Take Care For Your Life And Enter Reality

If its not too strange, I will now quote an email I wrote this morning:

“Yesterday I went to one of the outlying communities in Lima [of the Shipibo tribe]…There they had built a festival just for us. Kids ran around in the mud…I met two men. One was an anthropology student, and he explained to me in Spanglish the designs on my bag, how each small line was a individual journey through the forest. Each big line was a group journey. Each blue square was a place of rest. Each orange line was a sacred journey that connected large journeys…Then, as I was walking back to the bus, one of the drummers ran up to me and asked my name…He and I exchanged emails; I have yet to write him…Before we parted he looked me right in the eye, and I said I’d love to talk more, and he said ‘Podemos Ser Amigos’ (We are able to/can be friends.) There was something else he was saying, something profound, a certain joy in connection…

[I just feel this] fucking hope.”

Sometimes I get down on myself and think I sound like a glass-half-full-new-age-hippie-gringo.

I guess that statement is problamatic.  Regardless.

In my first travel post I said I wanted to focus my study on this trip on, yes, the relationship between art and politics, but also four other things:

1. The Theatre.

2. Gay Men and their culture.

3. Spirituality.

4. My Feelings.

These past two weeks I’ve seen all four begin to whirl around as though in some magic cauldron.

(Metaphors abound when I’ve had too much coffee. Although that last sentence was a simile.)

So let’s reflect a little more specifically.

Javi Vargas is a visual artist who works closely with images of Tupac Amaru II and other historical figures and gives them lipstick and beautiful hair.  Why?

Well, Javi seems reluctant to explain away his work. He’s trying to challenge the notions of identity we share, on masculinity, on “gayness.”

And I could sit around and praise his work until I died, but Javi wouldn’t want that, I don’t think.

After seeing his work, we all sat on the bus and asked Javi questions in succession. But I noticed that each question began to become a statement:

“Q: Would you agree that perhaps queer culture has a sort of spiritual mythology which may include figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga and such?

A: Sure.

Q: Does Christianity and its prohibitive nature curtail the free expression of sexuality in Lima?

A: Yes.

Q: I’ve noticed I became uncomfortable when I saw that woman dressed like a man make-out kissing that man dressed like a woman.

A: I’m glad to hear that.”

(To be sure, these are HIGHLY fictionalized and paraphrased questions and responses. Javi was extremely eloquent in his responses.)

“Q: Javi, you problematize the conception of sexuality as Gay or Straight, the conception of gender as Man or Woman.  For the lack of a better term, how should we conceptualize these ideas?

A:[SO PARAPHRASED] I would prefer to steer away from conceptualizing anything, and rather allow identity to be complicated. Rather than to allow concepts to order us from the top down, I would rather hold discussions which are informed by experience. To be sure, theory is incredibly useful in discussing things academically, and in helping to make sense of the world, but in order to fully understand the world, one must enter reality.”

So lets talk little about Gayness.

See, I don’t really believe in intrinsic gayness.  I don’t think anyone is Born This Way.

No, I don’t believe that being gay is a choice either, not in the way that you might be thinking.

Falling in love is not a choice. (It is inevitable, in what ways it may differently manifest.) Liking to have sex is not a choice. (It is inevitable, in what ways it may differently manifest.) But choosing to identify as gay as a consequence IS a choice.

And one which is necessary by and large to secure the right to fall in love publicly in the first place.  Men and women who love members of their own gender need to stand together in order to secure legal placement, in order to secure legal rights.

But this should not bind men and women into strict boundaries of Gay or Straight or even Bisexual.  (The argument might be encapsulated in Dan Savage’s comments about Bisexuality, which I do not agree with in the slightest, although I respect how clearly he states his opinions. Some of these comments are available here.)

And I was struck by Javi’s work for this reason. He complicates these notions on purpose. And he offers no clear, simplifying answers for us.

How does this tie in with the Shipibo? With the drummer and the anthropologist? With the theater? With my feelings? With the spirit?

This is not rhetorical. I’m asking.


Let’s take a stab.

The theater is a space for ideas, it is a space to actualize these ideas, to transmit what cannot be transmitted through words and through books. But it is also a reflection of what happens every day in the street.

I need to read more about Performativity, so bear with what might be simplistic renditions of second-hand knowledge.

But it seems to me (and to many) that public performance is simply putting on display what happens on smaller and grander scales every day of our life. I “perform” my gender. I “perform” my identity as student. (Too obnoxiously sometimes. Just take a look at the way I write.) I “perform” my status as that which has been ascribed to me by social surroundings.

And onstage one performs exactly these things out of context.

And so “gay” is performed.


I’m still not tying this together neatly.

Might not get to be neat.

Why am I so worked up about this anyway?  Its not just the coffee.

Here’s the thing.

There are men who are afraid to walk down streets holding hands with someone. This, essentially, and very simplistically, is the reason why I want to fight for Gayness. Does that make sense?

So that this will be a non-issue. No talk of difference as intrinsic, but talk of difference as experience. Of shared experiences that create a mythology, of debate instead of insult, of conscientious objection from that which one finds appalling, with respect for those that do not.

I guess I want to get to the point where one may perform freely in the streets in what expression they wish. 

Still here we are with idealist glass half full talk.

But Jorge Miyagui said something today.

There is apparently a saying that I will paraphrase like the forgetful man I am: “When navigating, walk towards the brightest star, but in order to get there, one must focus on the finger pointing towards it.”

I have my star. I’m pointing. What now?


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