As I worked on my essay answering the question “What does it mean to be gay”, I reviewed a paper on individuation I had written for a class in Jungian psychology and highlight this passage on the “shadow”(that part of one’s self of which we remain unconscious) as it is particularly relevant to an issue about which I have blogged in recent days:
In recent debates on gay marriage, we see how many gay people have projected their shadow onto Republicans and social conservatives. Promoting a benefit concert for the gay group, “Freedom to Marry,” John Cameron Mitchell, an openly gay actor and writer, not merely faulted [then-]California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for vetoing a same-sex marriage bill, but accused him of enshrining “fear and loathing in the Constitution”. Mitchell is not the only gay activist to accuse the Governor – and other opponents of gay marriage – of hatred. Even as they vilified the Governor for vetoing the gay marriage bill, that Republican signed four gay-friendly pieces of legislation. That is, the anti-gay image that many projected onto him did not correspond with the reality of his record on gay issues.
Instead of understanding why this politician has a different opinion on gay marriage than they do, they define him as evil. To be sure, gay activists are not unique in ascribing such aspects to their ideological adversaries:
It is in the nature of political bodies always to see the evil in the opposite group, just as the individual has an ineradicable tendency to get rid of everything he does not know and does not want to know about himself by foisting it off on somebody else. (C.G. Jung, The Essential Jung, 398)
Thus, in projecting something about themselves onto Governor Schwarzenegger, gay activists are only doing what activists have done frequently throughout history. As a gay conservative blogger, I have frequently found some of our critics projecting their shadow onto me. Almost since the moment my blogging partner launched the blog, it has attracted regular critics who often post nasty remarks in our comments section, misrepresenting our ideas and attacking us personally.
While I don’t know precisely what these individuals are projecting onto us, I note that their angry expressions are similar to those of other gay leaders – and activists. Like John Cameron Mitchell, they vilify Republicans and those on the political right in harsh and derogatory language. To some degree, it seems that Republicans have become a kind of collective shadow for a large number of gay people, particularly gay activists.
This is not to say that their disagreement with Republican policy or conservative ideology represents itself a projection of shadow energy. It is the manner in which they express that disagreement. Buried beneath the angry rhetoric, one often finds serious argument and honest criticism. If gay activists wish to continue the process of individuation they began when they initially accepted their sexuality, they must examine their angry rhetoric and wonder why it is they define political conservatives in such harsh terms. As Edward Edinger put it, “That which one passionately hates is sure to represent an aspect of his own fate” (Ego and Archetype, 76).
When gay activists look into their hatred of Republicans, perhaps a few might change their views while others might become better able to respond to their opponents’ arguments and hence better able to articulate (and promote) their own views. But, the primary purpose of this self-examination is not to further political understanding (though that would be a pleasant byproduct); its primary purpose is to gain greater self-understanding – to wrestle with those “unsought-for” particularities of their psychic constitution. By examining what they have projected onto others, they can better penetrate their own shadow. While the manifestation of the shadow is similar in many activists, I would daresay that each activist who looks inward will find something unique to himself hidden in his “invisible bag” [the place where we hide things about ourselves that others don’t like (as defined by Robert Bly in his monograph, A Little Book on the Human Shadow].
 In this debate, we also see social conservatives projecting their shadow onto gays. But, that is not the subject of this paper.
 We have also attracted a healthy number of critics (and skeptics) who use more measured tones to express their disagreement. While they frequently take issue with our points, they address our arguments in a rational manner. They never attack us personally (except in jest). Their comments are most likely not a shadow-projection.