Editor’s note: The text we present translated here is the preface to Guy Hocquenghem’s third queer-theoretical work, La Dérive Homosexuelle (Homosexual Drift), a curated collection of writings published between 1972 and 1977. For those not familiar, after moving through various gauchiste circles through and after the events of May ’68 – more pushed around by homophobia, really – Guy found himself in 1971 a prominent male member of the Revolutionary Homosexual Action Front (Front homosexual d’action révolutionnaire or FHAR). The year after, he would pen the seminal Homosexual Desire, his only widely circulated work in translation – a psychoanalytic, Marxist treatise on the homosexual (that had no small influence on that section of our tagline ‘Anal Vision’!) From there, Guy’s path grossly diverges from his peers – committed to being a revolutionary fag of letters, he does not stay his critical hand. The gays, now eagerly assimilationist, become “Club Med members who have gone a bit further than the rest”, his soixante-huitard-turned-Mitterandian fellow travelers become the subject of the aptly titled Open Letter to Those who Traded Maoism for the Rotary Club in 1986. That sort of commitment cost him a career. Guy Hocquenghem died of AIDS-related complications in 1988 and is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetary in Paris. We hope you appreciate this introduction to one of his salvos against a sanitized world.
AT WHAT MOMENT, AND WITH WHAT GRAVITY PROPER TO THE DESIGNATION, DOES ONE BECOME A PUBLIC HOMOSEXUAL—in the sense that one formerly spoke of a “public writer”—assuming a social determination which allows each one of you to unburden yourself of his needs for embodiment, care, and distance, is the first question this book would like to ask. Michel Foucault, in The Will to KnowledgeGallimard, 1973.
, explains that between the 17th and 19th centuries, a new character was slowly forged, endowed with its own psychological substance (and at the same time its own physiology), which was perhaps the first to be constituted from an official, sexual essence. This character, the homosexual, was permitted to abstract from acts hitherto roughly and rarely condemned, mainly sodomy: it was no longer the acts, hated by God, that society punished, but an identity which was the cause for these acts, a rational, constructed personality; thus from a crowd of libertine or nameless practitioners (Bougie, Bardachel, Chevalier de la Manchette, Giton) the deviants extracted this medico-psychiatric principle of homosexuality, the universal figure of the sexual minority or “exception,” which everyone knows proves the rule.
And very quickly in the popular psychiatric culture did the universal acceptance of a medical “knowledge” about sex make homosexuality in everyday life the phenomenology of the Other. Affirming by its presence the existence of the Normal, the label of “homosexual” can only be seen from the outside: faggots do not use it amongst themselves.
But a recent period in history—the word “homosexual” was only coined in 1870—has revolutionized the age-old distribution of forces that shape the pleasures of the body.
The “homosexual revolution” has, justifiably, had a very special place in the upheaval of the rules of this game. This upheaval, however, concerns not only the revolution itself, but all the processes of sexual identification in the “advanced capitalist countries.”
We can say today—only because of experience—that the term “homosexual revolution” or rather “the revolution of the homosexual” did not imply much more social protest than the revolution of the automobile, for example. And the recent commercialization of homosexual semantics indicate that it is indeed a “revolution” in this sense: if it modifies the consciences and reshapes interpersonal relationships, it is the first emergent part of a new ensemble, a new social-sexual model (the first to mingle the two explicitly). A new network of denominational forces is about to take shape, if History gives it life, which constitutes homosexuality no longer as a censure but as value. Among other things, it also constitutes feminism as a bloc and as a new state of the male.
So, there is therefore a “second movement” of homosexuality, breaking an age-old edifice concerning the visibility and self-perception of a minority group. After a century under the gaze of the Other, the fags have brutally inverted the problem: we are proud to be homosexuals. By taking at face value the letter that a century of psychiatry had attached to them as a public secret to wear, homosexuals and feminists triggered a great silent turmoil. The notions of minority and majority, the image of masculinity, the discourse of love, have all been affected or altered. Very quickly, a new balance of forces emerged, freezing the positions acquired in the illusion of movement. Distributed throughout the social body, sexual disputes have come to a standstill in a new Map of TendreTranslator’s Note: Map of Tendre was a common engraving motif originating the 17th century, sometimes used as a board for social games. The map depicted an imaginary country, Tendre, whose features represented the romantic notions of the French nobility at the time.
, “massified” by Western media in the aftermath of this questioning.
