HAVANA TIMES, August 12 — When he wrote an article about sexuality in October 2008, Ruben Lombida, a member of GECNA (the Our America Cultural Studies Group), commented to me that he would like to be interviewed on the theme of homosexuality.
With many difficulties on the part of both of us in trying to arrange a meeting, it finally took place in his house in the community of Regla, where the headquarters of his project is situated. Between caresses of cats, irruptions from his amusing dog Chubs Chubs and breaks in the recording (recounted below), we lost a good part of the conversation.
What would you call homosexuality?
For me, that conflict that self-defines us as being a man or a woman, a female or male homosexual, is a kind of a shortcut. Sexual exploration can include homosexuality as something natural, but the most important thing is not to get stuck along that shortcut.
I wanted to comment on something I’ve noticed; this is how a certain indulgence is promoted with regard to female homosexuality, even in countries that are traditionally rather sexist. But this is only because this type of relationship between women is exciting to some men. There is no real acceptance of homosexuality behind this; it has only a sexist and degrading focus…
There is truly a sexist aspect in that perspective. However, to react against that is to also run into another limitation. What I’m saying might seem very drastic, but it’s needed to get away from the sexual aspect, from the genital aspect, and to enter into the cognitive aspect. In the case of women, at least in the West, history has confined them to the female role; if they crossed that line they were sinners. Even today, despite the apparent freedom, women are also caught between two alternatives: either I’m a feminist and I fight against men, or I’m a lesbian. These are the only two possibilities for escape, at least if you don’t realize that there’s another possibility – not one of escape, but of liberation. I can ask myself: What am I beyond that definition that society imposes on me? This would be needed to, in turn, direct oneself at society more consciously.
As I see it, the issue of homosexuality is becoming more open on one hand but at the same time more volatile on the other. I’ve seen people reacting against it more aggressively. Is this because it’s seen as threatening a freedom that has been won after so much pain?
Observing the history of human sexuality, with all its conflicts and discoveries, we can see different scales of freedom. One can find everything from pleasure to aberrations, because sexuality is nothing more than another area where people can focus their attention.
This exploration can even lead to feeling pleasure from cutting oneself, making oneself bleed, and things like that – cases in which the genitals are not involved. Those people are not even thinking about being defined as hetero or homosexual because they’re already at a level of otherness in relation to the matter. This can seem very offensive to the rest of society, but these individuals are running into the same limitation: only obtaining pleasure based on what their senses perceive or the interpretation of what their senses perceive.
There are tons of classifications: sadomasochism, pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia… There are even people who are only sexually stimulated when they’re in situations of danger. It’s a complicated issue.
The complication comes in when it’s not seen that complexity is a call to simplify everything. There’s a basic error in human sexuality. Every time the issue is talked about, it’s taken for granted that sex is a necessity, even a vital and urgent one. That implies that the only thing one can talk about is the “correct” way of satiating that need. This limits sexuality itself, though it can be an area for the exploration of the universe. However, based on that common concept, those people who don’t practice sex enter into the plane of the “repudiated.”
Many psychologists consider people who don’t want to have sex to be “abnormal,” but I think that some women who are declared technically frigid or some men who are impotent may only no longer want to experience sexuality in a natural way; they only feel unhappy about how sex is glorified?
Psychology does a good job in classifying, because there are people who do indeed want to have sexual relationships but suffer from not being able to express it. For example, this could be a woman who has had a trauma at the genital level that has resulted in many other psychological implications. I’m familiar with several types of frigidity, and all are very traumatic.
Could there be a case of someone who loves another person without feeling a physical attraction, let’s say, but thinks that not wanting this other person is a shortcoming, an illness, since that’s what they’ve learned socially?
Things like this could happen. It’s only that in those cases the need for abstinence is a product of a self-conscious experience and hardly ever an accident. For example, it’s not very likely that a woman who has had a sexual trauma becomes “platonic;” in other words, that the need for contact and a physical relation transfers itself completely to the psychological plane.
If this happens, they can end up feeling fulfillment and completeness in that state. I know a man who right now is impotent due to a serious heart problem; however he met a woman who’s not interested in having sexual relations. I’m sure that had he not found a woman like that, he would have suffered terribly.
So, one can indeed reach a state of fulfillment through an experience that is physically and psychologically painful?
For me, the optimal state would be that a person who has their full genital faculties —that’s to say, someone who can experience a sexual stimulus and be satisfied by it— decided not to do that. Here there is no repression that is self-imposed or imposed by circumstances. There are cases in which there is very subtle maneuvering of the subconscious, memories that appear to be displaced from the life of abstinence but continue to operate underneath and are transmuted into other obsessions and neuroses.
There is an element that is necessary for the person to exploit. If they move their life away from the genital area, this can be for two reasons: either because they have separated from this abruptly because of something they couldn’t solve or because they resolved it by doing it in that manner, in which case there is no distancing. If we speak in terms of spiritual knowledge (that energy that is focused on a chakra or on a certain energy center), one can decide to transfer it to another center, like in the case of monks who achieve chastity as abstinence and not self-repression.
That is one of the aspects that causes the most confusion in relation to religion, the cases of monks and nuns who practice a forbidden sexuality that leads to abortion or even the murder of babies already born… It’s very important that abstinence is internal, that it’s not self-repression.
