Strona główna After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred Of Gays In The 90s

After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred Of Gays In The 90s

Categories: Other Social Sciences
Rok: 1990
Wydawca: Plume
Język: english
Liczba stron: 440
File: PDF, 26.29 MB
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IN THE 90s — 

Canad* »*» 

X twenty-five million gays-onetm 
every ten c.mens-make up 

largest* and last, outcast m.nonty_ Wha 
would it take to transform our fierce y 

anti-gay society into one where homosex¬ 

uals could live freely, openly, happily 

now, and in the AIDS-haunted America 

well know over the next decade? 

It would take an aggressive new battle 

plan for gay rights—the stunningly sys¬ 

tematic and controversial blueprint pre¬ 

sented in After the Ball. Marshall 

Kirlc and Hunter Madsen write with wit 

and anger on the twentieth anniversary 

of the Stonewall riots, where the gay 

revolution first began. The authors, 

Harvard-trained social scientists, reveal 

why the revolution has failed, so far, to 

defeat homophobia and “homohatred” 

in America. Their hard-hitting expose 

faults both straights and gay activists for 

the current mess and shows how deeply 

gays have suffered as a result. 

Dismissing the movement’s outworn 

techniques in favor of carefully calcu¬ 

lated public relations propaganda, 

After the Ball unveils the key psy- 

chological principles and national strat¬ 

egies that gays must follow to conquer 

bigotry in the 1990s. At the same time, 

Kirk and Madsen propose a clear-eyed 

agenda to reform gay culture itself, by 

eliminating common misbehaviors that 

hurt other gays and needlessly bonow 

(continued on back flap) 




New York L o n d o n 

Toronto S y d n c y 



How America Will Conquer 

Its Fear and Hatred 

of Gays in the '90s 





Published by Doubleday, a division of 
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing 

Group Inc., . 
666 Fifth Avenue, New York. New York 

Doubleday and the portrayal of an 
anchor with a dolphin are trademarks of 

Doubleday, a division of Bantam 
Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in- 
Publication Data 
Kirk, Marshall. 

After the ball: how America will 
conquer its hatred and fear of 
homosexuals in the '90's / Marshall Kirk 
and Hunter Madsen. —1st ed. 

p. cm. 
Bibliography: p. 

ISBN 0-385-23906-8 

1* Gay liberation movement—United 

2. Gays—United States—Public opinion. 
3. Homophobia—United States— 
Prevention. 4. Public opinion—United 
States. I. Madsen, Hunter. II. Title 
HQ76.8.U5K57 1989 

306.7'66 dcl9 88-3686( 



copyright © 1989 by Marshall 
and Hunter Madsen 

All Rights Reserved 


printed in the united 

JUNE 1989 




For their contributions to this book; many deserve our thanks. Marshall 

DeBruhl, our initial editor\ was the one who first sought us out to write a 

‘gay manifesto for the 1990s"; and Mr. DeBruhl steered us through the 

project's early stages. Casey Fuetsch, our subsequent editor, gamely picked 

matters up from there and, with enthusiasm and patience, saw us through 

to the finish. We also received valued editorial advice from Robert Weil, 

and even filched the book title from a friend of his, Larry Schneer. 

Numerous advertising, public relations, and fundraising professionals 

made suggestions helpful to our analysis: we especially thank Howard 

Buford, Susan MacMurchy, Rosemary Kuropat, and Alan Dee. Urvashi 

Vaid of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Sherrie Cohen of the 

Fund for Human Dignity, Craig Davidson of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance 

Against Defamation, Katy Taylor of the New York City Commission on 

Human Rights, and the Waging Peace Committee led by Connie and 

Corrie in Columbus, Ohio, all took time to share with us some of their 

thinking on the subject. So did many members of the Positive Images 

Campaign, which was created by the Fund and GLAAD, and which is 

spearheading our community's first efforts at national gay advertising. 


We also salute those few'incl^ -fy^inia-whose organization^ 
rrn Kalin in New York, and Jay Clark publics and 

Have already attempted gay a d ssess SOme of then efforts, 

who graciously consented * Steele, who put aside then 

zzttZZ.——- * 
intending that this book WOuU^^tioZZnd^ot *** 

audience, we sought advance rrn friends. Thank you, 

appreciated d Jacqueime, David 
Robert and Martha, Ron, Linda, Jim, Nora, kod an ■/ 
and Stymean, and our inadvertent benefactress, the Dragon La y. 

There are many other gay and straight individuals who helped us here 

but insisted they'd drop dead of embarrassment * ack™Uffj^ 
book We lay a wreath in their memory on the tomb of the unknown 

soldier. (While we're at it, we should also lay to rest any pat conclusions 

you might draw about the personal lives of individuals who are 

mentioned in this book: as the lawyers say, publication of the name, 

photograph, or likeness of any person or organization here is not 

necessarily to be construed as any indication of the sexual orientation of 

ourh nprsnm nr members of such oraanizations.) 

“There is not so poor a book in the world," Dr. Johnson reminds us, 

“that would not be a prodigious ejfort were it wrought out entirely by a 

single mind, without the aid of prior investigators." Even so, while we’ve 

benefited enormously from the advice and writings of others, it must be 

said that the authors alone are responsible for the opinions expressed in 

this book. Much as we’d prefer, from time to time, to pass it to others, the 
buck always stops here. 

Along with these various acknowledgments to others, the two authors 

wish, finally, to add a personal word to each other, acknowledging the 

uncanny survival of their friendship. You readers may disagree over much 

in this book, but probably not half so much as we did. An auctorial 

collaboration can be, we've learned, a sort of death struggle between 

strong-minded partners, the more so when shaping a manifesto whose 

complex moral psychological and expositional dimensions are bound to 

raise hackles and snarling demurrers. Gentlefolk simply agree to disagree 

on such murky matters in casual discourse, but cannot do so when 

hammering out a coherent argument; someone's opinion must always 

prevail and this is no fun for old friends. No, the real fun starts 

tomorrow, when—as old friends do—we begin shifting the blame as to 

who said what. 

ruv pfrmanent crisis OF 



0 0 0 0 0 




They Don't 5 

There Aren't Many Homosexuals in 
America' 13 

AU Gays Are Easy to Spot: There Are 
Telltale Signs!' is 

'Why Gays Are Gay:'Sinf Insanity 
ana Seduction' 26 

Addicts'646n^' Loat^some $ex 

Kays Are Unproductive 
untrustworthy Memhei 
Society' 52 

y Members of 

o o o o o 




Bending the Twig: How the Mecha¬ 
nism of Prejudice Develops in the 

Child 121 

Blueprinting the Gearbox: How the 
1Engine of Homohatred' Functions in 

the Adult 129 


Argument 136 

Fighting 140 

Shock Tactics 144 



Jamming 150 

Conversion 153 


0 0 0 o o 


PEACE' 161 

DO 164 


• Don't Just Express Yourself: 
Communicate! 173 

• Appeal to the Skeptics 175 

• Keep Talking 177 

• Keep the Message Focused 180 

'*%prelZamC,imS °f Q>C“" 

'Gw Potential Protectors a Just 
Cause 187 

'Make Gays Look Good 1S7 

• Make Vicimizers Look Bad 189 


Tt£IICS FOR eating 
the media alive- 


making news and saw" 



ADS 213 

o o o o o 











Lies, Lies, All Lies! 280 

The Rejection of Morality 289 

Narcissism and Self Centered 
Behavior 295 

Self Indulgence, Self-Destruction 302 

Indulging Our Privates in Public 307 

Misbehavior in Bars 312 

Misbehavior in Relationships 318 

Emotional Blockage and Anesthe¬ 
sia 332 

to?ity-J>enial, Nonsensical Think- 
tng, and Mythomania 338 

oppression oj PC. 348 

A Social Code 357 

~TOc“>» 375 


the permanent 



power erected its brazen head and spat out 

a fa,ry ,ale the Ites of which the area has 
never seen . . . Watch out. The liberation is 
under way. 


The gay revolution has failed. 
Not completely, and not finally, but it's a failure just the 

$ame. The 1969 Stonewall riot—in which a handful of 

long-suffering New York drag queens, tired of homophobic police 

harassment, picked up rocks and bottles and fought back- 

marked the birth of gay liberation.' As we write these lines, 

twenty years have passed. In those years, the combined efforts of 

the gay community have won a handful of concessions in a 

handful of localities. Some of those concessions have been 

revoked; others may be. We should have done far better. 

What has gone wrong? And what can we do about it? 

This book is about hope and dread. It explores the dire necessity 

—and the real possibility—of reconciling America to its large, 

oppressed, and inescapable minority: gay men and women. It 

proposes a practical agenda for bringing to a close, at long last, the 

seemingly permanent crisis of American homosexuality. And it 

aims to launch upon this task in an era of superlative need and 

supreme difficulty, the frightening era of 'the gay plague,' AIDS. 

Wt Win by «®» v°“^t*l2ngS°“' “P"""8 ChaJ“”s 

—K. to,» »»ny P»Ptod,y. ,„d forws. 0* 

he genuine «toW»' «s ” * , ,ban what we really believe, 

uture in terms no d*rker t00 mUch as sinless martyrs, 

-est gay readers puffthemse** J things t0 say about them, 

we have plenty of uncomp j$ w cut through those 

too. Our purpose in these ope « abound in the American 

pleasing but foolish se^ mobilizing against a 
gay community, and that prevent 

present and burgeoning disaster. others that 

zzzz * ~ S^ n, doonr. we urge yon .. read on to bine, end . 
__* kittDr oftPr all. 



It's an unhappily familiar observation that America is a sick 

society. Not because AIDS has blood-poisoned the billion sexual 

arteries of its giant body, although this has compounded the na¬ 

tional sickness. And not because American culture has been crip¬ 

pled by role breakdown, alienation, narcissism, and moral decay, 

although these real deformities of the spirit are often lamented 

bitterly and blamed wrongly by the very carriers of the still more 

serious sickness we have in mind. On the contrary, America's 

crudest illness was not born of the '80s at all. The illness is a 

grotesque exaggeration of that which is traditional, ancestral, per- 

haps written into the genes: it is the wholehearted endorsement 

and practice of unvarnished bigotry. 

Without apology or even qualm, America hates and eats its 

own. Generation after generation, it savagely chews apart at least 

one homosexual child for every nine heterosexual children, and 
feeds it to them. 

The nine lucky enough to be born and raised as heterosexuals 

usually grow up proud and strong, an eager brood of young Amer¬ 

ican Aryans. The one—representing millions bom or raised as 

homosexuals—is forced to cower and skulk like a German Jew of 

the '30s. Although at least as numerous as black Americans, and 

innocent, as homosexuals, of every crime save one denounced 

purely on Biblical grounds by the jurists of the time of Henry II, 

gays are still hounded from pillar to post by the watchdogs of 

American society. As children they are humiliated, beaten, even 

turned out of their homes. As adults, insult and injury are added 

to insult and injury: exposed gays lose their jobs, their homes, 

their churches, their friends, their children, and, not infrequently, 

their very lives. 
This pattern of harassment and victimization is strikingly at 

odds with the way contemporary America likes to see itself. Ho¬ 

mophobia—better described as homo-hatred—is its blind spot. 

These days, America rebukes all bigotry, except that which it 

imagines is God's. Although sick with the very same sickness it 

despises in the Ku Klux Klan, straight America fails to see the 

connection: like a self-satisfied Quasimodo, it inspects its moral 

hump inthe mirror, smiles, and says, But on me it looks good. 

