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(Gay History document) [c. 2,700 words] [End]
[First published in the now-defunct New York City newsmagazine Gaysweek, May 22, 1978]
Homosexual men are gay.
Lesbian women are gay.
Ergo, homosexual men are lesbian women.
This syllogism is on its face absurd, but has the appeal, superficially, of logic. And in fact, "gay" organizations, publications and other institutions do act consistently upon the premise that homosexuals and lesbians are the same thing. But homosexuals are not lesbians, and lesbians are not homosexuals. Using a single term for both and throwing both groups together has caused considerable harm to the personalities of both. The prime harm is to gender identity, self-identity, and self-reinforcing group identity. Permit me to address these problems from a man's viewpoint.
Gender identity is a terrible problem among homosexuals. Manhood and womanhood are defined by straights in terms of the opposite sex: "A man is a person who makes love to a woman, and vice versa." That conviction is so strongly internalized that none of us really manages to eradicate it completely. In some of us, the confusion that arises from trying to make it with whom we want but at the same time bear out that internalized definition, has resulted in transvestism and the atrocities of "sex-change operations" which mutilate the body to conform in superficial appearance to the societally defined "reality" that a person who makes it with men is a woman. Even those of us who manage to escape castration sometimes feel unmasculine because that internalized definition keeps cropping up not just in the straight world but even in ourselves. It is a grave problem, and denying that is so will not change the fact that gender identity is the No. 1 problem of both homosexuals and lesbians. "Bisexuals" cheat the definition by giving in to it but then making a partial exception for themselves. This doesn't work very long, and "bisexuals" upon reaching adulthood cease to exist, becoming instead homosexual if they defeat the definition, or heterosexual if the definition defeats them.
Self-identity in homosexuals is in large part a function of gender identity. The identity one had before rejecting heterosexuality incorporated heterosexuality. Simply chopping out hetero- and plunking in homosexuality is not possible, because heterosexuality pervades areas of thought outside the specifically sexual. Thus heterosexuality must be excised with a sifter rather than a cleaver, chemically rather than physically. In replacing it, one must readjust to a new, motivating definition: HOMOSEXUAL, not heterosexual. Homosexual MAN. A MAN who is homosexual. Self-identity as a homosexual has to be looked at from all angles and expressed in all contexts. One becomes oneself as a homosexual only gradually, as he compares himself to others and contrasts his own appearance, background, interests. Accomplishments, etc., against those of the people he knows. The key words here are "contrasts," "against", and "knows." Comparison is the process most involved in forming group identity. Contrast is the process most involved in forming self-identity.
Contrast is dynamic, positive conflict, against the group removal from the group, without divorce. The word "knows" is also crucial, since one is rarely influenced personally by people one does not know personally.
In becoming an individual, one makes a distinction between oneself and the people most like oneself, who are the only people who can confuse his identity. If one believes he is like someone, he will make only a partial effort to distinguish himself from that other. He will make another partial effort to accommodate that similar person by assuming some of his speech habits, personality traits, attitudes, etc. In a person of weak self-identity, personality cam be not merely influenced but indeed overwhelmed by others, especially by those others who, one is told, are most like him.
Thus, a homosexual man searching for a new identity and meeting new people will incorporate, haphazardly, bits and pieces of people around him into his own behavior and identity. If the people around him are in fact not like him, he will incorporate things that are harmful to him, for they lead him away from, not toward, his true nature.
Group identity. Everyone needs to identify with a group. This is part of what is meant by the truism "Man is a social animal." A group develops as people choose one another in preference to others. Once formed, a group assumes a dynamic of its own. Identification with group permits an individual to overcome feelings of monstrous uniqueness and alienation, of loneliness and the worthlessness that being alone and unacceptable to others brings. But the group must be compatible with the self. If it is alien, the person cannot make an adequate identification, and the group cannot make a fond tie to the individual.
