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Homosexual Life-

style and
Affective Alliance

Prachi Wahi
M. A (prev.) English

In her book, Leela Gandhi, while identifying with the emergence of affective
communities and the increasing affinity among marginalised groups across cultures, ushers
the reader into the concerns of the “emphatic conjunction of homosexuality and anti-
imperialism” (35), where both, a sexually marginalised and a culturally marginalised might
be seen as capable of having a “radical kinship” (36) in order to subvert the ruling authority.
Here, the question may arise – what is the determining factor for such an affective alliance
to get established? Being a homosexual deviates one from his/her familiar surrounding and
places them in the category of “foreigners, outcastes, outsiders” (35) – a position already
occupied by the colonised section, discriminately characterised as ‘savage,’ ‘uncivilised,’

Further, Gandhi cites Foucault asserting that “what most bothers those who are not
gay about gayness is the gay life-style, not sex acts themselves” (42). Homosexual life-style
is the key determinant in establishing affective relations with the “oppressed groups” (38)
under colonisation. Someone is called a gay, because of certain outer features (clothes,
gestures, social relations etc.), which should not be taken as the sole determining factor of
their sexual behaviour and practice. The positioning of a homosexual as “the other” also
depends upon this component of life-style, where it gets associated with another ‘other’ i.e.
the female, from the perspective of gender dichotomy. Recently, in the Sunday Review of
The New York Times, there is an opinion post by Abdellah Taïa, “A Boy to Be Sacrificed,” in
which he expresses the same personal anxiety as he says - “I know I was effeminate and
aware that being so obviously “like that” was wrong . . . I was barely 12, and in my
neighbourhood they called me “the little girl”. . . My body was changing, stretching out,
becoming a man’s. But others did not see me as a man.” The seclusion of a homosexual
within his own community stems from such kind of lifestyle as Abdellah mentions –
“feminine gesture,” “honeyed voice,” and “hanging around women.” From this perspective,
the deployment of a homosexual as “the other” seems problematic. However, Gandhi
suggests, by citing Monique Wittig, “If we as lesbians and gay men, continue to speak of
ourselves, and to conceive of ourselves as women and as men, we are instrumental in
maintaining heterosexuality” (56). Thus, she introduces the category – “homosexuality as a
third position . . . outside the social contract itself,” and explains away Edward Carpenter’s
“sexual evasiveness” as a “utopian inclusiveness” for “homosexual self-identification.” This
kind of “inventive quality of resistance” (55) establishes a new kind of “relationality” among
the western and the non-western on the basis of shared emotions and pains. The most
eminent gay historical figure, Oscar Wilde too partakes in this alliance, as in his poem, “The
Ballad of Reading Gaol,” he expresses:

And alien tears will fill for him,

Pity’s long broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcaste men,
And outcastes always mourn.

The same lines are also inscribed on his grave.

Audre Lorde in her ‘biomythography,’ Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, reflects upon
her personal experience of affective ‘relationality’ with women of other race, brought
together in a homosexual bond. Her estrangement at home drives her to find an
affectionate kinship with strangers beyond racial and geographical boundaries: “And then
suddenly I realize that in this house of my childhood I am no longer welcome. . . Once I
realize this, I am suddenly free to go, and to take Rhea [a white woman] with me” (199).
This gesture of “leaving home” pushes her towards further alienation, where she realises
that for the society around her it was like becoming a whore, which was “synonymous with
being Black anyway” (120). Thus, her position becomes doubly marginalised, which propels
her to fight for her “self-preservation” (85) – a desire hinted by Leela Gandhi as well in her
book. Gandhi entitles this affective alliance as “the prelude for a radical reinvention and
reimagining of community, kinship, and sociality” (43). Similarly, Audre Lorde realises that
“It was at times difficult and new – learning to live with Rhea, learning to share space with
anyone, and a white woman, too, especially since I had no deep emotional bonds with her,
only warm and casual pleasantries” (148). This homosexual kinship of ‘blacks and whites’
goes on to include new members and soon the realization comes, as Lorde suggests, “We
recognized ourselves as exotic sister-outsiders who might gain little from banding together. .
. Lesbians were probably the only Black and white women in New York City in the fifties who
were making any real attempt to communicate with each other” (177-179).

However, Audre soon apprehends that no matter how much they may try to pretend
“that the difference did not in fact exist, that she and all gay-girls were just as oppressed as
any Black person” (204), their perception remains coloured, and makes distinction in their
opinion of each other. As a black lesbian, Audre remained barred from entering into the
Bagatelle bar, where she was an outsider for the white lesbians. Audre’s white lesbian
companion, Muriel too does not see Audre’s achievements as their “mutual triumphs”
(219). The reason is that somewhere in this affective alliance between two distinct minority
groups, the specificity of each one of them gets compromised. The universal solidarity is
achieved only at the cost of individualism.

Thus, to conclude, one would say that the teaming up of two marginalised groups is
indeed a radical step to challenge the dominance of the so-called ‘civilised’ authority, which
takes a universal and transnational form. However, the specific question of homosexual
lifestyle or the uniqueness of groups under colonisation remains “evasive”, and it seem they
can be strengthened only by having an affective alliance with each other. Thus, just as the
practice of imperialism and the penalisation of the homosexuals have a political strategy
behind it, in the same way the advent of affective communities too has political
implications, which is “the Politics of Friendship.”

Works Cited

Gandhi, Leela. "Sex: The Story of Late Victorian Homosexual Exceptionalism." In Affective
Communities: Anticolonial Thought and the Politics of Friendship, by Leela Gandhi, 34-66.
Permanent Black.

Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. U.S.A: Persephone Press, 1982.

Taïa, Abedellah. "A Boy to Be Sacrificed." The New York Times, March 25, 2012.

Wilde, Oscar. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol".