24 October, 2002
The Forbidden Fruit
the taboo of desire for a davidson homosexual
j o h n   f r y
When I admit I desire, I admit I need: instantly, I am naked to those who can give or usurp what I desire. As I voice my attraction to a guy, excitement trails its fingers across my skin, lightly, sending shivers up and down my arms, neck, spine. My breath quickens from anticipation's flush and terror's sudden gnawing. To speak of my desire is a terribly, beautifully honest act--I'm left at the mercy of embrace or ostracism. The decision to speak is solely mine. My expression of my erotic, human desire reveals in me what is broken; its fragments form the words of my desire to be made whole in the hands of another man. I think of my desire as a possible proof of God's existence. My desire to unite with another--emotionally, sexually, spiritually--is an imperfect reflection of my desire and need to unite with Christ. I have even thought of human union as a conduit, or means by which we approach union with the divine.
I fear articulating my desire because society seems to believe, for whatever reason, that revealing the need and vulnerability unclothed by spoken desire is an act of weakness. Within this same society, an interdict silences the vocalization of my desire, which happens to be homoerotic. As the societal majority disagrees with some or all aspects of homosexuality, that majority would just as soon forget we homosexuals exist at all since it cannot eradicate the pestilential presence of queers in its midst--I assure you, they are your mothers, brothers, perhaps even you yourself. Relegated to alleyways, subway toilet stalls, fabricated identities, and figuratively and literally everything subterranean, queer presence remains a mostly contained quarantine.
The bonds developed during one's time in a Davidson frat differ. They range from someone you nod at in chambers to the guy you're adding numbers with come RLO lottery time. By the time you get your gown at the vary first "senior event" there will be those within the house you mesh with better than others. It is these chosen few, among the pack with whom the bonds developed run deep.
My fear of speaking openly of my desire clothes a hidden shame of my body and a hatred of my entire self I may spend my life trying to exorcize. Nationwide and on this campus, some social mechanism generates in me and others, whatever their sexual preference, an animus against the sexual desire we must acknowledge for our health. Across the quadrants of orientation, artists have testified to how society teaches us not only to deny, but more balefully, to expunge the desire present in us all, especially we who are queer. Personally, I hold the Puritans largely responsible for the contemporary remnants of what is essentially a denial of all desire, though I lack the historical education and space to make this a worthy tirade against long-dead Cromwell's centuries-long sexual oppression. You who favor the cannabis-scented, hippy notion of free sexual expression and love (oh yes, meaning "the nasty") might emphatically nod your heads in lusty agreement while those who perch on the polar, more prudish (and Puritan?) side of the bed furrow their brows in moral (and perhaps intestinal) consternation.
What you do in your bedroom is your own business, you might want to exclaim at me, but leave it there for God's sake. If I could, I would, but I can't. How can I--collectively writing for homosexuals, something I dislike doing--keep what I and another man do in our "bedroom" when society has helped make our marriage bed the public-bathroom floor? Yes, such a simple right as housing is often denied us due to flagrant prejudice. You shouldn't throw your gayness in our faces, you might say, you shouldn't flaunt it. Let me ask you something: has the simple desire to hold the hand, walk arm-in-arm, or softly kiss the cheek of the one you love soured into the nauseating fear that those around you, your fellow Americans, might gawk, gape, even gag at two men, two women together? Throw words--stones? Has the hand of your beloved cleaved itself from your own out of fear of being seen? What you ask by asking me to silence my desire to show the world who I love, as if its disease will spread, is my heart's death.
Did you know this?
In Skin, Dorothy Allison writes how for her to write, to love, and to live is to daily battle the shame, fear, and self-hatred society directs toward her as a woman and lesbian. The need to live from the reclaimed body of her desire fuels the rage to survive that drives all her writings. "Survival is the least of my desires," she writes, however; for if survival is all she can manage, the story of her scars has no meaning. No thread will piece together the rainbow-colored, crazy quilt life she recreates in her fiction. Both in her work and life, Allison refuses to live a deadly lie about the truths society would have her despise. She is part of a vanguard who have striven to repossess and acknowledge the desire necessary for them to live as healthy beings. Allison has named that desire in numerous, often markedly erotic, stories astonishing for their visceral and poignant honesty.
The courage to break open into honesty about your desire is an extraordinarily difficult but vital act, especially as a gay man in this nation, on this campus. Honesty's nakedness reveals all you do and don't want others to see about your most intimate insides, whatever their colors. Take these words as you will. Know that they are written by one very young, whose various opinions might change. What will not change, however, is my conviction that the taboo, the disease of silence, must be named for what it is--that the forbidden fruit, the hidden harvest of homosexual desire will no longer be forbidden or hidden. Muriel Rukeyser writes: "Who will speak these days, / if not I, / if not you?"