The Sad 'Gay' Life
Jack Star — January 10, 1967
This tough-looking man, left, is an admitted homosexual. He is Jerry Read, 35, a former Los Angeles public-relations man. "I used to date girls in college," he says, "but after taking them home, I would go to a 'gay' bar."
Men wearing dresses look like the real thing in their elaborate wigs and high heels as they swish around the stage, acting women's roles for an enthusiastic San Francisco theater audience that consists mainly of male homosexuals. Out on Market Street, a man wearing a leather jacket and gauntlets also appears to be the real thing as he guns his motorcycle through the Saturday night traffic.
In their bizarre way, both the men in dresses, a caricature of femininity, and the motorcyclist, a caricature of masculinity, represent opposite poles of a secret world. It is the world of the homosexual, a subculture with its own language and customs, a world scorned, rejected and penalized by "straight" society.
The late Dr. Robert Lindner, a psychoanalyst and author, defined homosexuals as "those individuals who more or less chronically feel an urgent sexual desire toward, and a sexual responsiveness to, members of their own sex, and who seek gratification of this desire predominantly with members of their own sex."
The "gay world," as homosexuals call it, cuts through every social and economic level. Some homosexuals are married and have children. Some are lawyers, doctors, teachers and ministers. Others are truck drivers, soldiers, policemen and cowboys.
Dr. Judd Marmor, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who is an authority on homosexuality, estimates the number of male homosexuals in the United States at "conservatively" two to four million. He says their appearance varies "from extreme 'femininity' of physique and manner to extreme 'masculinity.' " The late Dr. Alfred Kinsey's experienced interviewers were able to spot only 15 percent of their subjects as homosexuals before taking their case histories.
Kinsey's research findings suggest that 37 percent of all males have had some type of homosexual experience, even if only once, in the course of a lifetime. Kinsey found that ten percent of males are mainly homosexual for at least three years between 16 and 65, while four percent of white men remain exclusively homosexual all their lives.
So far as is known, heredity has nothing to do with homosexuality. Dr. Irvine Bieber, a New York psychoanalyst who corrlated a study of 106 homosexuals, found they had been damaged their growing-up years : "The homosexual patient is usually... his [father's] least favored child and sometimes his scapegoat... The homosexual hates, fears or lacks admiration for his father who minimizes, humiliates and spends little time with him."
The mother "generally favors the pre-homosexual son, spends a great deal of time with him, and demands undue attention and solicitude. She... frequently openly prefers him to her husband. The son is often a confidant with whom she shares intimacies."
In many cases, Puritanical parents condition their sons to beware of sexual love as something dirty or evil; since girls are to be feared, boys seem less dangerous as love objects. Some homosexual men are able to overcome their fear of women sufficiently to woo them and even marry them, but they often remain irresistibly attracted to other men.
"We have seen cases where males have been heterosexual [normally sexed] until the age of 30, have married and had children and then turned to homosexual careers," says Dr. Abram Kardiner, clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. Early conditions of life "predisposed the individual to homosexuality. The subject, however, had successfully repressed them, and only under the provocation of an exceedingly dominating wife, rather late in life... did he begin to find males attractive." Sometimes, men who have been married 25 or 30 years and have raised families turn to homosexuality after a life crisis, such as the death of a wife or a divorce.
There is as much variety in homosexual behavior as in heterosexual behavior. A small minority of homosexuals emerge as "feminine," wearing their hair like women and posturing like them. Dr. Bieber suspects these men are not trying to be women but are, rather, hiding their manhood as a psychological defense against hostile parents. But much of the homosexual life pattern seems, instead, to be a search for masculinity. This can be seen in the homosexual's predilection for muscle building, leather-clad motorcyclists and "rough, tough men."
A Chicago homosexual, a beer salesman, says: "Feminine men turn me off. If I wanted a woman, I'd get a real one—not a poor imitation of one."
Homosexuals surround their search for other men with a life style that often appears to be a distorted mirror image of heterosexual life. Playboy magazine has its counterpart in the many homosexual "physique" magazines that display near-naked male pinup models. "Gay" stores in the larger cities sell gay links and an assortment of gay get-well grey cards. A homosexual magazine advertises perfume consultation will enable you to classic types of perfume to determine those prove best suited to your personality."
Gay newspapers carry news of import to homosexuals and display want ads that "Pre-Halloween sale—Wigs. Styled 575. styled $60."