• P 


Under these conditions, too '^^^^^kinned gays 

take their ownJtves. Hate ^ it_«foU their arms and 

d«pa,r, and-*sthe suldde Bkes nnanv forma: soma 

eat their own flesh. addiction, others into camou- 


Still others, P identities as straig stages of 

public «.n« ,b. campaign .»,! ». *' 

“ ~ «• in high school aadly^ •* 

«, “iritmly. ins. lay d°'™ “^“crlca really d«"»nds',ha'' 
« of »«.*• ^ »>“> «waic gaV* K» '” 

one way or another. con' with a problem is to denV ‘ 
exist The easiest means of deal g ^ burden of upholding 

there is one. And so, *e nat^ q the backs of gays them- 
the Big Lie—that gays are rare freaks 

selvCS' • i herause they want so desperately to fit in. 
Perhaps precisely becau‘ *J have a distressing tendency to 

members of W«^d “ o[ thelI oppress. Ga,s are no 

buy into the willingness, they have sus- 
exception. With varying q g nefessarv self-erasure. Just as 
tained the Big Lie through an all-too-necess Y 1%Qs s0 

blacks allowed whites to render them mvisib - 
havegays made of themselves 'invisible men (and women). ^ 

avery lew years ago, 'gay rights' was a non-issue m Amen an 

history, simply because, in effect, whenever the roll was called, 

there were no gays to speak up! 
Consequently, gays are assumed to be quite rare. Although, 

when polled, the average American now estimates the proportion 

of gays in the general population at roughly 10 percent—which is 

quite correct—he is only parroting back a much-bandied-about 

and, to him, meaningless statistic. He doesn't understand its impli¬ 

cations, and certainly doesn't believe that that '10 percent lives 

anywhere near him, still less that it might include some of his 

friends and acquaintances. Rather, his belief is, 'Maybe 10 percent 

* It may anger bereaved parents who get wind of this, but we cannot help wondering, 

in this connection, just how much of the 'epidemic' of 'unexplained' suicides of teen¬ 
agers who were attractive, popular . . . with everything to live for' could be ex¬ 
plained, if truth were known, as the result of hidden homosexuality, guilt, and, finally, 

despair. As the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power has declared, Silence can, indeed, 
equal Death. 

nationally, but not in my backyard!' As a telling sign, a 1985 Los 

Angeles Times survey showed that over 50 percent of Americans 

believe that they are not personally acquainted with even one gay 

person . . . which is, of course, statistically preposterous. In John 

Reid's autobiographical The Best Little Boy in the World, the closeted 

protagonist's father constitutes an example of this sort of invinci¬ 

ble ignorance; when asked about homosexuals, he notes that, 

"Thank God, those sick, twisted people are very few." 

Matters aren't helped by gays' own perfectly natural recogni¬ 

tion of the expedience of obliging this national ignorance. As a 

lesbian from a small town in Tennessee recently explained in The 

Advocate, "It makes life a whole lot easier. We don't get our church 

burned down, we don't get our bar burned down, and less people 

are murdered on the streets as a result of being quiet about our 

lifestyles." For gays and straights alike, mum's the word. 

It is not, however, as though straights were not repeatedly 

given broad, heavy-handed hints, by television glimpses of 

throngs at gay pride marches and so forth, that the Big Lie is just 

that. But they don't take the hint; they need to believe in the 

rarity and—by illogical extension-illegitimacy, of any way of 

life, any thoughts or feelings, other than their own. In psychiatric 

terms this is 'denial of reality,' a mark of serious mental illness 

when it occurs in individuals. Any society that flatly denies the 

" h, one 0, mo citizens In every ten have strong homosettual 

M esi and structures to laws and values around .has dental, ts, 
interests, an illness leaves the citizenry 

tum- twnv rarefullv for a moment about just how 
We'd like you to think car y reaily is. We are all so 

peculiar and appalling thissoa* . hard t0 see it 
used to the present state »>»> s th ^ ^ ^ ,Bbowl. 

afresh, as hard as for ai goldfish to P homM„0,my 



into a single closet. The circumstance is grotesque, foul, and ab- 

SUWeve noted that the majority of Americans are sick on this 

issue Although they believe in a Big Lie, they are not liars in the 

full, deliberate, and morally culpable sense. The same cannot be 

said of certain Americans in positions of power who are fully 

aware of their lying and fully responsible for its consequences. 

Knowing the truth—that, in denying gays' existence, they impose 

untold misery upon millions of citizens—they manufacture, nev¬ 

ertheless, a clumsy, creaking, heavily orchestrated social false¬ 

hood. They are judges and politicos, government bureaucrats and 

their hired thugs, unctuous televangelists—may they fry in their 

own unction!—and even certain beer manufacturers, each ladling 

out hypocrisy by the metric ton. Theirs is, frankly, the sort of 

exaggerated and hollow joke one might expect more readily from 

Orwell's Ministry of Truth than from the institutions of American 

democracy. And we think the joke stinks. 


zt: anaiw — 
As with gays, there is roughly one left hanH»,t 9 * 

ica for every nine right-hanL/. f handed Person in Amer- 

find themselves born into a world" ^ ‘m*8inary societV' Lefties' 

and even being left-handed, are reWlId le^handed behavior, 

gal in half 0f them! The sight of a “ fif*Y States' and iHe- 

hand arouses a storm of disgust Wriling With his left 

S° WIth hls bare' unwashed foot Such*1 °Ugh ^ leftY had done 

,Shed Sti% bY - - with m^ ~ehaViW iS - 
S tacin8 ejection from 

4 - m 

v,:t ;r “h“«, s* -* 
ti lefto, southpaw, and Queer' Rpfnrp 

call ole 0Wrr ,0 knOW ”hat they «ww™ lean,.» 
, a/° Cr ^ l^ese names. They invent silly little 'telltale 

sjgns of hidden left-handedness, and try to catch' onfanlt 
showing these signs. 

Boys, especially, seem obsessed with left-handedness, left-bait¬ 

ing, and left-bashing. Liberal psychologists allege that this is be¬ 

cause nearly 40 percent of all males are drawn to commit left- 

handed behavior at least once in their life—usually while still 

young, perhaps while drunk ( God, was I drunk last night! I didn't 

even know which hand I was using!')—and spend the rest of their 

lives hiding that fact by viciously persecuting open Lefties. Some 

psychologists go so far as to claim that all humans are 'polydex- 

trously perverse/ potentially ambidextrous. (In fact, in the daring 

70s it was almost fashionable to claim that one was 'ambi.') 

Raving and waving their scriptures, Judeo-Christian leaders en¬ 

courage discrimination against Lefties, because some old Testa¬ 

ment or other views left-handedness as the mark of Cain: 'For it is 

an abomination before God that a man shall do with his left hand 

what he would do with his right.' Right-handedness is the only 

normal and natural way for humans to be, reason the preachers, 

and this is self-evident: why else would the right hand be called 

the right hand? Conservative homiletics is especially fond of iden¬ 

tifying 'Lefties' with 'leftists/ (But, strangely enough, despite all 

this excoriation, every so often another fundamentalist minister is 

caught in a motel room with an underaged youth—teaching him 

to scribble with his left hand.) 
Some of the more forgiving churches have taken a lenient 

stand: they will permit the left-handed to remain in their congre¬ 

gations so long as these unfortunates renounce vile, left-handed 

practices. Love the sinner, hate the sin! After all, it is plainly 


purs„i, o( the godforsaken left, IW* 'ha, makes these creatures 

"C£ S5S»ho feefs d,a»n .0 the use of the left hand 
(The American Psychodramalics Association reports that most 

these pariahs secrelly recognize their peculiarity from an early 

age.) Pubescent male Lefties fear the coming high school and col¬ 

lege years, when their peers will expect them to be aggressive, 

strong, and graceful at right-handed sports. Instead, they are pain- 

fully awkward—just 'shy/ some say—and rumors begin to circu¬ 

late. Left-handed girls privately wince when their girlfriends chat 

excitedly about the cutest boy in the class:. . and did you no¬ 

tice the size of his right hand?' 

Bit by bit, therefore, young Lefties come to realize that they are 

outcasts in American society. They spend countless lonely hours 

wondering: are they the only ones? What went wrong with them? 

Were they, so to speak, bom on the left-hand side of the bed, or did 

something in their home life produce this disaster? 

Unable to face a future of deception or shame, some Lefties kill 

themselves. Others seek out physical 'therapy/ hoping to be 'con¬ 

verted' to right-handedness through aversive conditioning with 

electrical shocks. Still others deliberately marry right-handed peo- 

pie, raise children (hoping anxiously their kids will 'turn out 

nghti), and plunge themselves into careers requiring a lot of dex- 

ti//78 3 SmaU bUt 8r°Wing Segment of these left-handed vie- 

-xrit xr xr t nr 
hand still love letters? (Not «?h u 1 Wite wit^ mY ^ 

sincere gestures of my faith’ Why amY ^ ^ hand StU1 
ness I came by naturally? ’ Persecuted for a handed- 

Eventually, in our allegorical Am • 

galled Lefty Liberation Quietl^f/' qUeSti°nS lead t0 

publish magazines extolling the gauch” dUbS 3nd 
gauche way of life. Stories of 

are gloved Lefties in positions of national prominence and power 

rife. Lefties note proudly their overrepresentation among the 

world's greatest artists and writers. With breathless enthusiasm, 

they point out that in other, more progressive parts of the world, 

such as Western Europe, citizens are not only allowed but encour¬ 

aged to drive on the left-hand side of the road. 

As time passes, the sheer number of left-handed Americans cre¬ 

ates a thriving hidden economy catering to their tastes and needs. 

In Greenwich Village—America's 'Left Bank'—little boutiques pop 

up, selling clothing and implements designed especially for the 

convenience and 'kinky' enjoyment of Lefties. Gradually, police, 

politicians, and public get wind of these developments, in a vague 

way, but generally cause little trouble for Lefties unless they be¬ 

come too 'overt' or 'militant.' 

Then—just when it seems that discrimination against Lefties is 

waning—Acquired Dextral Degeneration Syndrome strikes Amer¬ 

ica. First-paralyzing the muscles of the hand, then spreading fa- 

tally throughout the body, ADDS is caused by a small, burrowing 

worm transmitted via handshakes. To their disastrous discredit, 

ADDS spreads first among Lefties, who are fond of 'gladhanding 

frequently and warmly-naturally. with their left hands. Now the 

'Lefty Plague’ begins to spread rapidly through rig t an e 

ing, as well, and the public reacts with a vengeance. Once again, 

oppression and left-hating violence are on the rise. 

t nf 'T efties' ridiculous? Yes. Is their 
Three questions: Is our Certainly. is this allegory of 

invented plight pathetic an • the reality 

gay life in‘ fear, and feeb 

isn’t amusing, either. mutilated spirits, mutilated 


Main Street with ugly 

i a privates down Main Mi 
Still, it marches its shnve e ^ ^ pew dare. 



Homophobia or homo-/ui^Does U make a differ ^ 

To make a point, an exasp demanded, "How many legs 

rupted his quibbling Ca met an five," replied the 

3 OmpTm ^similar/Homophobia' is a comforting word, isn't 

it. It suggests that our enemies, all who oppose, threaten^ and 

persecute us . . . are actually scared of us! If we must be hated, 

it's comforting to imagine that we have, at the very least, the 

power to inspire fear. The very term phobia' ridicules our ene¬ 

mies (and intentionally so), evoking images many would find 

comical, such as the old lady standing on the dining-room table, 

hiking up her skirts, and shrieking—at a mere mouse. 

The trouble with this, as with so many 'empowering' euphe¬ 

misms—like 'alternatively' enabled for 'disabled'—is that it s false 

and misleading, lulling us into complacency rather than rousing 

us to necessary action. The implications of this comforting distor¬ 

tion go something like this: if we inspire fear, we must be strong, 

and our enemies weak. Therefore, we needn't take our enemies 

seriously. In the words of Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman, 

"What, me worry?" 