The image of the dominant heterosexual, the one with which millions of our fellow citizens live, and which organizes the systems of representation, has deeply changed. It has become a desecrated sexual object, commonly advertised; the masculine body has standardized itself in an advantageous and openly bisexual thirties. “Homosexual messages” have mingled with all the talk of soliciting, and it has been said, in short that the new Babylon is in the hands of the Sodomites (understand that the center of New York is no more than a great faggot ghetto, the symbol of a new “homosexual power”).
This desublimating “male liberation,” which benefits homosexuality, organizes with feminism, protesting and moralizing the new field of life, still deceptively called “private.” It is significant that in the USA, the only “protest” movements born in the 1960s that resisted erosion and have continued to gain ground are the feminist movement and the gay movement. The immense importance of the domestic sphere as a political issue, which also explains the success of the ecologists, works in their favor. The irresistible tendency of our societies to globalize, to create public issues out of all acts, left so far in the shadows of the unspoken, finds an inexhaustible supply in the problem of choice of sexual identity. The way in which you sleep has become political.
The unlocking of homosexual impulses and the generalization of the debate on the secrets of desire is thus curiously accompanied by the moralistic and finally anti-sexual reaction of the feminist movement. In a way, “militant homosexuality” is the only male response to autotransendental feminism (which proclaims itself to be of a particular inviolable essence). To the liberalization of morals, to pornography, and the homosexual surge, responds the new puritanism of women’s leagues against rape. The two opponents are struggling—future figures on the grand stage but on the verge of failing. A new landscape looms, in which the USA can provide a taste of what is to come. The future sexual order is not founded on the repressive order of Nature; it is rationally divided between a liberated sector, that is more erotic and more commercial, and is confessed between men, and a safeguarded sector, women who refuse brutal embraces, children put out of the reach of pederasts.
That would be the general trend that is being sketched out: a “cool” male homosexuality dedramatized out of latency in most “men’s clubs”—that is to say in most places of social life. The end of a tragic impotence of man to self-satisfy, surrounded by stricter segregations claimed by the segregated themselves (feminine dykes, masculine dykes, obsessed with the parthenogenic republic of children between them).
So, both the sexes will die separately? And why not? Let’s dispel, however, the equivocation. It is not a question in the projection that proceeds, of a “victory” of the homosexual—all the world becomes homosexual—but of a confluence of phenomena where it itself dissipates, or at least the representations of these phenomena—for I readily admit that the true things which we commonly call love remain unknown to us. Heterosexuality does not become minor, but more skillfully, it becomes problematic, tainted of homosexuality, becoming more and more conscious of it (among friends dredging the same girl), dedicated to questioning itself (or homosexuality becomes its answer). Wedged between the girls who refuse and the friends who confess.
Perhaps even this “sexual modernity” we are trying to describe here will have been the short dream of a decadent society, one of those “inescapable projects” of history, a moment of futurism awakening, before a brutal descent; perhaps, on the contrary, it is the foundation of a new State. But let us recognize that when we listen to the radio, contemplate the advertising posters, read and write, we think we are dreaming: yes, the different sexual substances, in that they participate in Sex, are the last absolutes of the crowds. And homosexuality leads from within its stubborn little saraband, insinuating its leitmotif into all confidences and confessions. It enjoys, in the flow of sex, this short lead to have always been, even at the time of its curse, more “sexual,” more sex-related than any other single human behavior. So, it keeps itself in the vanguard of a cultural movement that drives it. It is just forbidden enough to form a sex-scandal in a sexually obsessed society. In a society of men, we add feminization. The archetype of perversion functions as a permanent connotation at the very heart of the ongoing restructuring of our social sexual imaginary.
There is no homosexuality without an admission.
This trait is of infinite consequence, it is consubstantial with the thing; the intimate links, the deep complicities that homosexuality has with the medico-psychiatric network that once bore on the baptismal font are first and foremost of the nominative quality of which heterosexuality does not benefit. From these reports we retain only their repressive aspect, but there is a complicity on the object of the moment when the stuck-up fag recognizes himself as homosexual, coming to occupy his box by himself. We do not call ourselves heterosexual. It is true that we did not say we were homosexual either, at least until the great upheaval: we designated you as such. The homosexual protest of the last years went further than any had before in the desublimation of sexual discourse: claiming loudly what we believed to be his secret, publicly portraying himself as what we called him behind his back, was it so surprising that he was the vanguard of a new truth? He came to occupy the place of his name in the text of a coming humanity.
