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Phenomenology

 

Embodied and Symbolic Difference of Being Gay

by Merlin

e-mail: WendelinMerlin@t-online.de

Abstract

Being Gay refers to bodily, emotional and symbolic processes which always refer to contextual "life-worlds", in which gay people pro-actively experience, create and interpret their idiographic ´Being´ as a "living difference". To overcome essentialist and constructionist positions and to develop a deeper understanding of the always already embodied and expressive processes, the article applies an advanced phenomenological approach (Merleau-Ponty) towards being and becoming Gay. The connection between emotion, embodied intentions and symbolic ways of expression for a "queer identity" are outlined and discussed. The article tries to develop what could be called a "Gay-Phenomenology of Becoming" as a responsive practice "beyond" any misunderstood naturalism or postmodern culturalism resp. constructionism.

Keywords: Embodiment, Emotions, Phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty, "Being-Gay", Queer Identity.

Table of Contents

Introduction - Being Gay - being different

1. A Phenomenological Approach towards the embodied Gayness

2. Phenomenology of Emotion in Gay -Life

    2.1. The background of suppressed Gay feelings

3. Gay-Sexuality and Eros as embodied and expressed Intentionality

Conclusion: The Becoming Identity of "Being Gay"

Literature

Introduction

To a great degree discussions of Gay-Identity have been dominated by somewhat tedious questions as to whether Gayness refers to an essence or to a socially constructed discourse. As Sedgwick has shown in her  "Epistemology of the closet" (Sedgwick, 1991, 47), both attempts are inadequate for an understanding of what Gayness means. While the essentialist approach, based on the inversion and transitivity paradigm of gender, claims to universalize a sexual orientation, the constructionist approach tries to develop a separating and minoritising approach. Both the minorising and the universalizing fall into an impasse of gender definition as a binary identity. Binaries like hetero/homosexual, masculine/feminine, natural/unnatural dominate the organization of our culture and social or psychic order. They hold in place and at the same time disavowed which no place is allowed to be given. How to break free from such binary thinking? In the context of gender discussions a deconstructive approach towards binaries has become influential (Dollimore, 1991). Deconstruction offers an approach to being Gay as a "con-textual production", as a kind of "writing" and inscription. Through a deconstructive approach, organizing principles of authorized or endorsed con-texts are questioned and placed in a new relation-ship to each other. In this way deconstruction is not destruction, but a careful and systematic dismantling of deeply entrenched structures of thought and feeling. Deconstruction is used not to abolish "truth", "objectivity", "logic", or even "modernity", but to question how these concepts are present in con-texts and how they are employed to systematically include or exclude certain categories of thought and communication. It shows how con-texts depend on hierarchically ordered binary oppositions and sensitizes one to the play of meaning between them, one of which is often suppressed or marginalized. The deconstructive pointing searches for what the con-text has or is covertly neglecting, and how that which is excluded is necessarily implied in the categories or principles of the con-text. In this way it reveals how the power of con-texts excludes deviations, mistakes, marginalia and trivia. Therefore deconstruction is a concept, which enables us to 'reconsider all the pairs of opposites on which philosophy and gender-thinking too, is constructed and on which our discourse depends, not in order to see opposition erase itself, but to see what it is which indicates that each of the terms must appear as the "différance" of the other, as the other different and deferred in the ´economy of the same´.

One of the achievements of deconstruction has been to show the limitations of the logocentric bias. This concerns binary logic in theory, as well its often pernicious effects in practice. It has shown how binaries, far from being eternal necessities of an essential natural or cultural order are unstable constructs whose antithetical terms presuppose, and can therefore be used against each other.

The context-dependent meaning of terms is revealed as an effect of difference and deferral in a play of differences (Derrida; 1982, 11). As all categories are constructed there are no original categories between which the differences occur. There cannot be natural, organic or any "correct" categories since the objects or concepts unified do not share some immutable quality and so naturally belong together. Rather the categories are socially constructed, grouped around chosen characteristics which themselves are differences. These terms are therefore always vulnerable to inversion and its structure to displacement, the continued existence of the binary is never guaranteed but will often be maintained in and through battles of representation and repression. The dominant is only ever the more powerful and possibly repressive side of a shifting relationship or series of relationships which interconnect, often asymmetrically. By disrupting metaphysics deconstruction contests its structures from within and redirecting its force against itself deconstruction undermines the ruling scheme without replacing it by a new one.

For Derrida the binary oppositions are defined as a "violent hierarchy" (Derrida, 1972, 41) where one of the two terms forcefully governs the other but involves their own inversion. Contradictions are manifested in and through practices or representation, infecting its most fundamental categories. Also binaries produces internal instabilities in and through the very categories it deploys in order to clarify, divide and stabilize the world. According to Dollimore "binarism affords the opportunity for transgression in and of its own terms; transgression is in part enabled by the very logic which would prevent it." (Dollimore, 1991, 88).

