|Eileen Myles [Star Black]|
Eileen Myles's essay "A Speech about Allen" from The Importance of Being Iceland:
Allen was more of a star than a homosexual. His great triumph was that you forgot he was gay. One of the ways we think about a human who is a star is that a variety of things, equally important, in the case of Allen say his poetry, his Buddhism, his homosexuality, his mother, his view of government, his capacity to eat at Christine's, his taking pictures, his capacity to read the newspaper at a table full of young poets who wanted him to pay attention to them, his lips, his voice, all constellate to yield one thing only which was Allen Ginsberg, again and again, and so when you try to see him as gay, you only see him as Allen. One thing I can say about being queer in America today is that for instance if you are already famous you can say you are gay and quickly that can become all that people see. On the other hand you could be famous and everybody knows you are gay and you never say it, and people watch you in the public sector and it's like the silent partner, your homosexuality and everyone watches you and wonders when you will stand up for them, why won't she come out, but they also admire you for being famous and forgive you for wanting to stay there, all glossy and bright and understand that you don't want to lose your seat on that wonderful promontory of fame for being queer. Allen was nearly thrown out of Russia for being queer, and I think part of his pleasure in being famous was adding that one thing in all the time, so that if they forgot Allen Ginsberg was queer, which was easy because he was so many things, then he would remind them that he liked to suck young boys' cocks and the honor that was bestowed on him, the acceptance, would be nearly taken away, and the nearly is really important, I don't know the story up close, I just remember the incident and the boat of State shaking, light and full of drama, shaking really hard like something was going to happen. Allen provoked that by saying who he was, and then it was just true and the boat arighted itself. Allen knew to stay with it. He "put his queer shoulder to the wheel."
I think about being gay in America right now and how for instance for a moment our president stood up for us, briefly, wanting to make it okay for gays in the military, and everyone knows the military is loaded with queers, is it only gay people who know that any same-sex organization is intrinsically more gay than straight, girls' schools, camps, Scouts, gym, and all those conventional places where the culture celebrates wholesomeness and youth, gay people just laugh and remember sneaking around and lusting and fearing exposure and craving it in some way, the fear of exposure — and even the fact that things are often the absolute reverse of what they seem in these wholesome places, that's exactly what's hot. Almost being caught is hot. So keep that in mind, the exciting fear of exposure, playing it close, and think of the famous American poet Allen Ginsberg who lived by exposure, who loved to sing about losing his cherry to HP in Provincetown, who stood naked with Peter, and later went even further, becoming a member of NAMBLA, the most reviled gay organization, even gay people hate NAMBLA, whose members assert their right to love young boys, the hope of America, and again it's those same wholesome places that are being invoked, openly, not as the playing fields of goodness and character but as gay shrines of desire.
Nowadays NAMBLA watches videotapes of junior high school basketball games, and public service announcements about Scouts and boys' clubs and street kids, good looking ones like him and him and him and NAMBLA uncomfortably points out that our whole culture is pedophilic in the way it celebrates youth, we can barely look at youth without eroticizing it, and then NAMBLA takes one step forward and says I want to eat you, and for this even gay culture wants to throw them out.
So the way things wound up in the military is that the ship of state started rocking again, and, see, the problem is, our president isn't gay. He couldn't stay out there. He had to back down. The solution in the military was that you can do anything you want, you just can't talk about it, and no one can ask you either, and the responsibility for homosexuality is put back on the queer in a very strange way, as if the compulsion to tell were the irresistible part of being gay, as if coming out was the thing that has to stop, and no one really minds women fucking women and men fucking men, and if we would just do it quietly like heterosexuals do, then everything would be okay. And then you turn on the teevee and there's a cute romance, and then you change the channel and there's a show about a young girl coming of age and liking a boy, and then you watch another show about Seinfeld having a naked woman cleaning his apartment, and it's really funny and of course you're bombarded with images of heterosexuality all day long, the man in the deli flirts with me, he just assumes I'm straight, and all the women in the clothes catalogue are eventually in a canoe with a man, if you're successful eventually you have to find a mate, it's just part of being human, to not stand alone, to put one next to the other one, and everybody applauds. But what if we stopped that, if we suggested for a moment that, yes, it was okay to silently mate and breed, and come of age and think about the opposite sex, but no school dances please and no proms, and no weddings, and no cute blind date plots on teevee, no rock n roll, no movies about love, and no Valentines Day, and no in-laws, and no tax breaks, no celebrations of what you do, no songs, and no schools for your kids because we don't know how that happened, why should we pay for it, and no health insurance for more than one person in your house because then we'll have to think about what you do, and the fact that we are essentially paying for you living together and doing it all the time, is really disturbing, as if we should take care of that, your "love" as you call it, your lifestyle, two lousy bodies lying in bed in a house for years and the offspring of your shame, kids three and four of them, hundreds and thousands of them across America, forcing everyone to think repeatedly about you copulating in your beds at night for years, the loud bed creaking, a culture built around the repetition of that love, and Allen Ginsberg insisted that he was your baby. He stood there singing, beautiful and goofy with his little suitcase, at the door of the ship of state, for forty years, and he said that he was home.
|Allen Ginsberg [Poetry Foundation]|