But is it phobia, or is it hatred? Common sense tells us that 

many of our enemies come by their queerbashing actions the old- 

fashioned way: by hating. Fear need have nothing to do with it. A 

well-designed 1985 study by researchers S. Shields and R. Harri- 

man proved this quite nicely, demonstrating that although some 

homonegative" males respond to homosexual stimuli with the 

'tell-tale (racing) heart' of phobia, plenty of others don't. 

Clearly, when we call our enemies 'homophobes/ we run the 

risk of underestimating them, which is a big mistake. Worse, the 

specious 'diagnosis' suggests an equally specious 'cure': that if 

straights just got to know us, they'd necessarily get over their fear 

—which, as with fear of tarantulas, is simply not true. 

No, Lincoln was right, after all: a tail may equal a leg in the 

realm of metaphor, but not when you're carving the beast for a 

stew. Gays are in quite a stew, and we insist on calling the ingredi¬ 

ents by their right names, not by medically exculpatory euphe¬ 

misms. Let's reserve the term 'homophobia' for the psychiatric 

cases to which it really applies, and find a more honest label for 

the attitudes, words, and acts of hatred that are, in any event, our 

real problem. (After all, if it never actually said or did anything 

about it, straight America could hate us until the cows came 

homet for all that we'd care!) 
We've.cast about in vain for a term that would, at once, (a) 

clearly signify 'homo-hatred' for the layman, (b) satisfy the ped¬ 

ant's demand for etymological consistency, and (c) for everyone, 

look as impressively scientistic and clinical as the term homopho¬ 

bia.' Well, Greek roots failed us; 'homomisia' would be etymologi¬ 

cally satisfactory, but it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing 

-and it ain’t. The plain English has the advantage of beingI blunt 

MMtf it is. and a ditty sock b, any other name would smell 

3S S°Ur nn therefore when we really do mean fear of 

n—■■ n 
hatred of homosexuals, , , vye urge the reader 
rv„_hatred.' 'homohating,' and 'homohaters. We urge 

to follow suit. 


the insl'RMol;ntabi'E 
A1DS; Opportunity 

_nt. crisis of American homosex- 
We have spoken of the Perman^_^ come to a head 

uality. But in truth, th hanks t0 the deadly spread of 
during the 1990s, thanks-but- h ^ Though the crisis 

AIDS in the gay commum y in history has 

may not end, it must *****s0 mortal, s0 relent- 

there been a disease simu taneou regulation is so nearly 

less—and transmitted in a mann fabric of society, 

impossible without massive , surface of 

" tssri«. -r 
dear: like Godzilla meeting King Kong, AIDS will confront the Big 

Lie—and bash it to bits. 
The confrontation is, of course, under way. Americans, sur¬ 

rounded by the carnage of AIDS-at this point still mainly a 'gay 

disease —cannot escape the conclusion that this is because they 

are, and have always been, surrounded also by gays. As friends, 

relatives, and admired celebrities fall down dead on all sides, 

straights are being forced to admit, for the first time, that homo¬ 

sexuality is more widespread than they'd ever dreamed. Legions 

of blue-haired American matrons who had previously managed 

the really staggering balancing act of hating faggy men while ador¬ 

ing their hairdressers are being forced, kicking and screaming, to 

add two and two to arrive, not at four but at a big, queer three. 

Ironically, gay activists used to wish that every gay person in 

America would turn lavender for a day, so that straights would be 

made to recognize their vast numbers. Now this ill-considered 

wish is, in effect, coming true—at least for gay men—through the 

gruesome agency of Kaposi's purple lesions. 

Thus, AIDS presents us with what Pogo once termed “an insur¬ 
mountable opportunity." The disease has brought us unprece- 

dented public recognition and along, of course, with a blast of 

increased hatred—a gratifying sympathy. It remains unclear 

whether we can and will turn this attention and sympathy into 
progress for gay rights. 

By its very nature, the unwelcome 'opportunity' of AIDS puts us 

at a crossroads where we cannot dawdle for long. Even if we do 

not mobilize for action, the impact of the disease will shove us 

willy-nilly down one path or the other. As the death toll rises to 

the quarter-million mark in the early 1990s, gays fighting for their 

rights will see either significant victory or utter collapse before a 

wave of renewed oppression, violence, shame, and mass panic 

such as few would think possible in America. 

The AIDS avalanche could slide in either direction. Public rec¬ 

ognition of the formerly invisible gay community has finally 

come, but in an atmosphere of dread. Public sympathy is partly 

genuine, partly pro forma,, and always intertwined with moralistic 

revulsion. Furthermore, whatever derived attention and sympa¬ 

thy we now enjoy cannot last much longer: the so-called gay 

men's health crisis will lose its special claim to the limelight as the 

disease spreads among the general population. 

For these reasons, AIDS, though a loose cannon, is a cannon 

indeed. As cynical as it may seem, AIDS gives us a chance, how- 

ever brief, to establish ourselves as a victimized minority legiti¬ 

mately deserving of America's special protection and care. At the 

same time, it generates mass hysteria of precisely the sort that has 

brought about public stonings and leper colonies since the Dark 

Ages and before; it has already produced a striking increase in 

"^"^uestt.n - .He challenge: How can we 

surmount on, insurmountable' 

mice the sympathy and mmuniae the lea - How 8 

hand ,ha, AIDS has deal. ns. can, w bes Uy ■ > ^ 

hand. AIDS is .dually conqneted . ^ ^ 

can wc position ourselves to a loward gays that might 




once more 

spread until 

il society is profound y inevitabie scapegoating? 

uvg „.. prow »“Ise'VeS,1f acing future. If you think we 
Daunting tfuestious. a “ ^ wilI summ<m up ample evt- 

overstate the menace, re - backlash. If. instead, you feel 

dance of the threat - “'Whether there, even an, 
overcome with gloom. rival conditions are 

f-> '»reading on. we protnue ^rt^Jjej t0 toro our predica- 
„ot hopeless, and that there PP mi|| ire a clear 

ZZ; p'th"ly we 
T ver, people were trying to help, the only ahernattve to a 
sensible plan is more gay suicide. 

The campaign we outline in this book, though complex, de¬ 

pends centrally upon a program of unabashed propaganda, firm y 

grounded in long-established principles of psychology and adver- 

tising. Some readers will be disappointed with the seemingly tame 

idea of a propaganda campaign; they'd rather 'storm the barri¬ 

cades/ or at least parade defiantly in pink cha-cha heels on the 

next Gay Pride Day. Alas—in a way, we, too, would like to storm 

some barricades, but such tactics have proven themselves imprac¬ 

tical-ineffective or even harmful—and their day is past. After all, 

it is hostile public opinion that has thwarted the gay movement at 

every turn, so it is hostile public opinion that we must address. 

Does this seem boring? If so, make no mistake: in its own way, 

this will be a 'hot' campaign, with all the excitement and theatrics 

of any other approach—and with a better chance of at least partial 
Cl l 

In all candor, we re not convinced that the whole of our scheme 

will work as intended. Some elements, though potentially highly 

effective, will probably be rejected by gays out of hand, because 

they require too much effort or too much discipline or too much 

self-restraint or too much money or because, as Oscar Wilde once 

dismissed socialism, their accomplishment would take up too 

many nice evenings. To be blunt, we can only recommend. It is 

up to you, fearless reader, to act. 

pjBB^ 1 


A FIELD trip Tq 



. o O o 
UP AGAINST IT Consider what gays are up against: the wall. It stretches high 

and broad, like the Great Wall of China, across the full 

expanse of American society. Today there is almost no so¬ 

cial interaction between straights and gays wherein the latter can 

safely ignore the barricade of dislike and fear which separates 

them from the rest. In the first part of this book we seek to under¬ 

stand exactly what that wall is made of, so that, with the plan 

proposed in Part II, we can proceed to tear it down. 

For our purposes, homohatred and homophobia are best viewed 

from a detached, even unfamiliar distance (if one can manage it), 

because that's the best way to see the situation clearly—perhaps 

the way the Great Wall of China can be seen in its entirety only 

from outer space, or the way a visiting anthropologist would disin¬ 

terestedly record the folkways of a primitive culture. 

The goal here is to develop a list of negative things that straights 

believe and feel about gays—summarized as seven deadly myths 

-and harmful things that straights do to gays in consequence of 

after the ball 

those myths. This list of prejudices and harmful actions shall stand as 

only the symptoms and effects of 

homohatred, not its underlying causes. It catalogs the what, not 

the why. To understand the deep psychological roots of the prob¬ 

lem, the reader will have to wait until Chapter 2, which explains 
1 __1- —«U T to -an H f*»ar oavc in the first 

The distinction between the symptoms and the causes of 

homohatred is essential, yet the two are invariably confused by 

gay activists, who, consequently, approach the problem like the 

proverbial blind men groping their way around an elephant, fo¬ 

cusing on all the wrong things instead of the whole. This confu¬ 

sion has caused the gay avant-garde to mount clumsy, inconsis¬ 

tent attacks on the superficial symptoms of homohatred—and has 

caused them to address the items on our list in a piecemeal fash¬ 

ion—with only haphazard success. 

We have a different, and more systematic, approach. First we 

concern ourselves with getting the symptoms of homohatred/ho- 

mophobia down in a list. Our observations are grouped under two 
simple questions: 

• What exactly, do most straights think of gays? 
• How do they treat gays? 

America a r " 1 Uli un a neia tnP to heterosexual 

« ~;,c:,t'ont imo ,he i,vi"8— 
supposed opposition. M '°n't0 get 3 closer look at the 

The* maY feel pa- 

already know its blind spotTand h ^ in this society 

each gay person have straight fri T"8 °nly t0° Well? Doesn't 

""V gay 
expenences with amighJ. 

they are etched indelibly, like red scrimshaw, on his heart. No, 

though valid, those personal experiences are not necessarily repre¬ 

sentative of the big picture of gay life in America today. 

Personal experiences may not even be typical. For instance, 

based on their own lives within the social ceasefire zones of Amer¬ 

ica's larger cities, many ghettoized homosexuals have come to 

imagine that heterosexuals across the nation are more tolerant 

today than they really are. (A Greenwich Village troglodyte, not 

long ago, earnestly assured the New York Times, "Now the vast 

majority understands that to shun gay people is wrong.") Such 

gays have evidently forgotten about blue-collar and rural Amer¬ 

ica, about the Midwest and the South. Most ghetto gays have 

either never been to Texas, Maine, Alabama, or Kansas, or else, 

like Dorothy in Oz, they've been swept up dizzily in the cyclone of 

urban gay life and, in the process, have come down with amnesia 

about whence they came. 
If forewarned is forearmed, such refugees from the heartland 

had best hop aboard the bus for our field trip back to Kansas, with 

their ruby slippers and Toto too. 


. arel the filthiest, dirtiest human beings on the 

"'Tr^rt - Imrf . to»n commissioner from Traverse 
face of the earth, He then explained, 

CUV. Michigan.,».hesome.hing he once 
in defense, that h.s opinions ^ because j don't know 

read about gays. They are n P t0 know any- 

anything about homosexuals, and 

thing- ’ . t understand: straights know very 
This is the first point foi^gays to ^ ^ ^ te. Because 

little about homosexuality an P bing__in any but titillat- 

they hnd .he simpiy P- » - - “ 
ingly small doses-most heter _____ 

after the ball 

their school days, and lurid news stories; and, for most straights, 

that is enough. More direct exposure to homosexuality or homo- 

sexuals—say, during a trip to Rudy's Salon for Fabulous Hair, or to 

see a film with a kinky gay subplot—is merely brushed aside, 

since straights will go to great lengths not to think about such 

Straight indifference to, or avoidance of, the subject is hard for 

gays to bear in mind, since they perforce must think about their 

sexual and social predicament daily. Still, gays who come out to 

their family or straight friends often experience such shunning of 

the subject firsthand. After the initial brutal or tearful confronta¬ 

tions with loved ones, the topic of homosexuality somehow has a 

way of slipping silently, awkwardly off the menu of discussable 

subjects. "You're homosexual?," said a straight friend, "O.K., that's 

your business. But I'd rather not hear the details, if you don't 

mind. And please don't invite me to visit a gay bar with you; I'm 

not ready for that." (And as the years went by, this friend was 
never to prove ready.) 

