanity. If that sexuality is focused on oppositely sexed people, the world appears full of polarities and interacting dualities. If that sexuality is focused on same sexed people, the world appears full of unity and sameness. This difference is subtle, but cannot be underestimated when considering how it is a reflection of one's own beauty and the desire to replicate that beauty through creative endeavors.

The world simply looks different to people like us. Gay men don't see the world in opposites the way that straight men do. For than, the difference between the sexes matters enormously. While we may not find women sexually attractive, we have no hangups in seeing the nonsexual beauty in women. The same cannot be said of straight men looking at other men. Because of this difference, gay men are naturally attracted to careers that are creative and focus on beauty. Musicians and artists are statistically proven to be more likely to be gay than most any other profession, but we're also drawn to design and architecture, theater, literature, and dance.

The fact that we don't have that experience of life that straight men do should be made evident by the fact that these differences in personality and preferences have very little to do with sexual attraction. We don't see the world as intensively polarized the way straight people do. Our sexual drives fill our consciousness with attractions and emotional feelings for those who are like us. And because sexuality is at the center of our psyche, the ripple effect of this one difference can have profound effects on many other seemingly unrelated areas of our lives. The list of gay men who are profoundly creative is long and varied. To imagine a world without them seems like a profound loss to me.

We often speak of gay men being shallow and vein. We tend to focus on our bodies and shun those in our community who we find unattractive. Even in the bear community there are the muscle bears and the super chubs. This happens of course in straight land as well, but not to the same degree that it happens in the gay community. We live our lives seeking out attractive male bodies to gaze upon, searching the world around us for other men. We watch and produce porn at rates much higher than straight men. And gay gathering will almost always be sexual in nature. For some, this is proof that gay men are morally depraved, but when we take a larger look at humanity we are just part of a larger spectrum of perspectives. The pervasiveness of sexual images is simply one manifestation of our beauty seeking consciousness.

The inner work necessary to be a gay man in the modern world forces many of us to truly consider the religion of our childhood. It's not just the inner work to understand that we're not going to hell, but also that we're not bad people. Even after years of work many of us still carry around the vestigial guilt of our upbringing. This isn't to say that straight people don't go through their own inner struggles with self worth, nor do all gay men, but many gay men are pushed in the directing our own personal spiritual journey in a way that can lead to enlightenment. It certainly finds it's way into some creative works of art rendered by tortured souls.

Straight men, of course, spend their lives seeking beauty as well. The only difference is the object of their desires. In seeking for women's bodies, they run into and countervailing feminine force which turns their desires outward. At the very simplest level, straight men and gay men are much the same, but we have to take different strategies to get what we want because of the very different nature of our objective desires. Independent of names, labels, or political identities, men know they are homosexual if they observe themselves looking at other men and hoping to see other men's bodies shirtless or alluringly posed rather than women and women's bodies. Whatever the source of this difference—genes, congenital influences, hormones, upbringing, indoctrination—the experience of being sexual toward our own sex gives us fundamentally different experiences.

Sexuality is an all-pervasive force in consciousness. Through the discipline of evolutionary psychology, we've discovered a connection from sexuality to all sorts of human activities. When thinking about the reasons certain behaviors bestow a reproductive advantage and thus replicate and survive in the culture, very little consideration is given to the idea that some of these ancestors were homosexual. Even if this group didn't use the word homosexual or consider themselves a group whose connection was their natural attraction to same sex partners, their desires were physiologically significant enough to alter the course of human evolution. The question of the real purpose of gay men is in fact so closely tied into the purpose of the all humanity that the two are basically the same question.

Weather or not we call ourselves gay or even think that there is such a thing as sexual orientation, having sexual attractions to people of the same sex puts us in a minority. Being in a sexual minority while simultaneously being evenly distributed throughout the population creates outsiders in all walks of life. This outsiders viewpoint, while not universal among all gay men, certainly has an affect on society. Because we don't have sex to have children, we're seen as hedonists, seeing only to have sex for the sake of pleasure rather than for the "greater" purpose of reproduction. As such we're forced to clash with the anti-sexual puritanical roots of our evangelical christian roots. Our opponents understand the consequences of our equality clearer than we do. It's about time we acknowledge that the acceptance of homosexual identity as equal will destroy the structural foothold close-minded dogmatism of our past.

We are at the heart of the modernization of religion in our time. We are having to see ourselves as equal and therefore reinforce the value of equality of all humanity. The gay rights movement meets with such violent opposition because the stakes are really much higher than we realize. We upset the taboos about seeking pleasure for the sake of pleasure. We are heretics by our very nature and we're not even aware of it. We embody the spirit of rebellion. We're against what the majority calls the natural order. We must struggle against the social pressures of the world around us to be authentic. We easily form critical views of institutions because those institutions long abandoned us. We can live a fulfilling life without having to father children. When the conservatives tell us the whole purpose of life is to reproduce, we live fulfilling lives without children or by raising a child that isn't our own.

And let's be clear this doesn't apply to all gay men. Obviously these drives and situation only apply to a few of us, but at it's core is collective consciousness the challenges the status quo. We'd need more study to further investigate the insights that our sexuality has to teach us, but that doesn't diminish the power of our imagination to think of the many ways in which gay people affect the world. These are just my opinions and observations. I don't pretend to be an authority on anything. So if there's something you disagree with or would like to add please drop me a line in the comments or send me a message.






MALCOLM TRAVERS
Male Media Mind