From White Crane Issue #47 “The Word

Who Are The Gay People?

By John Burnside

Part II

What are they like, these Gay people?

Well, the ones I know best are at ease with themselves and with others. They are merry and loving, gentle and open. They are not dogmatic, judgmental, domineering, argumentative nor manipulating, nor do they respond to others who may try to engage them at such levels. They are laughing people, and equally ready with tears. They are very bright and witty, and they love good talk. In talk they place no restrictions on the range of their voices, love to giggle, will scream with astonishment and pretend dismay or swoon with mock embarrassment, and they are constantly acting out and giving wicked impersonations. I have never heard small talk among them, and they are always ready for intensely serious discourse. They love digression and are masters at it, almost never failing to return to the main concern. They love theater, and they are marvelously responsive audiences. They find delight in being alive and have a tremendous capacity for enjoyment.

They are great creators of fantasy, yet they strive always to be rooted thoroughly in reality. Life to them is for love and for play. They love non-possessively, with full regard for the whole being of another. They are ruled by their hearts as by their minds, and their first response to those they encounter is compassionate. Play means in Gay consciousness living every moment at its highest potential. For them the play of feeling and imagination is primary in all things, but a main thrust of their gift for creativity is expressed in what they call their projects. A project is something that one has dreamed up and has launched on its way to being realized. Most Gay people have several projects, with some on the back burner and one or more at any given time getting close attention.

These traits and qualities that Gay people show may well be those qualities of human nature that all people have if they are not deeply identified with and constrained in roles. Roles channel the energy of impulse into rigid preformed pathways. People are drawn into roles to gain power, possessions, and predominance, where they spend their lives in struggling over these with one another. As outcasts, Gays have the opportunity to learn that beyond basic necessities possessions are burdensome and dominance is only a puffing of ego. If a Faerie values money it is because money is useful to pay rent and fund projects. Power to control others is odious to him, and showing off would be a tedious waste of time. He dislikes and avoids rivalry and competition and is as disdainful of authority and rank in others as he is to letting himself be blindly followed. Renouncing these “rewards” means that the Gays have no hidden intent in relating to others; they can be trusted. As they decline to compete, they are no threat. Yet their many gifts make them valued counselors to the powerful. This is why Gay people so often walk where angels fear to tread!

A Faerie likes best to be among other Faeries, but every Faerie I know has a group of people who are not Gay with whom he shares an unbreakable bond. These are people of integrity and spirit whom he values and supports as they do him. A Faerie relates to others subject to subject so far as the others will meet him there. With children, animals, trees, and living things generally Faeries feel a close affinity. Faeries are most at home in a natural setting and they draw strength from nature.

The spirit of the Gay people is very evident in these times when, because of AIDS, death walks among us with terrible insistence and asks his awful question, asks who you really are. If I am he who built up a pile of power, ego, wealth, and status, I know death will take it all, but if I have made myself of things eternal like beauty and love, truth and laughter, the best part of me will never die. The famous AIDS quilt is surely one of the most moving and spontaneous creations of a people ever seen. Each cell of the quilt emits a light deriving from the singular beauty and indomitable spirit of one person, and the conjoining of seemingly infinitely many of these creates a field of surpassing beauty that glows of the tough yet tender love that makes of all Gay people one. The quilt celebrates the bursting through vast sadness of a light that death has been unable to smother. It affirms the great purpose that informed those individual lives and that will always be carried through, no matter what the pain, by Gay people: to be real, to be loving, and to reach for the best. the most joyous, and the deepest levels of experience that life can offer.