Reading Diary: Becoming Animal (Michael Bowdidge)

In Gerald L. Bruns’ “Becoming-Animal”, the author describes this becoming as being formed of an “in betweeness” (714), as an ability to become “imperceptible”(712), to be “nomadic” and “restless”(704) and it is linked, in his writings to a loss of the face which “becomes a mask without any relation of representation” (711). My response to the reading threatens to be (at best) both off-the-mark and a simplification to the ideas presented. At worst, my thoughts threaten to sound self-hating and intolerant.

I had always known that I was gay as a child. I had clear desires for the fathers of childhood friends and male television and movie stars. But like many young gay men, I attempted—for a long time—the straight and narrow; I dated girls and then young ladies. I had intercourse with them and devised futures with them appropriate for a young man growing up in a NYC ghetto in the 1980’s. I carried and I wore the face that “allow[ed] me to pass into human society” (Bruns 712).

At 20 years of age, I met a man. His name was Giovanni (of course). We became fast friends and then, in his car one rainy night, we became more: I became something else.

In 1976, Anne Rice wrote a gothic novel titled, Interview with The Vampire. In the story, a vampire named Lestat seduces a man named Louis and transforms Lois into a vampire. The gay community received this novel as an allegory to the recruitment-nature of homosexuality: a gay man meets a man who (like me) has an underlying nature that he wants hidden or that he is not yet prepared to deal with; the gay man befriends the other, seduces him, and then releases that hidden nature thus further “peopling” the gay community.

Becoming-animal, according to Bruns, “involves a peopling”(705). It is about “contagion” (705).

When I met Giovanni, I was, i believed, very happy with my girlfriend of 5 years. We were going to marry and have children. She was warm and loving and exceedingly smart. The sex was great. I knew that I had other yearnings that “arrive[d] and pass[ed] at the edge, teeming, seething, swelling” and I had considered it a personal triumph having never given into “this nameless horror” (Bruns 705).

I want to be clear that the horror, the becoming-animalistic-nature of “becoming gay” was not just psychological which is why the article moved me to write this.

One night as Giovanni drove me through the city, we rode past The Monster Bar—a gay bar located just opposite New York City’s landmark Stonewall Inn. Giovanni pointed it out. Seeing the curiosity on my young face, he informed me that I was not ready for that: “They would eat you alive”, he warned.

A year later, venturing in, I met the “pack”, the “band”, the “population” (705) of men who had also become.

In the 80’s and the 90’s, these places (the bars and clubs) were still secretive and each man inside still lived a double-life of some sort—be it to his family, his friends, his wife, or his job. I learned that gay people were legion: not some random man sitting in his parked car alone in the night but a “swarm” (705).

And the swarm was peopled with these inbetween creatures: in between man and woman. The swarm sloughed off gender-duality through their movements and gestures, or the way they spoke and laughed, or the way they dressed (on this night, in this place) or the subjects they spoke about. It was truly—it had to be—a metamorphosis because they could not speak, act, and dress that way before the world. The affectation was to much. It was not real. The myth to me was that in these dark places, gay men could allow their true nature to show. But it seemed to me that the personas I saw and interacted with were just as unreal as the ones these men most-likely shared at work and at their family’s home during holidays.

According to Bruns, “the becoming-animal of the human being is real, even if the animal the human becomes is not” (706).

At 47, being a gay male feels dull and normal. The things I do now, I would do if I were with a woman: no difference in how I act, dress, or the things I pursue in life. Who I am is not calcified by what I have become and gay culture at large has a minimum affect on my existence. But what was “real”, what shook me, what shakes me always, was my becoming.