Observing American society as a whole, its refusal to think too 

much about homosexuality takes on the appearance of deliberate 

*°Dnr; Wha' We earlier cal|ed the Big Lie-the nationwide 

T P lha'ln Ame™ >» really no gays ,peak 

ont - * —* 

ways both small and big-everythtaTf ^ 8? eVCntS' in 
gay speakers' posters on collet 8 ^ the tearing down of 

Washington Post to cover a large ^ rCfUSaI by the 
nation's capital some years back. ? ^ ce,ebrati°n in the 

-tsThe^^cr^rficance °f gay pubHc 

ing in the momentous Gay & Lesbian March on Washington dur¬ 

ing October 9-12, 1987. If, as the most reliable gay-news sources 

maintained, the number of demonstrators totaled roughly half a 

million, then the event rivaled the largest civil rights marches of 

the sixties. At least the Times put the news of "200,000 protesters" 

on page one: not a single word about the event appeared in the 

nation's two largest newsweeklies, Time and Newsweek. Theirs was 

so blatant a breach of reporting standards that, had any other 

minority's mass demonstration been likewise neglected, the omis¬ 

sion itself would have become the big news story. 

While the press's coverage of gay news is inadequate, even this 

scant attention is more than enough for most Americans. In an 

ABC News survey conducted in 1984, for instance, fully half of 

the public felt that the broadcast press gives altogether too much 

attention to gays. As a conservative columnist has complained 

acidly, homosexuals have always been around, of course, but, like 

children, should be seen and not heard. 
One also observes the profound reluctance of society to engage in 

public discussion of issues that concern gays, such as homohatmg vio¬ 

lence and AIDS. Indeed, there can be only one reason why it took 

President Ronald Reagan four years of epidemic to ^ertheword 

AIDS' for the first time in public—years during 

thousand citizens fell ill and some six thousand ^ ^ 

knew that broaching the subject would require that he ac 
c loro#* And crowing number ot gay 

edge publicly the existence related disease. Homosexual- 
Americans suffering from a sexua ^ ^ a$ 1987 vice-Presi- 

itY remains such 3 tkJS tQ confess that there was still a "giggling 
dentBush.feltAs one aide to 

factor " about AIDSjf;gnck Kemp observed with irony, "Every- 
right-wing congressman ac P combines homosexual- 

UyC LxuaMiserse°and death^atters in which most of us wish to 


power to stimulate dangerous thoughts and deeds, most educators 

have not been eager to expand their pupils' vocabulary. I ve 

talked to school superintendents around the country/' one educa¬ 

tor from Montgomery, Alabama, told the New York Times and 

they don't want AIDS education to broach homosexuality or safe 

sex practices. As far as they are concerned, that's unconscionable." 

Arch-conservative pundit Phyllis Schlafly expressed the same sen¬ 

timent in more inflammatory terms: "The American people will 

not put up with teaching safe sodomy in the classroom." So, be¬ 

cause a blanket of silence continues to smother the subject, whis¬ 

pering little boys and girls are left, on the playground during re¬ 

cess, to teach one another their stereotypic myths and unschooled 

prejudices about 'faggots' and 'queers.' 

Just as the American public will not educate its children, nei¬ 

ther will it educate itself about homosexuality. Straight Americans 

do not care to read serious treatments of gay life. This also holds true for 
straight literary critics, who have little good to say about the bur¬ 

geoning genre of gay literature.' Reviewing a gay novel, one book 

critic for the Wall Street Journal recently carped that the love that 

aNonWPe,ak '11 name h3S beC°me "the love that can't shut up." 

Psycholog^Therapy^sectfon!1 even tho^h f USUa‘lY 
elude works of fiction historv • U@h Gay Studies may in¬ 
well as psychology. ' S°CI° 0gY' or Political science, as 

interest in that to be see“ showing 

‘heir sexual proclivities. In control " COnclude about 

male would harbor fears 0f ve2rZ ^ n0rmal white 
venturing into the Black Studies or 

Women s Studies aisle; no one is likely to conclude that he's se¬ 

cretly black or female. One might, on the other hand, wonder 

about the fellow in the Psychology aisle who is perusing a book 

about sexual impotence. And, in exactly the same way, the Gay 

Studies shelf has come to be regarded as a kinky apothecary of 

psychotherapeutic self-help remedies and aphrodisiac romances 

written exclusively for gays themselves. So straights stay the hell 

away. And learn nothing. 

Neglect of Gays in Mass Culture. Indeed, if straights were to leam 

anything about gays, it would not be in schoolrooms or from seri¬ 

ous books: it would be from mass entertainments like television 

shows, films, and plays. But heterosexuals do not want to watch homo¬ 

sexuality portrayed in their mass entertainments with any frequency. 

Most straights haven't the patience to watch sustained portrayals 

of gay characters in television series, for example, even though 

such portrayals could provide genuine education, and help 

counteract the two-dimensional cardboard stereotypes one usually 

sees whenever gays are introduced briefly on TV shows and in 

Of course, there have always been public entertainments which 

featured clownish homosexual men (but, significantly, seldom les- 

bians) for comic effect. Homosexuals are least frightening to 

straights when portrayed, like Step'N Fetchit, as harmless, childish 

r„ST, The L and Broadway hi. U <*. -» Me 
Z hoary formula and prospered in .he 1980s. (Though, as Roben 

“ored in -he 

*.«* - * - 
U ** e* Me « ‘ ™ "he mcen, spa.e .1 

Bu. .he public has shorn, mK ^ ,h<mes. These have 

TV shows and movies wi of and/or (2) 

fea.ured .wo subject 01 musi agonize over .heir 

AFTER the ball 

itches to indulge diaphanous fig leaf of social 

stands that sexual exotica attract jaded viewers. (Surely this 

relevance is always a sure ABC's abrupt—and encouraging 

was one motive behind lowra e f prjme-time dramas in 

« - hte ,he 
highway. ThI public's patience and voyeurism tend to wear t 

when gay characters are made likable leading c ara^ e^ 

shows Early 1980s sitcoms, such as love, Sidney-which was to 

have featured a kindly, avuncular gay man residing with a 

woman and her daughter-were muzzled from the start by pro¬ 

testing conservatives. On the other hand, the long-running eve¬ 

ning soap opera Dynasty made sensational headlines by introduc¬ 

ing the leading character of a handsome, masculine boy who 

struggled valiantly, episode after tiresome episode, to resolve his 


What, then, was the key difference between these two series? In 

the first, homosexuality was portrayed as a permanent condition, 

while in the second it was portrayed as a big but temporary prob¬ 

lem to be resolved. The public is bothered by the portrayal of 

homosexuality as a settled fact of life but rather enjoys watching it 

portrayed as a disease or mental illness from which the victim 
will either perish or recover. 

This distinction between homosexuality as problem and condition 

is crucial to the way in which straights think—when they do— 

about the subject. By definition, a problem both admits of, and 

requires, a solution. A condition, on the other hand is nnt cnhiprt 

to solution: it is simply an aspect of life that must be accommo¬ 

dated. You needn t think too much about a problem until it di¬ 

rectly confronts you, whereupon you solve it, then turn your at¬ 

tention elsewhere. But a permanent condition may require your 

permanent tolerance; you must come to terms with it practically, 

psychologically, and somehow morally. Homosexuality in Amer¬ 

ica should be recognized as a condition but instead is still per¬ 

ceived as a problem. 

No wonder TV writers continue to let Steven teeter-totter on the 

fence, without settling into gayness. If he ever falls for homosexu¬ 

ality permanently, they'll face some mighty irate viewers. “The 

public is happy the writers have dropped Steven's 'gay' character, 

especially with the AIDS scare," gushed one delighted fan in the 

Star after one of randy Steven's straighter episodes, "Now that he 

is straight, keep him that way and have him remarry Sammy Jo." 

(Sorry, Sammy Jo is not another boy.) 
Viewing homosexuality as a problem rather than a condition, 

straight*, offer advice to gay America: why not be done with this 

homosexual stuff once and for all? Let life imitate TV art: just get 

over it and remarry Sammy Jo. And if you stubbornly resist, then 

we'll have no choice but to switch channels to a more wholesome 

and believable show, like MacMillan and Wife. 
There Are No Gay Heroes. Which brings us to the matter of Rock 

Hudson and other all-American heroes who happen to* be gay- 

just as straights don't like to see homosexuality portrayed in the r 
just as sirai&ii ish t0 contemplate it 
mass entertainments, neither do >’ havt com w ad- 

ztjs “ - ~ ~—- -" 
delusion, and even collusion in ^ Hollywood's in¬ 

actively homosexual 1 s0 many other famous gay actors, 
tramacho leading man, b . and even entered an ar- 

had hidden the fact rom hjs reputation. When 

confidentially, in ■« -» ** 

after the ball 

« in Holly»<xxl were Hudson Whew, 

Too many for me to name. If you mean gay, or bisexual 

I maybe most . . . »ust me, . . • America does no, want to 

As it turned out, Rock was right: America did not want to know. 

Shortly before his death from AIDS in 1985, Hudson contracted 

with a publisher and coauthor to tell the story of his life, homo¬ 

sexuality and all. When the book (like its subject) came out, the 

coauthor, Sara Davidson, went on promotional tour and was ap¬ 

palled by her book's incredulous and resentful reception. Writing 

in the New York Times Magazine about her experiences on tour, 

Davidson said she had "underestimated how devastating it would 

be for many to learn that a star they had cherished as a symbol of 

manliness was gay." She was astounded when asked repeatedly 

by reproachful reporters across the country, "Do we need to know 

the truth about Rock Hudson?" Davidson said that the low point 

in her tour came during a talk show stint in Detroit, when an 

entertainment columnist implied that "the book was 'fiction' and 

that Rock wasn't gay . . . The audience cheered." 

In reaction to Davidson's article recounting these experiences, a 

disgruntled reader wrote back, “It may be the writer's job . . to 

seek out the truth,' but who wants to know? Leave some heroes 
untarnished for us to foolishly admire." 

The myth that there is no significant homosexuality in the 

American character (hence none in its heroes) is being abetted in 

turn—-tha^Rock Tl**' denid °f “ awkwaTd da 

have T C°U,d hi$ milH0nS °f 

were comforted bv his nn.r A ter Hudson s death, they 

claimed reassuringly in her autobio1' fhylllS Gates' who Pr<> 

that, with her. Rock had been “a n ^ ^ news interv>ews 

entertainer, the flamboyant pianist Liberace, who died from AIDS 

in 1987. Liberace turned ultra-campy effeminacy into a schtick, 

and the public, for the most part, loved it. They bought his 

records, swarmed to his performances, and made him very, very 

rich. In the conservative 1950s, Liberace became television's first 

matinee idol, with a syndicated show carried by more stations 

than 1 Lave Lucy. Even after an embarrassing and much-publicized 

palimony suit for $113 million was filed against him in 1982 by 

his self-alleged lover Scott Thorson, Liberace denied all accusa¬ 

tions and remained popular. 