Identification with a group gives a person guidelines to personal behavior. It provides reinforcement, feelings of importance and a sense of strength. But a group makes demands upon the personality of the member. The cost of membership is conformity to the standards of the group. If such standards are similar to those of the member, there is no danger to either party. When the standards of the group and its members conflict, however, both suffer. The group suffers because it alienates its members. The individual suffers because he experiences conflict between his desire to belong (and therefore pay his dues of conformity), and a contrary desire to be true to himself. In persons of weak personality, the group may win, time and again, over the individual's preferences; but ultimately that cost proves high, for the individual's self-esteem suffers and his resentments against the group rise. He may come to see the group as exceeding its authority and demeaning him. He may ultimately decide to reject not merely the particular points in contention but even the group itself, with all its standards and demands. Then he ends up isolated, resentful, and at a loss for what to do.
To perceive homosexuals and lesbians as but a single group and to insist that they interact and adjust one to another is to create a group that must be constantly in conflict with all its individual members. When men give in to women (out of guilts first dumped on them by straight society and than manipulated by lesbian militants), they demean themselves and set into motion the dynamics of alienation. When either homosexuals or lesbians subject themselves to being surrounded by the opposite sex, they put themselves into an alien and unpleasant situation hostile to their interests. They know very well they could have such a milieu, and benefit from it sexually and in social acceptability, were they to be straight but they choose not to be straight. Therefore they are left with none of the benefits of being heterosexual but with some of the liabilities. That, says the mind, is insane: this group is sick. What then happens is that identification with a sick group forces one to conclude unconsciously if not even consciously, that he is sick for continuing membership. Ultimately, then, the individual must either reject the group or demean and distort himself.
Virtually all homosexuals start off believing that they are sick. So they put up much longer than healthy people would with a group that debases and confuses them. But some gradually free themselves from guilt and the feeling they are freaks. They then set about reshaping their lives. Unfortunately, they may be so turned off by the trappings of homosexuality, perceiving them not as extraneous but inseparable from it, that they decide that the only way they can gain a sensible and self-affirming life is to reject homosexuality. That sets them up for an even worse conflict than the first (between the sane and self-affirming individual against the insane and self-confuting group). Their new conflict is one between their disgust with perversity, and desire for sanity, decency and order, on the one hand, and their indestructible need for the love and body of a man, on the other.
Part of the solution to this complex of problems is to make the group to which we adhere reflect the true nature and interests of its constituents, by separating mixed groups into men's groups and women's groups. Given time to ourselves, we will sort ourselves out.
We are not truly homosexual but only "sexually nonconforming". We have not yet found our manhood homosexual manhood. We have not defined ourselves nor set clear guidelines in morality and manners. We have, in short, tried to do without several indispensable bases of manhood: identity, self-determination, love, stability, morality, self-respect and self-assertion. We have instead let outsiders define, control, exploit, and demean us.
To become ourselves we must be by ourselves until we find out what we really are, not what we have been told we are.
That is not a remarkable statement, but it implies a remarkable demand. We are held in the suffocating embrace of a society which does not recognize that it is destroying us piecemeal. We must save ourselves by saving each other, and we can do so only when we know ourselves and care for each other. In turn we can do that only be escaping the structure, images, and requirements of heterosexual society. The very first notions of heterosexual origin we must destroy in ourselves are (1) that men and women belong together, and (2) that homosexuals are a variety of woman who must imitate, adore and integrate with women. Thus the very most fundamental separation we need is separation from women even (or perhaps especially) from "gay" women.
Some lesbians have rightly become militantly pro-"lesbian" and anti-"gay". Would that homosexuals had the same freedom vis-a-vis "homosexual" and "gay". But lesbians are permitted anti-male diatribes, in which rejection of such male-inclusive terns is voiced, for it is customary for men to indulge chivalrously the whims and excesses of women. If, by contrast, a homosexual man should suggest with even a tenth the stress lesbians habitually employ, that women do not belong in men's bars, men's organizations or men's lives, he is branded a "gay oppressor" and subjected to further diatribes on his "sickness, "hatred", et cetera ad nauseam not because his premises are logically or psychologically incorrect but because it's not nice to say anything that could even remotely be considered unchivalrous to The Weaker Sex, The Fair Sex.
But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and we must be logical and self-reinforcing. not chivalrously illogical and self-destroying.
