The Gay Liberation pamphlet
With Downcast Gays (1974)

by Andrew Hodges and David Hutter

Part 8 of 8 Parts


Britain is a country in which gay people born before 1947 have known an existence in which any sexual fulfilment rendered them criminals. Even today in Soctland and Ireland homosexual acts between adults can be punished by long terms of imprisonment, and throughout Britain particularly savage penalties await those men who express homosexual love before reaching the age of twenty-one, or who do so with another man below this age. British men who serve in the armed forces are forbidden homosexual experience at any age, as are those in the merchant navy. Service-women discovered to be having a lesbian affair are invariably separated by being transferred to different stations. This is a country in which gay men and women pay taxes to finance State schools which either abuse or ignore them; and whose social services, housing and civil law are all based on the concept of contractual marriage and the father-dependent family. This is a country in which even the issue of whether or not millions of its citizens should be defined as criminals was not considered important enough to be mentioned in the political programme of any parliamentary party.

Nevertheless no-one questions the loyalty of gay people. It is worth noting that it is never even questioned by our enemies, eager to find any stuck to beat us with. When homosexuals are refused jobs in security positions, liability to blackmail is the reason given, and when excluded from the armed forces it is for threatening "order and discipline". It has never been suggested by our most virulent persecutors that homosexuals might have a grudge against our social system and so might be working to overthrow it. And of course they are right. No-one could describe the mass of gay people as revolutionaries. We are the useful servants of society that gay apologists claim us to be.

In fact it is not difficult to find gay men who seek to compensate for their persecution by adopting a High Anglican, High Tory patriotism; by becoming in effect plus royalistes que le roi. This antiquated form of patriotism is often combined with a longing for the past, for the ordered elegance which simple people imagine characterises bygone days. It might be salutary for those nostalgic gays to remember that as late as the mid eighteenth century homosexuals were publicly burned in Paris, and that into the nineteenth century gay men continued to be displayed in the Haymarket stocks, where they were pelted with dead rats and shit.

It is said that Fascism has considerable appeal for the repressed homosexual, and certainly terms like 'self-oppression' lose their abstract quality when one brings to mind those gay people who worked for the Nazi regime while it continued to pursue its own solution of 'the homosexual problem' in the death camps. Thanks to these traitors and their kind, the Left throughout the world has been provided with an excuse to equate 'homosexual' with 'fascist', or at best to assume that gay people's allegiance inevitably lies with the ancien regime.

Seeds of discontent

But although we see no reason why homosexuals should feel loyalty to their own country, we are certainly not advocating that they transfer it to another. What would be the point? Surely it is amazing that an informed homosexual such as Guy Burgess should wish to work for the Soviet regime which has long since reversed the progressive sexual reforms of the revolutionary period, and again punishes homosexual acts with imprisonment.

Gay people have no country. Throughout the world we borrow little patches of territory: corners of public parks, public urinals, dark stretches of towpath. Even these places, unenviable as they are, we must share with agents provocateurs and queer-bashers. Yet homosexual patriots continue to describe Britain as "our country", our "one nation". To realise the extent of our rejection is to understand the emptiness for us of nationalism, and we are not putting forward a kind of gay Zionism to compete with existing nationalisms. To suggest that nothing that gay rights should matter to homosexuals would be as shallow as any other chauvinism. The point we are making is that gay people mostly ignore their status and experience as homosexuals when confronted by social and political issues. We see the world through heterosexual eyes, as though homosexuals did not exist.

Such an attitude is manifest in our most commonplace remarks about world affairs. How often do homosexuals challenge the freedom of the so-called Free World on the grounds that most of its gay citizens are denied the liberty to love as they please? Homosexuality is outlawed in most American states, and recently in California a man was castrated in punishment for his love affair with a boy of sixteen.* We talk glibly of the problems of the Third World, forgetting the unpublicised problems of, say, an Indian lesbian married at the age of seven. What happens to our brothers in China? Who knows? Who cares?

* Dennis Altman, Homosexual Oppression and Liberation, page 47

It is as though we think of the 'real' world to be that defined by the very authorities and media which persecute or misrepresent us. Those who say "I am not oppressed" can do this with ease; but those who are aware of their oppression have come to appreciate the cruelty and vindictiveness which political authority shows towards non-conforming but helpless people. Can one ever again regard political power with anything but mistrust?

Nor is it credible that the treatment of homosexuals constitutes a solitary, unique defect in the organisation of our society. Alienated by the heterosexuality constantly plugged in advertising, we can sense the way in which the poor and the black are also make* to feel that they are living in someone else's world. Conscious of the effects of our self-oppression, we appreciate how colonisation has achieved its success by destroying the self-esteem of entire nations. We can see the self-oppressive attitude of those who say "I'm just ordinary working-class" and ask, cap in hand, for "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work". To hear a radio interviewer ask whether a researcher's new drugs can be used to 'cure' homosexuality gives us a more chilling insight into the banality, the casualness of Fascism than any number of the painstaking reconstructions upon which non-gay people must rely.

