Getting ready for bed, I catch a glimpse of a man in the window of a lit room across the courtyard. Tall, lean, completely naked, he appears in a gap created by the fan from the air conditioner moving the vertical blinds in my bedroom. The line of sight quickly disappears but I stand still, as though moving would betray my presence as an unwitting voyeur. As the image of the naked man begins to fade from my mind, I feel overwhelmed by a sense of beauty, of both desire and loss. Desire, because I want him; I want to be him. Loss, because I cannot; I am not.

That this sense of beauty feels somehow inherently gay is captured by British writer Neil Bartlett in his book Who Was That Man?, in which he attempts to grasp at a connection with the history of his sexuality by exploring the life and works of Oscar Wilde. Bartlett takes three of the aphorisms that make up Wilde’s preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray as possible ways to read the novel. (I confirm this by retrieving my own copy of Wilde’s novel from my bookshelf.) It is the third that resonates with me now: “They are elect to whom beautiful things are mean only Beauty.” In this reading, Bartlett rejects interpretation, rejects meaning itself, instead understanding that, being gay, we recognise and understand beauty for its own sake as something for us alone.

Despite my attempt to interpret my experience with an ironic appeal to the uninterpretable nature of gay beauty, the moment in my bedroom remains mine. Like my understanding of my own gayness, I will try to let it be what it is: something accessible and understandable only to me.

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