Monday, January 9, 2012

* Thirty-five Years

Are we all agreed then: Psychology was a mistake?

In November 1977, my friend, and fellow Yale Divinity School student, Carol Brock Hartman (M. Div. '80) invited me to see the one-man performance at The Long Wharf Theatre  in New Haven, of Quentin Crisp, the famous British transvestite, entitled The Naked Civil Servant, after the title of his autobiography.  We both were so enthusiastic about the performance of this then 71 year old actor/author that we decided to shake up the over-starched Divines at YDS a bit by inviting Quentin Crisp to speak at the Divinity School.

To our surprise, he accepted.

He delivered his talk with coiffed purple hair beneath his trademark wide brimmed hat, and with brightly polished  fingernails. The Divines boycotted the event but about  fifty people attended, including, several psychology faculty. The psychology invited him to participate in an interview on the nature of transvestitism.

He agreed.
A most obliging gentleman was he.
Here are some of the quotes from that talk.


He began his talk with this non-sequitur which drew a big laugh from the audience:

  • Are we all agreed then: Psychology was a mistake?
  • Someone may be a homosexual for part of his life, or have homosexual feelings for only one person in his life. Fifty years ago if someone asked me, Are you a homosexual? I would say passionately, "Oh yes! YES!" Now I say, "Not today, thank you."
  • I have never known what it is not to be laughed at. My brothers and sisters laughed at me when I was a child and so on. There comes a point in one's life when you find out what it is that causes their laughter and then you take it into yourself and exaggerate it, thereby making the joke your own, not others'.
  • I never wanted to leave home. When my brothers were wishing to be great things like ships' captains, I wanted to be a chronic invalid.  And I was good at it!
  • I never wanted to play boy's games. And the primary reason is that i simply didn't want to get hurt.
  • I have accepted the eternal disgrace of being someone who does not have an intimate relationship.
  • I am married to the world  . . . When I go out in public it requires so much of my energy and self that when I come home I need to be alone. people ask, "What do you do when you're home?" and I say,"Nothing." "Oh, but surely you read," they say. "No, I do nothing. Sometimes I just sit for an hour without moving. I cannot even recall my thoughts during that hour."
  • There was no 'choice' involved. My deformity required that I be the way I am. I have never really known what it was to be a person. I have always felt I was someone imitating a person.
  • I did it for my self, first of all, not for others. I wanted to give total expression to the feminine part of my personality.
  • It is the feminine part of my personality, not homosexuality, that is important to me. If I had to make a choice I could have easily been celibate rather than give up expressing the feminine in myself.
  • Even now I don't have 'conversations' with people: I give 'interviews!' The taxi driver doesn't talk about the weather with me, he says, "I know YOU!"
  • For years I was a total outcast. Now I am a fashion. I have never been just a person. Perhaps when this passes, I will be just an old man nobody remembers.
  • If by"God" you mean the organizing principle of the universe, then yes I accept that. But I cannot believe in a God susceptible to prayer, to petition: A God concerned with Western nations, white races and primarily among them 'men.'
  • "You-Know-Who" [Mr. Crisp's euphemism for God]

Quentin Crisp
Photo: AP

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