Sunday, January 2, 2011

Harry Hay's Writings, Part 2: Should we be considered individuals or be considered a group?

“Should we be considered individuals or be considered a group?”

To foster dialogue at the discussion groups, the Mattachine organizers often prepared comments and questions. The following are two examples of brief remarks that Hay presented at discussion groups in the 1951-1952 period. They give a good idea of the level of dialogue at these meetings.
Here again Hay emphasizes the need for homosexuals to understand themselves if they expect to win the understanding of heterosexuals. At the same time, although the defensive tone of the 1948 prospectus is largely gone, the preoccupation with self-destructive Gay behavior is still apparent. One of Hay's arguments for the minority thesis in this period was that Gays needed a culture, a community, to provide them with social standards and mores that would lead them away from anti-social behaviors. At the same time, Hay's use of the term "heteros," a reversal of the derogatory use of "homos," reflects the extent to which his sense of belonging to a minority had sharpened. He also offers a critique of heterosexual chauvinism that anticipates the 1980s analysis of heterosexism.

"Should we be considered individuals or be considered a group?"

Social Directions of the Homosexual

The public sees any Homosexual as a member of a group - a group which is characterized, in their minds, by people who stand around at parties and discuss their physical attributes, exhibit exhibitionism and callousness, and are as a whole degenerate. Heterosexuals, as well, talk openly of sex - the major difference being the gender of the sex and the implicative end-products of that sex. But this difference does not necessarily enter into the heterosexual's consideration and evaluation of the Homosexuals.
This situation should be a challenge to Homosexuals who have the capability to better their social habits. It should also be remembered that there is no separation of groups (as bull-sessions and tea-parties in heterosexual culture) and therefore Homosexuals need be all the more concerned in developing ethical standards to curb licentious conversations.
A Homosexual need not choose any ethic or responsibility, which often he does not, though as a result he sinks into degeneration and frustration. He chooses no ethical responsibility, and therefore he simultaneously chooses, by implication, not to belong to society.
In heterosexuality it is to be expected that there should be a stress on sexual matters because this is connected with their primary concern – reproduction - and thus is directive. The Homosexual copies this pattern and because it is not applicable, and nondirective, he is considered loose and degenerate. When the sex urge is thus not meaningfully used for procreation, this energy should be channelized elsewhere where its end can be creativity. Some societies have put this into practice, such as those people who deny sex to those creative workmen building canoes until their job is finished. Sex drains power that could be constructively put to use in other areas. This is especially lamentable in the case of the Homosexual, where unproductive sex becomes overemphasized and a basis for frustration. 
Homosexuals are "lone wolves" through fear. In society as it now stands, they congratulate themselves for not being caught, as have their less fortunate brothers, and understandably retreat more within themselves. Like any human, the Homosexual has many things he wants not to be forced to face. Thus he is often an escapist. A Homosexual has no one to whom he must account, and in the end as well he must decide everything for himself. Though, in some instances, this is equally true of the heterosexual ... the process for the latter is infinitely easier because the heterosexual has a socially predetermined pattern to follow and the opportunity to solicit upon it adequate guidance.
Though ethics are arrived at by the group, they are meaningful only when applied by the individual himself. It is essential that Homosexuals begin to direct their thinking in this way. Ghetto walls can be knocked down, but cooperation is essential. There are, however, difficulties to be overcome. Those in greatest need are sometimes the most reluctant to help each other or themselves, tending rather to think of personal experiences as things apart from the mutual effort toward betterment. Still others are not to be trusted until they have been shown the best way to overcome their difficulties. Heterosexuals have the opportunity to have their differences out with each other and thus are enabled to get along in relative harmony, but Homosexuals find this impossible and carry grudges and find freedom of expression impossible.
Homosexuals do not understand themselves and thus it is not surprising that heterosexuals do not understand them either. Because of pent-up frustrations and resentments the Homosexual psychologically rebels and becomes catty and takes on other characteristics of instability. Each person considers himself terribly maladjusted and peculiar. There is now no positive body of information from well-adjusted people.1 Rather we find case histories of psychopathic and extreme cases that are negative and retrogressive.
Some glad day there should be a body of knowledge that would mean aid and progression, in that it would show that Homosexuals, as a group, have much in common and that they are not unique cases. Should we be considered individuals or be considered a group? We are essentially a group of individuals that have been forced together by society. Society attacks the Homosexuals for their non-conformity in sexual desire and objects completely on the basis of this one characteristic. This attitude would change if society could see the positive side and realize the potential ability to offer a worthwhile contribution.
Homosexuals as a group are composed of a cross-section of society, and thus all types of individuals may be found within the group. There are those few individualists who find it possible to cope with the status-quo and make for themselves a stable niche. The fact remains, however, that the majority of Homosexuals are inept at adjusting without an acceptable atmosphere and an adequate pattern.

Dated October 4, 1951.  Delivered at a Mattachine discussion group.

Homosexual Values versus Community Prejudices

…To return to an examination of the basic American language and culture, we must realize that in the average consciousness humanity is divided into just two classifications-and that's all. Male and Female. Countries are fatherlands or motherlands. Ships are feminine. All living forms unless actually designated as feminine are spoken of in the singular as masculine. For example, "every person in the audience wore his overcoat." Not only has this primitive over-simplification persecuted and defeated the Homosexual in every attempt to bridge the gap between his minority and the mainstream of social contribution, but this oversimplification has become the root of the hetero community's stupid hysteria concerning our threat to themselves. 

1. The stereotype is a stark and vicious example of the hetero's attempt to explain our social conduct and appearance in terms of black or white-that is, MALE or FEMALE.

2. The Homosexual, in these terms, as a lover of the male sex, must therefore be a feminine-man. If he loves his own sex-he therefore loves men. Thus, in the public mind, he is in competition with women and with the social objective of holy wedlock and with the eternal objective of the reproducing family.

The hetero's primitive over-simplification has an equally disastrous effect on us, too. Through the pressures of daily conditioning in language and culture we, too, accept the social stereotype that humanity is either male or female. And because it is our compulsion to love males-we perforce allow ourselves to be caricatured as feminine.

1. The latter is too much of an over-simplification. I should say we either allow ourselves to be caricatured as feminine, or we waste our days running around trying to persuade 85 the world that we are 100% he-men studs with real balls. What's so important about this? Who arewe trying to kid? Does this help society to accept homosexuality with any better grace?

2. How do we explain, not in person, but to that vast audience whom we will never see-known as the general public-that in the main we, like all Minorities, prefer the company and the intimacy of our own? That the men to whom we are attracted are Homosexual Men?

To tell them is a beginning-but to explain means to make them understand it in their terms-to justify it so that they can add it up in their values. HOW DO WE DO IT? I would like to throw out some general questions which might begin to find answers for all this:

1. Obviously, in order to learn to write these things in terms we know are understandable, we must have spoken them first-and gotten comprehension from heterosexuals. THUS how do we explain ourselves to our parents? How do we explain ourselves to our friends?

2. How do we explain our opposite attractions, the types-we go for, in terms of male and female? Try it.

3. What are we doing when we try to convey the impression that we're 100% men with real balls?

4. How can we each of us begin to fight anti-homosexuality? - in terms of vicious stereotype jokes (particularly tie this in with anti-Semitism)

- in terms of refusing to evade the word Homosexual in order to begin to restore to it some measure of dignity
- in terms of our use of chauvinist words-supplanting "normal" with "heterosexual"

Delivered at a Mattachine discussion group, August 1952.


1.      1.  This was the premise of Evelyn Hooker's research, which effectively countered the claim
that Gay men were psychologically maladjusted.

No comments:

Post a Comment