National Commentary

Nick Benton’s Gay Science, Part 7 This Week: “Tennessee Williams Vs. William Burroughs”

Who are we, really? Homosexuals are a vital element of natural creation, operating throughout history as the makers and menders of the social fabric of civilizations. Without fully articulating the wider perspective of homosexuality’s derivation from the very dissymmetry of the evolving universe, itself, suffice it to say for now that not only are we meant to be, but we fail to fulfill our vital social role only when we try to suppress our true natures, or become desperate to mimic the straight world.

 

Who are we, really? Homosexuals are a vital element of natural creation, operating throughout history as the makers and menders of the social fabric of civilizations. Without fully articulating the wider perspective of homosexuality’s derivation from the very dissymmetry of the evolving universe, itself, suffice it to say for now that not only are we meant to be, but we fail to fulfill our vital social role only when we try to suppress our true natures, or become desperate to mimic the straight world.

Homosexuals who’ve loved themselves and others have mediated a world otherwise too sharply divided by testosterone-dominated males and estrogen-infused women, where the natural order trends to a brutal domination of the former over the latter, leading to social systems of militaristic tyrannies fueled by the internal dynamics of systematic abuse of women, children, the weak and the elderly in individual households.

Nature provides for homosexuals by and large with elevated levels of empathy who are not interested in using women for procreation and domination, who tend to offer comfort and care for the proverbial “widows and orphans.” They introduce tools of science, medicine and art to ease their plight and to “tame the savage beasts” of male-dominated societies.

While no one can insist that this is the case for each and every homosexual person, it does account for the existence of homosexuality as a phenomenon in every human society, even when it is not identified openly.

Thus, a compassionate and civil rights-oriented American society after World War II was shaped to a large degree by the enormous, seminal influence of two prominent homosexuals, Eleanor Roosevelt, co-author and expounder of the 1947 International Declaration of the Rights of Man, and Tennessee Williams, the playwright who spurred the conscience of the entire nation.

But evidences of the socially efficacious role of homosexuals go way back, to the tyrant slaying and nation building of David, lover of Jonathan in the Old Testament, to Socrates, the inventor of modern scientific reasoning, to the artistic and scientific giants of the Renaissance, Donatello, DaVinci, Michelangelo and Caravaggio, to the artistic genius of Shakespeare (whose sonnets are explicit), Whitman and Wilde and the statesmanship of Lincoln, and many others.

In the 20th century, many leaders of women’s suffrage, writers, poets and artists like Christopher Isherwood, W.H. Auden and Don Bachardy and statesmen like the United Nations’ Dag Hammarskjold not only advanced humanitarian and just social institutions, but also inspired the first waves of brave women and men standing up for the public recognition and appreciation of homosexuals in the context of striving for social justice for all, heroes like Frank Kameny, Lilli Vincenz and Nancy Davis, Barbara Gittings, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Harry Hay and others.

But the civil rights fervor of the 1960s waned as a massive social engineering offensive was launched by the enemies of progressive values in the U.S. It was spurred by the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and the massive introduction of LSD and other drugs, through the CIA’s well-documented MK-ULTRA project run on 40 U.S. college campuses, of psychedelic rock and disco to substitute for the music of love and social justice, and of radical hedonism and boundless excesses of the angry Beats and their anarchistic and radical libertarian hordes.

America underwent a social transformation under this offensive in the 1970s, which was introduced to wider society through portals on its social margins, including the post-Stonewall gay movement.

That engineered excess led to the urban environments in which AIDS would appear and spread, and it has not relented in much of the gay culture even to this day.

Nothing signaled the departure of this offensive from the earlier gay sensibility more than a conversation between Tennessee Williams and the gay radical Beat poet, William Burroughs, published on the pages of the Village Voice in May 1977, just as the excesses of impersonal gay sex were well on their way to fueling the outbreak of AIDS.

From that exchange:

Burroughs: ‘Do what thou wilt’ is the whole of the Law.

Williams: Regarding drugs, you mean.

Burroughs: Regarding anything…’Nothing is true, everything is permitted.’ In other words, everything is permitted because nothing is true. If you see everything as illusion, then everything is permitted…

Williams: Provided you want to do the right thing, yes.

Burroughs: Ah, but if you really want to do it, then it’s the right thing. That’s the point.

Williams: Isn’t that an amoralist point of view?

Burroughs: Completely…completely.

Williams: I don’t believe you are an amoralist.

Burroughs: Oh yes.

Williams: You do believe it?

Burroughs: Well, I do what I can…

Williams: I don’t think it’s true.

Burroughs: We were both brought up in the Bible belt; but it’s obvious that what you want to do is, of course, eventually what you will do, anyway. Sooner or later.

Doing the ‘right thing’ versus ‘everything is permitted.’ That sharp contrast defined the separation between the true homosexual sentiment from the horror it became for too many during that awful era.

To be continued.