“Homosexuality in America”
Life Magazine, June 26, 1964
These brawny young men in their leather caps, shirts, jackets and pants are practicing homosexuals, men who turn to other men for affection and sexual satisfaction. They are part of what they call the "gay world," which is actually a sad and often sordid world. On these pages, LIFE reports on homosexuality in America, on its locale and habits (pp. 66-74) and sums up (pp. 78-80) what science knows and seeks to know about it.
Homosexuality shears across the spectrum of American life--the professions, the arts, business and labor. It always has. But today, especially in big cities, homosexuals are discarding their furtive ways and openly admitting, even flaunting, their deviation. Homosexuals have their own drinking places, their special assignation streets, even their own organizations. And for every obvious homosexual, there are probably nine nearly impossible to detect. This social disorder, which society tries to suppress, has forced itself into the public eye because it does present a problem--and parents are especially concerned. The myth and misconception with which homosexuality has so long been clothed must be cleared away, not to condone it but to cope with it.
The 'Gay' World Takes to the City Streets
In New York City, swarms of young, college-age homosexuals wearing tight pants, baggy sweaters and sneakers cluster in a ragged phalanx along Greenwich Avenue in the Village. By their numbers and by their casual attitude they are saying that the street--and the hour--is theirs. Farther uptown, in the block west of Times Square on 42nd Street, their tough-looking counterparts, dressed in dirty jackets and denims, loiter in front of the cheap movie theaters and sleazy bookstores. Few of the passers-by recognize them as male hustlers.
By Chicago's Bughouse Square, a small park near the city's fashionable Gold Coast on the North Side, a suburban husband drives his car slowly down the street, searching for a "contact" with one of the homosexuals who drift around the square. A sergeant on Chicago's vice squad explains: "These guys tell their wives they're just going to the corner for the evening paper. Why, they even come down here in their slippers!"
In Hollywood, after the bars close for the night, Selma Avenue, which parallels Hollywood Boulevard, becomes a dark promenade for homosexuals. Two men approach one another tentatively, stop for a brief exchange of words, then walk away together. In the shadows that reach out beyond the streetlights, the vignette is repeated again and again until the last homosexual gives up for the night and goes home.
Homosexuality--and the problem it poses--exists all over the U.S. but is most evident in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Miami. These large cities offer established homosexuals societies to join, plenty of opportunities to meet other homosexuals on the streets, in bars or at parties in private homes, and, for those who seek it, complete anonymity. Here, tolerance, even acceptance by the "straight" world, is more prevalent than in smaller communities. Where the "gay" world flourishes and presents so many social compensations, even the persistent pressure of antihomosexual police operations can be endured. Also, in the big cities, those professions favored by homosexuals--interior decorating, fashion design, hairstyling, the dance and theater--provide the most job opportunities.
Homosexuals can find some or all of these advantages in many parts of the U.S. but, because of its reputation for easy hospitality, California has a special appeal for them. In the city of San Francisco, which rates as the "gay capital," there are more than 30 bars which cater exclusively to a homosexual clientele. The number of these bars changes from week to week as periodic police drives close them down (their average life expectancy is about 18 months). Some bars, like the Jumpin' Frog, are "cruising" (pickup) bars, filled with coatless young men in tight khaki pants. They spend the evening standing around (there are few seats in "cruising" bars), drinking inexpensive beer and waiting. As each new customer walks into the dimly lit room he will lock eyes with a half dozen young men before reaching his place at the bar. Throughout the evening there is a constant turnover of customers as contacts are made and two men slip out together, or individuals move on to other bars in search of better luck. At closing time--2 a.m.--approaches, the atmosphere grows perceptibly more tense. It is the "frantic hour," the now-or-never time for making a contact.
In contrast to the "cruising" bars are the "gay" cocktail lounges, some of them just off the lobbies of the city's better hotels. They are frequented by local businessmen and out-of-town visitors--plus occasional innocent heterosexual travelers.
A step or two down from the cocktail lounges are the "gay" bars where a single personality draws the customers. Until it closed recently, the Backstage was one of the town's most popular because of José Sarria, who entertained regularly on Sunday afternoons. Sarria winds up his routine--an interpretation of "Salome"--standing in full "drag" (dressed and made up like a woman) and shouting to the audience: "All right, you Nellie queens, on your feet! United we stand, divided they'll catch us one by one!" As San Francisco's self-styled "dowager queen," José has achieved a certain notoriety: in 1961 he openly ran for city-county supervisor and polled almost 6,000 votes.