I am not now nor ever will, could or would be, a lesbian. I am homosexual, a man oriented sexually, esthetically, emotionally, intellectually, and in every other way, to men. I do not apologize for that to straights and I will not apologize for it to lesbians. I do not parasitize lesbian organizations. I do not invade lesbian bars. I do not gratuitously malign lesbians. Indeed, most of the time I do not even think about lesbians and would indeed prefer never to have to think about lesbians. The idea of reading a lesbian newspaper filled with pictures of nude women and ads for lesbian sex action and devices revolts me. What is there about women that permits them gaily to parasitize men's organizations, invade men's bars, gratuitously malign men, and not merely read homosexual men's newspapers filled with pictures of nude men, ads for mansex action and devices, but even write for and staff (distaff) them? What is it which afflicts these women? But more importantly, why do we men, powerful individually and even more so as a group permit women to push in where they clearly do not belong?
We must stop being intimidated by lesbian abuse and manipulated by lesbian rhetoric. There is nothing either sick or hateful in insisting on your right to privacy, and group privacy is as much a right as individual privacy. We each, homosexuals and lesbians, are entitled to it.
The Gay World by which I mean the Homosexual Men's Group-Private World is a society at work. It is constantly processing new adherents, taking them in, helping them form a personal and group identity, helping them get over sexual inhibitions and social ineptness, educating them to the facts of homosexual life, and generally helping them to adjust happily to their homosexuality and build a life worth living. That is no easy task, and everything that interferes with it is evil.
The largest part of this process is unlearning unlearning how to be straight; unlearning heterosexual behavior and thought patterns, heterosexual attentiveness to women and distrust of men as rivals for the favors of women. That task of unlearning is impossible in the presence of women. The known arrival of even a single woman in a group of thirty men brings immediate and unsubtle changes to the group. Language changes, to speech "more appropriate to mixed company". Cruising ends or becomes more restrained. The entire dynamic of the homosexual social situation is changed interfered with by the presence of women. When it seems not to change outwardly, it still changes inwardly. Naturalness is replaced by performance, ease by defiance, as the performers consciously resolve "I'm not going to let her stop me from being myself." But, of course, the battle is lost before it begins, for there shouldn't have been a battle in the first place. Bars, parties, organizations and the like are not for battles.
The sanctity of shelter. The straight world surrounds most of us on its terms for most of every day. Bar managers and employees, who are instead surrounded by "their own kind" almost every hour of every day, must retain a sensitivity to the plight of the general "gay" public and protect their clientele, by consistently and actively excluding the opposite sex, be they faghag straights or lesbian "sisters". Gay bars are a conscious invention shelter from the expectations of straight society; small enclaves in which homosexuality exists and rules, where we can be ourselves and find each other. But somehow we refuse to do anything when a sick-ass faggot brings in a woman and with her all the subtle personality and behavioral changes that She, as Woman, brings with her: the whole complex of heterosexuality intruding into OUR place. What other people creates a shelter and then itself violates it?
The homosexual who travels with faghags is a seriously disturbed individual who is uncomfortable in a room filled with only people of his own sex. He uses women as a shield against the sex he fears as much as wants. [See "The Faghag-Fag", HI! Magazine No. 5, elsewhere on this site.] He does not feel like a man in the presence of men, so must at once bring with him a woman he can relate to as "another" non-man and attend to in gentlemanly fashion, thus gaining feelings of manhood (and even one-upsman, superior manhood, the "normal," "better" variety: heterosexual) where he would otherwise feel inadequate. The complex of fears, confusions, and hatreds which the faghagfaggot suffers needs to be conquered, not indulged. Such a man should recognize that to bring a woman into a "gay" bar is an act of aggression. that manifests hatred for homosexuality. If he insists on venting that hatred by intruding a woman into the group privacy of a men's bar, he should be stopped at the door or ejected by bar employees. If barmen who after all make their living from us and consequently owe us consideration refuse to protect us, we should just leave that bar en masse. After even two or three such mass departures, only the most vicious and stupid management would fail to exclude women.
There's a lot of unlearning and new learning all of us must do, no matter how "liberated" we flatter ourselves we are. We can do that unlearning and new learning only in a same-sex environment. The dynamics of learning to be homosexual are too delicate to permit interference, and the right to sexual group privacy is too important for us to tolerate violation.
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