A review of Androphilia. Jack Malebranche, Scapegoat Press, 2007.
After three decades of living it, I might not be ready to start “rejecting the gay identity”, but “reclaiming masculinity” is something I have been consciously engaged in for a long time. It is, by its nature, a challenging and joyful task, but unfortunately something of a minority concern within gaydom. So Jack Malebranche’s “Androphilia” is a strong, gleefully unapologetic and welcome voice.
When he noted, just for starters(!), the pervasive infections of “anti-male feminism, victimist mentality and left-wing politics” in the gay mainstream, he got my attention. And kept it. Although "Androphilia" is a manifesto, passionate and frankly one-sided, it is well-written, thoughtful, accessible and yet richly packed with content that you can return to and mull over after first reading. I have.
An image of my own that supports Jack's take on the Orwellian strangeness of current gay identity/culture: A female-to-male transgender who asserts, “Just because I don’t have the ‘right’ equipment doesn’t mean I’m less a man”, will be praised and defended. A gay male with natural plumbing who asserts, “Just because I’m a Republican doesn’t mean I’m less gay”, will be booed and booted out.
Malebranche scores a strong point: contemporary gayness is a pre-packaged ideology and lifestyle often deeply at odds with the natural masculine identity of its own population, and pressure to buy the whole thing is very intense. He, on the contrary, returns male desire and male solidarity to the center of discourse about male homosexuality and frees it from its captivity to extraneous and often inimical agendas. Bravo!
The primary slur against homosexual men is that we are not men at all, but something less, something like faux-females. Malebranche underestimates the deep contempt many men still have for one of their own who, how shall I put it, kneels or bends over, regardless of his other qualities. One defense against this is for us to identify with the slur and defiantly transform it into a mark of pride. This is how the cross, the ancient analogue of our noose or chair, became a religious symbol of victory. The same alchemical inversion took place with the pink triangle.
Many gay men therefore embrace the feminine that they are accused of aping. And in its defiance, it is a masculine act. But far too often, it is an unintegrated, adolescent, caricatured, even pathological, kind of femininity, one you rarely see in mature women: effeminacy. And it remains perpetually stuck in defiance mode, becoming a tantrum, a pose or a cartoon, retarding their maturation as men. Rather than refuting the slur, they sadly prove its point. It is not necessary. It is painful to see. And though it is not rare, it is very rarely challenged from within the gay world. It is this "gay" identity that Jack rejects, precisely because he is a man, and he loves, and desires, other men.
I differ with Malebranche on the depth of the feminizing stigma, on his reflections on desire as preference vs orientation, on his regrettable but minor decision to use Andrew Sullivan’s bogus “Christianist” lingo –and I am glad that he minimized his old notion of fetish. But I stand with him solidly and gratefully on his central androphile point, true for all men, but especially now for us men who love being men and who love and desire other men. To paraphrase, “Manhood is not the problem, it's the solution”.
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