That one never has to confess his heterosexuality is enough to seriously weaken the latter in a society that cries sex. Having a sexuality to say becomes a strange privilege, a “full” a “more” that easily contrasts with the molluscan banalities of the whining heterosexual.
The great social movements that serve as a background for collections of articles generally have the disadvantage of taking shape only in the experience of the author. The beginning of the story told in this book goes back to a moment of fusion between my “I” and this territory of public homosexuality. A fusion or coexistence is destabilized, since all the rest is from a certain point of view only the account of the efforts I have made since then to disabuse myself of this “collage” of a moment.
From a moment of coincidence between public life and private life that characterized the new homosexual protest (in France, in 1971, specifically)Ed: The FHAR was founded in 1971.
I actually became homosexual—and I have since had time to derive at an infinite distance the homosexual that we talked about in me.
Anyone who has spent any time in public life will understand me easily: who would want to belong to the order of the concept embodied? It is easy to imagine the totalitarianism that results for an individual with a public sexual definition, on which everyone believes they have a right to an opinion.
A paradox explains the existence of this book: homosexuality is what we have been asking about ever since it had been thought to have been solved once and for all.
A moment of coincidence or rather of recovery, then a long escape. That is the design of this collection. But what threw me into homosexual liberation, and then demanded that I avoid it? The “sexual reality” was not in question; I had been sleeping with boys for a long time before the idea came to me (or was blown into my head) to “act like a homosexual” (as they say). A path that has been becoming less and less popular (everyone tends to follow the well-worn paths with the receptive recipes of sexology). I mean that until this time of challenge by confession, I would have never imagined that it could interest the public; nor that it could be deduced about me. A state of blindness or innocence, as one would like, is in any case irreparably defunct. To have chosen to sleep with my teachers or to flirt in the street did not create me, in my eyes, as a determinable sexual subject. This is what quickly produced the “politicization” of a contested existential choice.
Ever since this cliché clarification (that’s it, you are homosexual!) I’ve been trying to cover my tracks, to cut the analogical and conceptual links—I’ve never been able to distinguish the two very well—which links me to this advertising balloon of the revolutionary homosexual. Because, in fact, an uncontrolled double drift separates militant homosexuality—and I repeat that I understand the phrase in a very broad sense, any homosexual person calling himself such a militant, as well as any heterosexual who uses the word to summarize an action—and my sensitive experience, the one that makes me write.
And yet, in less than a year (in the nine months between the founding of the FHAR, publicly announced in the newspaper Tout, and the report in the Nouvel Observateur on my “case”)Ed: Guy had a public “coming out” in the pages of the newspaper Nouvel Observateur. “I became a homosexual” is still available on their website here.
my life was eased of a weight, a center of gravity that brings back to it all the efforts I make to escape.
I am speaking here about a long road traveled to get rid of homosexuality. Or for it to take me away.
I quote in the first part two articles, one which, already in hindsight, theorizes the public confession, the founding announcement of the FHAR, in Partisans, which personalized the group for the general public. The importance of the one and the other thing appeared to me only gradually, and I am still stupefied to undergo the effects at a distance—proof of the specificity of the ineffaceable homosexual connotation.
After this first part, the other four directives, a little arbitrarily, explore four lines of flight out of the homosexological straitjacket. Topology is a little too much like a French garden: let’s say rather that homosexuality is here only the name of a segment now dead in a line of forces in transverse displacement, that it is at a given moment an attitude of bias, curiously warped, in relation to reality. To prolong this same “warping of reality” effect, new causes are constantly needed (which is not without analogy with the “more” of drugs). This shift of the axis away from the peaceful areas began to take hold on me as soon as the effects of the 1971 electroshock became apparent (I mean my rapid conversion from private to public). While I was drifting in one direction, anxious to join the informal ocean, exploring the barely specific margins of homosexuality, Homosexuality, on the verge of being recognized, was evolving in the other: organizing, rationalizing, not only recovering but above all founding new values, and, why not, new empires. Gathering new repressions, demanding the punishment of assailants and faggots and the integration of homosexuals into the army and the American police. Substantializing itself, giving itself body and culture.