In San Francisco's Tenderloin, off Market Street, are the bottom-of-the-barrel bars where outcasts and misfits of all kinds hang out. Their bedraggled clientele includes dope pushers and users, male and female hustlers. Most of the customers have been "busted" (arrested) at least once. Here one finds the stereotypes of effeminate males--the "queens," with orange coiffures, plucked eyebrows, silver nail polish and lipstick. There may be a man or two in "drag," a few Lesbians, some "gay" prostitutes, drunks and cheap con men.
On another far-out fringe of the "gay" world are the so-called S&M bars ("S" for sadism and "M" for masochism). One of the most dramatic examples is in the warehouse district of San Francisco. Outside the entrance stand a few brightly polished motorcycles, including an occasional lavender model. Inside the bar, the accent is on leather and sadistic symbolism. The walls are covered with murals of masculine-looking men in black leather jackets. A metal collage of motorcycle parts hangs on one wall. A cluster of tennis shoes--favorite footwear for many homosexuals with feminine traits--dangles from the ceiling, Behind it a derisive sign reads: "Down with sneakers!"
"This is the antifeminine side of homosexuality," says Bill Ruquy, part owner of the bar. "We throw out anybody who is too swishy. If one is going to be homosexual, why have anything to do with women of either sex? We don't go for the giddy kids."
Rejected by the 'Straight' World, Homosexuals Build a Society of Their Own
Metal is much in evidence in the room: chains on the wall, the bunches of keys hanging from the customers' leather belts. "That's part of the sadistic business," Ruquy explains. "We used to wear chains on our shoulders. Now the keys are in."
"The effort of these homosexuals," Life judged, to appear manly is obsessive--in the rakish angle of the caps, in the thumbs boldly hooked in belts. Ruquy says, "This is a place for men, a place without all those screaming faggots, fuzzy sweaters, and sneakers. Those guys--the ones you see in the other bars--are afraid of us. They're afraid to come here because everything looks tough. But we're probably the most genteel bar in town."
The hostility of the minority "leather" crowd toward the rest of the "gay" world is exceeded by the bitterness of individual homosexuals toward the "straight" public. One junior advertising executive, who has been under a psychiatrist's care, spills out his rancor:
"I have to make believe all day long. If we're out for lunch, I go through the same complimenting and flirting routine with girls that you 'straight' fellows do. I have to constantly on my guard not to say or do something that will make them suspect I'm 'gay.'
"At night I have to get out and forget it. I don't like to go to 'gay' bars night after night, but I'll tell you what I do like to do. I like to go to 'straight' bars, find some guy with a good-looking girl and take her away from him. I couldn't be less interested in the girl, but it's a way of getting even."
There are many homosexuals, better adjusted than this young executive, who behave like solid members of the community. They hold good jobs in business, the professions or the arts. Many of them have apparently strong heterosexual relationships, get married and have children. They go to church, engage in civic activity, see their psychiatrists. They are there in unmeasured numbers, involved to some degree in homosexuality. The only difference between them and the "straight" world is the fear of exposure and their troubled consciences.
There are also the "respectable" homosexuals who pair off and establish a "marriage", often transitory but sometimes lasting for years. Unburdened by children and with two incomes, they frequently enjoy a standard of living they otherwise would not be able to attain.
Recently such a "couple" entertained at Sunday brunch in a New York City suburb. Their country home--they also rent an apartment in the city, where both work--is a contemporary ranch house, with swimming pool. The hosts were a self-made businessman and the manager of a fabric salon. Their guests included a stockbroker, a TV actor, a couple of New York advertising men and a leading fashion designer.
In contrast to the homosexuals who avoid all public identification with other homosexuals are those who join "homophile" organizations. A recent phenomenon in American society, the homophile groups actively conduct programs to increase public understanding of homosexuality in the hope of getting more sympathetic treatment, particularly from law enforcement agencies.
One of the earliest and most active homophile clubs, the Mattachine Society, was started in 1950 as a secret organization by a group of Los Angeles lawyers, ministers and doctors, not all of whom were homosexuals. By 1954, it had become incorporated as a nonprofit, educational group and branches had spread to other cities. Mattachine branches are now located in Low Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. and are independent of each other; their common aim is to promote the acceptance of homosexuality by society.
In San Francisco, for example, the Mattachine Society operates much as a social agency: it helps homosexuals find jobs in the city, gives them legal advice when they get in trouble with the law and serves as a liaison with police and health departments. The Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society, however, functions much as a lobbying group. It has challenged what it considers to be discriminatory practices against homosexuals in Civil Service jobs and in the armed forces. It has enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union in specific cases involving homosexuals and government agencies, including the first such case to reach the Supreme Court.