Yes, this requires transmutation, not repression; and with that transmuted energy other things are cultivated: one’s emotional state, devotion… It’s important to know that sexuality always entails a debilitation of energy and this in and of itself breaks a host of preconceptions: for example, that sexuality is a need. When you stop looking at sex as a necessity —no one dies from not having sex— you’re seeing yourself as something controllable.
I have observed something curious in that sense. I had my cat undergo a hysterectomy, and after the operation it had no sexual desire, nor did it attract other cats. However I know women who are very sexually active after having had their uterus removed.
There we run into another one of the matter’s complexities: the paradox that people do not have sex only to procreate, as occurs with animals. For the most part, human sexuality has nothing to do with the aim of our continuing to exist as a species on the earth. Many people have never conceived but have had a lot of sex.
I believe that this also has a lot to do with how sexuality is promoted. It is glorified even to the point of spreading the notion that sex cures I don’t know how many illnesses…
I think there are a number of myths that have to be dispelled. One is that the sex is a need, which is true only in the sense of us perpetuating ourselves, so that what has been created remains. Sexuality is considered and promoted as being an indomitable drive; however, it’s indomitable only because it’s not understood. Once one understands it they can immediately control it.
When you discover that sex is not a need, your vision expands. Then you’re able to step out of that framework and free yourself of an entire hodgepodge of sexual roles: being male or female, hetero or homosexual, normal or abnormal… This happens at the sexual level, but it can also occur at the level of thought. There are ways of thinking that psychology defines as madness.
That relates to an issue that I’d be interested in going into in another interview… But in relation to homosexuality, for example, you commented to me once about how sexuality was seen in some past societies. You told me that the focus was not placed in terms of “blame,” but on “causes.”
From my perspective, the sole function of sexuality is procreation, and the human being who is not interested in procreating must discover that they can transcend sexuality. This implies that sexual organs no longer have anything to do with this question; they cease to have a role, even a social one. The ideal of this is androgyny. This is, for example, what I told you about in several societies, like those of the Native Americans in North America. They considered sexual non-definition to be a special gift. The word “berdache” was erroneously applied; the original term used to describe these people had the meaning of something like “two spirits.”
What was society’s reaction in the face of this…let’s say…peculiarity?
They would look to see if a child had such an orientation in order to assist the individual with their development. In the case of male berdaches, they were trained in female work roles and in producing certain objects. Moreover, if these objects were traded these would possess twice their normal value.
There were clearly various types of berdaches; those who were less developed practiced not only homosexual sex but also wound up feeling incompleteness, to the point of cutting their legs to simulate the effect of menstruation. They even experienced psychological pregnancies, during which time they would generate a fecal fetus. This was later expelled and buried in a whole ceremonial ritual, because the society as a whole cooperated with these simulations.
Didn’t that have more to do with the way those communities viewed excrement? For them, it was also an expression of the vital force that resides within people, and that when it was expelled, it was in turn recycled. But, how did they look at homosexuals, let’s say, that had more spiritual interests?
These individuals would wind up being asexual. Some developed the gift of prophecy and served to interpret messages in dreams. They were also requested in resolving conflicts or in judging trials; they were chosen as shamans and even advisors to shamans.
I understand that many of these berdaches were tortured or burnt alive by the colonizers in the name of what the colonizers called “morality.” This was due only to their inability to react without hostility when faced with something different. But I’ve seen that even today, with the whole apparent opening that exists regarding sexuality, other problems have been generated. These include premature sex, the wave of prostitution and pornography, the imposition of aesthetic canons whereby many people are excluded, a host of pro-sex campaigns that encourage people to buy sex toys, to exploit repressed illnesses, or to spare no cost in increasing the size of their breasts, butt or the length of their penis…
There is something that we have completely forgotten in the West: humans are beings in a process of evolution, and this evolution is no longer biological. As biological beings, humans are going to produce no more than freaks, even cybernetic freaks. If you remain stuck at one stage of evolution you run the risk of creating variations in that paralysis and of interpreting them as evolutionary stages.
This can also be applied to the issue of sexism, like you said before, or to the eternal race conflict… I’ve seen many debates, but in the end the whole victory seems to consist of reversing the situation of bipolarity, or creating another one. Is it the same thing with homosexuality?
I’d add that each one of the representatives of each variation will assert themselves as being the most evolved. There’s already even a gay Olympics! I prefer to speak from the personal level, and from my own experience I can define homosexuality as a moment for learning and for transcending. But if too much of this energy is spent dealing with the physical issue, then it will stagnate. It will become an anomaly; not anomaly in the sexual sense, because sexuality is already an anomaly. Restricting human beings to their existence as animals is not normal.
I’m against everything that represses homosexuals, but at the same time I’m against homosexuals who restrict consciousness to something as limited as the genital area or to social roles. If you know that your goal is to transcend your body, you won’t question yourself as to whether that body should be male or female, hetero or homosexual. See what I mean?
When you think about it carefully, you see that it’s insanity… What is it to be homosexual, what is it to be heterosexual? You only conform to half of something… In the Aztecan language of Nahuatl, each person is called tlaca, which means “half.” This entails the concept that we are incomplete, with all that we are physically and at whatever our level of intellectual refinement might be; the other half is not contained in the body. If we necessarily have to speak in terms of bipolarity, that’s the only one that’s worth the trouble dealing with.