(This post includes recurring themes from my blog, and expands upon a post earlier today on my Facebook profile)
Fundamentalism. Traditionally used only in reference to religious world views it is now often applied (by me if no one else) to other spheres; politics being perhaps the most common. I’ve elsewhere described it thus: “Fundamentalism is any approach to complex issues (spiritual, political, sexual or any other) that attempt to offer a single, universal solution.”
People often say “forget the past- don’t look back, just ahead.” While I agree that it isn’t helpful to be ‘stuck in the past’ to ignore our past and how it continues to impact our present pretty much guarantees that it will continue to inform (and perhaps interfere with) our future. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” (George Santayana, ‘The Life of Reason’ 1905). Totally forgetting our past would mean constantly relearning skills and losing all the experiences of people, places and events that give our time here meaning and richness. Fully understanding our past often helps us move forward; while allowing us to enjoy the pleasant memories. Forgetting details of negative experiences while retaining relevant lessons learned is a useful balancing act. And ‘balance’ is the key to so much of life.
The books by the late Oscar Moore* are both good reads and important ones. Clearly the world of (western gay male) PWA- people with aids- is vastly different today than from the one Oscar Moore experienced. To a large, if lesser, degree the world of casual sex, recreational drugs, and sex work that he recounts in his novel is similarly historical. Yes many gay men still engage in some or all of those experiences (vice is far too judgmental) but not to the same degree. Or at least it appears not by as many. Perhaps some of those who do imbibe in such worldly pleasures are driven to excessive discretion due to the reactionary shaming and guilt that arose in the wake of the aids crisis of 30 years ago. Sadly such judgement and shaming contributed to the spread of the disease.
Outside our communities the label “gay disease” meant reduced resources, discrimination and attempts at segregating/ quarantine.
Worse (in my not-so-humble opinion) was the shaming and judgement within our communities. Slut-shaming was around long before gay pride, of course, but we’ve all-too-often adopted bad habits from the broader society as our own. Worse because we should know better- taking on the hatred of the oppressor means we haven’t collectively fought as hard as we could- should- for the true freedom of full self-expression.
This is a big part of why I now self-identify as Queer rather than as a gay man as I did when I came out in 1977.
The slut-shaming and judgement all too often kept people from talking about their actual sexual history. And that led far too often to people repressing their desires… until they popped out (up?) ‘under the influence’ of alcohol or other chemicals. With the resulting lack of clear thinking. And greater risk. More infection, more transmission, more shaming… and the cycle went on. Goes on.
Books by Oscar Moore
(These are affiliate links; I will earn a few cents should you make a purchase)
This semi-autobiographical novel has been compared to Rechy’s City of Night. Too-often called unapologetic (it is- but should that be noteworthy?) for its honest exploration of a life full of ‘worldly experiences’.
A collection of columns from The Guardian newspaper from 1994 to Oscar’s death in 1996, age 36. ‘Brutally honest’ and devastatingly witty. Gallows humour at its finest.