Androphilia, A Manifesto: Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity
by Jack Malebranche
Scapegoat Press, 144 pages, $12.95
WITHOUT APOLOGY, without frills—brought to you by Scapegoat Publishing, whose motto is “Blame Us”—Jack Malebranche hacks away at longstanding myths about the gay community in this new book. These myths as he sees them are embedded in the full title of his book, whose four elements I propose to analyze by way of review.
“Androphilia” means a romantic and/or sexual attraction to adult men, in this specific context by adult men; and it’s the word that Malebranche prefers over “gay” or its alternatives. His primary relationship is with a male “compadre”—in place of “life partner,” “significant other,” or other awkward honorifics. In contrast to the traditional polarized understanding of homosexuality, he writes, “I experience androphilia not as an attraction to some alien opposite, but as an attraction to variations of sameness.” His social life is focused on what men share by virtue of their maleness, regardless of sexual orientation.
Malebranche’s “manifesto” tackles values that have become entrenched assumptions and offers some alternatives. He starts with the father of what became the modern gay rights movement, Magnus Hirschfeld, a late 19th- and early 20th-century German physician and sexologist who situated male homosexuality or “uranism” within a medical model, explaining the male homosexual as a female psyche inhabiting a male body (a theory dating back to the 1850’s). Malebranche rejects this idea in favor of that of Adolf Brand, a contemporary of Hirschfeld who considered homosexual men to be “simply men who celebrated masculinity and who preferred the company of (and, ostensibly, sex with) other males.”
Malebranche traces our notion of gay identity to Hirschfeld’s model and argues that “gay” does not refer to same-sex love or sex, but has become “a subculture, a slur, a set of gestures, a slang, a look, a posture, a parade, a rainbow flag, a film genre, a taste in music, a hairstyle, a marketing demographic, a bumper sticker, a political agenda and philosophical viewpoint. Gay is a pre-packaged, superficial persona—a lifestyle.” While appreciative of the preceding generation of gay advocates who fought for and won the greater social tolerance and freedom from prosecution enjoyed today, Malebranche believes that the gay community has become a “cultural and political movement that promotes anti-male feminism, victim mentality, and leftist politics.” He has much to say about all three of these pillars of political correctness, especially the third, where he identifies a “Gay Advocacy Industry” that has adopted a model of victimization to attract the support of “checkbook revolutionaries” in their cause. Here and elsewhere Malebranche complains that the mainstream gay movement “advocates males coming to terms with and taking pride in their homosexuality, but never advocates these men coming to terms with and taking pride in being men.”
Some critics will probably accuse Malebranche of “internalized homophobia” because he wants to downplay the specifically sexual aspects of being gay. But he also wants to re-examine the assumptions and stereotypes that have stuck around from a previous era and prevented gay men from embracing their masculinity. There is no call to form a new community or start a new movement; if anything Malebranche would have gay men acknowledge their “androphilia” as one part of their identity and then move on.
Jay Heuman is curator of education at the Salt Lake Art Center.