How can new meanings be created? As the context changes, the interpretation changes too. By rearranging sets of differences the dynamic meaning signifies new contents. In the struggle against bipolar gender constraints and the compulsory choice of masculine or feminine the concepts of transgression and re-inscription try to find new ways of understanding gender. A transgressive reinscription (Dollimore, 1991, 279) can be an 'oppositional' practice as well as a different perspective. In a re-invented language we can constantly re-interpret and re-present different "life-worlds" of a culture including its dominant and subordinate fractions and identities. According to Dollimore "we should never expect transgression or subversion to change the social order miraculously. If transgression subverts, it is less in terms of immediate undermining or immediate gains, than in terms of the dangerous knowledge it brings with it, or produces, or which is produced in and by its containment in the cultural sphere." (Dollimore, 1991, 88).

But how can one get from the theoretical knowledge via a destructive struggle to the radical transformation of the conditions that produce and sustain injustice? In which way can a displacing repetition and inversion gets out of the trap of affirmative fallacies of a swallowed criticism? How can such a reinscription become a sustainable liberation? How can we live within the play of differences without losing the ability to act as a 'self-coherent' and responsible person in a world of contingency?

How to get out of the "subversion-/containment problematic" (Dollimore, 1991, 81) wherein repressive rules are seen not only to defeat resistance coercively but to inhabit in ways which ensure the defeat prior to direct force? How to avoid internally replicating the strategies, structures and even the values of the dominant? How to situate a changing criticism and a practical freedom in regard for the "concrete other" (Benhabib, 1992) and embodied Gay-Selves? Can it move transgressively beyond while turning back upon a reactionary hold and thereby substituting agency for autonomy? In other words: how can we deal with the with our post-modern situation? The "subject" of post-modern culture seems to be 'a dispersed, decentred network of libidinal attachments, emptied of ethical substance and psychical inferiority, the ephemeral function of this or that act of consumption, media experience, sexual relationship trend or fashion.' (Dollimore, 1991, 71) But doesn't the activity of deconstruction indicates the presence of a deconstructor, an intentional agent engaged in deconstructing texts?

"Gay-selves" are living in different styles, types and dimensions of experiencing and of integration, coherence and differences. Thus Gay men are living embodied differences! As sexuality in its normative forms constitutes a 'truth' which connects inextricably with other truths and norms not explicitly sexual, the Gay can become a irritating "living difference". 'Sexual deviance' is found threatening because deviations from normative truth and the 'nature' which underpins it, shift and confuse the norms of truth and being throughout modern culture. What does it mean that the "Gay Self" too cannot be identified with any fixed structure; but is being constituted continuously in a process always open to further structuring and "becoming"? What consequences emerge from the insight that there is no 'Gay-self' in the sense of a substance, a fixed identity, and a rigid closure to processes of change? What would it therefore mean to develop a Gay Phenomenology? What realms of Gay Life are relevant for such a phenomenological approach? What are the basic questions, problems and concepts of such a Gay-oriented reflection?

Lots of open questions, but research on a Gay-phenomenology can contribute to a different understanding of the embodiment and socially constructed realities of being Gay. The intention of a "Gay-phenomenology" will be to find new forms of "subjectivity" through the refusal of the kind of individuality, gender-fixation, and even "Gay-Identity" etc. which has been imposed on Gays for several centuries. More and more we realize how much and in which way the relations of force and constraint, the complex connection of power-knowledge in embodied discursive practices are powerfully influencing the thinking and feeling of Gay men. Understanding the (Gay) Body as acting and acted upon, understanding the body-politics we are involved in helps to realize that Gender is produced and reproduced, through adornment, posture, gesture and comportment of the body. With their bodies Gay-men are "being-in-the-life-world" as well as a target of power. Practices of power and control are effected by means of situated and embodied human subjects who have the capacity to reflect upon their actions, judge their actions and act otherwise. But our body-subject with its inter-embodiment, is not only an object as a product of discourses (Foucault). but always bodily situated (Merleau-Ponty) and therefore changeable. 1. A phenomenological approach towards the embodied "Life-world" of Gayness Gay men are living within a "life-worldly" context. The "life-world" of Gayness is not monistic, but is to be understood as a net or an interlinked chain of particular worlds, which overlap in multiple ways, which are not hierarchically ordered or teleologically fixed towards a comprehensive totality. This implies a pluralisation and decentering of the Gay-Self with its own sense and various embodied and language experiences. With Merleau-Ponty we can understand the "life-world" as a perceptual-embodied and language-expressive open reality of processes. Against the intellectual-Cartesian and empirical-positivistic traditions, the Gay Life-world can be understood from the direct process of the lived Gay Life. This exists before any distinction between a reflective subject and an objective Being. In this pre-existing horizon the actual experience takes place and find its time. In bodily and linguistic practice the Being and qualities of the "Gay-Lifeworld" find its expression. In an inter-relational "in-between", the Gay-Self, with its particular intentions, meets and constitutes his or her personal world. The sense of this world remains always in a 'status nascendi' of bodily perception and linguistic expression which qualify the experiences. The body is always present in all these spatial and temporal experiences. It is through the body that we gain all our mental and practical knowledge of the "external world". The body in itself cannot be known totally, as "s/he" is more than an object of knowledge. S/he is the fact of the recognizing act itself. We do not ´have´ a body, we ´are´ one!