One Incorporated, another homophile organization formed in Los Angeles in 1952, publishes a monthly, One Magazine, mailed to subscribers throughout the country and sold on newsstands. One Inc. basically is involved in education and propaganda. It has an education division called the "One Institute of Homophile Studies," which offers courses "designed to give parents, ministers, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, sociologists and the public an understanding of homosexuality and homosexuals."
These formal homophile groups share the same problems--small memberships, insufficient funds and the hostile atmosphere in which they try to promote their cause. Although membership rolls of various societies are held confidential, homosexuals are reluctant to join simply because they fear that their names may reach the hands of the police.
Homosexuals everywhere fear arrest--and the public exposure that may go with it. In Los Angeles, where homosexuals are particularly apparent on city streets, police drives are regular and relentless. The running battle between police and homosexuals has produced bitter feeling on both sides. Leaders of homophile societies in Los Angeles and San Francisco have accused the police of "harassment, entrapment and brutality" toward homosexuals.
In a Constant Conflict with the Law, the Homosexual Faces Arrest, Disgrace
Actually, there is no law in California--or in any other state--against being a homosexual. The laws which police enforce are directed at specific sexual acts. For the most part, these laws make it a crime to engage in any sex activity which could not result in procreation.
It is also unlawful in California to solicit anyone in a public place to engage in a lewd act. Under these laws, the police are able to make arrests. In many cases, a conviction results in a homosexual being registered as a "sex offender" (along with rapists) in the state of California.
Inspector James Fisk says that the 3,069 arrests for homosexual offenses made in Los Angeles last year represent merely a "token number" of those that should have been made. "We're barely touching the surface of the problem," Fisk says. "The pervert is no longer as secretive as he was. He's aggressive and his aggressiveness is getting worse because of more homosexual activity."
As part of its antihomosexual drive the Los Angeles police force has compiled an "educational" pamphlet for law enforcement officers entitled "Some Characteristics of the Homosexual." The strongly opinionated pamphlet includes the warning what the homosexuals really want is "a fruit world."
In their unrelenting crackdown on homosexuals, the Los Angeles police use two approaches: one is an effort to deter homosexual activity in public, and the other is an arrest effort. The first includes patrolling, in uniform, rest rooms and other known loitering places, such as Selma Avenue. Then the police go the rounds of the "gay" bars to make their presence felt. To arrest homosexuals, the police have an undercover operation in which officers dressed to look like homosexuals--tight pants, sneakers, sweaters or jackets--prowl the streets and bars. The officers are instructed never to make an overt advance; they can only provide an opportunity for the homosexual to proposition them. Arrests are made after the officer has received a specific proposition.
In a typical arrest effort in Hollywood this spring, a plainclothes officer loitered under the streetlight at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Stanley Avenue. Soon a car slowly turned the corner only Stanley and the officer drifted into the darkness down the block. When the car pulled over to the curb, the officer ("Jim") approached it. After a few minutes of idle talk the driver established that his name was Jerry. He lived many blocks away, but Jim indicated that he himself had a "place on Wilcox" (actually the police station). Part of the conversation, which the officer hoped would enable him to make an arrest, went like this:
Officer: What's on your mind after we get home? That's what I want to know.
Jerry: Well, what's on your mind?
Officer: Well... I don't know.
Jerry: You don't?
Officer: Well, that is to say [laughs]... there isn't anything to drink at my place, you know.
Jerry: Well, I can always drink coffee. I don't drink anything stronger.
Officer: Uh huh... Well, anything else...?
Jerry: Anything else?
Officer: I said, is there anything else?
Jerry: To drink?
Officer: I was just wondering... maybe... what else you had in mind, if anything.
Jerry: (sighs deeply) At this point I don't care.
Officer: Well, I don't exactly know how to take that.
Jerry: Well... how do you want it to go?
Officer: Like I say, it's up to you, Jerry.
Jerry: Well, you call it and... we'll go from there. I'm your guest... self-invited.
Officer: Well... I know, but... I wouldn't want to be a presumptive host, you might say. In other words, a good host always looks out for the welfare of his guests. You understand? So... I'll leave it up to you.
Jerry: Well... we can just let the chips fall where they may or forget it.
Officer: I always say, if you know what you want and aren't man enough to ask for it, why then to heck with it. You know? (laughs)
Jerry: Yeah, I know.
Officer: Well, there's no use wasting any more of your time... or mine, I guess. Jerry?
Jerry: Well? I don't know. It's up to you.
Officer: You don't know? What's the matter, are you afraid?
Jerry: Well, isn't everybody?
Officer: I'm not afraid of you.
Jerry: I don't know you and you don't know me.
Officer: Well, that's true, but... still and all, like I say, I'm not... although maybe I should be. I don't know. You're not a policeman, are you?
Officer: Well, you could be.
