Some Further Reflections on the Queer Question

I still haven’t answered all your comments from my last post on this subject because I’m holding them all in my mind, learning from them and considering them.

Most recently, Romanos mentioned Walt Whitman’s idea of manly love so I went to check that out. In my opinion it seems to be a sort of intense phallic brotherhood rather than plain homoeroticism in our modern sense. This is certainly something I’ve witnessed among men of the liveliest heterosexuality. Compared to their attachments, homosexuality does indeed leave the impression of being precisely a weakness: a sad inability to feel the two opposite but equally intense feelings (of sexual love and brotherly love) without their collapsing on one another in confusion.

If so, this is the explanation for why the healthiest men I know instinctively regard male homosexuality with the pitying distaste usually reserved to cancer or leprosy.

Their very inability to experience ‘manly love’ – this is what makes ambiguous or queer readers see it as homoerotic when they witness it in others.

Is this condition catching? Probably, to some extent. Ideas are. (That’s why I don’t second Romanos’ advice to watch gay films. I don’t believe gay filmmakers know any more than anyone else what their experience means, because they have already allowed the experience to become ascendant over Reason, Intellect, Mind, Morals, and everything else. Mere experience is not instructive.)

And at the base of this explosion of homosexual experience in our times, I do finally begin to see, I think, an Idea. It’s one of the most poisonous ideas of our time.

One of the literary essays I read quotes Freud, to explain Whitman and Whitman’s readers.

In Civilization and its Discontents (1930), Sigmund Freud presents in his non-poetic prose a vision of social bonding quite compatible with Whitman’s: “Man’s discovery that sexual (genital) love . . . provided him with the prototype of all happiness [inspired him to] . . . make genital eroticism the central point of his life. . . . The love which founded the family continues to operate in civilization both in its original [sexual] form . . . and in its modified form as aim-inhibited affection.” Freud believed that “aim-inhibited love” was originally “fully sensual love, and it is so still in man’s unconscious. Both—fully sensual love and aim-inhibited love—extend outside the family and create new bonds with people who before were strangers…”

What a queer vision. One’s love for one’s best friend or sister or dad, according to this view, is actually the desire to have sex with them, except one has inhibited the “aim” – one forcefully directs one’s feelings away from their genitals and thus “love” is invented. Of course, I’ve long been aware that Freud said something like this, but I had got the impression that he had been misunderstood.

However, my purpose is not to say that Freud’s vision is disgusting. My purpose is to say that it is nonsensical and irrational.

Here is an example of insight gone awry: Insight not treated by Reason is inevitably unreasonable.

Sexual love may indeed be the strongest love (though I’m not admitting that; what about love to God?) but to leap from such an insight to the belief that it is really the only love, is irrational. It is bolstered, of course, by evolutionary philosophy: that is to say, by the assumption that everything we feel noble and “higher” must perforce have arisen from something brutal and “lower.” (It is self-defeating; our very feeling of lower and higher is, by this idea, set at odds with our feeling or original and derivative.)

There are lots of reasons why this assumption is irrational. Not least among them, the fact that no one saw this happen. But also, the observation that without being preceded by an idea, nothing intelligible comes to be.

Freud himself saw homosexuality as abnormal, I believe, but since abnormal for him means,” not customary,” this has little effect for the common person who absorbs his ideas, which are floating abroad everywhere. Especially when those ideas are combined with the idea of G.B. Shaw, for whom “convention” is the wrong form for any morality whatsoever to take.

If a man experiences an intense, physically resonant love and attraction for his male best friend, and if this love is somehow “sexual” in the sense that it is precisely because he is a man that he is loved like this – and if someone comes along and says, “You know, that feeling is really only aim-inhibited sexual desire” – and if you amplify that incident by a whole century and a whole culture – well, there’s your gay explosion.

This is why – not to make an example of our dear Romanos, but to engage with his idea – I simply can’t accept the idea that Jesus really means “gay people” when he says “born eunuchs,” or that Walt Whitman really means “gay love,” when he says”manly love.”

If you give “born eunuchs” to gays, what’s left for those actually born eunuchs? That is to say, for so-called intersex people whose genitalia do not function, because of some malformation, for reproductive purposes? If Jesus has not spoken to them, to reassure them of their purpose in God’s kingdom, then they are impoverished.

And if men cannot experience genuine brotherly or manly love – if it’s really all sexual desire – then all mankind is impoverished.

And I think it’s the idea of this that is making it so.

