From A Reader
Hooray for Sappho! She’s absolutely right when she says that it is the straights and not the gays who are obsessed with sex. (Integrate the Straights GN16). Of course they are – they’re immersed in the subject throughout almost every waking moment, from the subtle allusions of television commercials to the blatant come hither of the naked lovelies at the Motor Show. How could any ordinary man avoid being engrossed in sex, when the advertising industry has connected practically every human activity with some sly half promise of a successful fuck?
I’ve certainly found from my own experience that if I make friends with a straight man – at work, say – and after a while I tell him that I’m gay, his very first question will inevitably be whether I fancy him or not. (Even if I don’t I usually say yes, because people who are friendly enough not to be repelled by the idea often find it highly flattering.)
The repulsion which most heterosexuals feel for most homosexuals, springs from two causes. Firstly, boys and girls are brought up to feel that the sex act itself, even when it involves one standard boy and one stadard girl in the standard missionary position, is somehow disgusting. Secondly, it is contantly drummed into everybody that any diviation from the norm – in any field — is a thing to be feared. Given this basis, it’s quite understandable that the ordinary person’s initial reaction to homosexuality is one of revulsion and terror.
Elsewhere in the same issue, Philip Conn suggests that the way to rid ourselves of the resulting oppression is to build our own culture, to build a sort of image or stereotype of the homosexual which will replace in people’s minds the current highly inaccurate and damaging one. But, to me, this would be simply changing the label on the same old pigeon hole. I don’t want to be “one of those” whether the “those” in question are nice people or nasty ones. This idea of classifying others – deciding how they will think or feel on the sole basis of which stereotype they must resemble, ie, how they dress or whom they love — is the very thing which has led to the current state of affairs, and there’s really very little point in starting the whole process all over again in a different direction. Philip’s new culture would offer no more help than Society does at present to gays who didn’t happen to fit in with it, and so would run a serious risk of dividing gays from each other. The GLF for example, after the heady glory of its early days, seems to be floundering on this very fault.
Being gay, I’ve never fitted very well into any of the comfortable little roles which society prepares for its children. If I could have married normally, and settled down in a semi-detached with a telly, an oppressed wife and an average of 2.4 kids, It would all have been very easy. I would never have had to think. But instead, I’ve had to work out my own way of living and my own moral code, and very little help and often with the active opposition of the rest of the world. Like most things which you make for yourself, my life is now very much more enjoyable that it would have been if everything had been handed to me on a nice straight plate.
In fact, one of the very positive advantages of being gay is that we are forced to decide things for ourselves. Not being hidebound by any of society’s conventional values, we have the potential to grow into real individuals, choosing for ourselves which bits of the world are worth joining in with, and which bits should be ignored. The last thing we need now is a new sub-culture which would make us, outwardly at least, all the same again.
But I think we should realise that the problem of oppression is twofold. Those of us who live and work in certain areas, especially in big cities, find it relatively easy to be openly gay in a straight society. If I kiss my boyfriend on top of a number 52 bus, hardly anyone will even notice, and far from being unable – as Sappho suggests – to discuss my emotional life with straight friends, I find that the problems which beset the love lives of straights and gays are very often similar indeed (it is only the shape of the partner which is different), and we can often help each other by talking about them. However, outside these special areas oppression is still acute, and in a provincial town like Ipswich, where I come from, it’s all too easy for a gay person to believe Society’s lies; to begin to feel that he really is a nauseating criminal fit only to be shot.
So. we have two problems: to cure oppression where it still exists, and to make sure that once we are liberated we know what to do with our freedom. It seems that we are at last winning the battle against blind unreasoning, hatred, mainly by the simple expedient of telling each other – via our newspapers and our gay organisations – that we’re not horrible at all, but in fact are quite lovely. However, once ordinary people no longer hate us, we shall be more free than they will ever be in their arranged pigeon holes into which we will fit. Will we be mature enough to use this freedom to demonstrate to the rest of society that role playing is uneccesarry, that everyone can be nice although everyone is different? Or should we, as Philip seems to think, start now to construct our own pigeon hole, tailor made for us to hide in as soon as we’re free?