How did he pull it off? With the help of his fans, no doubt, who 

chose not to recognize in him what any ordinary person might 

have considered obvious and otherwise discreditable. Liberace 

was not exactly, crudely homosexual, they seem to have told 

themselves with a wink. Rather, Liberace was Liberace, an eccen¬ 

trically lovable character, a harmless, sexless one-of-a-kind. In 

viewing him this way, the pianist's elderly fans could avert the 

repugnant issue of homosexuality while enjoying Liberace s show¬ 

manship and his music. Ironically, they would probably have had 

a much harder time stomaching Liberace if they'd met him as a 

stranger on the street. But then, straights would hardly expect to 

meet anyone like Liberace on the street because . . 




around the country- , was interested 

MR. THURMOND: Ten thousand memben^ ^ ^ „ 

°rp»d in m. » 3£S»S«W. »£ 

sZ Th« O. m. Norn .1««■* 

after the ball 

the Supreme Court. 

depth interviews, on the incidence of homosexual*experience 

among American men and women. Their survey method had mi¬ 

nor flaws and the results are now, in any case, dated, since the.r 

research ended years before the‘sexual revolution of the 60s and 

70s got under way. Still the Kinsey surveys provide the most 

reliable data yet available on this sensitive topic. The Institute 

found that quite a large proportion of the public—roughly one in 
rs _ 1_J la^rt CAW At/Prtlv 

homosexual experience between their teen years and middle age, 

and, for many of these, such experience has been rather more 

than incidental. Some 21% of white college-educated men an(l 7% 

of white college-educated women report having had sex with two 

or more persons of their own gender, and/or having had gay sex 

six or more times. Percentages for noncollege white men and 

women are 28% and 5%, respectively. Fewer blacks report such 

extensive gay experience; e.g., only 16% of black college men and 

3% of black college women. Across the board, for some reason, 

homosexually inclined males seem to outnumber their female 

counterparts by two or three to one (which is, incidentally, why 

this book so often is actually speaking of gay men when generaliz¬ 
ing about the ‘gay community').1 

uomosexuauy experienced individuals W> In 
our society, where getting caught in the act just once can brand a 

person for life as a 'homo,' it is tempting to say yes Certainly 

- p 

situation: people array themselves along a spectrum ranging from 

exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. If we must 

draw the line somewhere and pick a specific percentage for propa¬ 

ganda purposes, we may as well stick with the solidly conserva¬ 

tive figure suggested by Kinsey decades ago: taking men and 

women together, at least 10% of the populace has demonstrated its 

homosexual proclivities so extensively that that proportion may reasonably 

be called 'gay/ But we stress that this figure is, if anything, an 

underestimate. When the Los Angeles Times conducted a national 

poll by telephone in December 1985, fully 10% of those who an¬ 

swered the question described themselves as "gay"; one can only 

imagine how many more actually saw themselves as gay but de¬ 

clined to admit this to a complete stranger, under suspicious cir¬ 

cumstances, on the telephone. 

So much for the hard facts. Now, does the general public under¬ 

stand them? Straight awareness of the size of the gay population 

exists in a weird psychological twilight, half there and half absent, 

known and yet not known. The public's estimates of the number 

of gays in its midst range widely. Based on their personal expen- 

ence, most straights probably would put the gay population at 1% 
or 2% of the general population. Yet, Senator Thurmond's quaint 

ignorance notwithstanding, when straights are asked by poto 

for a formal estimate, the figure played back most often is the 

gay' statistic which our propagandists have been drilling into the 

hCD0 Overly encouraged ^ 

straights show no real understanding of every ten people they 

means. Although it implies t a exual more than half of all 

know well is predomman Y(according to the L.A. Times 
straight Americans continue ^ nQt personally acquainted 

poll we just mentioned) th Y { maybe-but not of my 

with any gays- It's a case 0 * would undoubtedly find it 
friends." Many if not Rights ^ my nearly as 


after THEBAU 

stMlgWS do no. 0PP.«» “• 

Nor, we suppose, do smug 24 milljon l0 25 million 

absolute numbers, that there ^ ag0S races, and creeds, 

homosexual Americans of jn fact. aS the total popula- 

That's a whopping big num ' many gays in the United 

tion of California. It means the Denmark. Austri- 

*- “theK When we make 

sixty-nine. When we further point out that the social lraurT| 

^orientation directly touches the lives of more than erne third 

of the American populace (25 million gays, their 50 million par¬ 

ents, plus countless siblings), our friends look downright queasy. 

And no wonder this is news to straights: the fact that there are 

teeming millions of American gays has been suppressed to corrob¬ 

orate the Big Lie. We've noticed that this fact is spookily absent 
.. . . . i. . c__1:1 ifoctnlp in thp 

mainstream press; nor is it to be found even in textbooks on 
American history, culture, or demography. Sometimes this omis¬ 
sion is conscious and deliberate, as when, for example, a major 
Boston publishing house recently excised from a new high school 
history text the neutral observation that there are "millions" of 
homosexual citizens in the United States. The publisher feared 
that inclusion of this mild statement would cause the entire text to 
be rejected by incredulous school boards across the South. Thus 
the Big Lie perpetuates itself. 

Society similarly refuses to recognize the heavy concentration 
of gays within its esteemed core institutions, its government and 
churches. For instance, the public both knows and yet refuses to 
know that gays make up a disproportionately large part-proba- 

bly one third to one half—of the Catholic and Episcopalian clergy. 

So when this is asserted candidly by the press or by clergy them¬ 

selves, ruffled members of the flock put up a flap: typically, one 

angry parishioner, writing in the Boston Globe, recently dismissed 

the claim as a "bizarre assertion," an "utterly incredible sugges¬ 

tion," and a "deliberate and systematic attack" on the church. 

Anxious church leaders likewise repudiate the allegation with 

heated rhetoric (but how would they know?)—and so, quite will¬ 

fully, the blind lead the blind. One can almost see the three mon¬ 

keys settling into formation: see no evil, hear no evil, confess no 

You should grasp clearly why America's persistent underestima¬ 

tion of the number of homosexuals in its citizenry and core insti¬ 

tutions is so dangerous to the cause of civil rights. The public 

conflates two distinct senses of the word 'abnormal — infrequent 

and 'pathological'—into just one. In doing so, it unwittingly com¬ 

mits what philosophers call a naturalistic fallacy, judging the 

rightness of sexual conduct only by how often it occurs in nature. 

Literally, the more the better. As Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin 

explain dryly in their classic study Sexual Behavior m the Human 


_ ^ wh0 believe, as children do. that conformance 

individual who is unaware of the frequency wi 

ceptions to the supposed rule actually occur. 

o u.- „ rharce that homosexuality is 

z— *"6 ^,n - 

btBU, how can *. S»V 

acuviM *-• __——* ■ 

AFTER the ball 

i Atuaf yvc existed- how 

institutions were special needs. AIDS has 

many there were, a h public domain. 

brought all our issues fully into P ^ a conclusion that is 

Rofes is right about this, h ^ tQ fight for society to 

blithe and dangerous: We “ * d substantial community 
recognize that we are an we think gays must 

with a culture all our cm. Oa*£*J* ^ capacity not to 

never underestimate straig t so durin)? the AIDS epidemic, 

see them, to make them mvisi Vbecome real to straights, to ad- 

to living flesh and blood, even as^a 

vims threatens 10 transform our decimated community from 


The Big Lie that there are not many gays in America is further 

supported by the myth that all gays are easy to identify by their 

outward appearance and manner. 'Fags' and 'dykes, it is believed, 

can be identified by a short checklist of telltale signs so sirrtple, 

blatant, and unambiguous that most kids know them before they 

leave grade school. That relatively few gay people actually exhibit 

those 'telltale' signs—Kinsey's institute has estimated that only 

one in seven male and one in twenty female homosexuals are 

recognizable as such to the general public—reinforces straight 

America's misconception that its gay neighbors are very few in 

Once, while showering in the communal bathroom of his grad¬ 

uate school dormitory, one of the authors was cornered by a Mor- 

mon friend in what appeared, for an instant, to be a sexual ad¬ 

vance: stepping unnervingly close to the (closeted) author, the 

young man smiled knowingly and whispered, "Hunter, I've cot 

nawTolw810 1 tWnk JOTY'S 3 qUeer " JerrY was an ordi- 
nary-lookmg resident of the dorm who nonetheless exhibited on 

occasion, vaguely effeminate mannerism. When the au^or de 

something ebon, them Ota, give, them “ ”* iM‘ 

YnkTimnlh1 wu 3 BaY Manhattan P°U« officer told the j** 

nn a fiT, I tlmC WhCn hC 3nd an0ther offlcer had broken 
up a fight between two men. On the way back, his partner ob- 

serve , at younger man he s a homo." "How can you tell?" 

asked the covertly gay officer. "I can always spot them," came the 
confident reply. 

This blackly comic scenario, mutatis mutandis, has been experi¬ 
enced innumerable times by those many homosexuals who are 

not recognizably gay; sooner or later some straight friend will pull 

them aside and disgustedly point out a third person as a homosex¬ 

How can straights be so sure—and so wrong—so much of the 

time? JBecause their confident assessments are never checked 

against reality: there is no external authority to step in from the 

wings and affirm or repudiate their suspicions, nor is there any¬ 

one to point out when they have failed to recognize a gay person. 
The only evidence straights have to go on is the accumulated 

American folk wisdom about homosexuals. This amounts to a 

lengthy checklist of surefire, telltale signs which are, for the most 

part, misleading, silly, and irrelevant. Consider the following my¬ 

thology of gay attributes, culled from what weve overheard in the 

straight world. One is struck by the richness and complexity of the 

gay caricature that emerges. If a social myth' is defined as what 

the public is dreaming —as the mythologist Joseph Campbell has 

suggested-then it is apparent from the highly developed myths 

about gays that the shadow of homosexuality has haunted the 

public's dreams for a very long time. 
Telltale Signs: Gay Names. Let's ease into more serious matters of 

« *—-—- p““i” 

after the ball 

.. ... and whose detection and chastise- 
names have become linked, a ^ Qur male.0ri- 

ment have historically been male infants fix 

ented society) The the amount of harass- 
their sexual destinies—o Hardly a lad in 

"A Boy Named Sue/ 
Fatedly homosexual names include those which sound a b, too 

fancy (for example, Byron, Miles, or Guy), or those which lend 
themselves to derisive pronunciation with a 'gay lisp, such as 
Percy or Bruce (pronounced brooth' or broothee). Pretty much 
any blueblood name, unless shortened sportily by its owner, is 
asking for trouble. Cyril, Neville, Maxwell, and Christopher, for 
instance, will conjure up in some minds the prissy young men 

who staff the fragrance counter at Bloomingdale's. 
Dual-gender names—Leslie, Gene, Dana, Marion, Hilary, Fran¬ 

cis—are also suspect, and will cause their male bearers much 
locker-room woe from grade school on. No wonder Marion Morri¬ 
son and Marion Robertson had to do what a man's gott^ do: 
switched to the names John Wayne and Pat Robertson. (Obviously 
Rev. Robertson didn't quite get the hang of things: even 'Pat' is a 
dual-gender name.) 