[*Misprint never noticed!]

A disappointing harvest

No doubt many of the gay people who in the past have worked for radical causes were led to a position of revolt as a result of their experience as homosexuals. It is a bitter fact, however, that their homosexuality is generally denied or, at best, ignored by those they supported. Bakunin's homosexuality is even today remembered as willingly by revolutionary anarchists as that of Roger Casement by Irish Nationalists.

In contrast to the sad tradition of gay people who hide their identity in order that they may be allowed to work for worthy causes, it was a feature of Gay Liberationists to support other causes as open homosexuals. This policy was sometimes further justified as being a means of gaining support in return. Unfortunately, a policy of "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine" tends to leave gay backs obstinately itching. Recognition of the open participation and encouragement of gay people has often been demonstrated by a display of no less open homophobia. An American Gay Liberation group who bravely hoped to show their support for the Cuban revolution by working in the sugar harvest received little but insults for their trouble. Their Cuban brothers remained in the prison camps.

No claim for social justice could be more neglected than that of the homosexuals of Ireland, who amidst all the chatter of 'rights', 'equality' and 'unity' have every prospect of remaining outside the law and being persecuted in both North and South alike. Nevertheless, in the lengthy debate which preceded the march to commemorate Bloody Sunday, serious consideration was given to the question of whether G.L.F. could participate, carrying its banner like every other group, or whether in view of the solemnity of the occasion it would not be better to attend as anonymous sympathisers! The principle of gay pride had evaporated, leaving behind the self-oppressive assumption that out participation would only discredit a serious cause.

In the past the only genuine political choice open to gay people was one of withdrawal from the whole political arena. Persecuted or rejected by Right, Left and Centre, how could they find any political identity that did not necessitate a totally negative attitude to their homosexuality? Few individuals were in a position to follow the example of Andre Gide, who set out to question Stalin on the role of homosexuals in Society society!

But the advent of the gay movement offers homosexuals the opportunity to voice their discontent in an authentic way. Through it we can begin to understand our oppression — to work out in our own way how that oppression can be fought, and how we relate to others opposed to the hierarchical nature of our society. Despite the many discouragements we have mentioned, support for gay people has come from — for instance — student unions, who would not have given us a second thought without the existence of an openly campaigning homosexual movement. A negative defeatist attitude is no longer an honest one.

Perhaps, through a new gay consciousness, we shall develop a genuine alternative society in which homosexuals pay attention to their special needs; but our ghetto should never again be so so inward-looking as to ignore the world beyond. At the very least, we can from a position of open mutual support bring to bear on injustice cruelty and intolerance our own first-hand experience of these things. Indeed, a touchstone for the humanity and completeness of political theories and revolutionary movements might well be the degree of welcome they afford to gay people, for as one despised minority we can be a measure of the likely treatment of others, and a genuine test of any revolutionary thinker's ability truly to think afresh.

Harsh realities

But talk of solidarity with anyone else is meaningless while we so dismally lack solidarity even with each other. So weak is our position that we are even unable to make the obvious demand of authorities that, in return for our co-operation, they must welcome us as equal citizens. Pathetically limited as is the aim of deterring elected governments from anti-homosexual actions by the fear of losing the votes of a significant section of the electorate, it is still far beyond our reach. As yet, so great is our disorganisation, so thoroughly have we learned to despise ourselves, such in fact is the depth of our self-oppression that States which seek to impose intolerance and conformity have — and we underline the irony — more to fear from the liberal wing of the Christian Church than from the gay community.


This booklet concentrates on how we see ourselves. We have not attempted to measure the extent to which gay people are promiscuous, but we have discussed the 'ideal' of sexual exclusiveness. We have not written about the fact of bisexuality, but we have dealt with ways in which it too is distorted into an oppressive 'ideal'. It is the attitude of gay people to coming out, to gender roles, to the media, that has concerned us. We have not tried to formulate a political theory, but only described a state of mind in which gay people can approach one without betraying their gay experience.

There is good reason for our choice. We do not really know the facts about homosexuality; no-one does. No random sample of homsoexuals has ever been, or — while most gays continue to hide their identity — ever can be made. What we have written springs from the limited experience of two urban men, who write about the only kind of gay people they really know.

No homosexual is an island. When gays say that they have to be 'discreet', they support the idea that homosexuality — our homosexuality — is offensive; when they describe themselves as "a typical case", they label us as 'cases'. Oppression is as much the creature of self-oppression as the converse. External oppression we can only fight against; self-oppression we can tear out and destroy.

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

Page by
Andrew Hodges

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