Jerry: So could you.
Officer: Well, that's true. I understand they got a whole lot of plainclothesmen they use, so I don't know what to think sometimes. But that's why you got to be kind of careful.
Jerry: Uh huh... it pays.
Officer: You understand of course.
Jerry: So, maybe we just better drop it at that.
Officer: Oh? Well...
Jerry: I mean (laughs), we're both getting a little on the leery side.
Officer: Yeah... Well, so long.
Jerry: I won't take any more of your time.
The police officer had decided that the encounter was not going to reward him with an arrest. Jerry drove away and the officer went back to work on the corner.
A Legal-Religious Debate Grows over Personal Immorality
Although the antihomosexual stand taken by the Los Angeles police is unswervingly tough, it reflects the attitude of most U.S. law-enforcement agencies on the subject. Yet within the past decade this position has been criticized by legal and religious groups--here and abroad--which have asked for more social and official tolerance of homosexuals. They frequently quote "the Wolfenden Report," the famous statement on homosexuality made in 1957 by a British governmental committee headed by Sir John Wolfenden. The committee recommended that Britain change its sex laws so that "homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offense." In its argument, the committee held the view that "there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law's business."
The position of the Wolfenden Committee has since been supported by spokesmen from various religions. A group of Quakers in Britain challenged the view that homosexuality is immoral. In a pamphlet titled "Towards a Quaker View of Sex," published in 1963, it was suggested that society "should no more deplore homosexuality than lefthandedness.... Homosexual affection can be as selfless as heterosexual affection and therefore we cannot see that it is in some way morally worse."
A Catholic viewpoint, which does not condone homosexuality but does regard it as a psychological problem, has been provided in a book, Counselling the Catholic, written for U.S. parish priests by Father George Hagmaier, C.S.P. and Father Robert Gleason, S.I. The book makes the point that in order to "bring one's activity into accord with objective morality, one needs knowledge and one needs freedom. A defect in either will ordinarily imply some lessening of responsibility." The authors conclude that, because they are subjected to this psychological disturbance, homosexuals do not have this freedom.
Many of the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee were adopted by the American Law Institute when it wrote a model penal code. In 1961 Illinois based a redraft of its penal code on the American Law Institute's paper, which, in effect, says that a person's private sex life is none of the law's business. An explanatory note in the draft of the Illinois code states that it "is not intended to proscribe any sexual conduct between consenting adults unless such conduct adversely affects one of the key interests sought to be protected." The "key interests" specifically in mind were preventing the use of force and child exploitation and protecting public sensibilities and the family institution.
Other states, including New York and California, currently are considering penal code revisions similar to Illinois'. But in Florida early this year the Legislative Investigation Committee's consideration of homosexuality produced an inflammatory report, calling for tougher laws to support the conclusion that "the problem today is one of control, and that established procedures and stern penalties will serve both as encouragement to law enforcement officials and as a deterrent to the homosexual [who is] hungry for youth." Its recommendations would make psychiatric examination of offenders mandatory and create a control file on homosexuals which would be available to public employment agencies throughout the state. The report, which included an opening-page picture of two men kissing and photographs of nude men and boys, was so irresponsible that it brought attacks from the Dade County state's attorney and the Miami Herald, which described it as an "official obscenity."
Florida's attempt to brand homosexuals in order to prevent their being hired in the state has been a long-standing policy with many governmental agencies. As a result of a 1953 presidential executive order, homosexuality is an absolute bar to security clearance by the federal government. The Department of Defense lists a variety of reasons why it considers sexual deviates poor security risks: they are far more subject to blackmail than heterosexuals; they are emotionally unstable and, therefore, less reliable keepers of secrets.
There is no psychological evidence to support DOD's contention that "the weakness of their moral fiber" makes homosexuals as a group more susceptible to the blandishments of foreign agents. However, FBI and security agency experience does substantiate the charge that homosexuals are particularly subject to blackmail--for fear of exposure which can lead to social ostracism and loss of job.
Homosexuals are unwelcome in the armed forces, where forced segregation of the sexes develops more pressure for deviate activity (as it does in prisons). Many homosexuals are drafted for the service--and quickly weeded out when they have been identified. Homophile groups have protested the unfairness of a system that forces a man into military service and then rejects him with a "less-than-honorable" or "dishonorable" discharge because of a psychological condition over which he has no control. But a DOD official explains the policy: "If we didn't throw them out, we'd be condoning homosexuality. The services' position has to be that homosexual practices prejudice morale and discipline."