It is within a mutual, relational dynamic between consciousness and body, of constituted and constituting dimensions, that reality emerges. In feeling and reflection about these unreflected realms we can recognize and change the structure and processes of our existence. Experience can be profoundly changed, in response to that which such reflection discloses. Such an opening reflection is not a discovery of a pre-existing truth of being Gay, but, like art, the actualization of bringing Gay truth into being. True philosophy consists in relearning the manner in which we look at the world, and in this sense is a realistic narration. Through our body we are situated in a tactile, visual, olfactory or auditory environment. Whatever we think, feel or do, we are exposed to a synchronized field of senses; in the midst of a world of touch, sight, smell and sound. A phenomenological understanding can approach this natural and bodily contact with the world and interpret the sense of experiences and communications.

1.

A Phenomenological Approach towards the embodied Gayness

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A Gay-phenomenology can be practiced and identified as a manner or style of thinking, approaching the pre-reflexive dimensions which are there before arriving at a "supposed" complete comprehension of the phenomena in binarised categories. As Merleau-Ponty says, returning to things themselves is to return to that world and those qualities which precede knowledge, of which knowledge always speaks, and in relation to which every scientific schematisation is abstract and derivative sign-language. In this way we can enter a dimension which is not determined by a conventional gender-orientation and discursive practice that emphasizes a heterosexual self. Such an approach would willingly undermine a social construction of specific masculinity, which is also a condition and consequence of men's relation-ship to their own bodies. In a primordial intentionality the bodily consciousness feels not an `I think`, but an `I can` or `I relate to. What Gay identity means is primarily what Gay men ´live through´ as embodied beings. It is through the body that we reach the objects directly. Our body is a truly 'natural Gay-Self` and hence itself the 'Gay subject of perception', the location of the actual expression. The body answers meaningful questions posed to him through a situational context in which he himself takes part. Therefore any perception is intentional communication. "The thing is inseparable from a person perceiving it, and can never be actually in itself, because its articulations are those of our very existence, and because it stands at the other end of our gaze, or at the terminus of a sensory exploration which invests it with humanity. To this extent, every perception is a communication or a communion,... or, on the other hand, the complete expression ´outside´ ourselves of our perceptual powers.." (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, 320) Objective thinking has hampered an awareness of the perceptual world. In reducing all phenomena which bear witness to the union of subject and world, this objectifying approach puts in its place the supposedly clear idea of the object as in itself and of the subject. "But in reality, all things are concretions of a setting, and any explicit perception of a thing survives in virtue of a previous communication with a certain atmosphere." (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, 214). Adding to the natural relational contact, the world the social contacts and particularly friendship with other Gay men is, of course, of utmost significance. Between my consciousness and my body, as to how I'm experiencing this phenomenal body and the body of the other man, which I perceive and relate to exists an internal relationship, which essentially completes our reality. Our perspectives and respective regard are not separate from each other, but overlapping internally. The personal subjects which exist without determined boundaries are "sliding" into each other spontaneously. Furthermore they are gathering in a single world as impersonal but intertwined subjects of perception and relation. I am the mirror of all others: What I see mirrors who I am as a seer; the Other reflects back to me the face of my vision. Both of us are co-emergent, we arise together, simultaneously and in interdependence. The other one reflects back to me the character of my being, as I do for him. Both of us constitute a third realm of what can be called "Gay-Being".

Underlying the cognitive intentionalities of the normally Gay-Self, we will find the corporeal intentionalities of desire, of bodily feeling and sensibility. As for our basic relatedness of being Gay, the movement towards or away from cognitive intentionality is always originally manifest as a conatus. Vanishing attraction and felt aversion are the vicissitudes of "egological" live. The intentional lines of Gay interrelation are life-like differences, which meet within which mic tissue, meeting at an interpersonal field of an ambiguous Gay experience. As a matter of fact, that which is important in my Gay-world can be of relevance for other Gays and "Non-Gays" too. The other Gay and "Non-Gay" is part of my original field of experience within I perceive bodily. It is through my body that I understand the other, correspondingly to the understanding of the things in the world. The constitution of the Other is based on a premier perception of sensual behavior of others, which is for me not an objective, distinct Being, opposed to me, but belongs to the same embodied intersubjectivity. What Merleau-Ponty calls "chair du monde" and "intersubjectivité charnelle" (Merleau-Ponty, 1986, 508) is based on a general bodyness. The "chair" is "non-substantial Flesh", which is seeing and being seen, touching and being touched at the same time. It becomes a forming milieu, which shapes then "subject" and "object". An undivided Being exists as a ongoing event before the separation into consciousness and object, before Gay men evaluate each other. The "I" and "the Other" are already organs of a single inter-bodiment. The "Flesh" constitutes a third dimension of Being beyond "subject" and "object" (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, 401). In his late work "The Visible and the Invisible", Merleau-Ponty calls this polymorphic play of radiant, ecstatic energies a "symbolic matrix". Here the intertwining of Eros emerges. The erotic structuring of our feelings is already inherent in the very nature of such inter-subjective perception. The task then will be to disclose the "place" where Eros is hiding or lost. We have to ask why Eros is suppressed and how can it be activated. What are the conditions of its appearance and emergence.

