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The Third Sex & Democracy

Roberto Ferri, Salmacis and Hermaphrodite [1]

Roberto Ferri, Salmacis and Hermaphrodite

1,338 words

Translated by G. A. Malvicini

Our local communist or leftist intelligentsia never fails to generously provide us with indications of its moral level. After its poorly concealed sympathies for Cavallero, a theorist and activist of “revolutionary” banditry, of the banditry of “protest” (an unoriginal one: Stalin did the same in his youth), and for the gangster “Che” Guevara, we now have its indignant comments regarding “abhorrent trial” and conviction of Aldo Braibanti [an Italian writer and former antifascist partisan].

Headed by l’Unità [an Italian communist newspaper], most of Moravia’s [Alberto Moravia, a well-known Jewish writer who was a friend of Pasolini] and Pasolini’s clique has been mobilized, including Elsa Morante (who for the occasion has changed sex: calling herself a “poet” [poeta] and not a poetess [poetessa], cf. Paese Sera, 17 July). “What is rotten in the Braibanti trial,” it has been said, “is not the existence of homosexuality,” to which Braibanti has converted his minions, “but the racist (?) ferocity directed against the third sex . . . the odor of a lynch mob that any suspicion of homosexuality triggers in an environment in which morality is equated with moralism of the most obscurantist and repressive kind” (Unity, July 14).

Morante, who counts herself among “the Italians of good will . . . among those, for example, who many times have flocked to demonstrate against the Vietnam War,” refuses to see any crime in inducing young people to follow one’s own ideas, “turning them away from the morality that still holds sway in some classes of Italian society” (and for this reason our penal code has been called “outdated and classist”): knowing full well what those ideas were, in this particular case [homosexuality]. She defends the “choices” made in opposition to a society “that today has confirmed itself, in my eyes, to be an aggregate of dead cells,” and says that “if in the past I have not worked hard enough at helping my fellow man, especially the younger ones, to break free from these dead cells, it is my intention now and the future to remedy this as best I can, as long as I live.” Shortly before she had quoted “the Nobel laureate André Gide, one of many homosexuals who have greatly distinguished themselves in the history of civilisation and culture.”

As far as impudence and intellectual aberration go, this should suffice. The actual state of affairs is even inverted: instead of viewing as putrescent the parts of society where the third sex and homosexual “choices“ thrive, she wants to attribute this term to those who combat that morass and attempt to hold it at bay. “Do not invoke the sacred right of everyone to convert others to their ideas.” Certain ideas are like bacteria, like microbes; paralyzing them is as necessary and legitimate as prophylactic measures in the field of physical pathology. The fact that homosexuality is not considered a criminal offence by our (“classist”) Penal Code, and consequently that it is not considered a criminal offence to promote it through propaganda, is just. But beyond the strictly criminal and legal domain, the need for prophylactic measures retains its validity.

This will easily be recognized by anyone who – unlike the squalid intelligentsia previously mentioned – takes the trouble to examine in depth the meaning of the third sex and of homosexuality. A very brief outline can provide guidance.

In sexology a distinction is made between two forms of homosexuality: one of an innate and constitutional character, the other acquired and conditioned by psycho-sociological and environmental factors. The first type of homosexuality can be explained by the “intermediate sexual forms” (to use the expression of M. Hirschfeld). We know that initially in the embryo and fetus both sexes are present. Only subsequently does a process of sexual differentiation take place, as a result of which the characters of one sex become dominant, while those of the opposite sex atrophy or become latent, without, however, disappearing entirely. There are cases in which this process of sexual development is incomplete, in its physical or psychic aspects. Then it may be that the erotic attraction that in normal cases is founded on the polarity of the sexes (heterosexuality), and that is all the more intense the more marked this polarity is, i.e., the more a man is man and a woman is woman, can arise even between individuals who by birth, but not by constitution, are of the same sex, precisely because they are actually “intermediate forms.”

In these cases, homosexuality can be explained, and can be understood: to want to make homosexuals of this type “normal,” i.e. make them be attracted by the opposite sex, would be to do violence to them, to want them not to be themselves: therapeutic attempts of this kind have always failed. The social problem would be solved if these homosexuals formed closed milieux, remaining among themselves and not infecting others who do not suffer form their condition. There would be no reason to condemn them in the name of any morality.

But homosexuality cannot in fact be reduced to such cases. Firstly, there have been male homosexuals who were not effeminate, “intermediate forms,” including soldiers and individuals who were decidedly manly in appearance and behavior. History, especially antiquity, attests this. Secondly, there are the cases of acquired homosexuality and those that psychoanalysis explains as “regressive forms.” It is not easy to understand the first category. Here one has every right to speak of deviation and perversion, of “vice.” It is not clear, in fact, what it is that can erotically attract a man who is truly a man to an individual of the same sex. In classical antiquity, however, what is attested is not so much exclusive homosexuality as bisexuality (sex with both women and boys) and it seems that the motive was one of “wanting to try everything.” But even that is not completely clear, since apart from the fact that among the young ephebes, the boys, which for the most part were preferred, there was a female element, you could take Goethe’s crude saying, that “when you’re bored with a girl as a girl, you can always use her like a boy “(“habe ich sie als Mädchen satt, dient es als Knabe misnoch”). Even the motivation (sometimes observed in countries such as Turkey and Japan) that homosexual possession gives one a sense of power, is not too convincing. The desire for domination can also be satisfied with women, or with other beings, without any admixture of eroticism.

Until recently homosexuality belonged primarily to the world of decadent aestheticism (Wilde, Verlaine, Gide, etc.) and was sporadic; the “pleasure of trying everything” could in such cases play an important role. But today things are different; we are witnessing a quite massive onslaught of homosexuality and of the third sex even among the lower classes and in other groups that had previously been spared from this form of deviancy. Here it is necessary to call in another order of considerations, namely the possible influence of a certain climate, of a certain environment.

We noted earlier that the male or female individual must be considered as the result of the predominance of a force of sexual differentiation that leaves its imprint while at the same time neutralizing or excluding the originally coexistent possibility of the other sex, especially on the in physical, physiological plane (one the psychic plane the margin of fluctuation can be much wider).

Now, one might suppose that as a result of a regression the dominant power on which the sexual differentiation – being really a man or woman – depends, is weakened. Just as in the political domain, the weakening in society of any central authority allows all the forces from below that previously were held in check to be liberated and re-emerge, in the same way in the individual we can observe the emergence of the latent character of the opposite sex and, as a consequence, a tendency towards bisexuality.