In another art blog I quoted the Dylan Thomas “sonnet” “My hero bares his nerves along my wrist”, which is a gay image, if you conceptualise an inner dominant gay person emerging & coming to “fruition”. Except that in Thomas’ case, the poem is, to wield a pun, “anti-climactic”; instead of joining the high-toned pantheon of cosmology, the poet masturbates & then removes the spilled fluids: “he pulls the chain, the cistern moves”. Dylan was aware of gayer sentiments at other times; note the line: “the swords are kissing as they cross”.
You could make use of a Jungian analysis, for instance to explain the appearance of Venus in his hero poem, not as a misogynist comment, but perhaps an anima intervention.
I am thinking of the power held by the manifestation of gay sentiments in society; Oscar Wilde’s subculture was the love that dared not tell its name. I came to Sydney in the early 1970’s. When I worked in the International Telephone exchange as a “switch bitch”, which is what guys called ourselves, a friend told me his mother had had him certified, hospitalised in a psychiatric institution at age 15 for being uncontrollable. He was not violent or anti-social; he just believed he was an alien. When we met he was a culturally complex bisexual. Retrospectively, I began to piece together what his late adolescence must have been like.
Before I met him, I had come across a psych nurse who worked at Callan Park; he took me to his workplace one afternoon; it was like an engraving by Goya. A long brick hall was filled with noisy young men, they were covered in their own shit, some were masturbating, others had thrust their fingers into their anus. Pools of piss, cum, shit were everywhere; the inmates were laughing, jeering, totally uncontrolled. It was a scene of riotous gay sexuality, the stuff of homophobic nightmares.
What had driven these young men to antisocial behaviour, to the extremes of irrationality? At the time CAMP was the organisation mobilising people to demonstrate for their rights. A grafitti slogan on underground train tunnel walls had read: “we are the children our parents warned us against”.
I had survived sexual abuse, at age 11, a country altar boy being molested by the local catholic priest. My brothers had been subjected to similar attention & when they realised I was gay, they blamed me for what had happened to them. I was the same “kind” as the pedo priest & I was “dirty”.
So I left home as soon as poss; it was a hostile environment. I guess I had gone “offworld” by retreating into books & poetry; & my hero manifested nightly. No wonder, in the early 1970’s David Bowie sang for each of us: “you’re not alone, you’re wonderful”. We were the space cadets, he was the ship’s commander.
I guess the only difference between me & the psych inmates was that I had not come to the serious attention of the law; I was able to censor most overt references of my emotional nature from the people with whom I interacted. Nonetheless I was hardly a mystery to most people: long hair, colourful hippy clothes, a high voice, I was fooling nobody. Yet, all that nasty 1960’s war-torn Australian society required was that I minimise aberrant references. People who could not do so, who were unable to repress their nature were punished in the severest ways.
Not just the Goya nightmares of insane asylums, which were soon closed down. The violence after dark in parks and on beaches where gays met for anonymous sexual encounters, by poofter bashers and police alike. I remember one night, standing at the Rushcutters’ Park stormwater canal in mid winter, dressed in a sloppy tracksuit. A police car drove up, & trained its headlights on me; the car was filled with guest cops from out of town, being shown the sights. That was being let off lightly; the numbers of unsolved murders & complete disappearance of gay men from that time is only now being acknowledged. No UCOS team will attempt to reopen & resolve those cases.