Moreover a mere institutional critique, deconstructing the prevailing metaphysical reification of perception can free Gay men for erotic experiences. Radiant erotic energies are always and already ecstatically intertwined. It is in the interplay of constellations between Gay men where, through primordial contact, they co-emerge interdepently from the same elemental, universal flesh. This allows a further hermeneutical approach to Gay existence. Gay Phenomenology helps us to see how complex Gay-selves exist through their "life-worldly" embeddedness. Thus it can contribute to a better understanding of how Gay and non-Gay men are situated existentially and how they can live together in a more peaceful way. Furthermore a phenomenological approach can help to realize the powers of Eros within the dynamic relations of identity and difference. From this a way of living can emerge of a "Gay-being" which moves onwards towards a continuous "Becoming" of who Gay-men are and what they will be.

2.

Phenomenology of Emotion in Gay -Life

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Feelings permeate all our social transactions. They shape and reflect the structure of our everyday lives. The possibility of expressing or the pressure to suppress anger, pain embarrassment, disaffection or passion influences Gay life in an essential way. Emotions are a constituent of Gay meanings. This is particularly relevant in personal relations but also in places of work. Emotional energy mobilizes power or determines a sense of belonging or solidarity for a Gay community as well as for working within organizations. Fear, awe or love, the genuineness of feeling are opposed by emotional-control and a rationalization of feeling which rules at working places and within any organizational context. Emotions both determine and are determined by organizational order. To work out how they play a key role in our organizational activities requires a phenomenology of working life which reflects the (Gay) emotional dimensions involved. What are the essential (Gay) emotionalities of working? How does the sharing of feelings change those feelings, and so re-form one's organizational reality? What are the organization's feeling rules? How does power in organizations affect emotional disclosure, feeling rules and climates of trust and mistrust? Bureaucracies are a particular kind of patriarchal form that reproduce power relations along heterosexual gender lines. This forces Gay man to follow patterns which are not their own, causing personal and interpersonal conflicts. The gap between felt and expressed emotion marginalizes individual Gay experiences and the intimacy that typically accompanies personal feelings. Organizational control of Gay emotion can lead to suppressed disagreements, eliminating critical and creative employees' voices. Gay employees are less likely to protest against perceived unjust actions for fear of experiencing negative consequences. The suppression of feeling during interactions with colleagues may result in altered relational perceptions and changed communication patterns. On the other hand the outbursting expression of highly intense negative emotion may result in perceptions of distrust and disrespect between employees. To overcome this dilemma we need to understand the underlying assumptions: The dualism of rationality and emotionality is socially constructed and, consequently, open to change. Understanding the significance of "work-feelings" can contribute to a way of escaping from this dualistic trap. "Work-feelings" are those emotions that emerge from human interaction rather being imposed by instrumental goals and powers of rationality (Mumby & Putnam, 1992). The emergent work-feelings aid in negotiating meanings about roles and relationships rather than in conforming to predetermined display (non- or anti Gay) rules or to prescribed (non- or anti-Gay) norms. Gay people often mask their feelings to manage social impressions, to avoid embarrassment, and to save face. The effort to control and to bear the inconsistency of felt and expressed feelings in every-day life may be stressful. But ascribed feeling rules - aiming at serving an organization's commercial or strategic ends - cause the then structural tension between felt and feigned emotion to intensify. The potential for Gay employees to lose touch with their own feelings increases.

When and how does the expression or non-expression of emotion become pathologised? What can be done to prevent this from happening? How can organizations strive to make work feelings central to participation in the work environment? What kind of training programs might help employees to analyze task and social interactions? How can emotionalizing and personalizing an organization be realized practically? How can emotion serve expressive "functions" that build interrelatedness, without being used as a commodity for instrumental utility only? The sharing of emotional experiences develops mutual affection, connectedness and cohesion which break down anonymity. Such interrelatedness and sense of the community produce mutual understanding and develop self-identity. In dialogic relationships each person sees the other as sharing meanings and cumulative experiences. To value feelings as an enhancing force for community they provide options for alternative forms of organizing. Changes in the (implicit and explicit) feeling rules can breathe new life into an organization's culture and subculture, permitting shifts from secrecy to openness, confrontation to collaboration. Emotions can hence surface as central to a participatory work context and its organizational change. A recontextualisation of emotion can be then more that venting one's frustrations or indulging in a moaning session; it can substantially redefine the emotional "material" and contribute to the processual "emotional texture" of the organization. It would be possible to feel differently about our feelings because we find different explanations for the emotional "event". A mindful and conscious as well as spontaneous awareness and practice of Gay feelings and sensitivities can contribute to a more authentic Gay living within any relations and at the working place.

For a deeper understanding of the "distorted" relationship to Gay emotion the genealogy of the suppressed Gay feelings must be reconstructed.

2.1.

The background of suppressed Gay feelings

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Gay men have experienced the effects of a conditioning which force them to be what they are not. Missing appropriate role models to guide fulfilling Gay behavior, to be at odds with mostly heterosexual (and heteronormative) emotional responses of life causes psychic conflicts and a continuous crisis of identity. Gay men face an upbringing within an environment that is frequently uncomprehending, unsupportive and grossly insensitive to Gay men's needs. In contrast to heterosexuals Gay men suffer from an (unintended) denial of a guidance and social validation for Gay attributed behavior among parents, adults and peers. The inability to conform emotionally to the widely accepted norms of "normal" life, leads to clashes with powerful feelings about the inner self. Such "incarnated dissonance"

can lead to a psychological state of loneliness, destructive tension, energy-absorbing anxiety and unreflected self-doubt. It will be very important for Gay men to understand that loving or loathing depends on interplay of constructs which are the product of cultural values, social expectations and above all early childhood during which many of the core constructs are formed. The social world is essentially processual and emerges from intentional acts of human beings acting individually or in concert with one another. The realities created in the course of this process consist of powerful interactive images. These socially created worlds are all too real and provide a framework which enables or constrains the actions and orientations of Gay men. A critical consideration of the power-gender dimension inherent in the ability of the individual (Gay) to create his reality will be necessary.

