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 [Mark Thompson]

Why I Wrote Gay Body

By Mark Thompson

I started to write Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self in January 1995, a time of great sorrow and dread for me. I had just retired from a nineteen-year career as Senior Editor of The Advocate, a national gay newsmagazine, because of my HIV-positive status. Much of that time was spent witnessing the death of numerous friends and colleagues due to AIDS. Now I, too, had reached a point where the future seemed doubtful. Despite every effort on my part to stave off the deadly consequences of the virus, it appeared increasingly likely that I would succumb like the rest.

Rather than give up all hope, I decided my best response would be to write about the calamity before me. However, as so much had already been said about the disease from the vantage of doom and gloom, I set about seeing how I could use my fear about the loss of life to further insight into life itself -- and, by extension, into the lives of all gay men. Who are we? Where did we come from? What are we for? are questions I have long felt passionate about. Asking these questions and others like them have informed the body of my work, which includes two previous volumes, Gay Spirit (1987) and Gay Soul (1994). The idea of completing a trilogy of works examining the spiritual dimensions of gay male life -- starting from the collective level to the most inward and personal -- had always bounced around in my head. The universe was now telling me to finish what I had started before it became too late. (Fortunately, the recent advances in HIV treatment have reprieved what once appeared inevitable.)

In exploring the common themes which I believe connect all gay lives, I turned toward the rich canon of Jungian inspired literature, which employs myths and archetypes to discuss the human condition. What myths and archetypes have most resonated with the external and internal realities of gay men living in the Twentieth Century? What figures and fables from the world's vast mythological storehouse seemed best suited as a means of understanding my own queer life? Gay Body is actually two books in one: the collective story about being gay in a homophobic society is interwoven with my personal saga toward healing that wound. And because so much of both stories deal with the negative, scary, and unseen, the Jungian notion of the "shadow," or unconscious part of life, is used as the linking thread.

Other Jungian concepts are evident in the structure of the book as well. For instance, the four psychological functions of thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition are each represented in the material and how it's told. Even the number of chapters bears archetypal meaning. But these elements are more about the inner dynamics of the book than about what is actually said. On that level, I expect readers will find an engaging story -- one that will challenge, move, and ultimately empower them to begin thinking about their own lives in new and exciting ways.

Copyright © l998, Mark Thompson.

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