The young man whom we have been attempting to portray was so evidently a woman that the women who looked upon him with desire were doomed (failing a special taste on their part) to the same disappointment as those who in Shakespeare's comedies are taken in by a girl disguised as a youth. The deception is mutual, the invert is himself aware of it, he guesses the disillusionment which the woman will experience once the mask if removed, and feels to what an extent this mistake as to sex is a source of poetical imaginings. Moreover it is in vain that he keeps back the admission "I am a woman" even from his demanding mistress (if she is not a denizen of Gomorrah) when all the time, with the cunning, the agility, the obstinacy of a climbing plant, the unconscious but visible woman in him seeks the masculine organ. We have only to look at that curly hair on the white pillow to understand that if, in the evening, this young man slips through his guardians' fingers in spite of them, in spite of himself, it will not be to go in pursuit of women. His mistress may castigate him, may lock him up, but next day the man-woman will have found some way of attaching himself to a man, as the convolvulus throws out its tendrils wherever it finds a pick or a rake up which to climb. Why, when we admire in the face of this man a delicacy that touches our hearts, a grace, a natural gentleness such as men do not possess, should we be dismayed to learn that this young man runs after boxers? They are different aspects of the same reality. And, indeed, what repels us is the most touching thing of all, more touching than any refinement of delicacy, for it represents an admirable though unconscious effort on the part of nature: the recogniton of sex by itself, in spite of the deception of sex, appears as an unavowed attempt to escape from itself towards what an initial error on the part of society has segregated it from.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, pp. 644-645
Now this is what I keep coming back to: what is Proust's real view of homosexuality? Again, I've made the conscious decision to not do any research or even any side reading on Remembrance of Things Past, so that I could read Proust's own words without bias (other than the general cultural understanding of what an educated person, or, in my case, a clumsily educated person, understands about Proust simply by being a citizen of the planet). Here is clearly a product of his time, and his thought his very much steeped in a very Freudian worldview - and there is an accepted view of a strictly binary view of gender that many of us, and especially our students would struggle with today - but I still read his words as ones of understanding and not condemnation. He tells us, "And, indeed, what repels us is the most touching thing of all, more touching than any refinement of delicacy, for it represents an admirable though unconscious effort on the part of nature: the recogniton of sex by itself, in spite of the deception of sex, appears as an unavowed attempt to escape from itself towards what an initial error on the part of society has segregated it from." I'm reading this as Proust drawing a distinction between the perceptions and rules that society wants to impose on an individual, and the what the individual actually needs and feels. In the end, what does it matter which sex, again, in a very dualistic way, we are drawn to, because in the end, "They are different aspects of the same reality."