Civil Service regulations--which govern 93 per cent of federal employees--state that a person is unsuitable for government employ if he is guilty of "criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral or notoriously disgraceful conduct." The Civil Service Commission maintains that homosexuals can be a disruptive influence in a government agency, that a homosexual in a position of influence is likely to bring other homosexuals into government service, and that where security is necessary they are a greater risk than heterosexual co-workers. When the commission has evidence than an employe or prospective employe is a homosexual, he is denied a job--or fired--for "immoral conduct."
A recent legal challenge to the commission's stand was made by a homosexual who was denied a Civil Service job although he had passed tests for three personnel and management positions. With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the man went to court, charging that the government has, on grounds of personal immorality, denied him a job for which he was qualified.
David Carliner, chairman of the board of the Capital Area A.C.L.U., which is handling the case, points out that his organization is "not taking a position on homosexuality. We are arguing that qualifications for government employment should be related to the nature of the employment and the employe's experience and ability to do the job. A majority cannot deny a person certain rights. We concede that homosexuality is considered immoral in this country. But the notion of immorality is a very vague one. This puts the government in the position of being Big Brother in passing judgment on other people's behavior. It is a rather awesome power to pass on someone's morality."
For the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the homosexual's case, which it will probably consider when the Court reconvenes in October. But no legal procedures are likely to change society's basic repugnance to homosexuality as an immoral and disruptive force that should somehow be removed. Today, as homosexuals become more visible to the public, there is a need for greater knowledge about them. What science has found out is discussed in the article following.
Scientists search for the answers to a touchy and puzzling question, WHY?
by Ernest Havemann
Do the homosexuals, like the Communists, intend to bury us? Yes, indeed, suggested a startling front-page story in the New York Times and other newspapers last month. A committee of the highly respected New York Academy of Medicine had come to the conclusion that American homosexuals want far more than to be merely tolerated and even more than to be ungrudgingly accepted. Their true goal, says an Academy report, is to convince the world that homosexuality is a "desirable, noble, preferable way of life"--the secret of the greatness of ancient Greece, and in modern times a "perfect answer to the problem of the population explosion."
The Academy report, and the newspaper stories it inspired, were just another example of the confusion and downright ignorance that surround the entire subject of the nature, cause and extent of homosexuality. The Academy committee was dead wrong. Only a tiny minority of U.S. homosexuals would ever beat the drums so sensationally for their way of life. Far more of them regard their homosexuality as an affliction. The lot of the homosexual, as the photographs and article on the preceding pages have shown, is often furtive, hazardous and lonely. Many homosexuals have gone to psychiatrists begging desperately for help in escaping from a life that they had decided was utterly intolerable. Most homosexuals, far from seeking recruits, actually refuse to have anything to do with a man who has never had previous homosexual experience.
Says Dr. Paul Gebhard, successor to the late Dr. Alfred Kinsey as director of the Institute for Sex Research: "Almost nobody chooses to become a homosexual. More than nine times out of ten, a man becomes a homosexual for the sole and simple reason that he cannot help it." Perhaps the only exceptions are young men who move to a big city like New York or Los Angeles and by chance find themselves thrown in with fellow workers or neighbors who belong to the "gay society." Their new companions provide friendship and flattery, and sometimes money as well. A good-looking, lazy, luxury-loving young man who likes to be told he has artistic talent may find himself sponging off the gay world financially and emotionally, until he wakes up in middle-age committed to the life but no longer attractive to his former benefactor--not unlike an aging party girl in the other kind of society.
There are, of course, some homosexuals who specialize in seducing young boys. But they are decidedly a minority group; they are the least homosexual of all homosexuals, less active than the others and far more likely to be married. Some of them go through most of their lives not even aware of their homosexuality until at last their tendencies burst out in an incident which often results in their exposure and ruin. The others who are fully aware of their feelings about boys tend to be lone wolves who stay away from the gay society and indeed would be shunned by it. The boys they seduce are seldom lured into the homosexual life, at least not for long.
If almost nobody becomes a homosexual by choice, what then accounts for homosexuality?
Part of the answer seems to lie in the fact that all mammals, human beings included, are born with an innate capacity to respond to almost any kind of sexual stimulus. Zoologists observe homosexual behavior in nearly every species of animal; anthropologists find it in human societies in New York City to the South Seas, and historians find records of it in the civilizations of the past. (Among the noted confirmed homosexuals of history have been Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and probably Alexander the Great.) On our own American scene, there seems to be a good deal more homosexual activity than anybody suspected or was willing to admit before the Kinsey report was published in 1948.
According to this report, nearly half of all boys engage in some kind of homosexual play before they reach adolescence; even after adolescence slightly more than a third of them have at least one homosexual experience at some time in their lives. The Kinsey report, or course, has had many critics, including scientists who are convinced that a disproportionately high percentage of homosexually included men volunteered for the Kinsey study, as the word was spread along the grapevine, and that therefore the figures are too high. But even if the figures are sharply discounted, they still point to the existence of a considerable amount of homosexual experimentation.