In a Freudian perspective civilization depends on the repression of man's internal drives. The 'pleasure principle' by which these drives are allowed to follow an unconstrained search for satisfaction is seen as being subjugated in a civilized society by the 'reality principle, according to which men are prepared to postpone self-gratification in the interests of social order. The Freudian sexual subject is an artificial construction of activities in the practices of a culture to make things intelligible according to standards of a heterosexual norm. Also the reality principle is a historically specific element. It is found of necessity only in eras of scarcity, which presuppose the need to master nature in order to survive. The continuous impact it exerts on modern life leads to a repression and suffering, particularly for Gay men. Without sharing the hope of Marcuse´s optimism for overcoming that alienation through technological change and social development, (Marcuse, 1966) there is still a liberalizing potential of Eros within post-capitalist societies. The structure of verbal and embodied language, its nature and use in everyday discourses, provide a key with which it is possible to unlock many insights into the fundamental mode of operation of different Gay and social formations. Communicative distortions in which a supposed consensus is arrived at through a context of an unequal power distribution have to be overcome. The power of purposive rationality and the rationalization of systems of action reflect an asymmetrical domination at the expenses of "reason of the heart" and possibility of interaction within a life-worldly context. How could Gay men obtain equal access to speech acts and ways of expression and an equality of opportunity within discourses? How can the the liberating potential of self-reflexive language and expression be further "exploited" by the Gay community?

We need to demonstrate the way in which language, ideology, politics, science and other aspects of the ´superstructure´ of modern capitalist social formations are to be understood in relation to the role which they play in sustaining and developing the systems of power and domination which pervade the totality of this social form. And with this in mind the eventual emancipation and the pursuit of alternative forms of life are a continuous task for Gay men. This is related to a profound criticism of existing patriarchal metaphysics. Within the prevailing sex-gender system a binary logic of opposition between the masculine and the feminine has been differentiated. The established dualism is codified in metaphysics and veiled in false justifications. Since it is men who have presided over metaphysics, the history of Being is a production of the patriarchal system. Determined by the masculine will to power and its modern forms of technology this history is constantly being reproduced.

Moreover the advent of nihilism is related to this history of male domination. That means that there can not be a historically significant break with this history of male rule without a break with the history of metaphysics (and vice versa). We can only break free from the swamp of nihilism and its negating grip by building ways of different relations towards ourselves, each-other and our natural environment of which we are a part. Under patriarchal supervision, the dimensionality of archetypes as the primordial and transhistorical patterns of experiencing and myth manifested in our Western Civilizations has been systematically reduced and constrained. Thus restricted they do indeed function oppressively for women and men. The archetypes and myths which our patriarchal society has stereotyped and which it continuously reproduces as feminine and masculine can be changed and developed by our society as a whole and by every (gay) man in particular.

The recognition of the artificiality of social roles and of the cultural contingency and radical unnaturalness of the social order has highly subversive implications especially at a time when social order represents itself as natural and preordained, for it allows Gay-men to question the very premise of their marginalisation. But how does our retrieval of a reversibility and reciprocity schematized in the depth of the "flesh" help us to break the hold of our anti-gay, male-dominated logocentric (moral) tradition? Overcoming the disembedded and disembodied gay being can help to create different identities and relations between people. A claim of just treatment, not as an ideal consensus of fictitiously defined selves, but the concrete process in everyday life, politics and "morals" of the struggle of concrete, embodied selves, strives for autonomy. A consensus imposed not by alien powers, but allowed to happen in accordance with the intercorporeality of the body's own processes, the body's own felt sense, becomes very cognizant of what the intertwining of beings calls for and what it needs, in the time of each particular circumstance, to take place. There lies the chance for a commitment to a vision in which a nondual dimension of being Gay can be established and find its own duration and energies. In this transmitting way, peculiarly gay sensibilities and queer insights can spread among the unsuspecting world in a social climate bent on repressing and rendering invisible everything homosexual. For this undertaking we need a deeper understanding of the embodied Gay sexuality and intentionality of the Gay Eros.

3.