Wimpy names—e.g., Cecil, Clarence, and Wendell—also seem 
to carry homosexual overtones, because we all know that fairies 
are meeK ana wimpy, just as we know that all wimps are 'fags' in 
one sense or the other. Finally, we should add that diminutive 
nicknames (e.g., Ricky, Bobby, Stewy, Stevie), when retained 

much past eiementary school, can be telltale too. Gay males sup- 

St Sv reSS °ne 3n0ther by PreCi°US' « names rattier than by the names of Real Men 

mosexuality that children de^^moL^th ^ 1 ^ ^ 

schoolmen though they have onlvth! l h VeS ta ***** 
homosexuality itself might be Th Y • lmmest notion of what 

^ be-There ,s no limit to the list of silly 

criteria, and kids rewrite ,h« ,• 
-ve, chlMren w„ ay 

• *- or „„U!M| ,melllgCT«,,, . ^ o[ ^ s 

• Speak a certain way; 

' ££■*S'stmuJSvzCesocks"b“"*»”•« 
X or ''m,, loop’ r»”d«VbS ssr^ 
™v;,n speciflc "■* c*. •.» <=*3 crK, ,he,t lags Bke 

aockorrsxr^ tour*8e <’s"if ,hei'<iinch ',h"> 

rsoTshowm sstsasr- - - 
These childhood indicia certainly show us where the telltale 

checklists compiled by straight grownups get their start 

Virtually every adult knows how gay males are supposed to 

sound: campy, like William Hurt's impersonation of one in The 
Kiss of the Spider Woman. Their voices are excessively musical, ei¬ 
ther all high warbles and whines or else deep and ridiculously 

theatrical. Their tone of voice is arch and pissy, except when 

wracked by self-pitying sobs (they cry a lot). When agitated, they 

shriek and coo like schoolgirls. When sexually aroused, they hiss 

or purr languorously, like catty old barmaids. And, naturally, all 

gay males lisp like Truman Capote. 

In physique, gay males are still widely perceived to be either 

ectomorphs or endomorphs, seldom solidly muscled mesomorphs 

(except in California, where a new 'narcissistic body-builder ste¬ 

reotype is developing). That is, gay men are either frail, willowy, 

nervous creatures ('neurasthenic,' psychologists used to say), or 

else they are larger, but with the pudgy contours of a woman. Put 

these two types side by side and you have a duo resembling Laurel 

and Hardy. 
When gay male bodies move, according to myth, their joints 


after the ball 

swivel smoothly—too smoothly-particularly at the languid 
wr and someLes in the wayward pinky. Where other men 

put their feet down firmly and clomp along heavily, homosexu 
men are said to be light of foot' and to flounce or mince gaily 
forward. At the same time, their unconscious body language is 
recognizably prim, tight and constrained, not free and open in the 
manner of Real Men. In films and plays, one discerns something 
tentative, even fearfully cautious, about the movements of gay 
characters. Except for their handshake, which is always bone- 
lessly limp, gay men grasp objects the way weak people do: with a 
delicacy, deliberate precision, and unmanly grace that suits them 
for their inevitable careers as antique dealers and floral designers. 

(Perhaps one other reason why gay men have such difficulty 
grasping objects pertains to their nails, since, as many straights 
know, gays are prone to grow their fingernails to creepy and in¬ 
criminating lengths: one man recently complained to the Boston 
Globe that he had been verbally attacked as a homosexual "simply 
because, as a classical guitarist, I have long fingernails on my right 
hand. Now, unless I'm out with my wife, I take extra care to drink 
a beer or collect my change—with my left hand." With" his left 
hand? It's certainly a good thing that the poor fellow wasn't born 
into a leftophobic society or he’d be in for real trouble.) 

In countenance, the gay youth is often supposed to be tellingly 
pretty, endowed with small features and full lips. He grooms with 

smooth tki^th ,7" '7** has —rurally 
_ hmtS °f makeuP <!>' “d ^ takes fashion risks with his clothing. In manner and 

As the boy grows older-™,”,** “ eXtrava8ant fop. 
demeanor become more fasfH and u8ller, his clothes and 

■tan* w., ™„ ri ST “d hlS V“k* in no¬ 

ne* are stereotypic for ,h, middle™T|Lr™0U“7'd C0U',U' 
expression as that of the embittered J" T ^ myth paints his 

Ho » dofoo,,' mb ""d schooln>nnn —«nan. He is defensively cenenw/°f the offlcious 
the insensitive brutes' around him h*S u Clucks disaPProval 
who wears on ___ . . He s the annovinn _ Who wears an exquisitely 
3C/tA*_ _ I 

** v^suisiieiy annoying sort of prig 

•TO purses his lips, |,„ and PMahllin mustache and an 
nd laps his fool too often—hand to hip. 

one eyebrow raised—in impatient indignation. In sum, middle- 
aged gays are supposed to come off like sour old biddies. Or like 
Tony Randall's character in The Odd Couple. 

Now a few words about the less well-developed stereotype of 
lesbians. They are pictured—when American straights bother to 
picture them at all—as just the opposite of gay males. They are 
supposed to have 'butch' voices: low and gravelly. Their speech is 
abrupt, monosyllabic, profane, and tough. Who knows whether 
they ever actually cry, or just take everything like a man. 

Where gay male bodies are either birdlike or as diffuse and soft 
as jellyfish, lesbian bodies are reputed to be stout, broad-shoul¬ 
dered, thunder-thighed, and athletic. Their body movements are 
graceless and abrupt. Their handshake—as well as their vaginal 
grip, according to William Burroughs—could crush a lead pipe. 
They have no breasts (having cut them off, Amazon style), but 
they may have noticeable mustaches. For that matter, according 
to the old joke, their armpit hair is long enough to braid, and they 
need to shave their legs daily but don't. No wonder they never 
wear anything but pants. As a matter of fact, they seem to dress 
like men in all regards and keep their coiffures cropped short. (A 
straight friend insists that butch-cut hair with long dangling earrings 

is a sure sign.) 
In countenance, the lesbian is thought to be homely and hu- 

morless—rather like Picasso's appalling portrait of Gertrude Stem. 

The lesbian never wears makeup, both because she is> acne*™ 
and because she hates all men, who might find such artifice 

** -ho has uUima,ely ,ater on) 
cause she couldn't get a man. ^ ~tenance and demeanor 

No myth specifies how a es use she is not thought to 

change as she gets olden Pr>™J Jronically, it is the aging 

after the ball 

mm. •- «* »• - s 
occupations, i.fs -ta - ™™•« 

STSwS*— ™ "“r::: 
gym teachers! p^ys^cal thellp.t%Tsi European swimmers, mas¬ 

seuses, teamsters, or the headmistresses of girls boarding schools. 
Gay men supposedly live their solitary lives in the city (may we 

suggest San Francisco or New York?), in homes decorated in the 
French Provincial style. Their apartments are cluttered with pre¬ 
cious, breakable knickknacks and oval photographs of their moth- 
ers_who may, in fact, be living on the premises. There are flow¬ 
ers, fresh cut or dried. And slipcovers on the furniture, which is 
good because there is lots of beloved cat hair everywhere. Other- 
wise, there's not a mote or smudge to be found on the home's 
surfaces: if pressed to do it, a traveling cosmetic surgeon could 
safely perform an emergency nose job right there on the living 
room carpet. Or in the impeccable garage. 

The hobbies of gay men are reputed to be strictly domestic: they 
garden if they can, naturally, and collect toys, butterflies, glass 
things, and (hidden) male erotica. Big art books, too. Gay men 
absolutely love to cook, but on the nights when they want to cut 
loose and get out of the kitchen, they go to the opera or ballet. On 
their vacations, they travel, alone or in small groups, to Fire Is¬ 
land, southern Europe, or in search of Haitian youths. 

Lesbians, on the other hand, are supposedly communal ani¬ 
mals, always living together in large prairie-dog towns (aka 

' crftahw, l» cUh„ ot mril cora8mun| “ ££ 

g, as they do, the full defensive line-up of the NFL lesbian 

a silicone breast ImZtXnTnyXe on^prem'^ 

V.D. clinics or shelters for battereT*118 ^ ^ Ume 1011111 local 

uml> “*"■*- 

Where'gay’rnen »»«b. 

lesbians mosily anK[U,n ,hLselv““„“,^"dS °f '?** 


Got ^,ds yet? This equation does no, even distinguish, as it 

ought, between gay men (the group at highest risk for AIDS) and 
lesbians (least at risk). So whether you are male or female, if you 
get AIDS—or begin to lose weight for any other reason-don't be 
surprised if others jump to conclude that you must be gay. One 
sex education instructor who worked for the St. Paul, Minnesota, 
school system told a Newsweek reporter in 1987 that many young 
people are "terrified of getting AIDS and being labeled homosex¬ 
ual. That's the issue—they are more afraid of having people call 
them gay than they are of dying." 

As it happens, the social concern is reversed for most homosex¬ 
uals: their fear is that people who find out they're gay will assume 
that they must have AIDS and will shun them. Perhaps the only 
thing worse than being a 'Mary' in this society is being a Typhoid 
Mary. Here, alas, homosexuality itself becomes a 'telltale sign' of 
the century's most dreaded disease. With everyone's attention fo¬ 
cused on the plague itself instead of gay rights, the pretzel logic of 
homohaters such as Rev. Pat Robertson begins to make sense: 

"Since when does a virus have civil rights?" 
Indeed, images of AIDS and of homosexuality have begun to 

fuse in an eerie way: one critic, Andrew Sullivan, recently com¬ 
plained in the New Republic that American advertising is being 
"infected" with displays of "homosexual erotica and the milder 
forms of sadomasochism ... The ADS virus, once restricted to 

high-risk publications such as GQ, Vanity Fair, and Vogue, is now 

AFTER the ball 

. . " The real infection spread- 

So hr « orgue.^“hl! ^ few 
much about gays, (2) pre think their tiny band of gay 
homosexuals in America^ glittering array of telltale 

neighbors can additional straight beliefs 
signs. Now it is time to co behavior of this 

Z w-m- 
outgroup that serve specifically to mate gay 



On« major m«on why m.oy s.r.ighm dislike ahd distrust gays 

is that they disapprove of the things which, they believe, caus 
homosexuality. Like the rest of us, straights ask the question, why 
are some people drawn to homosexuality when everybody else 
prefers heterosexuality? And the answers they come up with can 
be divided, for our purposes, into two kinds: those which attach 
no blame or moral culpability to gays or their families, and those 

which do—and how! 
Theories of the first kind might include, for example, the notion 

that homosexuality is innate and immutable in certain people; 
that some are simply born gay as a genetic or biochemical fact of 
life, so leveling blame against them (or against those who brought 
them up) is unreasonable and unjust. There is some concrete evi¬ 
dence to support theories of this sort, but straight Americans gen¬ 
erally don't believe them. In a Roper survey conducted in 1979, 
only 14% of the American public agreed that heredity determines 
whether a person is heterosexual or homosexual; 53% said orienta¬ 
tion is determined entirely by the person's "environment" (pre¬ 
sumably including everything that he does to himself or that is 
done to him after birth); 11% felt heredity and environment play 
equal parts; and a sizable number, 22%, said they couldn't answer 

the question. (Incidentally, it's tempting to speculate that a large 
proportion of those who declined to answer the question as 
phrased felt they could not do so because the simple choice of 
"heredity" or "environment" implies that, in any case, homosexu¬ 
als are created by forces beyond their own control, whereas many 
religious conservatives insist on believing that homosexuality is a 
sin that is utterly voluntary and the product of a corrupted soul.) 