Dr. Gebhard and his present associates at the Institute for Sex Research believe that, given mankind's innate nature and our present social customs and moral codes, this is only to be expected. Boys become sexually mature--and indeed reach the very height of their sexual capacity and interest--in their adolescent years. They are discouraged from making any outright sexual overtures to girls, and as a matter of fact few girls that age are interested in sex anyway. On the other hand, boys are thrown together intimately on athletic teams, in boarding schools and in summer camps. An older man who takes a homosexual interest in a boy is often encouraged by parents who fail to understand the real nature of his solicitude. The adolescent has to repress his burning sex drive toward girls, but has considerable opportunity and temptation to turn it into homosexual channels. In a sense nature and society combine to encourage homosexuality--and, ironically, do so most of all among the boys who in strictly sexual terms are the most masculine. Numerous studies have shown that boys who mature earliest and have the strongest sexual drives and capacities are the likeliest to experiment with homosexuality and to adopt it as a way of life.
Yet homosexual experience, like a vaccination, may take or may not. Some boys seem to be so susceptible that a single experience sets them in a lifetime pattern. Others engage in considerable experimentation yet never really take up the homosexual way of life. All in all, the number who do become confirmed homosexuals is quite small. What distinguishes these men from the others?
Dr. Gebhard, who takes a common-sensical rather than psycho-analytical view of the problem, is convinced by the case histories in his files that "mere chance often plays an almost frightening part." A bad case of acne, a stammer or unusual shyness may make a boy feel so unwanted in the world of boy-meets-girl that he quickly embraces the other world. (Many a homosexual affair, another expert points out, is an alliance between two men who both consider themselves "social cripples.") In other cases, says Dr. Gebhard, social pressures prove crucial. Some boys feel so guilty about any kind of homosexual feelings or acts that they feel forever ostracized from the rest of society and can only cling to the gay world. Some come under the community's suspicion or are actually caught; then, after they have been branded as homosexuals, they find it impossible to get a date with a girl and cannot return to the standard pattern of sexual and social life. But over and beyond the influences of happenstance and society, says Dr. Gebhard, there seems to be little question that some boys are predisposed to homosexuality. All medical and psychiatric authorities agree.
Our great-grandfathers, when they dared think about the problems at all, believed that homosexuality was inherited; some men were just born "queer," with a woman's disposition in a man's body; they constituted a "third sex" which was an aberration of nature. This view was based largely on the mistaken notion, still held by many people, that all homosexuals have effeminate, "swishy" manners and would like nothing better, if only the could get away with it, than to dress like women, pluck their eyebrows and use lipstick. In actual fact, there are many effeminate men who are not homosexual at all--and indeed the Institute for Sex Research has even found that some transvestites, men who like to dress in women's clothes are happily married and lead perfectly normal sex lives. On the other hand, says the Institute, fully 85% or more of homosexuals look and act very much like other men and cannot be spotted for certain even by the experts. Often the only signs are a very subtle tendency to over-meticulous grooming, plus the failure to cast the ordinary man's customary admiring glance at every pretty girl who walks buy.
Modern test of physical characteristics and glandular secretions have shown no recognizable differences between homosexuals and other men, yet our great-grandfathers may have been partly right at that. Franz Kaltman, a German analyst, once managed to find 40 men, all homosexuals, who had identical twin brothers. In every case, the twin also turned out to be a homosexual, even though the brothers had never confided in each other and had sometimes grown up apart from each other--so possibly there is some kind of inborn pattern of glandular activity or brain function, not yet recognizable by any tests thus far developed, which predestines some men for homosexuality.
The psychoanalysts, who have observed and treated many homosexual patients over the years, believe that homosexuality represents a form of arrested development. Most children, though born with an indiscriminate impulse toward affection that does not distinguish between men and women, or indeed even between human beings and and other animals, soon learn to concentrate it on another human being of the opposite sex. Some do not. Sigmund Freud, the founder of analysis, theorized that this could happen in a number of ways closely related to the stages of growth through which the analysts believer every child must pass.
In the earliest years, through what analysts call the narcissistic period, the child's emotions and interests are totally centered around his own magical and adored self. If he does not completely outgrow this infantile stage, said Freud, he may only be able to love a person as much like himself as possible, hence a person of the same sex. A little later in what analysts call the Oedipus phase, the baby boy becomes aware of other people and promptly falls in love with the closest one at hind, his mother. If the strange conflicts of this period are not resolved, Freud believed, the boy may grow up wanting to be exactly like his mother--in other words to play a female role in life. Or he may become so frightened by his feelings toward his mother, and by what he conceives to be his father's jealousy, as to remain afraid of women all his life. (A common cause of homosexuality, Analyst Sandor Rado once declared, is "hidden but incapacitating fears of the opposite sex.")
