Integroup – A Social Experiment

Integroup came into being in the Autumn of 1970 as a society of heterosexual and homosexual men and women, meeting to promote integration and a better understanding of human relationships, both within the group and in society generally. It was founded in Catford, London, where the pilot group still meets, and about a year later, a second Integroup formed in Golders Green, London. It is still therefore at a very formative stage, and must still be regarded as a social experiment.

Behind Integroup lie certain assumptions, most of which will be familiar to and accepted by readers of Gay News, but which have a generally less certain currency elsewhere. As far as we can see, human sexuality has always been, in all ages and societies that we know about, extremely variable as it still is today. Why this should be so we cannot tell. There are of course any number of theories – sometimes the consensus leans towards environment, sometimes towards heredity. In this writer’s view, it is probable that the causes are complex and involve both factors, and are likely to vary according to the individual. Perhaps we should rather ask why shouldn’t there be this variability. Since human nature is so variable in other ways, why should we expect or desire conformity in this respect? In any case whatever opinion or attitude is held, the facts of the matter can scarcely be disputed, namely that there is a scale of sexuality with heterosexual men and women at the one end, and homosexual men and women at the other. Between these two poles are bi-sexual men and women. All of us are somewhere on this scale of sexuality, with its many, often subtle, graduations. Integroup accepts that these diverse expressions of sexuality are all natural in society, and considers that social and legal discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual preference is both unhealthy and immoral.

When Catford Integroup came into being, the local press called it a ‘club for homosexuals’. This isn’t so, and to so regard it is to miss the whole point. There are of course any number of gay clubs and pubs for those who want them, as well as GLF and CHE. Integroup is not opposed to these and feels sure that all of these have important roles to play. Gay may be good, as may straight, but 1 doubt whether either have a monopoly of virtue. The distinctive thing about Integroup is that it is just as much for heterosexuals as for homosexuals, and as much for men as for women. It is true that some degree of contrivance is necessary to achieve and maintain this balance. It is also true that since no-one is required to state their sexual preference unless they want to, the proportions are not absolute. Nevertheless the whole point of Integroup is ‘gay-straight’ integration, that is for mutual benefit.

Initially then, Integroup seeks to promote among its members mutual understanding and respect, to create in microcosm what it feels society at large should reflect. At this stage, probably, heterosexuals have the more to gain, for through they might have liberal attitudes in intent, to practice them and experience them is often something very different. Certainly many of the straights at Integroup have said how personally enriching this contact has been for them. On the other hand the gays have said that they have benefitted immensely from the experience of simply being themselves in an integrated group. And so purely on this level, Integroup has enabled people from all over the Kinsey scale to discover each other as people. And looking to society as a whole – and that is of course predominantly heterosexual society – we reckon that it is losing a great deal in effectively causing the homosexual minority to segregate itself into special groups and to live even today to a very large extent in an atmosphere of secrecy and fear. A healthy society is one in which minority groups – as long as they believe in and practise toleration themselves – can live openly and responsibly.

In the long term then Integroup is concerned to foster healthier social attitudes, and differs from purely homophile organisations in believing that heterosexuals must be as actively engaged in this as homosexuals. It is true of course that this kind of programme is in itself a minority appeal within a minority. Some straights have come out of curiosity, and some gays have come mistaking us for a gay club. Of these a few have been converted, others have left. This is inevitable.

At present Integroup meets socially, holds serious meetings and discussions, offers to provide speakers, monitors the press and aims to increase its strength and influence in a number of directions.

ED: Thanks to Integroup for this article. If any other group or organisation would like to use the pages of Gay News to communicate their ideas and describe what they are doing, then please remember that you are most welcome to do so.

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