UNCHARTED LIVES: Understanding the Life Passages of Gay Men by Stanley & Ed Lowe Jr. Siegel

UNCHARTED LIVES: Understanding the Life Passages of Gay Men

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A deft account of psychotherapist Siegel's middle-aged coming-out process, interwoven with sometimes original, sometimes questionable analyses of the life stages of gay men. Siegel and Newsday columnist Lowe (co-authors of The Patient Who Cured His Therapist, 1992) argue that since learning to accept oneself as a gay man involves rejecting many of society's scripts for male development, the well-adjusted gay man has to continually invent a life on his own terms. In this process, the authors contend, he often becomes more self-sufficient and creative than his straight counterparts, leading the life he wants rather than the life he's supposed to want. Like most American tales of the self-made man, it's a romanticization; Uncharted Lives overlooks the manifold ways in which the lives of openly gay men can indeed be mapped out for them by internalized stereotypes -- the tragic queen, for instance, or the fashion-conscious aesthete. The authors also tend to lapse into rants against the irrationality of homophobia, that quickly wear thin. However, their critique of traditional heterosexuality's limitations on the individual is thoughtful. Siegel's personal narrative is engaging, particularly toward the end, as the cast of characters in his life becomes more eccentric: members of a long-term romantic trio, for example, with whom Siegel and his lover share a house on Fire Island, and who leave the room to confer about the most minor social decision, such as who should sit where at the dinner table. Siegel's life story, not surprisingly, is rendered in much fresher language than the chapters devoted to broader analysis, which are jargon-ridden and dry, though somewhat enlivened by personal interviews with other gay men. Thought-provoking, even amusing at points, but seriously weakened by polemics, psychobabble, and an underdeveloped premise.

Pub Date: June 13th, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dutton