Many people who are lonely, frightened and isolated go to the Samaritans for guidance and comfort – and although they advertise themselves as a last ditch help service for suicides, they are accustomed to handling personal and social problems at all levels of intensity. Their policy of deliberately keeping their distance and not giving active advice makes them an attractive prospect for people like gays, who don’t want or need someone to moralise at them. Anyway, this is what they say about themselves – it is written as advice to Befrienders on how to deal with homosexual clients. Technically it is confidential; however, a copy did come this way.
BEFRIENDING HOMOSEXUAL CLIENTS
- Forget the label and treat as you would any client who comes our way.
- Remember that there are male and female homosexuals.
What brings them our way?
a. Loneliness: It is up to the branch to try to discover the cause of the isolation. Is it an innate inability to make any kind of relationship, or does it arise from a lack of homosexual contacts? Befriending sets out to help the client to become more of a social being (counselling or some kind of social therapy may make befriending more necessary).
Beware of being misled by homosexual tendencies manifested by the grossly inadequate or extremely mentally disturbed, for whom homosexuality may not be the main problem.
About 5% of the population appear to be homosexuals, so that, particularly in smaller towns, there is great practical difficulty in finding friends. It is easier to find someone with whom you can have a brief sexual encounter than to meet someone who is emotionally and inter-sexually compatible. There is a great need for responsibly supervised groups for lonely homosexuals over 21 – if you have any suggestions or queries, please contact me at the London branch.
b. Insecurity: There is the longer term insecurity that many homosexuals feel. The analogy of marriage which they seek in a relationship, in practice is seldom achieved. They are, therefore, faced with recurrent cycles of relationships followed by break-ups and the resultant decline as a human being. Befriending by a non-sexual Samaritan Volunteer can help such a person to avoid being drawn into another emotional crisis, and enable the homosexual to feel an accepted part of the community at large.
c. Bereavement: The death of one partner or the break-up of a relationship of long or short standing is in no way different from the ending of any strong relationship. There’s going to be shock, prolonged grief, guilt and depression as time distances the event. Society’s attitude can become positively cruel here. How would a heterosexual person feel if their loved one’s relatives forbade them to be present at the funeral. This has happened not infrequently to bereaved homosexuals. A Samaritan befriender can be a tremendous support to a bereaved homosexual client.
d. Fears of Police Harrassment: The age of consent for male homosexuals is still 21 and not 18. (For female homosexuals there is no such prohibition.) It would be useful for all Branches to know of sympathetic solicitors to advise and represent, if necessary, clients on homosexual charges.
What is homosexuality?
- Common misconceptions: It is not a sickness. nor a disease that can be cured, nor a wilful perversion. Common psychiatric practice is to help the individual to adjust to his or her condition, and to attend to any depression or other symptoms resulting from attempted repression.
- Homosexual behaviour: Sexual behaviour is not always entirely directed in a neat way. Often homosexuals are marginally capable of heterosexual activity, and this can lead to unwise marriage. This can lead to great guilt and fears for their sexuality. There is a small population which is not sexually committed either way.
- Transvestites (T.V.s) are usually heterosexual and believe that, by a strange stroke of nature, they are women born into men’s bodies, or vice versa. Every client of this kind should be under the care of a doctor who is a specialist in the field of gender reassignment therapy. There are only half a dozen specialists in Great Britain. Do not take on for longterm befriending a trans-sexual client without the specialist’s knowledge and agreement. Trans-sexualism can be a symptom of schizophrenia or psychopathy.
I should be glad to hear from Volunteers or Directors who would like to take this brief article further. If there are any Volunteers or Directors who have considerable experience of helping homosexual clients, please write to me at the London branch.
Newsletter No.87, December 1971.
(Confidential to Samaritans)
By Michael Butler (London Samaritans)
So that is the idea. But actual practise can be different – the Samaritans are after all a volunteer organisation, so standards can vary from branch to branch. Here we print, in their own words, the accounts of what happened to-three people who turned to the Samaritans for help.
I am a 20 year old gay girl. I rang Samaritans last April, because I was very depressed about having no-one to talk to about it. I live with my parents and work in a bookshop. I rang, and told the woman who answered that I was depressed because I was a lesbian and very lonely. She invited me to talk about it. I told her that I knew no-one else who was gay, and I needed to tell someone. I explained that I had had a male friend who I no longer see, and that I felt very attracted to a girl who I work with.
She told me that it was not necessary to have sex to lead a fulfilling life. She said that she was three times my age and did not regret not every having a physical relationship. I said the, “Do you mean with a woman?” She replied, “No. with anyone.” She told me she had a number of wonderful friendships. She asked me if I thought I could go on to get married. I repeated that I was homosexual. She asked me if I was sure, I could have convinced myself I was, thus making a terrible mistake, ruining my chances of a heterosexual relationship. I tried to explain how positively I felt about women, and I was sure there was nothing wrong with how I felt.
She advised me to read about “Sappho and her girls”, and to glamourize it in my mind. This would reduce my need to have a physical homosexual relationship.
“I feel,” she said, “that it would spoil your love to put it to the physical test.”
I asked her if there was any homosexual organisation she could refer me to. She denied this. I asked her again, since I felt sure there must be someone. She replied, “Only for male homosexuals – you wouldn’t like them. Male and female homosexuals don’t get on with each other.”
Eventually she gave me the name of a gay club in the town. She told me to go along there and talk to them. She said, “I’m sure they’ll be very serious people. It’s very intellectual, it began with Sappho, lesbians are serious people you know.”
Shortly after this my parents arrived and I had to ring off. I didn’t ring back. Soon after I found out about the local Young CHE group and the GLF group. It’s lucky I did. I don’t know, quite honestly, what I would have done otherwise.
GAY NEWS COMMENTS:
A Gay News reporter mentioned confidentially this case to Chad Varah, director of Samaritans. He told her that the Samaritan who gave that advice would be on the carpet for it. He agreed that it was misguided and commented, “Most people do need sex in order to be happy.”
I am a 19 year old male student. I rang Samaritans because I needed to know where to find other homosexuals. I was becoming very isolated on my course. He immediately told me about the student homosexual society. He then warned me to make quite sure that I was homosexual before I went to them. He said that the only people who could tell me that were the medical profession. He advised me to go to my G.P. for a check-up. I said I didn’t think this was a good idea, as I was sure I was a homosexual. He also recommended me to speak to a student counsellor whom he knew. I thanked him very much and rang off.
I went to the University Union and found out about the homosexual society he mentioned.
For now at least, we’ll leave you to your own conclusions as to how far the branches live up to their instructions from head office. Next issue, however, we’ll be printing some thought on the whole idea of a counselling service, with special reference to the Samaritans, and how effectively they do, or do not operate. BUT…. we’d like to know how you found them, and if they helped or hindered you, and in a future issue well print a selection of you experiences.