(Above: Lancelot at the Chapel of the Holy Grail, Edward Burne-Jones: 1896.)
When I entered the gay lifestyle, I was not only looking for camaraderie, a community to call my own, and ultimately love, but also a religion. The Catholicism that I had grown up alongside: flower-power Jesus with touches of social justice, the human potential movement, and Liberation Theology, left we supremely uninterested. I was a boy longing for solidarity, doctrinalism, and ultimate masculinity; and that I suredly found in gay culture. For example, in the gay world, especially among men, there was a strange sort of inner bonding that took place, only through sex, that led to a superficial order of knowing, but that eventually collapsed into a vicious “Lord of the Flies” mentality; the adherence to social and political thought was rigorously and uniformly enforced; and the masculine male was the pinnacle of the all-seeing god; for, even the high priests of drag and twinkish effeminacy always bowed down before the manliness of the alpha-male.
This pseudo-religion temporarily soothed our pains and elevated a bit of the loneliness and alienation that we had all experienced as boys. But, as with all that is solely material, the sexually focused spirituality of gay-dom is continually fleeting and transitory. I unknowingly discovered this during my initial few days in The Castro. Amidst one of my first, but many, visits to the local sex-clubs and bathhouses, I noticed that the older and less attractive men were often huddled together into little groups of outcasts; constantly relegated to abusing each other rather than mixing with the younger and more desirable. At all times, they seemed much further away from the gay supreme being; as for myself: I was 19 years old, thin, rather new, and heatedly worshipped. It felt good to be praised. Like everyone else in my company, I looked down on the slobbering trolls and proudly thought I would never be one of them.
As an initiate, I found the gay gods rather generous: I finally felt a part of the in-crowd, after spending years as a lonely teenager and forever existing on the outside; I belonged to a larger faith community that believed the things I did and collectively kept in front of the them the possible rising dawn of a brighter future for all gays; and, most importantly, the masculine love that I had eternally longed for – I got; most often from older men who wanted to spoil me in order to receive sex. Only, I was a hot-commodity for a short time. The hard living, diseases, and neglect took its toll, and by my mid-20s I was quickly sliding from Olympus. There was a fresher and lovelier crop of deities on the horizon and I was now lower on the caste system. It seemed that the gay gods had abandoned me; so, I went looking elsewhere: mainly into the occult. Yet, even inside that pit of mystery and smoke, I still longed for the loving embrace of the Father. This image, because of my warped mind, I still associated with the perfect male awaiting me just inside the gay world. I looked, but I never saw him.
Even on my death bed, these illusions were strong within me. I turned from Christ, in the barely audible whispering prayers of my sorrowing mother seated at the end of the hospital bed. But, when I realized that everything else was emptiness everlasting, I knew that the Lord Jesus Christ was my true Father. That He was the Man I had always searched for and never found amongst the porn-shops and orgies of San Francisco. I didn’t need an Earthy caress to heal me, but only His all-encompassing embrace.
Note: It is often horrendously difficult, if not impossible, for many homosexual men to leave the gay world and mind-set because their entire being is wrapped up in the lifestyle; the severity of this attachment is often determined by the age of the person when they accepted the homosexual orientation. I was 19, and the majority of my friends were all in their late-teens or early-twenties; we were guided by one overwhelming thought: the quest for male love. Because this emotion was so prevalent from childhood, we couldn’t explain its origins. After all, it was something we were born with; so, it didn’t matter anyway. Yet, this rush to masculinity is all consuming: affecting the everyday life of gay men – from the way they dress to the films they watch. It even hits God; and reforms Him as a manic and restless Father-figure who endlessly morphs into different men; the Holy Grail that is perpetually just beyond reach. That other god, the Jesus of the Catholic Church and similar bigoted Christians, he was the Man they invented: unloving, judgmental, and condemning; unconsciously, that Jesus represents the father who never loved us as a kid. So, we go looking for a new one. Ultimately, it’s a pursuit that is tragic and doomed to failure. For, that false god never gives us what we want or what we need; it just takes until there is nothing left.
Author’s note to image: When I was in the gay lifestyle, I was obsessed with anything related to the Holy Grail: even to the extent of having the grail image tattooed to my body. Now, I understand. The grail represented the constant questing within gay male culture; For, I was always looking, but couldn’t figure out what I was searching for. Yet, in fact, what I wanted the whole time – was God.