The Gay sexuality and Eros as Intentionality

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"He felt the presence of a viable yearning for him. Being attracted to the beauty of the body and soul of this lovely man, he could not but feel and think again and again about him. Entering a personal relation with him has opened up the surprise of a mutual understanding. A continuous commitment and imagination of a partnership of the beloving friends began. Both of them felt the even tacit suffering from the presence of the absence of the other deeply inside of their hearts... Outspoken and silent invitations, frank and allusive signals were exchanged and a relationship developed which both of them didn't expect, but hoped to emerge. Intentional powers found a dynamic of their own, approaching a bodily satisfaction and fulfillment of the Eros.... And at the next day they still felt an intimacy and lasting bestowal of quality towards each other..." Quotation from: Christopher Isherwood: "A Single Man" Affection, this gentle lasting love and fondness between Gay men implies an original quality of being. And sexuality, as human encounter, is communication at the most intimate and fundamental level. Erotic perception, sexual understanding and sexual-erotic intentions follow the movement of Gay existence itself. Gay sexuality constitutes itself not within a behavioristic mechanism of stimulus and response, but is linked immanently with the entire Being of the feeling, recognizing and acting as Gay men. In contrast to the epithymia of wanting and indulging in lust, Eros 'creates' as a realizing energetic process. While the sexual satisfaction relaxes the exciting needs, the "erotic birth" intensifies the experience. Both strivings being a 'living difference long for a "unification". The sexual longing is driven by the libido. This libidinous, sexual urge expresses strong and actual sexual desires. As mentioned before in Freud's metapsychological approach, culture is based on the suppression and sublimation of these driving forces. According to Freud's anthropology the development of culture is based on the dissatisfaction of the drives and transformation of the feelings of "Lust". In Freud's theory of the perversions, homosexuality is described as the most important perversion of all as well as the most repellent in the popular mind. For Freud it involves an extension or transgression, of limit in respect either to the body concerned or to the sexual object chosen. Human infants have a sexual disposition which is polymorphously perverse and innately bisexual. This is renounced through a successful socializing and gendering for the (re) production of a subject and a civilization within the hetero-sexual difference (with its teleological view of psychosexual development). But repressed and sublimated perversions help to form and are intrinsic to normality, providing 'the energy for a great number of our cultural achievements. For Freud the repression of perverse desire (as failed suppression) actually generates neurosis. Freudian theory on the relationship between the perverse and the normal claims that 1) some perverse traits or other are seldom absent from the sexual life of normal people (latent or unconscious homosexuality); 2) rather than an absolute break, there is a continuum between the normal and the perverted, 3) to understand normal sexuality one has to understand its pathological forms. Freud regarded the (ineliminable) perversions as potentially highly subversive with their ever-threatening re-emergence. The perverse returning to the stage which civilization and normality demanded that we pass through means "that the normative goal of a development is subverted by that which it is not, but which it has to pass through in order to be. In this sense the perversions are precisely insurrectionary" (Dollimore, 1991, 181) For Freud perversions have an extraordinarily disruptive power, subverting the genital organization of sexuality, thereby sabotaging the whole process of normative psychosexual development (or subjection) upon which civilization depends. And they subvert sexual difference itself and the binary oppositions upon which the social order rests.

At the same time it is through perversion, via sublimation, that it remains opposed and integral to the 'normal' civilization. The perverse dynamic both reveals and undermines the double process of disavowal and displacement which demonizing entails. "Perversion, in the form of the perverse dynamic, destroys the binary structure of which it is initially an effect" (Dollimore, 1991, 183). "Perversion subverts not in the recovery of pre-social libido, or an original plenitude, but as a dynamic intrinsic to social process." (Dollimore, 1991, 228). For Dollimore the perverse dynamic "is not an identity, a logic, or an economy, so much as an anti-teleological dialectic producing knowledge in opposition to destiny" (Dollimore, 1991, 229); the homosexual congress between the same gender constructed as the endangering other of heterosexuality. This sameness is not the conventional unity of the essential (Individual) or the universal (Man, Human Nature) but an interconnectedness so radical that most societies believing in the Individual, Man, and Human Nature have to disavow it. "So the perverse dynamic transvalues sameness, abandoning self-identity for the unstable proximate; it discloses not an underlying unity in the name of which social division can be transcended, but a radical interconnectedness which has been and remains the unstable ground of both repression and liberation; the ground from which division and discrimination are both produced and contested. So we are not all the same. We are differences which radically proximate. The terms of a binary interrelate, interdependent. But in differing degrees: in one kind of interdependence the one terms presupposes the other for its meaning; in another more radical kind of interdependence the absolutely other is somehow integral to the selfsame. In the latter, absence or exclusion simultaneously becomes a presence. ... When the inversion of a binary reveals the proximate it is always more than a mere reversal, more even than the utopian unity of the binary dissolved or displaced. The inversion of a binary produces not merely reversal but proximities where there was difference. To be against (opposed to) is also to be against (close up, in proximity to) or, in other words, up against. The perverse dynamic challenges not by collapsing order but through a reordering less tolerable, more disturbing, than chaos. Its difference is never the absolutely unfamiliar, but the reordering of the already known, a disclosure of a radical interconnectedness which is the social, but which present cultures can rarely afford to acknowledge and must instead disavow. The perverse dynamic reidentifies and exploits the inextricable connections between perversity, proximity, paradox, and desire ....." (Dollimore, 1991, 229). Dollimore warns that "in creating a politics of the perverse we should never forget the cost: death, mutilation, and incarceration have been, and remain, the fate of those who are deemed to have perverted nature" (Dollimore, 1991, 229). According to Dollimore "post/modernism is helping us to understand again what early modern period already knew but in a quite different form: identity is essentially informed by what it is not. It also helps us to see that if identity is clearly constituted by the structures of power, of position, allegiance, and service, then any disturbance within, or of, identity could be as dangerous to that order as to the individual subject." (Dollimore, 1991, 282). As Merleau-Ponty writes, the history of the sexual orientation of a man offers the key to an understanding of his life as such (Merleau-Ponty, M., 1962, 154). This is true because the sexuality of men actually projects the entire kind and modus of his being-in-the-world, including his behavior to time and other men. In Sexuality we are concerned not with a peripheral involuntary action, but with an original intentionality which follows the general flow of existence and yields to its movements. Thus sexuality is not an autonomous cycle, but has internal links with the whole active and cognitive being. A Gay man's sexual history provides a key to his life, it is because in his sexuality he projects his manner of being towards the world, that is, towards time and other men. This does not mean that the total sense of existence is a sexual one, nor that the sense of all sexual phenomena would be an existential one. Sexuality is the atmosphere permeating all of man's life, the situation within which life unfolds; yet without being the prime or the single motivation of man's acts.