Special institutions serve the homos style of life. Dr. Evelyn Hooker, a psychogist at UCLA, writes that " 'near-communities' have developed, especially in residential areas of the city with heavy concentrations of homosexuals. These areas are described homosexuals as 'the swish Alps' or 'boys' towns.' In these sections, apartment houses on particular streets may be owned by, and rented exclusively to, homosexuals.
"The most important of the public gathering places used by homosexuals and adapted by them and the management to their purposes is the gay bar. There are also steam baths catering exclusively to this specialized clientele, as well as streets, parks, public men's rooms, beaches, gyms, coffeehouses and restaurants."
These places serve the homosexual's apparent compulsion to have a wide variety sexual contacts. Harold L. Call, president of the Mattachine Society, Inc., of San Francisco, an organization that seeks to improve the homsexual's lot, says: "It is not uncommon for some homosexuals to have sex with a thousand different men in a year." While a homosexual may live with another man for months, or even years, there is no great premium on fidelity. Most homosexuals "cruise," continually seeking new sexual partners.
The largest concentration of New York;s gay population—perhaps 50 percent of it-is in the West 70's, between Central Park and the Hudson River. "This is the best cruising area in the city," claims a youth named Pete.
A parade of men marched in slow step up and down the street. Eyes locked with eyes as the strollers inspected the scores of men leaning against stone walls or sitting on park benches. The conversations were brief as the men paired off, to disappear into the park or to head for their apartments.
Occasionally, friends met and exchanged greetings. But the feeling generated along the street was a kind of rushing loneliness. One young man, in speaking about his roommate Jim, put it this way:
"About two years ago. he got really involved in a relationship. It lasted for about three months before the other guy threw Jim over. Now, he goes for short relationships—one-night stands. Bu these are too short to really satisfy his hunger for people, so he has to keep searching. He cruises every day, constantly."
Later, the reporter met Jim, a handsome man of 34, with curly black hair. He said: "Homosexuals are preoccupied with sex. The majority of those going steady are cheaters and adulterers. I think the majority of gay people I know don't enjoy being homosexual, but they don't want to stop either. If I could wave a magic wand and be what society considers 'normal,' I would. But actually, it's too much trouble. I would have to learn new patterns of life, and it would take a lot of help and therapy which I can't afford."
Because older men are at a disadvantage, the homosexual's premium on youthfulness encouring prostitution. "I'm beginning to believe there may be more male homosexual hustlers than female prostitutes," says Sgt. John Garber, a veteran Chicago detective. In "Bughouse Square," a tiny park on Chicago's Near North Side, the male prositutes start congregating at 10 a.m. "Their first customers are the milkmen finishing their routes," says Sergeant Garber. "Then come office workers on their lunch hour, then salesmen in the afternoon. At night, married men drive in from the suburbs circle around in their cars until some hustler waves to them, and they drive off together."
In New York, the police "cleaned up" the infamous area on 42nd Street at Eighth Avenue by not allowig the young male prostitutes to display themselves along a bank-building wall. So now the hustlers hustle across the street, milling around in the crowds emerging from the subway. Well-dressed men talk briefly to hard-eyed teen-agers in tight Levis who could be their sons, then walk away with them to a cheap hotel. Some of the boys appear young enough to attend elementary school.
Directories sold to homosexuals list the addresses of gay bars all around the country. Sometimes they are located in the better city hotels; more often they are Spartanly furnished dives whose only frills are a jukebox and a bouncer. One of the most active gay bars in New York is a noisy establishment on West 46th Street that permits dancing. At 2 a.m., the place is packed. Only three women are in the bar—two are lesbians, and the other just doesn't want to be bothered by men. The male customers come in all sizes, shapes and suit drapings. But most of them are ordinary looking, and they wear conventional clothes.
Chicago has more than 40 gay bars. One on North Clark Street, a short taxi ride from the Loop, has motorcycles parked outside; it is a "leather bar." Large murals of muscular motorcyclists fill the walls. In the back is a pool table where rough-looking youths in leather jackets wait for a "trick" to come in. A sign on the wall says: "Every Tuesday is leather night—beer 25 cents if you wear leather jackets, pants or shirt." A guard from a private watch service, with a gun strapped his hip, circles around the room.
The high prices and low overhead of the homosexual bars attract the interest of underworld investors. Chicago police intelligence files list a number of bar owners with crime-syndicate connections. Their places require a minimal bankroll. One crummy neighborhood tavern that was closed recently for liquor-law violations charged $1.50 for mixed drinks and $1 for beer; it grossed $13,000 a month.
