On the Importance of Resurrecting The Dead

19Mar08

In which The Gay Recluse kills two birds with one stone.

Today we received a certain amount of shit for “trashing” Arthur C. Clarke as a major closet-case only milliseconds after he died. Fair enough, we trashed him a little. But our purpose in doing so — besides being an internet traffic whore, of course — was to demonstrate to more impressionable young minds that it’s possible to be a commercially successful, influential artist and a cocksucking faggot.

Coincidentally, we happened to receive the following letter:

Hey Gay Recluse: My name is Jeffrey and and I recently found your blog while surfing the web. Last year I lived on 161st and Fort Washington, now I live in Bushwick, and by the end of April, I’ll be somewhere else. Sheesh!I just finished reading your post, “On the Suffocation of the Gay Voice in American Literature.” I thought it was beautifully written (though I have a hard time understanding things that are really academic — but I try!) and really hit home for me. I’m a young artist trying to figure out my voice and style, and occasionally I’ll find it and be reminded by others that I really do have ‘it’. I really resonated with the opening paragraph of your post and totally related it to my own artwork. Before I came out three years ago and still to this day, I could never figure out why my artwork, as expressive as it is, seemed to depict a very sad young guy. It’s as if a weight is placed on his shoulders that makes him gloomy. I attempted to write that my artwork was nothing more than a typical generational experience here in America — that any young adult feels the same way as the characters in my work. After reading your opening paragraph, I know that I can attribute my artwork as being gay.

Jeffrey [http://www.gus23.com]

Jeffrey, thanks for writing! We know exactly how you feel. We suspect the reason you feel sad is because society (and in all likelihood, a certain percentage of your “close” friends and family) hates you for being gay — whether they admit it or not — and that you have not perhaps come to grips with this yet, which is understandable: it takes time. The good news is that with a little luck and patience you will eventually appreciate this reality for the blessing it is, and learn to really love the 2 percent of people who genuinely love you back!

We think of ourselves at the age of 10 or 12, reading books and books and books by legions of post-war writers and wondering why not a single one — regardless of subject matter — was openly gay. Or maybe that’s too strong; at 10 or 12 it was more like sensing that nobody was gay, much in the way we sensed that we in fact were. From here it’s not long before we were living in a cloud of toxic self-hatred and melancholy that persists to this day (except of course we kind of love it now, but that’s a light at the end of the tunnel).

So when people — heroic figures, even — like Arthur C. Clarke are closet cases, it leaves many inexplicably sad young artists like Jeffrey in their wake. Our hope is to elevate Arthur C. Clarke by pointing to the truth (albeit in a satirical fashion that we try to make entertaining), which is that he was a major queen by almost any reckoning. We like to imagine some gay kid out there reading about the death of one of his favorite writers and then reading our obituary, and in this way getting a glimmer of hope from knowing that they are not as different as perhaps meets the eye. Doesn’t the letter from Jeffrey rest our case?

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5 Responses to “On the Importance of Resurrecting The Dead”

  1. 1 Vikram

    Hi, I thought your reworked edit was unfair, sure, but also funny and not without some points. One of them you’ve defended above. The other is the certain level of discomfort one feels about a closeted Western gay man parachuting into a developing country like Sri lanka and using the status he gains by being there to lead a life he wasn’t able to lead in the West, at least when he went there, and which most gay Sri Lankans still can’t.

    As a gay man living in India I don’t want to make assumptions about the intentions of all foreigners who live in countries like this, but it does rather creep me out to encounter rich (over here) foreigners who use their status to have sexy local men at their beck and call. Maybe some level of envy here, I agree, and often these guys do take care of their local guys. Nonetheless there’s an element of exploitation that cannot be overlooked easily.

    I’d even be willing to do that if these guys would make some effort to use their considerable influence to change attitudes and government policy towards homosexuals, but that rarely happens. You point out how much it would have helped a young gay sci fi fan to discover that someone like Clarke was gay – imagine how much it would have helped a young gay Sri Lankan man to have learned that Clarke was an out, proud gay man, rather than someone around whom lots of salacious (and probably incorrect, but that’s not really the point) rumours always swirled in Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka isn’t the worst place to be gay in, but its not great. Some bad stuff has happened, like the extension of anti gay laws to cover lesbians. Clarke did do a lot for Sri Lanka, but he could have done a lot for gay Sri Lankans. Perhaps he tried – I’ll mail Sri Lankan activists I know to check – but the chances are he was happy to benefit from the special status he had there, but not willing to help others who didn’t have it.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Vikram. I think you raise a number of valid points that would be well considered by those who are upset that it is overly “mean-spirited” to make fun of Arthur Clarke for being in the closet when — as you point out — he could have done so much more by being out. (Plus there is the creepy rich-guy exploitation factor you rightly point out.)

  3. PS. Vikram, please keep us posted on what you learn from your Sri Lankan contacts!

  4. 4 Jody

    From Kerry O’Quinn’s remembrance of Arthur C. Clarke:

    “…Yes, Arthur was gay – although in his era that wasn’t the term. As Isaac Asimov once told me, “I think he simply found he preferred men.” Arthur didn’t publicize his sexuality – that wasn’t the focus of his life – but if asked, he was open and honest.

    “I remember on board the ship, a total stranger approached him one day, apparently having heard a homosexual rumor, and offered Arthur a silver Lambda pin. “Are you willing to wear this?” the fellow asked. “Delighted,” was Arthur’s response. He put it on and wore it the remainder of the voyage.

    “In a recent “Egogram” (his term for the email newsletter of his activities) Arthur wrote “…completing 90 orbits around the sun was a suitable occasion to reflect on how I would like to be remembered. I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer – one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.”

    He definitely stretched my imagination. Sir Arthur C. Clarke was one of a kind, a dear friend, a planetary treasure and a prime example of carbon-based bipeds.”

    http://www.doorq.com/Blog.aspx?b=998

  5. Jody, do you think Arthur C. Clark would find these statues hot? We do.

    https://thegayrecluse.com/2008/03/20/on-hot-gay-statues-los-angeles-is-definitely-on-the-map/


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