The Gay Liberation pamphlet
With Downcast Gays (1974)

by Andrew Hodges and David Hutter

Part 7 of 8 Parts


Liberals are liberation's most insidious enemy. Their deep sense of heterosexual superiority remains untouched by their concern for the 'plight' of gay people. They appear to concede so much while in reality conceding nothing; leaving the underprivileged to struggle against... not genuinely expressed reaction and hatred, but 'sympathy' and 'understanding'.

Talk of 'tolerance' being 'genuine' or 'complete' is meaningless. Tolerance is extended to something regrettable. Why be grateful for it?

Small mercies

Liberal remarks on homosexuality are only to be distinguished from reactionary ones by their being prefaced by a declaration of benevolent intention. As an example of such humbug we can do no better than quote the Archbishop of York, who having first spoken of "accepting" and "understanding" homosexual clergymen, went on to describe a "healthy heterosexuality" as the proper end-product of Christian guidance. So confusing was the gentle liberal preface that some gay people thought he was ushering a new era of morality and failed to observe that he was merely putting forward the oppressive psychiatric view of homosexuality as a sickness. (It is interesting that psychiatrists, whom the Gay Liberation movement always regarded as the new priests of our society, now have the old priests putting out propaganda on their behalf.)

Here are further examples of liberal oppression, all drawn, like the Archbishop's remarks, from BBC broadcasts. We make this choice deliberately, because so many middle-class gays have a comfortable idea that the BBC is somehow on their side.

Gay people often think that things are moving in their direction if they are so much as mentioned in a broadcast. We heard one gay man argue for the existence of a more tolerant attitude towards homosexuality by citing the programme "If You Think You've Got Problems", which took the daring step of allowing a sixteen-year-old boy to ask the panel whether he was likely to become homosexual since he was solely attracted to his own sex. "Don't commit yourself, don't give yourself a label, be open to a variety of experience," they advised. One needs to translate: "Don't be too eager to say that you are sick; find a girl soon and it may yet be possible to smother your homosexual feelings."

Taken literally, what the 'experts' said was good, but until we hear heterosexuals advised with equal vigour to make homosexuality a part of their experience, we shall not be fooled into believing such 'permissive' chatter to be anything but the veiled disparagement that it is. The real intention behind the advice, the implied message of shame and inferiority, was made crystal clear by Jean Metcalfe. How awful, she exclaimed 'sensitively', to have a homosexual son; one would feel so guilty!

It does not require very profound understanding of human nature to see that the boy already knew the answer to his question. What he sought was not information, but reassurance that his homosexuality was natural and good. What he received was the raw material from which he will build a lifetime's self-oppression, and from which other gay listeners will reinforce their own. These throwaway remarks give a much better insight into the speakers' true feelings than carefully composed statements of good will and 'concern' (composed more to demonstrate the nobility of mind of the liberal than to aid gay people in any practical way). After describing the passing of the Gay Rights resolution at the 1973 NUS conference, a BBC reporter added, "The students then moved on to more wholesome matters." "Should we be handing out hormones rather than prison sentences" is casually dropped into the magazine programme Kaleidoscope. An Open University broadcast warns students that a talk about homosexuality might be "offensive to some". Any BBC sex education programme contains enough material of this kind to provide a lifetime's self-oppression for gay children forced into listening to it. Even in a radio programme given over to a discussion of the homosexual 'problem', the producer tried to prevent a gay man mentioning his own name, insisting that he remain "an anonymous homosexual"--- presumably to induce the sense of shame and secrecy felt proper to such occasions.

Gay people have been totally conned into accepting that their way of life is so shameful as to be unmentionable. When they do fnd their feelings discussed or their existence recognised, no matter how patronisingly, they are amazed and delighted. It is incredible that despite our numbers, and our large representation on the staff of the BBC, gay people continue to swallow the line that, over the air, homosexuality is a subject to be treated with caution. Like maltreated but faithful dogs we lick our master's boots in gratitude for being noticed, if only by a passing kick.

Even within the gay movement it is thought to be a cause for great rejoicing if we are given a tiny interview on local radio — as though the importance of gay people's lives were on a par with stamp-collecting. In fact we should regard anything less than our full free and equal representation by the broadcasting medium as the deep oppression — deep because of the way we take it for granted — that it is. The validity of our way of life, the acknowledgement of our value as equal citizens will not be demonstrated by sombre discussions at midnight, or by allowing plays with homosexual themes to end happily rather than with suicides and murders, or even by a gay half-hour a week. Genuine homosexual equality will be demonstrated when boys are seen kissing boys, and girls girls, not on programmes which begin at eleven o'clock at night, but at five in the afternoon.

We're all bisexual really

The line between integraing a minority and suppressing any manifestation of its identity is a fine one, and those intellectuals who have fallen under the spell of modish, surrealistic psycho-analytical ideas, that embrace a notion of sexuality so diffuse and all-pervasive as to become meaningless, find no difficulty in crossing it. By accepting that every commonplace act is charged with sexual implications they can easily agree that there is a latent homosexual element within all of us. It is then easy to say that everyone has a heterosexual component, and thus behind a facade of bogus equality make redundant the very concept of gay people, let alone gay rights. The existence of laws which discriminate against us, our constant awareness of social disadvantage, and our ceaseless mockery by the publicnat large can all be callously ignored. How can homosexual discrimination exist if there are no homosexuals?