Once again, this double drift is not typically homosexual. Homosexuality came to play its part in the contemporary sexological concert, but it did not create it alone. From 1972, the “part of Sex” was played in France. Briefly illuminated by leftists, it fell into the hands of sexologists, specialists stultifying a whole media landscape by manipulating a perpetual and never sufficient admission; a Danaides’ jug of confidence, of the “Who am I, Doctor?” The American marketing of bio-energy had its part in this dance. The dialogue with Professor Milliez,Ed: Paul Milliez was a Catholic leftist physician and public voice at the time, noted by Hocquenghem for defending the abortion of a rape victim in 1972 in Bobigny. Readers may be interested to know that he organized to help Arab casualties in the Six Day War and was Enver Hoxha’s personal physician.
which he kindly allowed me to quote widely, the texts of our ephemeral Institute of Criticism of Sexology at Vincennes, discovering the new enemy, the knowledge on the body, the Sex-king, complete the second part of this book. On the margins of broken homosexuality, the third part of the book, the number of billions of perverts in the seized Recherches,“Grande Encyclopédia de Homosexualités”, Recherches, March 1973. Ed: This issue of Recherches was seized by the police, and Felix Guattari, as the editor, was fined for publishing such an indecency. For more, see this article by Gary Genosko in Rhizomes 11.
ventures into “dehumanization” (while the homosexual is on the brink of finally being humanized). The pederast, that accursed homosexual, whom they are the first to denounce, similar to the German pursuing the cursed one in the film of Fritz Lang, is also in these margins of the “perverse plural.”
When homosexuality confesses and rationalizes, it tries to push back into the shadows its old companions of the lowlands. The break with interclass love is the condition of homosexual salvation. This is the true meaning of the debate on sexual violence, represented here by articles on Pasolini’s death and rape. They are trying, as the Italian filmmaker has done, to escape from this movement of founding closure of the new sexual bourgeoisie, free fags, segregators and racists, or women dragging Arab rapists before the courts.
The problem is not so much as to denounce a new archetype, the Homosexual, as to release from its grip the revolting movements of attraction that it confiscates and immobilizes. The red thread of this passion rooted, we find elsewhere, far from the clear agora of sexual identity, in a grain of madness that suddenly rejects the heavy mantle of responsibility: the grain of the madness of madnesses. Who is surprised that the homosexual culture today is trying to rid itself of the nuisance to respectability that is this madness? The new type of “cool” male who looks like a brother to the new faggot mustache is even more intolerant of Marlon Brando’s “making mad” with Blanche Dubois.In the film, based on the work by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar named Desire.
There is an “irrational choice” (in relation to the sexual reason, even when homosexual) in the Mad, on the border of Art and life, out of politics. Out of sex, at the end of the trip, sex itself (as experience and as a daily reassurance) seems to dissolve in Barcelona…
In short: I called myself a homosexual, claimed it. I discovered very quickly that no one knew exactly what it was—or that when they knew, it was not what I was talking about. That it was plural—that if there was homosexuality, it was homosexualities. And that it was less a choice to be between males than a choice to flirt elsewhere than in his closed world. That finally it did not have a conceptual name, but swirled with the same indifference dedicated to the whys and wherefores of art.
The apparent liberalization homosexuality was granted, its recognition, almost its seizure of power, is reflected in a displacement of the repressive margins—nomadic, I followed the moving armies like a looter—and a purge of homosexual content. Legal thought is about to mark, to sanction, this relocation-recentering. The repression of the “homosexual fact” could disappear from the code, provided that the homosexual now has an acceptable sexual definition. And with an evolving legal consciousness, homosexuals could become one of the groups to whom the law gives help to and protection for (by defining the assaults they suffer, by fighting against discrimination). The right to come out from the “private life,” no longer found in Nature or God, will tend towards becoming an immense system of compensation between subgroups defined by the risks they run and those they cause to others. Sex will no longer be the great enemy, but a sector to enunciate clearly, an anarchy to deceive and put in order thanks to the new sexological light. Homosexuals will have to pay for their brand-new recognition of the sacrifice of their own margins and irrationalities. The postlude tries in this spirit to take stock of the legislative evolution in France.
Named a century ago by Psychiatry, avowed and proclaimed ten years ago in the USA and then in Europe, homosexuality may be on the verge of ending in both senses of the word in a sexually organized society where it would no longer be either a source of discord or a short-circuit. But the revolts it carried were scattered around it, forming like those “witches circles” that mushroom collectors know, moving away in concentric circles by invincible movements towards the edges, until the field accidentally fragments and scatters them, bound together only by the inextricable network of the mycelium. And the wrinkles formed on the water by the stone that we threw away, never ceasing to dilate, to resound and to intersect, blurring each other, fragmenting the reflection of a homosexual character tired of contemplating himself.
Translated from the French by Nat.
GUY HOCQUENGHEM was a French writer, filmmaker, revolutionary, and homosexual.