Gay Shadow and the Price of Isolation

Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in Shadow Work

Gay Shadow and the Price of Isolation

Not Waiting to Say Goodbye” by Jacob Bernstein was personally moving to me and many of my friends who read The New York Times and who knew Bob Bergeron. Handfuls of separate threads on Facebook were devoted to grief and anger about it. I believe the scope of the article left out some pivotal legacy pieces that are important to the gay community, pieces that are part of our history but often kept in shadow.

Since Dancer from the Dance was published, the gay community has had to deal with the AIDS epidemic. Forty-somethings like me and my peers lost many potential mentors in our lives We were  left with less history to learn about ourselves as we grew older.

Like Anthony Malone from the book and gay men like myself, thousands of us have left our biological families in order to discover what our authentic nature looked like. We went to the big cities. Some of us made it to San Francisco or New York where we found ourselves in the clusters of show queens, leather daddies, guppies and chubs.  We defined ourselves in relationship to the others around us. After all, we learned how to do that by growing up gay in a straight world. Most of the GBTQ men we found were under 40 because many had already died from AIDS.

Our gay community lacked its elders and along with it, those personal interactions and teaching pieces that our elderly are able to share with us. On the cultural level, much of the rich history in the queer community “went into shadow,” or into the unconscious. That is a hefty price this community has paid, for it required us to make the same mistakes over again in order to reintegrate that shadow.

I’m not challenging the assertion from this article that a cultural “Narcissism,” another shadow, played a huge role in this tragedy. For gay men, narcissism has come to mean an unhealthy attachment to youth and one’s youthful self that shows up in a desire for a younger lover and in obsessive concern with appearances – two roads that easily lead to isolation for gay men. The driving force behind it is a search for the divine at the expense of everyday life. The remedy, is to find a balance between searching and finding one’s true place in the world.

From an alchemical healing standpoint, Narcissus as an archetype can be of tremendous help. If his influence can be filtered down from the cultural shadow to one’s personal shadow or unconscious, then a therapist or helpmate can assist in the integration of what it means to look at one’s reflection and be in love with it. If you go to the mirror right now and tell yourself “You’re beautiful, I love you.” How good will that feel? What is the reality that is seen?

Shadow work requires time and patience. What we carry around with us that gets projected through our unconscious has multiple layers and facets that need attention and focus in order to be transformative in our lives. We cannot expect simple coaching or reprogramming to work unless the foundation has been set properly. This is why so many people read self-help books and never change their lives.

There is a lot more to say in response to this issue that will touch on shame, abuse and homophobia. I will save that for a second post. Your comments are always welcome.




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