Perhaps the best evidence is simply the fact that as soon as we began to believe Freud, we began to experience our own minds and feelings differently. The idea invents the reality.

If we have any intellectual integrity at all, then we ought to believe our ancestors when they tell us of the love for God that turned death to joy, of love for one’s friend that surpassed marital love, of love for pets that is not just blinkered buggery, of love for parents that was so noble it counted as piety. If they said they experienced these things, they experienced them. If our generation does not experience them, then why?


Everyone should go immediately and read The Pilgrim’s Regress by C. S. Lewis. The “Spirit of the Age,” that imprisons him, and his special power of forcing people to “see through” everything – Lewis in his notes identifies this all as “Freud.”

5 thoughts on “Some Further Reflections on the Queer Question

  1. As I think this over, it comes to me that what I am really suggesting is that homosexuality is not actually a perversion of sexuality at all, but rather an invasion of a different kind of love BY sex – or rather by lust. It’s really that special intense friendship, which even in its purest form rivals marital love in intensity – but it has been confused for sexuality in a society in which everything is, a priori, confused for sexuality.

    Which would certainly fit with what I’ve been insisting all along – that homosexual orgasmic activity really is not, and cannot be, sex.

    And perhaps this is what Romanos was getting at anyhow, or something like it.

    It certainly makes the whole thing less shameful,and one could conceive of someone growing out if it quite easily if they once understood.

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  2. I like the use of the present tense in your closing statement: “we ought to believe our ancestors when they tell us. . . ”

    They are still telling us, still explaining about love – -not only in our churches but more generally through the common humanity and history we share. Facts and conclusions based on them don’t disappear, even though we may forget.

    The fact that individual voices–such as Whitman’s poetry, or Freud’s theories, or even the revelations of my close friend N., speaking from his heart–that these voices tell a different story is significant, but only because they are individuals. History and Tradition represent accumulated truth. Individual experiences and expressions can be listened to and considered respectfully, even with a kind of reverence–as in the case of that friend, who has suffered much of his life from a sense of , alienation, even self-hatred at times–which might make the retelling of these experiences important for the rest of us. Might do.

    Nevertheless that our ancestors “said they experienced these things” * is crucial, altough we (too many) either cannot hear beyond the dominating messages from technology, or simply have closed ears to voices from the past, and listen only for popular ideas or for our own feelings.

    This virtual dumbness probably accounts in part for the unmet “invasion,” as you aptly described it.

    i. e., about “the love for God that turned death to joy, [about] love for one’s friend that surpassed marital love,. . . [about] love for parents that was so noble it counted as piety”

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    • A good reflection, Albert. I’ve been mulling it over as usual. I do think it’s dreadful and not to be borne that real people are in so much pain for what they find in themselves, and there’s hardly any help. It’s partly dreadful because people unnecessarily shame and reproach them, and partly because still others try to normalize what causes such inner conflict.

      I can’t help feeling that it might been better to have kept all our intimate issues between ourselves and those in intimate relation to us, instead of broadcasting them to the world and everyone getting on their dignity about it. But of course we know that there are political reasons for all this.

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  3. Malcolm Muggeridge noted that sex was the secularists sacrament. It seems transcendent. In a soul who has denied God sex gives the illusion of transcendence that nothing else can. Outside a Godly traditional understanding, sex is easily perverted even within such tradition there is great temptation.

    It is perverted precisely due to our personal and ancestral shame at being separated from God.

    My experience with several friends and acquaintances who have been “homosexual” is that they are profoundly lonely and isolated and suffering a deep unarticulated pain. As with porn, homoeroticism is used to assuage that pain. Both are false. Idols used to replace the real conjugal union of marriage which is itself an icon of our greater actually transcendent union with our Creator.

    Marital union is not the only such icon however. Real friendship between people of the same sex can be also. The tragedy of homoeroticism and. the “sex is everything” approach is that the collapse of everything into mere sexuality makes such friendship highly unlikely if not impossible. One need not preclude the other.

    We are all impoverished and experience a bit of the loneliness and isolation ourselves. The fullness of human life is damaged.

    Love is fecund even if it is not sexual. Conjugal union for procreation in martisge has a unique fecundity to it that goes beyond the procreation of children. Each manifestation of love had its own unique fecundidity that transcends the particular union. Sexual reductionism is a perversion because it implodes the reality of love.

    The Incarnation is the ultimate expression of and source of all love and the fecundity it manifests and it is only in seeking union with our God that love is realized and our humanity is restored in its fullness. St Symeon the new Theologian’s poetry certainly expressed it.

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