Harassment of gay-bar patrons is common, especially in Los Angeles. The UCLA Law Review reports : "Marked patrol cars will park in front of homosexual bars and question customers as they leave. The police will arrest bar patrons on any legitimate ground, such as... jaywalking to a car parked across the street..."
San Francisco bars don't have this problem. More than 30 gay bars band together into a mutual-aid association called the Tavern Guild. "We don't pay off in this town," says Robert Ross, secretary of the group. "We froze the syndicate out, and we have done our best to clean up behavior problems. We police our own business—if we didn't, the police would." The San Francisco bars observe the 2 a.m. closing hour scrupulously.
Near the San Francisco waterfront, this reporter visited a bar, not in the association, that attracts off-duty sailors in uniform. I watched as the Navy men accepted drinks bought by civilians waiting at the bar, and then drifted discreetly alone on to the sidewalk, to be joined a moment later by their benefactors.
Prospective draftees are excused from service in the armed forces if they claim, when receiving their physical examinations, that they have had homosexual experience. If a homosexual is found in an overt homosexual act in a military unit, he is immediately discharged.
All branches of the Federal Government refuse to employ anyone who admits to having engaged in a homosexual act. In 1965, 28 State Department employees resigned or were dismissed as security risks "for homosexual reasons."
Homosexuals pose a police problem. They are a target for all sorts of violence, including hoodlums who lure them to an isolated place and then beat and rob them. In 1965, at least 13 murders in Chicago had obvious homosexual undertones. Blackmailers are a constant threat. A nationwide extortion ring operating for the past decade extracted millions of dollars from more than a thousand victims, according to investigators from the New York District Attorney's office. The victims included two deans of Eastern universities, officers of the armed services, a leading television star and various theatrical personalities. A decoy would lure the victims, usually from a midtown bar, to a hotel room. There, the decoy would beat up the victim and steal his wallet; a few days later, fake policemen would visit the victim and shake him down. A New York businessman was beaten and robbed in Chicago; when he returned home, he was taken for $2,000 by phony "detectives" flashing authentic badges stolen from the Chicago police department.
Homosexuals seem fatalistic about danger. A rather frail-looking Chicago man showed me his collection of deadly looking knives, strangely out of place on a wall of his elegantly decorated apartment. He said: "I never know when I bring somebody home, I might have to protect myself."
Not all homosexuals "cruise" compulsively. Many lead sedate lives that rarely take them to gay bars or hustlers' hangouts. They belong to private homosexual clubs (one club on Chicago's South Side that features nightly dances is said to cost $1,000 to join) or associate with a small circle of freind. But compulsiveness is a constant danger; there are homosexuals irresistably drawn to public washrooms who, after making an overture to a man who turns out to be a detective, end up in jail. "I can't honestly say I won't go back there again," confessed an otherwise intelligent young man, editor of a trade journal, who was arrested in a park zoo's men's room.
Legal penalties for homosexuality are harsh. Every state except Illinois prohibits all types of homosexual acts. In West Virginia, a homosexual can be sentenced to prison for ten years; in Rhode Island, the minimum is seven years. Several years ago, a convicted homosexual was sentenced to 20 to 30 years in North Carolina. The judge was "lenient"; he could have given him life or 100 years. However, a Federal judge intervened and freed the prisoner, who was retried in a state court and acquitted. The North Carolina law provided a mandatory death penalty until 1869. Although it has been revised over the years, the law is based directly on an English statute of 1533 that reads:
"Any person who shall commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature, not to be named among Christians, with either mankind or beast, shall be adjudged guilty of a felony, and shall suffer death without the benefit of clergy."
In nearly every West European country, homosexuality is not a crime. England is currently attempting to revise its laws. In 1954, a special committee appointed by the House of Lords, under the chairmanship of Sir John Wolfenden, proposed that "homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offense..." The commission said: "There must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law's business."
In Illinois, since 1962, homosexual acts have not been a crime when performed by adults, in private and by mutual consent. This reform slipped through the legislature as part of a general revision of criminal law backed by the prestigious American Law Institute. But similar revisions have failed to pass in New York and Minnesota.
"The new Illinois law hasn't made a damn bit of difference," says Paul R. Goldman, a Chicago lawyer who has defended thousands of homosexuals. "It allows homosexuals to feel better, but it doesn't change anything."
