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Number 1: Spring 2008

How Not to be a Happy Homosexual

Peter Nevins

If we bring this idea into play with political and cultural identities that inform our psychical make-up, then we are looking at kinds of punishment that are not for crimes as such but for the ‘social crimes’ of being female, of being black, and of being queer in a racist and sexist and homophobic social order that is also very conscious of and has created a sophisticated set of critical thinking about these injustices. Thus, what I am saying applies to all sorts of people in all kinds of ways-not just gay men-but this is where my particular focus is today. What is installed from a very early age amongst some gay men is that they are always ‘less than’, they are failed heterosexuals, and this view is transposed into every kind of eventuality, outlook, or interpretation of life events. Ironically, the social order from which our defeat is fashioned is, alas, the very same social order that we hoped would deliver us from our state of worthlessness. Thus the illicit love in Freud’s paper can be a love of and for the very institutions/social order/liberal democracy that is supposed to deliver our equanimity.

Brown writes:

The moment at which inequality or subordination is first apprehended is inevitably ambivalent, involving loss on the one hand and a certain relief from a previously unnameable suffering on the other. In the process of politicizing one’s identity as a woman, as black, as a lesbian, in the process of losing the world one imagined to be fair, good, and replete with self-affirming recognition, one also comes to know why one has suffered rejection or invisibility and can thus depersonalize, indeed politicize, that suffering.(Brown 2001:55)

My patients seem unable to decouple themselves from their tie to this illicit love, a love for a liberal social order that has failed to deliver them from the pain of oppression. At the same time as this social order is the cause of their pain, they have taken on this pain as evidence that this love is still there, is still a possibility. They yearn for justice to be done, for a glimmer of a hope that the social order will eventually deliver. At the same time, this inculcates a double edged guilt, on the one hand a guilty wish for the illicit love of the social order; and on the other guilt at not pursuing other fantasised dreams and hopes of wholeness and completion, usually linked to this same social order through its negation. Even as one rebels against the social order, one is intrinsically tied to its terms. Not least, you can only rebel in the language that oppresses you.