If this bland assertion of universal bisexuality has a familiar ring, perhaps we are reminded of the fashionable cry, "We're all middle-class now." This phrase conveniently abolishes economic exploitation at a stroke --- for how can working-class people be expolited if there is no working class? It salves the consciences of the well-off by suggesting that everyone shares their privileges and comforts. Proponents of belief in a universal bourgeoisie can ignore the fact that one end of this middle-class spectrum has to endure housing, employment and education that the other end would not tolerate for a minute; similarly, believers in universal bisexuality can forget that the homosexual end of the supposed bisexual spectrum is denied rights and privileges which those at the heterosexual end take for granted. Of course both of these assertions are untrue. We are neither all middle-class nor are we all bisexual, and equality cannot be created by the dishonest use of words. It is true, however, that both statements are made by those who prefer to smother unpleasant realities beneath the warm comfortable blanket of liberal cant. Only self-oppression could allow us to overlook these realities. We must never be seduced into passive acceptance of them in exchange for the dud cheque of nominal integration that the idea of universal bisexuality bestows.

But many homosexual intellectuals do cling to this notion of universal bisexuality, superficially so generous to the endless diversity of human sexual experience, yet actually so crushing towards any movement for the improvement of the lot of gay people. They see evidence of homosexuality in the most conformist heterosexual activities like rugby clubs; they rush to defend queer-bashers as repressed homosexuals (are Paki-bashers then repressed Pakistanis?) and gleefully savour the colour-supplement psychology that Don Juan was a homosexual desperately trying to deny it. What these homosexuals are in fact doing it finding an easement of their guilt by bestowing a little of it upon everyone. Heterosexuals who claim "we're all bisexual really" modestly imply "We are none of us quite perfect"; homosexuals who gratefully echo them add "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

Instant integration

Nominal integration is no abstract matter: gay clubs have been opposed on the grounds that homosexuals should not be creating ghettoes but should be mixing with everyone else. Liberals who talk in this facile way have grasped the notion of individuals stignatised by the label 'homosexual' but not what that label is all about.

Homosexuality is not simply a personal quirk but a matter of relationships, and as such requires social expression. What could be more natural than for homosexuals to enjoy each others' company — even in a society in which homosexuality was not stignatised. The reactionary blimp who rumbles on about "secret societies" is in fact closer to the truth than the liberal who claims that homosexuals are no different from anyone else.

Talk of "getting homosexuals out of the ghettoes" conceals both the liberal dislike of groupings which exclude him and the fact that most gays would dearly like a ghetto to get out of. The liberal vents his displeasure by telling gay people that they are divisive if they fail to mix socially with non-gay people, saying that instead they should devote their energies tro the life of the community as a whole.

Liberals so easily betray the emptiness of their calls for integration*. Mary Stott in the Guardian chides lesbians for feeling like outcasts, and then in next breath says that "we" should "accept" homosexuals — as though the readership of the Guardian were exclusively heterosexual! The liberal "we" invariably excludes the very minority whose integration is being urged.

[*The first edition had the misprint "indignation"]

If liberals do fail to grasp the physical reality of gay life, then gays themselves are partly to blame. We find it easier to announce that we are gay than to communicate what this actually means. We need only think of the extreme reluctance of homosexuals to enjoy any kind of physical contact in public. Even those gay people who like to dress or talk or behave in a way which openly signals their homosexuality are unlikely to make visible the physical attraction that is its central reality. Of course the law denies us the freedom to kiss and touch that heterosexuals take for granted, but it is not legal discrimination but homosexual shame which prevents us making an open display of the reality of our physical homosexual love.

There was an occasion when a crowd of Yorkshire men down in London for the Rugby league cup final found themselves in a gay pub. Linking arms and singing, they were the only men there touching each other.

If it is really true that non-gay people are offended by the sight of gays kissing, then they must learn to ovecome it. The best we can do is to show sympathy for irrational phobias which they seem quite unable to control.

The siren song of nominal integration is hard to resist, and its subtle exploitation of the language of liberation creates numerous traps for the unwary. There is the seductive argument that Gay Liberation is divisive; that it artificially splits us off from the rets of the "rich tapestry of life". We are so flattered to be counted as part of any form of life, rich or otherwise, that we are liable to overlook the fact that jackboots have worn our patch of tapestry somewhat threadbare. Intellectual gays sometimes respond to this ploy by refusing to go along with the gay movement for the noble-sounding reason that thy see themselves as part of the whole human race and are unwilling to be identified with just one small part of it. "I'm not joining any liberation movement", they cry, clambering on to the nigger end of the bus. "I'm part of the wide, wide spectrum of humanity."

The easiest way of all for the liberal to deal with the intractable otherness of homosexuals, and one which requires the minimum of reorientation, is to reduce everything to the level of prejudice or discrimination. Then, confident that these twin evils have been uprooted, the heterosexual can continue to live happily in a world totally indifferent to the neeeds of gay people. English teachers can continue to encourage girls to write essays on 'the qualities I shall require in a husband'; planners will ease us all into small communities, each with its school and shopping centre --- paradises for the acquiescent nuclear family, but foreign hells for gays; almost hourly we shall be reminded of the 'housewife's' shopping basket. The liberal conscience will be clear, but we shall still find ourselves living in a foreign land in which every social institution has ben devised for a life-style alien to our own.

This may be the best that liberal well-wishers can imagine for us, but we have no need to accept such a limited vision.

Introduction | Preface and Links | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

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Andrew Hodges

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