Freud thought that the tendencies toward arrested development were inborn: some boys simply had less psychological drive than others, or were by nature "passive" and inclined to identify with the feminine--rather than "active" and inclined to identify with the masculine. But ever since the 1962 publication of a famous study headed by Dr. Irving Bieber, modern analysts have put the blame less on heredity than on childhood experience.
Dr. Bierber on this research committee, studying the case histories of 106 homosexuals who had been treated by members of the Society of Medical Psychoanalysts, found that a remarkable proportion of them had been reared by mothers who babied them all through their childhoods. typically, the homosexuals mother regarded him as her favorite, her pride and joy, who must be protected at all costs from the hazards of growing up. She discouraged him from forming friendships with other boys, on the ground that none of them was good enough for him, and jealously protected him from any girls who might show an interest. Regarding him as frail and easily hurt, she kept him away from the natural rough play of childhood.
On the one hand, the homosexual's mother kept him utterly dependent on her, unable to make his own decisions. On the other, she pampered him, catered to his every whim and smothered him with affection. Often she openly preferred him to his father, confided in him and, in Dr. Bieber's words, "acted out a romance" which had obviously sexual overtones. In some cases she liked have him sleep in her bedroom even after he had reached adolescence. All in all, she treated him with an "extraordinary intimacy" which made it clear to him that he was "the most significant individual her life"--far more important to her than the husband whom he had replaced as her "love object."
Even with such a mother, Dr. Bieber says, a boy can grow up to normal adulthood if he has a warm affectionate father to set an example of masculinity and counteract the mother's influence. But the typical father of the homosexual, far from liking and supporting his son, turned out to be either totally uninterested in the boy or actively hostile. Often the father was jealous and given to disparagement and ridicule. The boy feared his father and often intensely hated him. Babied and demasculinized by his mother, despised by his father, he arrived at adolescence "beset by feelings of inadequacy, impotence and self-contempt"--and was an eager recruit to the "less threatening atmosphere" of the homosexual world. Not one of the 106 homosexuals studied, Dr. Bieber reported, had a relationship with either mother or father that could by any stretch of the imagination be called normal.
In Dr. Bieber's view, of course, homosexuals are psychologically sick, the emotionally disturbed offspring of emotionally disturbed parents. He believes strongly that the homosexual society is "neither healthy nor happy," and that indeed the very term "gay world" is only a flippant and rather pathetic attempt to cover up deep and chronic feelings of pathological depression. Most analysts, psychiatrists and psychologists tend to agree. (A well-known psychologist and sexologist once began an address to the Mattachine Society with the comment "I used to think that all homosexuals were neurotic." His audience greeted his apparent change of heart with applause--but he immediately chilled them by adding "I now believe that homosexuals in most instances are borderline psychotics.")
Most of the speculation about the mental state of homosexuals, however, comes from therapists who have treated homosexual patients--and thus involves the possibility of built=in bias which worries some of the experts. One skeptic, Analyst Ernest van den Haag was once told by a colleague, "All my homosexual patients, you know, are quick sick." "Ah, yes," said Dr. van den Haag, but so are all my heterosexual patients.
Seeking information about the great majority of homosexuals who have never visited a therapist, a Los Angeles psychologist named Dr. Evelyn Hooker once managed to find 30 such men, then matched them as nearly as she could by age intelligence and education, with 30 other men. She gave both groups a series of personality tests and submitted the results to a panel of trained scorers--who could find no significant differences between the two groups. This may only prove that personality tests are unreliable, as many scientists suspect, or it may indicate that homosexuals can be just as healthy as anybody else.
Freud did not believe that homosexuals were necessarily sick in a famous letter to the mother of a homosexual who had asked him for help, he wrote, "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness." Nor did that noted anti-Freudian, Dr. Kinsey, regard all homosexuals as psychologically sick. From his interviews with many hundreds of confirmed and part-time homosexuals, Dr. Kinsey concluded that homosexual conduct was simply too widespread, in our own society and others, to be considered neurotic. A new report by his Institute for Sex Research, to be published this fall, will state that many homosexuals "are able to lead useful, well-adjusted lives."