No wonder theories of the second, blaming kind dominate 
straight folk beliefs about the cause of homosexuality. That such 
theories tend to be either unprovable or demonstrably false is 
quite beside the point: their chief purpose is to lay blame for ho¬ 
mosexuality at someone's door. These theories presume that ho- 
mosexual inclination is a matter of choice, to a greater or lesser 
extent, and that gays themselves therefore deserve blame, anath¬ 
ema, and ill-treatment. Gays are not the only ones blamed, how¬ 
ever, since their basic moral weakness' supposedly can be exacer¬ 
bated by their families, who 'don't raise them right,' and by 
contact with other homosexuals, who help 'corrupt' them. Theo¬ 
ries of blame, then, amount to three general hypotheses. 


willfully perverse .ud wicked, so drey Ml »» »»“ *»* 

to be homosexual. 

erybody's born basica y because they've been 


youths and maidens w o d by older gays-and the 
homosexual because ^ it.. t* ^ 

sordid pleasures. 

after the ball 

»—- ? 

lbk if it wtttnl so meanspm Jire£ily ([om lhe mouths of 

“» iheoreiicians? Uf s take a **' ,ook a' 
tiomohatred s m eduction. 

ihscnLAJlQinQs^^ e 

-ls homosexuality it 

“an intrinsic moral evil." (In other words, according to Rome, ho¬ 
mosexuality has all the repellent characteristics of a leprous dis¬ 
ease or psychotic affliction plus the blameworthiness of a persona 
c;«. von wonder how cavs can bear to get out of bed in the 

Not one to be bested in vitriol, televangelist Jerry Falwell like¬ 

wise denounces gays, gay ministers, and gay churches as "part of a 
vile and satanic system" of corrupters and corrupted. Falwells 
dysangelic political organization, the Moral Majority, harps regu¬ 
larly on the sinfulness of gay rights in its direct-mail fund-raising 
campaigns, as do many other groups. Dr. Murray Norris's Chris¬ 
tian Family Renewal operation, for example, has sought donations 
by sounding ominous warnings about a "Gay Rights Bill" now 
marching through Congress (by which, presumably, he means 
one of the mild antidiscrimination ordinances currently stalled 
there). Just when you thought your children were safe from ho¬ 
mosexual advances" this bill comes along that would enable 
children to legally participate in perverted sex acts." 

Religious straights believe homosexuality is a sin-this they 
know-because the Bible tells them so (in Leviticus 18:22 and 

Romans 1:27); but also because it seems to display the chief char¬ 

acteristics of sin per se. The first trait of sin is that it is voluntary 

and deliberate. As a Christian tract put it, "The gay mentality or 

lifestyle aren't things you just 'stumble' into—you walk into them 
step by step." 

The second distinguishing trait of sin, from the perspective of 

traditional Christianity since the days of Thomas Aquinas, is that 

it defies the apparent Law of Nature; it isn't natural so it must be 

immoral. And what things are 'unnatural? Those behaviors 

which are seemingly uncommon, such as homosexuality. 

Both alleged traits of homosexuality—deliberate sinning and 

defiance of what is natural—come together in a view held widely 

by straight Americans, and expressed in 1983 with characteristic 

nastiness by President Reagan's speechwriter Patrick Buchanan: 

'The poor homosexuals—they have declared war upon nature, 

and now nature is exacting an awful retribution [i.e., AIDS].'' In 

other words, you know homosexuality must be a sin, because it is 

punished. ^Jerry Falwell has pounded home the same point: ''The 

Scripture is clear: we do reap it in our flesh when we violate the 

laws of God." The Vatican has called AIDS a "natural sanction" 

against immoral behavior; and the Roman Catholic cardinal of 

Philadelphia, John Kroll, once made the sin/punishment equa¬ 

tion explicit: "The spread of AIDS is an act of vengeance against 

the sin of homosexuality." This is a casebook example of the pub- 

i “treatment of illness as metaphor, a metaphor equating sex 

with sin sin with death. In the 1985 L.A. Times survey, more than 
with sin. s chosen punishment 

such d„,hs no, r!ni con« •» 

about AIDS as divine Punl bjans are God's Chosen People, 

might conclude, of cour*e' g , s often per capita than gay ^a" rrn -—- - maks h* b« * thwl 
objectives of the oat _ 


after the ball 

Religious zealots are not the only ones ^ have 

as the fruit of sinfulness. Even ^^hica, argumentS justifytng 
managed to hammer togeth P Qne of the wacktest efforts 

their revulsion toward h°™°*sthetic Realist movement. TheAe* 
has come from the so ca hoinosexuality commits the sin o 
thetic Realists maintain that ho ^ ^ According t0 their 

^ unaesthetic. or someth ^ £omemp, „f the world, 

literature. "*U homosex y inlo a contempt for 

no, liking “ suBmmy^ OTtempl. , secular sin. To us 

— - contempt—like heau,y-,s ac 

^One'last'andlmportanC^point about the notion .1 Homosexual^ 

„,“!n before we move om drat notion is straights answer o . 

lot of loose talk among gays about sexual preference an i 
style-—as if one’s sexual identity were all merely a matter 
choice verging on whim or caprice. Cast in that light, the decision 
to ’remain’ homosexual looks like nothing more or less than the 
deliberate perverseness of a nose-thumbing libertine-and thats 

always annoying, if not sinful. \ 
Conservatives have taken the supposition that gays can make a 

sexual choice and have linked it with a secular sin: the sin of social 
contrariness, the gleeful tweaking of traditional values, contempt 
(dare we say?) for the established way of things, a malignant urge 
to crimp the social fabric. Sexual 'choice' makes homosexuality 
look like nothing more than a stubborn mind-set, like the arrogant 
decision to become a scofflaw. No wonder some straights react 
coolly to that 'decision' in the way AIDS-basher Paul Weyrich has: 
"I'm not gay-bashing. I have compassion for those people who've 
gotten themselves into a reprobate mindset . . ” (Stress added \ 

Even the language in which homosexuality is discussed by 
Americans prejudges the notion of choice in a way that opens 
gays to the charge of sinfulness. The United Methodist Church, for 
example, maintains a formal prohibition against "self-avowed, 
practicing homosexuals." The phrasing implies that some people 
practice” homosexuality, and so become gay by dim of effort; just 

as one might choose to practice the violin and become a virtuoso, 
or practice demon worship ... and become a sinner. The notion 
that somebody is an "avowed homosexual" suggests that he has 
confessed a vow to be gay, as though that condition were a chosen 
creed. By contrast, it seems vaguely humorous to call somebody 
an 'avowed, practicing heterosexual/ because obviously it is much 
more than just a creed, and does not develop as a result of prac¬ 
tice: rather, sexuality of the conventional sort is taken to be, in 
Michel Foucault's words, the very "truth of our being." Homosex¬ 
uality, on the other hand, is not believed to be a deep need: it's 

just a sinful practice. 
Homosexuality-as-Contrariness was at the root of Midge Decter's 

classic indictment of gay culture on New York's Fire Island during 
Gay B.C. (Before Crisis) days, a microstudy titled "The Boys on the 
Beach," published in Commentary during the fall of 1980. The es- 
say's concluding paragraph is worth quoting at length here be¬ 
cause h shows how the notion of sexual choice' has been miscon¬ 

strued by hostile heterosexuals to imply that gays could simply go 

straight if they weren't so darned contrary. 

One thing is certain. To become homosexual is a weighty act 
Taking oneself out of the tides of ordinary mortal existence is 

on. front an, 

has been an effort to set t & casual option 

among options. In a P g intolerable height the 
sexuals have only raise J nortnaUty. Faced with 

costs of the homosex S.M< and suicide, can either 

;hhee —al sympathizers imagine that 

they have done anyone a kindness? 

Flight from * £ 


^PTER THE ball 

volition, in reality, however, change4 Decter's mdtctmen 

iet at an early age and he had somberly observed instead. 
makes no more sense thanks ^ ^ much is true: both 

"To become a Negro 1 committed the unforgtva Y 

blacks and gays do appe" just by being different from the 
irksome sin of social contrariness, jus y 

straight, white majority. 

.. TllnPSS 

"Health consists in 
having the same diseases as one's neighbors." 


. Homosexuality is one aspect of general mental illness. 

. Homosexuality is the crazed result of masturbation. 

. Homosexuality comes from being confused about one's gender, 
and desiring to be a member of the opposite sex. 

• Homosexuality is caused by ingrained fear or dislike of the oppo¬ 

site sex. 

The idea behind all these variants is that some children with a 
moral weakness for this 'vice' end up giving in to its madness, 
because of the way they are raised, the bad habits they develop, or 
a genetic 'taint.' In other words, under these theories, gay persons 
still deserve blame, somehow, for the depravity of their character, 
but here their depravity is rendered more awful and tragic be¬ 
cause it also involves genes or twisted parenting—the bad seed or 
Frankenstein's monster. Consider these notions in turn. 

Homosexuality Is One Aspect of General Mental Illness. 

Never mind that the American Psychiatric Association removed 
homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric disorders in 1973, 
or that in 1975 the American Psychological Association likewise 

tsU8m* - — •- b- 
siona] pronoJcmlrl " *«h profe. 

uranism, etc.) as a mental illness. 8 

There are three reasons why most sexologists from the very 

start portrayed homosexuality as a sickness. First, they tended to 

portray all variation in sexual behavior as pathological because 

severe cultural norms would permit no other interpretation. Sec¬ 

ond, the goal of providing medical treatment for homosexuality 

and comparable 'illnesses’ may have helped to explain to suspi- 

cious others (and to themselves) why they, as physicians, were 

engaged in the clinical examination of sexuality at a time when 

the ve^y word was unmentionable in polite society. 

Third, and most important, in the Stone Age of psychiatry there 

was a search for simple, unifying explanations of all mental ill¬ 

nesses. Many supposed that a person's susceptibility to one appar¬ 

ent disorder signaled an underlying constitutional or hereditary 

susceptibility to other illnesses, both physical and mental, as well. 

In other words, a sicko is a sicko is a sicko—a supposition surviv¬ 

ing as folk wisdom to this day. 
The linkage of homosexuality to general mental illness can b* 

traced to the work of pioneering sexologists such as Dr. Richard 

von Krafft-Ebing. In the numerous editions erf his classic ISM 

treatise Psychopathia Sexualis, Krafft-Ebing reports the case iiismiln 

of homosexuals who came to him for therapy, and seeks to 

plain the origin of their condition. 
Consider Case 126, the lesbian 'lima S., aged twenty-nine; sin¬ 

gle merchant's daughter." Krafft-Ebing notes: "The patient never 

had any severe illnesses" and was “bright, en.hus.asnc and 

dreamy.” So whence her lesbianism? Ain, poor lima was 

family having bad nervous taint . 

after the ball 

Father was a drinker and died by suicide, as also did the 

patient s brother and sister, A sister suffered with convulsive 

hysteria. Mother's father shot himself while insane. Mother 

was sickly, and paralysed after apoplexy. 

After all this trouble—enough material to supply a TV soap opera 

for a decade—Ilma's lesbianism appears as just another deviant 

twist in the crooked family tree, another horrific fire-breathing 

head on the lineage's hydra-headed taint 

Such reasoning sounds archaic, but some clinicians still asso¬ 

ciate homosexuality with general physical and mental frailty. As 

recently as 1974, Dr. Walter C. Alvarez—professor emeritus at the 

Mayo Clinic and a syndicated columnist sympathetic to gays — 

was assembling, from his own practice, case studies that have a 

familiar ring. Here is just one of countless examples from Al¬ 

varez's text, Homosexuality and Other Forms of Sexual Deviance. 

i uikc naa a Drimant homosexual male patient whose daugh¬ 

ter was homosexual, while a sister and a cousin weresdeaf 

mutes, and an uncle had a congenital deformity of his spiral 

cord . . . His mother was a diabetic; one of her cousins went 
insane, a brother of the patient, a paranoid schizophrenic 

was m a mema! hospitai; and another brother had an idioi 
htld. This sort of family history convinces me that much of 

,s MWM « » tqolvaknt of „UTO|S or 
—» yayunatry has added 'clinirai' u 

tion that some people, by dint of the h ^ X° ^ P°pular no 
'screwy/ degenerate, and odd inother wil1 also b« 

those other ways presently 1 ,hl Y$ “ WelL W11 ^scribt 

check themselves daily for congenUd“jlT' a<,ViSed tC 
cord.) Semtal deformities of the spinal 

Vthat txT ReSUU °fMasturb^on. 
that other notorious route to deviance, the path 

bumbled down by those whom Krafft-Ebing described as "un¬ 

tainted, mentally healthy" individuals: masturbation. 