Illinois has not become a mecca for homosexuals because of the new law. Judge Arthur L. Dunne of the Rackets Court, who tries most of the homosexuals arrested in downtown Chicago, says that the number of cases "has remained at a plateau." The arrests usually involve prostitution or "public indecency." Judge Dunne says: "I don't hear more than 10 or 15 cases a month. There are few repeaters. I generally fine offenders $25. If the offense is serious, I give them 30 days in jail and a year's probation; if there is violence, nine month to a year. If a man is willing to be treated by g psychiatrist, I place him on probation."
Lt. James E. O'Grady, of the police vice-control division, says that homosexuality is never concern of the Chicago police "except when then is prostitution or it becomes a matter of public indecency. We don't bother men who dance together in an ordinary way."
In the 1st Police District, which includes the busy Loop, only 98 arrests for such violations were made in a recent 12-month period. Fifty-two of the arrests were made at a bus depot. a major homosexual haunt. Last spring, a Neart North Side bathhouse that had operated for many years was closed after 32 men were arrested in a raid. "The publicity is cruel," says Miss Pearl M. hart, a laywer who defended some of the men arrested in the bathhouse. "Even when a man is found not guilty. he loses his job." Attorney William Brackett, vice-chairman of the board of the Illinois Division of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is studying the problem, says: "Homosexuals are a persecuted group. The shame keeps convicted persons from appealing when they should appeal."
What can be done with homosexuals? Should they be required to have treatment? Dr. Philip H. Heersema, a psychiatrist at Stanford University Medical School, reports in The Journal of the American Medical Association that only about 25 percent of homosexuals can be significantly changed by treatment.
Dr. Heersema sees homosexuality as an illness. He is critical of doctors who "push" homosexuality as a way of life. He says: "To speak of a healthy, happy homosexual is a euphemism, similar to speaking of a cripple or a partially blind person as being 'happy.' Though he may rise above the disability, he is at all times aware of it and of its inhibiting force."
Dr. Joel Fort, who is a criminologist and a public-health administrator, as well as a psychiatrist, agrees that "we should not encourage active homosexuality." But he adds, "Where somebody is found after a professional examination to be homosexual, we should try to help him make the best possible adjustment .. . to help him live as fulfilled and as creative a life as possible."
By not talking too much of "changing" their sexual orientation, Dr. Fort has managed to attract 150 confirmed homosexuals to his Center for Special Problems, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. So far, Dr. Fort is cheered by their progress, because these are not patients who would seek treatment in the hope of becoming, heterosexual. But they do want relief from anxieties, discomfort and troubles.
Dr. Bieber, the New York psychoanalyst who studied 106 homosexuals, remains optimistic about traditional psychoanalytic methods. He reports: "Roughly one-third of our patients became exclusively heterosexual. Half of this group were exclusively homosexual at the beginning of treatment, and some of them did not think they could change or cared to change." Unfortunately, the therapy was neither cheap nor short. Most of the men received a minimum of 150 hours of treatment, and some got over 300 hours. Psychotherapy costs, on the average, $25 an hour.
Dr. Fort's center tries to make homosexuals "more mature, less promiscuous, to help them build stable relationships." But he believes that the place to start is in the home and in school, before a boy becomes a confirmed homosexual. "Through sex education," he says, "we should foster healthy heterosexuality, not promiscuity."
The straight world's scorn of the homosexual is so strong that it has inevitably produced a counterattack. About a dozen "homophile" organizations have been formed to improve the homosexual's lot. Their membership is small, probably less than one-tenth of one percent of those eligible, and their influence is limited. Their campaigns sound like echoes of the campaigns of any other oppressed minority group. Town Talk, a publication of the Mattachine Society, Inc., of San Francisco, has declared:
"If a department store fired an employee for homosexuality with the result that several hundred of us immediately canceled our charge accounts with said store how soon do you think hey would fire another? Or if there wasa concrted movement of people switching their bank accounts from a bank that did the same, wouldn't they think it over first?
"In politics, we should become an important factor. There are something less than 20 million farmers in the U.S. today, but no candidate in any state or national election would think of running without taking into consideration the farm vote. And yet the Kinsey statistics indicate there may be 20 million practicing homosexuals in this country."