How many homosexuals are there in America? Nobody can say for sure. The closest thing to a census was the 1948 Kinsey report, which was based on interviews with 5,000 men. Kinsey estimated that four men in 100 are exclusively homosexual all their adult lives. This would mean that there are currently about 2.3 million confirmed homosexuals over the age of 18 in the U.S. Kinsey also believed that an equal number of men are exclusively homosexual for a period of three years or more at some time in their lives. Dr. Kinsey's is the highest of all the responsible estimates and is possibly exaggerated, as has been noted, by the eagerness of homosexual men to volunteer for the study. Dr. Bieber believes that the number of confirmed homosexuals is closer to 2%--or about 1.2 million Americans over the age of 18.
There are also women homosexuals, of course, but the number is much smaller--by the estimate of the Institute for Sex Research, perhaps only a third or a quarter as high as the figure for men. One reason, some analysts have suggested, is that it is far easier for a woman who is afraid of men to perform adequately in marriage than it is for a man who is afraid of women. At any rate, women homosexuals are not nearly so numerous, promiscuous or conspicuous as their male counterparts, and the various studies have largely ignored them.
Has there been an increase in homosexuality? To any observant person walking around cities like New York and Los Angeles, it would certainly seem so. Many psychiatrists and social scientists agree; Dr. Abram Kardiner, who teaches psychiatry at Emory University, says that the increase in the last quarter century has been "enormous." But there are no figures to prove a rise in homosexuality, and it may be more apparent than real, reflecting simply a more open discussion and practice of homosexuality in keeping with the general sexual frankness of our times. The Institute for Sex Research, whose studies now cover a period of nearly 25 hours, doubts that the proportion of homosexuals in the U.S. has increased at all.
Can society do anything about homosexuality? Not a great deal. Freud felt that most homosexuals could not be changed even through prolonged psychoanalysis. Dr. Bieber's attitude is considerably more optimistic; he found that 27% of the homosexuals in his study led normal sex lives after analysis. But even 27% is a low figure, and it would be impossible to provide analysis for all the homosexuals in the U.S. anyway.
The laws against homosexual acts have certainly not stopped the confirmed practitioners. As Dr. Gebhard and many other observers have pointed out, sexual behavior is one of the most compulsive of all human traits, and the man who is in the grip of homosexuality is likely to practice it regardless of the risks or penalties. This fall's new report by the Institute for Sex Research which is based on a study of men who were in prison for various sex crimes, will contain some absolutely remarkable figures on the irrepressible drives of the homosexual. The prisoners convicted of advances to boys under 12, the report will show, had committed homosexual acts with an average of 19 different partners before they were caught; those convicted of advances to boys between 12 and 15, an average of 45 different partners; those convicted of homosexual acts with older youths and adults, close to 200. Moreover, the worst way in the world to try to cure a homosexual is to send him to a prison where men are gathered without the companionship of women, homosexuality is a commonplace. (The Institute for Sex Research says that 70% of all long-term prisoners in the U.S. become practicing homosexuals.) Law officials and psychiatrists who have tried to make international comparisons do not believe that homosexuality is any more widespread in places like France, the Netherlands and Sweden, where it is not punishable under the law, than in other nations like ours where it is considered a crime.
Most people who have studied homosexuality believe that the laws against it are what Freud once called them, "a great injustice" and "cruelty"--unjustly penalizing the few who are unlucky enough to be caught. Indeed some observers think that the legal penalties and social stigma which threaten the homosexual's life may cause him more emotional disturbance than homosexuality itself--and even that some defiant and thrill-seeking men may take up homosexuality for the very reason that it is illegal, just as some people who had never drunk before began drinking during Prohibition. But certainly society's powerful disapproval, if not necessarily the law's, serves to deter at least some young men who are wavering between the two worlds.
Some well-meaning people feel that homosexuality could be reduced if our society were not so blatantly sexual in general--that is, if we protected out growing boys from the stimulation of sexy movies, books, magazines and outright pornography. But this theory ignores the urgency of the adolescent's sexual drive. "When a boy reaches puberty," says Dr. Gebhard, "his hormones keep him far more stimulated from the inside than he could possibly be stimulated by anything he sees or hears." About the only effective way to discourage homosexuality at that crucial age, Dr. Gebhard, believes, would be "to encourage heterosexuality." But such an idea would be utterly at odds with our culture and our moral code--and therefore it seems inevitable that a considerable number of boys in every generation will continue to experiment with homosexuality, as in the past, and that some of them who were born or grew up with a predisposition will adopt it as a permanent way of life.
Many optimistic students of our society believe that we may some day eliminate poverty, slums and even the common cold--but the problem of homosexuality seems to be more akin to death and taxes. Even if every present-day American with the slightest trace of homosexuality could be deported tomorrow and forever banished, Dr. Gebhard believes, there would probably be just as many homosexual men in the U.S. a few generations hence as there are now.