Sexuality and the effective process of Eros are an expression of the existence in the sense of its realization. The Gay body is a sign pervaded by a unique Gay significance. Accordingly the Gay body symbolizes a particular Gay existence, which it realizes on its own and thereby becomes its actual reality. This incarnated sense embodies Gay life and is present in the sexual drama. Body and existence are presupposing each other. Body is a generalized existence, while existence is a continuous embodiment. Existence comes to its expression as an ambiguous meaning and corporeal field of interpretation.

Sexual experiences with other men are general but private and intensive "manifestations" of the condition of being a Gay with all its embodied ambivalence between autonomy and dependency. Sexuality and Eros are always present as an atmospheric reality. In its own mysterious and beautiful but also strange quality the ambiguous atmosphere of Eros is essential for a human and fulfilling Gay existence. This Gay existence takes over and interprets a factual or imagined sexual-erotic situation: Not controlling the other, but developing a mutual responsibility based on an interlinked existential sensual event and shared sense. In this sense, erotic sexuality is already more than itself: erotic and relational sexuality concerns the entire Being. The erotic Gay sexuality has its dramatics, because we are engaged in the same with our entire personal Being. According to Merleau-Ponty this is because our body refers to a transsubjective, embodied tissue which is more than an egological "Me-only". In this way we are part of a trans-personal net of "inter-corporeality".

Conclusion:

The Becoming of Gay-Being

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To become what we are as Gay men, presupposes a realization of that which one is "truly" feeling, desiring, thinking and doing. This includes facing self-deceptions of an appearing world which we take for granted as the supposedly "true", right one. The "Truth", also of the Gay-Self is not something there, that might be found or discovered, but something that must be created: An actively determined or conscious "letting-be", which dares to be and live differently. Accepting a metamorphosis to become a "Gay-Self" as being unique and incomparable will be the very "base" for the creation process of a Gay identity. Becoming who one is as a Gay man is to be engaged in a continuing and constantly broadening process. Realizing the experiences, actions and enlarging (intensifying) the capacity to assume response-ability for one-self, this is what will be actual freedom. Being Gay does not have the character of a fixed identity, which is stable and permanent. The Gay-Self remains a continuous becoming and development.

Being Gay is that which Gay men feel, think and do not as Gay men want to be or shape otherwise. What we are is just what we become. Our emotions, thoughts and deeds are intimately involved with each other in an emerging flow. To become what we are, is not to reach a specific new state and to stop becoming, it is not a "state" at all.

The "Gay-Self" is not a determined entity but a multifarious "subject" with a "changing coherence": Not a defined unity, but a definitely "rising" process. This "self" is not an abiding substance and changes as it incorporates "Others". Identifying loosely, but honestly with all our felt and acted relations, is to see that everyone we, e.g. love, or everything we appreciate or refuse will be part of what we are. The love and respect for others will just be love and respect for ourselves. The challenge and task will be to give a multifarious style to us as becoming Beings. This means not being haphazard but instead being connected to one another in the intimate way of a fulfilling style. Performing our daily actions and dealings with Gay styles can be related to artistic models. Fashioning our Gay life in the way artists fashion their work, means to become "poets of our Gay life" in the smallest everyday matters. To give plural style(s) to our Gay character requires that we attend to all the strengths and weaknesses of our nature. We can find our own myths, tastes and values provided that we reached a true sense of our (gay) self. Gay Myths and a taste-oriented poetic reevaluation has indeed the power to transform. However he who wants to "fly" in such a poetic way needs first to learn to stand and walk and run and jump and climb and dance. Evaluating ourselves according to our own Gay "value-base" and "standards", requires the prior establishment of the same on our own. Freedom of Gay will is not the absence of causal determinations, but a "conflict capable harmony" among all Gay preference schemes. It is a state and driving force in which Gay desire follow Gay thoughts and Gay actions follows Gay desire. Where feeling, thinking and acting of Gay men are one, the distinction between choice and constraint disappears. Being Gay is not being free not to choice to be non-Gay. Not choosing to choose to be Gay is still to choose not to choose. Of course we cannot choose or want love as a matter of will. But we can choose to be and develop (not fall into!) a conscious Gay-love. Through our Gay intentions we can accept and transcend our "Throwness" (Heidegger, 1962, p. 276, ) to be Gay. In a moment-oriented actualization and projection of a "present future" we can accept our incorporated Gay "past" and can attribute sense and qualities to the same. This means to "choose" again consciously what we are as a "living present past" full of anticipatory resoluteness and existential definiteness. This qualification is a creative process. Ultimately Gay life is justified only if we would want to have the same situation of truly being Gay again and again differently. Such "eternal" recurrence happens within our finite Gay life. The integration of the demonic, and tragic powers and considerations of the significance of death for a loving Gay life offers a tremendous challenge. This is particularly acute because of the AIDS-menace.