One of the newest of the homophile groups is SIR, the Society for Individual Rights, of San Francisco. It is also the most successful, with 600 members and its own "community center." The SIR credo calls for "strength through organization." But it declares, "where we need to change, let us change ourselves." The Society cooperates with the local health department in a campaign to induce its members to have themselves examined for venereal diseases. It also holds dances and sponsors a bowling league, hiking, camping, bridge and poker. The president of SIR, William E. Beardemphl, a 39-year-old cook, says: "The homosexual has cut himself off from the world. He's afraid for his church and very much afraid for his family. He's cut off from law, and he's cut off from s social life." Beardemphl adds that the Society is attempting to end the homosexual's alienation by letting him involved in all sorts of activities. "Homosexuals need a place like this," he says, "where they can meet one another as people, not just as sexual objects."
SIR is also politically conscious. It maintains liaison with the community-relations section of the San Francisco police department, and it encourages its members to participate in politics. Last spring, the Society joined with other homophile organizations in nationwide protest meetings and picket lines calling for the right of homosexuals to serve in the armed forces.
The Emergence of homophile action groups is worrisome to some observers, who see in their formation more alienation, not less. Dr. Jordan M. Scher, of Chicago, a leader in existential psychiatry, says: "We should minimize our forcing homosexuals to become a political-action group— that just adds to their problem."
Churchmen, too, would like to see less alienation. The Council on Religion and the Homosexal, organized in San Francisco two years ago, brings together clergymen from a variety of denominations, along with influential laymen interested in the problem. The Rev. Dr. Clarence A. Colwell, minister of the Metropolitan Mission for the Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ, is president. He says:
"We question the judgments that the church renders against the homosexual that he is a deviate, unnatural and un-Christian. Theology emerges from life, rather than theology determining what life should be."
Other churchmen are more guarded. John V. P. Lassoe, Jr., director of Christian Social Relations of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, who backs reform in present laws on homosexuality, told a homophile meeting:
"'The new morality'... would seem to allow for homosexual relationships in which physical expressiong between partners determined to do the most loving things possible under the circumstances could be free of sin." But he cautioned:
"The new morality,' like the 'old,' has little comfort to offer those involved in active but loveless sex relationships—the one-night stands, the brief affairs, the long-term relationships where one partner is used physically or emotionally in return for a dubious security, the unions of convenience where each partner is free to pursue anyone of interest who appears on the scene... They are immoral whether the relationship be heterosexual or homosexual."
Antipathy of the straight world toward homosexuals curiously resembles prejudice toward Negroes and Jews. The vehement antihomosexual says: “They’re trying to take over... The want to be a third sex and get married in a church... They dominate entire professions, and then they hire only homosexuals... Their clothing designers make women look ugly, and so do their hairdressers... Their playwrights offer a twisted view of life...”
An interesting comment on this last criticism comes from Stanley Kauffmann, former drama critic of the New York Times, who wrote:
“Because three of the most successful American playwrights of the last twenty years are (reputed) homosexuals and because their plays often treat of women and marriage, therefore, is it said, postwar American drama presents a badly ditorted picture of American women, marriage, and society in general. Certainly, there is substance in the charge, but is it rightly directed? The homosexual dramatist is not to blame in this matter. If he writes of marriage and of other relationships about which he knows or cares little, it is because he has no choice but to masquerade. Both convention and the law demand it. In society, the homosexual’s life must be discreetly concealed. As material for drama, that life must be even more intensely concealed... He must invent a two-sex version of the one-sex experience that he really knows. It is we who insist on it, no, not he."
A young homosexual who intended to be a schoolteacher scornfully dismisses the notion of any plot by homosexuals. “Who wants to take over the world?” he asks. “We have enough problems of our own. What we really want is to be left alone, not to be penalized by soceity for something that is not our fault.”
Is the homosexual a threat to society? Does he seek to seduce the young? Is homosexuality a communicable disease? It is the opnion of Dr. Judd Marmor that most adult homosexuals are no more a threat to young boys than most adult heterosexuals are to young girls. Ernest van den Haag, professor of social philosophy at New York University, writes: “Homosexuality is no more likely to be infectious than masturbation. Prohibition of homosexuality therefore is not needed to protect society—even if we regard homosexuality as a harmful disease.”
Society does have a right to make it's own rules, even if the rules are harder on homosexuals than heterosexuals. The problem seems to be one of coexistence. Dr. Marmor, noting that the vast majority of homosexuals do not seek psychiatric treatment, says: “Clearly, society must ultimately learn to live with them and to accpet them as long as they maintain common standards of public decency. Punishment of the homosexual is clearly no solution.” Perhaps better understanding is.