Being gay is one of the most important parts of my life. It defines virtually every aspect of what I do, from my home life right through to my work, my appearance, the way I relate to others. I am completely “out” as a gay man and wouldn’t want to be any other way.
I don’t understand why some people have the difficulty they do with homosexuality. The prejudice seems to me to be completely irrational, like so many prejudices. Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of facing up to their own feelings of attraction towards others of the same sex? There probably isn’t an easy answer.
It’s not easy growing up gay: to suspect that there is something fundamentally “wrong” with you, not to be able to join in with your friends as they talk about girls, to have the whole world telling you that you ought to want a woman, marry her and have children. All this contrives to destroy your self-esteem. The people who think that being gay is a “lifestyle choice” ought to think about this. If we could choose our sexuality, we’d choose the easy way out and breed. The fact that a certain number of us don’t should show everyone that we don’t have a choice, that we are overcoming prejudice to be able to follow our natures.
There is no “cure” for homosexuality because it isn’t a sickness, a psychiatric condition or a “sin”. Despite all the claims for “cures”, there aren’t any for the simple reason that there’s nothing to “cure”. I’m one of those gay men who spent his later teens dating girls (which, in retrospect, I can see was just using them) because I had been led to believe that I was going through a phase that would pass once I found the right woman. This is dangerous rubbish. I was encouraged by society to exploit women (now, there’s a surprise!) because I had been led to believe that it would “cure” me of my “problem”.
What did “cure” me was the realisation that there was no “problem”. Having sex with another guy when I was 20 was so natural, so right, so easy. It was like a revelation. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, to tell the world that it’s not just okay to be gay, it’s actually great and, for me, the most natural thing in the world. It’s left me with a slightly evangelistic attitude that I’ brought into my professional life by actively researching archaeological evidence for sexuality and presenting conference papers with an explicitly Queer agenda.
I bristle whenever I hear the word “queer”. It was used as a taunt at school and because I knew it was true, it made me feel ashamed. For me, the word still has also those associations of guilty secrets, of sordid encounters, of being a bad person, of being someone who would lose all his friends if they ever found out what was going on in his mind… This is exactly why radical gay activists decided to “reclaim” the word. The reasons I can understand, but unfortunately I can’ escape all the horrible and deeply-rooted connotations I find in the word. I am quite happy to describe aspects of my work as “Queer Archaeology”, but I cannot bring myself to say that I am “queer”: I am gay, first and foremost.
I can’t accept the view of some (perhaps most) within Queer Theory that the term has to be all-inclusive. We are not all queer: “queer” is what is defined as being the “other” against which the “normal” sets itself. I know that in our post-modern world, we have discovered that there is no “normal”, that it is an illusion: try telling that to those who perceive themselves as “normal”! They are in no doubt about their own normality, the correctness of their ways of life and find it equally easy to point out who is “queer” and who is not. They are the ones who are the first to use the word as a taunt, as an insult: they will never understand how it can be “reclaimed”.