You've probably always wondered how that wives tale was 

cooked up; you've probably joked about it among your friends 

and relegated it to the wastebin of superstitions, along with 'toads 

give you warts.' And yet, whether you're now certifiably gay or 

straight, doubt lingers: isn't it possible that, during adolescence, 

receiving too much sexual pleasure by your own hand, while 

staring into the mirror, could leave you liking your sexual appara¬ 

tus (hence others having apparatus like yours) too much? 

You need doubt no more: Krafft-Ebing gives us the rigorous 

technical explanation of this process, and you may decide for 

yourself whether it lays bare your own sordid personal history: 

Very frequently the cause of such temporary aberration [i.e., 

homosexuality] is masturbation and its results in youthful 

individuals ... It despoils the unfolding bud of perfume 

and beauty, and leaves behind only the coarse, animal desire 

for sexual satisfaction. If an individual, thus depraved, 

reaches the age of maturity, there is wanting in him that 

cause enjoymen accompUsh the act [and this] 
phys cal strength necessary iu *>. f 

of the avoided act. 

This elaborate scientiihf Wd ™t in linear fashion 
masturbation to homosel.uaMy. »_ JS „ dMS us (even 

this way, probably seem. mastu,ba.ory eondi- 



, the same jerking-off-makesyoU' 
fifteen one of the authors heard th another anXl0US 

<» ■» l,s f lX -ho had learned it 
toy. He had heard it from wU| bt circulating still 

tom his lathet. >»uW'ss as a pejorative weapon against 
lh,„ex,centnn.l>«“s'',‘'r"xua|11Pv. „hy is masturbation 
toth masturbation an homosexual. Why is homosexual- 

is .he punishment that comes torn — 

ftXbg » * « f *" sympathetic (indeed. carpenter, and other W 

gay, sexologists 

uS., ——* * 
medicine, alleged that gay males have a ieminine sou c ^ 

by a masculine body," malting them a t ir sex. 
monograph—eventually expanded to twelve volumes- The Race 
of Uranian Hermaphrodites, i.e. the Man-loving Half-Men. 

Sounds a bit like a hotrot him. doesn't it? The authors have never 
thought of themselves as Man-Loving Uranian Hermaphroditic 

i v-x J TT-ir w_Cna Kilt WPVP had the ITliS- 

fortune to be treated as such by many straights. 
It's easy to see why this idea has become entrenched as folk 

wisdom about gays. After all, many straights believe that gay peo¬ 
ple visibly resemble, and behave like, the opposite sex. Gay males 
presumably wish to be mounted by other men just as women are 
mounted. And dildo-strapped lesbians apparently seek to ravish 
other females the way males do. Moreover, effeminacy is the ster¬ 
eotypic trait of gay males, and bullish masculinity in women is 
believed to signal lesbianism. This certainly looks like gender con¬ 
fusion, no? 

And then there is the matter of transsexuals and transvestites, 
whom many straights take to be gay, and for whom the term 

gender confusion' seems tailor-made. Truth is, transsexuals make 
up an exceedingly small group with psychosexual peculiarities all 

their own, while the vast majority of transvestites—surprise!—are 
exclusively heterosexual. (Indeed, however mindboggling it may 
seem, clinical research by Wardell Pomeroy, C. A. Tripp, and oth¬ 
ers suggests that homosexuality may actually be less prevalent 
among cross-dressers than it is in the general population.) For their 
part, most gays wouldn't change their sex for all the mascara in 
the late Divine's makeup chest. On the contrary, they are inclined 
to glorify their own sex and, in the case of gay males, idolize and 
model themselves physically after its icons. A visitor to Green¬ 
wich Village is far more likely to see a parade of body builders, 
leather bikers, and Marlboro men than cross-dressers. 

Still, straights often view transsexualism and transvestism as 
closely kindred to homosexuality, even as extreme manifestations 
of the homosexual impulse. Sexologists have contributed to the 
gender-confusion confusion. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the eminent 
German founder of the Institute for Sexual Science (and himself 
both -gay and transvestite), was neither the first nor the last to 
group 'timings' (i.e., homosexuals) and cross-dressers toget er. n 
his Sexual History of the World War (1946), Hirschfeld noted sage Y 
that "the informed person" can identify gays in every depart¬ 

ment of the [military] service": 

, once saw a vigorous artillery man who didn't look to me at 

1 ”“ li„g. bu, .tet. shot. tint. I *« -> ■*“”*«[ 

*r Leitej -.. £ 
beneath that a htlle tttset > «” ^ kll0Wledge fot tie- 

even whet, he it sitting tight next to him 

s,s.s today, it is P»"'V , because transvestites and trams neighborhoods of 

more accepting companY and ,ean int0 the transvestite 

^ c“,umes 
stereotype by donnms ______-_ 

after the ball 

ide festivities. Drag 

ssr-tr r. w "",he mos' 
m ,he 6,i' But how does gender conf lity? Many strarghts 

and how is it supposed ^ ^ gender, and become 

believe that kids get con b their parents. As we said ear- 
homosexuals, because ***%£»„ is t0 blame for homosexu- 
lier, such theories are really a Maybe they never 

ality, and here the r®P ^ ^foverhisOedipal love for his mother 
encouraged their so wanted a lad instead of a lass, an 
perhaps the lesbian spar Perhaps the 'sensitive' son 
.hcmlom turned he, in,. . »"*«• Real M.n 

becme a by hls smolheringly 
because he was molly ^ J bespectacled father. Perhaps 

C,»th»tLlacked an apP^-Y —lineor feme 

IJ role model. One 0, —= £ 

Thus, K. S. Lynn's recent biography of Ernest Hemingway im 

plies that the obsessively macho writer suffered from suppressed 
homosexual concerns and "trans-sexual fantasies" which could be 

traced directly, as Alfred Kazin aptly summarized it in a review, 
to "a pretentious, overbearing mama who kept the babe in 
dresses, paired him with his sister, and so dominated her husband 
that he committed suicide." This is the theory of Smothering 

Motherism, as cut and dried as beef jerky. 
While there is nothing inherently farfetched about the idea that 

gender confusion brought on by abnormal parental/familial rela¬ 
tionships might contribute to homosexual orientation, it is none¬ 
theless clear to most homosexuals and many modern sexologists 
that gender confusion induced in children by their parents is only 
occasionally associated with homosexuality. Conversely, the vast 

majority of gays have grown up under parenting of the garden 

variety, according to Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg, and Susan Ham¬ 

mersmith, whose Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and 

Women was published in 1981. That pathbreaking study sought to 

identify consistent factors in the family backgrounds of homosex¬ 

uals that might distinguish their upbringing from that of hetero¬ 

sexuals. Despite an exhaustive search based on in-depth inter¬ 

views with some fifteen hundred individuals, no master factor 

was found: most gays came from normal households and had con¬ 

ventional relationships with parents, siblings, and—except where 

effeminate males were concerned—peers. The researchers con¬ 

cluded that, having failed to find it in childhood environment, the 

secret of sexual preference probably lies in biology. 

And yet the myth persists: mothers and fathers are to blame for 

their 'sexually messed up' children. 
Homosexuality Is Caused by Ingrained Fear or Dislike of the Opposite 

People turn to homosexuality, according to this theory, as a 

miserable last resort. Certain individuals settle for gay sex because 

they are too frightened, angry, or otherwise inadequate to com¬ 

pete successfully for what they'd really like to have: a normal het- 

"ihtV^uf grTpe^lheory supposes that people stop wanting cer¬ 

tain things simply because they have of 

position which has seld^ ^ rU who usually have 
life. Even if true, it would hardly app Y t gy ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

plenty of opportunity to sample str gh , homosexUal 

Weinberg, ana i 

men and women ar^ and adolescent years. They are 
experiences during thetrch. howeVer, in 

distinguished from their he Nevertheless, gays are 

finding such 
viewed derisively as the \o of mounting one an- 

run, who can only go * way with all the bitches, or 

.1 __ 


after THE ball 

smug argument in her 1980 stu y 

The meaning of those undmabte mu*actua, 

by every heterosexual woman on the beach. 

And was understood in his bones as poppycock by every ho™° 
sexual on the beach. No doubt Decter's straight matrons sincere y 

believe that, at some deeply suppressed level, their gay compan¬ 

ions must actually share their own heterosexual drives. Its 
man to think this way, it being fundamentally inconceivable o 
most persons that others might genuinely and legitimately hold 

values and feel desires that differ profoundly from their own. It is, 
all the same, a brute fact that intimate contact with partners of 
the same sex is the ardent first choice of most homosexuals, not a 

booby prize for the ill-favored or skittish. 
Indeed, history has left little room for cowardice or meekness 

among our kind. Many if not most gay men and women through¬ 
out history have halfheartedly yet stoically conformed to the 
norm by entering heterosexual marriages and parenting children 
—but have saved their secret passion for partners of their own 
sex. In any case, it can hardly be argued that the pursuit of one's 
homosexual desires is for the passive and lily-livered: it takes 
strength to swim against the riptide of society, and no little cour¬ 
age to face the savage, lawless, and unrelenting sexual competi¬ 
tion which distinguishes the gay (male) from the straight dating 

None of this is to say that physical advances by the opposite sex 
do not make gays quail. For the covert gay there is always the fear 
that one's unresponsiveness to such advances will raise suspicions 
Or, if one goes along with the advance and ends up in the bed¬ 
room, there is the dread that a humiliating failure to perform 

m^v :** "V'*‘ 0n''! P"*""" »“■ "»* * merely a fear of exposure and condemnation, not a fear of the 
opposite sex per se. The distinction, however, is lost on those 
straights who insist that gays must feel the same attractions and 
fears that they do. 

Another popular variant of the flight-from-heterosexuality the¬ 
ory suggests that homosexuality is an act of spiteful rebellion by 
those who so dislike and distrust the opposite sex that they’d 
rather stoop to self-abuse or perversion than become entangled 
with it. 

This folk theory is often invoked by straights to explain lesbian¬ 
ism, because it is temptingly easy to apply. After all, some lesbians 
are radical feminists who make no secret of their resentments 
toward men in general: understandably, they hate American 
society's male chauvinism and pervasive discrimination against 
women. Some feminist literature even seems to verify the lesbian- 
ism-afrjrebellion theory by its nearly paranoid insistence that the 
brass bed is no more than a battleground for Machtpolitik, wherein 
the field objective of the man is—as Andrea Dworkin explains it 
in Intercourse—to 'occupy, violate, invade, and colonize the 
woman; the implication of such an outlook being that all aware, 
self-respecting women should resist this assault, even avoid it alto¬ 
gether. And it may also be true that some lesbians have come to 
realize their attraction to other females only as they have discov¬ 
ered their physical revulsion toward the panting male beasts who 

urgently, and sometimes forcibly, straddle them in bed. 
But, once again, none of this means that lesbians acquired then 

sexual orientation out of spite. Sexual attraction is a positive pas- 

on t sTrs of its own accord, and for no other reason. Given 
nment's thought it should strike straights as most improbable 

merely because they don t care for plums. 




is ,he p't 
tong with the PT1* klnds „f mental weirdness. the 

Thtt theory ha* re*,*.* 

etatet no close sera,toto can he craftily 

-V * • * ^“Ih where- 

~ r SSL dieted to the 
1970 survey conducted nationwide by the Institute 

Teh (the only poll we »e teen thtt. asked the quesuon) «» of 
the public believed that all or most “young homosexuals became 

that way because of older homosexuals. 
Older gays recruit innocent young straights, it is believed, be¬ 

cause—not unlike vampires or werewolves—the long-nailed old 

poufs love to sink their teeth (and other things) into young flesh, 

ana know that onlv in this wav can they make their creepy