Not everyone will be able or ready to be a literary character or be the very author of this character. But creating life as a self-referential and "other-related" book of life, being written by Gay men has and can again set examples for others. Writing our Gay con-Text, is giving birth to creations of ourselves. To take the challenging risk and effort, to turn our life into a work of art, corresponds to the constantly changing interrelations we are involved in. To make a way of life out of Gay feelings and Gay views means situating oneself beyond the good and evil of any heterosexual based moral evaluation. Gay morals will be an ethics beyond the heterosexual good and evil. This leads towards a life without ´metaphysical comfort´ and accepting that any facts are precisely what they are not, but only interpretations. "Truth" and error, knowledge and ignorance, good and evil of Gay live are not to be opposed to one another. Can we imagine them as processes within a single continuum? Gay values and qualities are not means for the attainment of any "highest good" of the best Gay life. A Gay perspective would refuse to grade people and views along such a single scale. On the other hand such Gay perspectivism does not result in the relativism which holds that any view is as good as any other. Perspectivism just claims that one's own views are best for oneself without implying that they need be good for anyone else. And if we want to live in a community we have to find consensual ways of agreement and founded argumentation. These thoughts are not drifting within a pure theoretical and "vacuum free" space or a historical time. Integrating considerations on bodily concerned motility, gesture, rituals, morals and politics can be very enriching for an approach on the really felt "sense-of-being-in-the-Gay-world". Such a deeply hermeneutical and poeticising approach stays in touch with our felt, pre-ontological understanding of the interrelated world. The "inter-world" of Gayness can be interpreted with Merleau-Ponty as "intercorporeality of the flesh". Flesh serves as a formative medium of what was previously called "subject" and "object". Breaking out of the powerful hold of the subject-object relationship of classical metaphysics we can reach a carnal being of depths, beyond the dominance and submission power-games. The body becomes a field of Being of embodied relationships. In this interplay the reciprocity of the embodied and concretely situated Gay selves in the so called "post-modern situation" can be understood and shaped. In this way the "queer potential" (Halperin, 1995) offers a horizon of possibilities and opportunities for self-transformation that can activate and create different ways of thinking, feeling and life without prescriptive impetus. The search for an aesthetics of existence in a "culture de soi" (Foucault) is indeed an ambitious program of self-transformation. The possibilities such an existential aesthetics provide unique opportunities for an elaboration of personal and ethical creativity. To realize this it will be crucial to detach Gay identity from a "hetero-normative society"; from its forms of discipline and normalizing functions with mass obedience and conformity to laws of conduct. This includes a critical stance against "the marketing of queer identity (as) a form on normalisation-by-commodification" (Halperin, 1995)

For all this we need to reflect further on what "life-world", embodiment, emotion and intentionality mean for future gay-phenomenological interpretations to come.

Literature

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Benhabib, S. (1992). Situating the Self, Boston. Crossley, N. (1994). The Politics of Subjectivity, Hants. Derrida; J. (1982). Difference in Margins of philosophy, Chicago. Derrida, J. (1972). Position, Paris. Derrida, J. (1973). Speech and Phenomena. Evanston, Il.: (Northwestern University Press). Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology, Baltimore: (Johns Hopkins University Press). Derrida, J. (1978). Writing and Difference, Chicago: (University of Chicago Press). Derrida, J. (1979a). Spurs: Nietzsche´s Styles, Chicago: (University of Chicago Press). Derrida, J. (1979b). Scribble (writing-power). Yale French Studies 58: pp. 117-147. Derrida; J. (1982). Difference in Margins of philosophy, Chicago. Dollimore, J. (1991). Sexual Dissidence, Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault, Oxford. Fineman, I. (1993). Emotions in Organisations, London. Foucault, M. (1980). History of Sexuality, New York. Freud, S. (1908). Die "kulturelle" Sexualmoral und die moderne Nervösität Wien; engl. 'Civilised' Sexual moralitry and modern nervous illness. Freud, S. (1994). Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, Frankfurt. Freud, S. (1905). Drei Abhandlungen sur Sexualtheorie, Wien. Halperin, D. M. (1995). Saint Foucault. Towards a Gay Hagiography, Oxford Heidegger, M. (1962) Being and Time, London: (Blackwell). Isherwood, C. (1990) A Single Man, London. Marcuse, H. (1966). Eros and Civilisation, New York. May, R. (1969). Love and Will, New York. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of Perception, London: (Routledge). Merleau-Ponty (1960). Signes, Paris. (1964). La prose du monde, Paris Merleau-Ponty (1968). The Visible and the Invisible; Evanston. Mumby & Putnam (1992). The politics of emotion, In: Academy of Mangement Review, 17. Sedwicks, E. (1991). Epistemology of the Closet, Harvester Wheatsheaf.

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