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At Sachenhausen, Buchenwald, and various other Nazi death camps, the inmates were identified by several insignia: Jewish victims wore the tragic yellow star; political prisoners wore a red triangle; green triangles identified the infamous Kapo, criminal trustees who assisted the S.S. guards. Homosexuals wore pink triangles.
There exists no firm estimate of how many Gay people were incarcerated in the concentration camps, however Magnus Hirschfeld, author of The Sexual History of the World War, and others estimate that between 200,000 and 250,000 people died in prison camps solely because of their sexual preference. Many Gay people also were included within other victim groups, identified as Jews, or members of resistance organizations. In fact they were represented in all groups, as Gays always have been.
Because of wartime labor shortages that prompted the Nazis to resort to slave labor battalions, they decided that homosexuals could be "rehabilitated" in a variety of ways, the most common method being surgical castration.
In modern Germany, the survivors of such mutilation remain as tangible evidence of this forced "therapy," and as witness to the ultimate consequences of collective "diagnosis." The post-war West German government provided some compensation to the few Jewish and political survivors of the camps, but homosexual victims were not compensated as an oppressed group. Laws against sexual variation instituted by the Nazi regime remained in West German legal codes for years after the war, according to James L. Steakley in his book The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany.
This particular historic record of Nazi oppression against sexual variation remains so obscure as to be sometimes greeted with disbelief, but anyone with a fair and inquiring mind cannot help but ask why this particular historic tragedy should remain an esoteric and largely undiscussed subject.
There remains a widespread tendency among the uptight to protect tender minds by censoring sources of information concerning the magnitude of sexual variation in the world at large, and historic figures in particular. A recent Italian television series on the life of Leonardo DaVinci provides an example of how history is managed. One episode concerned the young DaVinci and his friends being hauled in before the local inquisition. The English narration as seen in America described the case as "heresy," thereby protecting our American sensibilities from the dreadful historic facts of his well known homosexuality.
The range of human achievement thus obscured is far too vast to list. Examples of sexual variation include Socrates, Plato, Sappho, Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, Whitman, Melville, Tchaikovsky, Emma Goldman and many, many other valuable members of the human family. These historic models relate directly to the curious notion that sexual variation is somehow either a cause or an evidence of decadent civilization. In fact, free expression of sexual variety has been more commonly in evidence during higher historic eras of cultural expression: in the great age of the Islamic world, in several African civilizations such as Ghana, Benin and Siwan, the Ukiyo period in Japan and, of course, classical Greece, Rome, for example, fell after Christianity (and sexual shame) became dominant in the West.
It is apparent that, until recently, human sexual pluralism has remained absent from our history texts. The achievements of women, black people and other groups have remained obscure through a similar process of selective attention. The manipulation of facts in order to fit preconceived stereotypes (categorical prejudgment) is described by Gordon Allport in his study of prejudice. The very term homosexual often elicits negative feelings (or perhaps nervous giggles) among otherwise sophisticated people.
What or Who is Gay
The very old term "Gay" generally defines homoerotic activity or attraction of any form or degree. The term "straight" (originally a Gay word, like many others in common usage) describes the lack of such activity, with no derogation implied. In view of past bigotry, the description Gay is not without a certain irony, but it also expresses a profound desire and historic ability to transcend oppressive experience, and be happy.
Homoerotic activity is quite common among younger males who are otherwise heterosexual. This is no cause for alarm--homosexuality is not known to be contagious. This is merely attraction to what feels good, in the words of Allen Ginsberg, "Trusting the Authority of your senses."
Fear and Loathing
Homophobia, the fear and hatred of sexual variation, is measured by several attitude measures, including the ATHSM (Smith 1971; MacDonald 1972; 1974). These measures reveal interesting correlations between homophobia and authoritarian characteristics, including cognitive rigidity, tendencies to impute maliciousness in others, and status consciousness.
Varieties of American bigotry have employed homophobia as a weapon of political oppression. A conspicuous example of political-sexual manipulation was apparent in the career of the late and unlamented Senator Joseph McCarthy. (Tripp, 1975).
The use of sexual taboo and superstition as a political weapon is still present in America. As a basic question concerning the personal freedom of individual citizens, consensual sexuality and identity must first of all be defined as a civil liberties issue. This has been recognized by a number of groups who actively support the movement for freedom of sexual and affectional preference. Supporting groups include the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, the American Friends Service Committee and many churches. The ACLU has published a handbook outlining the rights of Gay people against archaic oppressive laws still existing in some states.
The Old Psychiatry
It is a sad fact that past theories in some areas of psychiatry and psycho analysis have contributed to social oppression. It has been well said that Freud did not deserve the later followers who used his name. Beyond bizarre extrapolations of his theory, Freud maintained a positive and humane view of sexual variation. He stated that if it were not for social and cultural prohibitions, he saw no reason why homosexuals could not be healthy and productive members of society.
There was, however, an unfortunate tendency for some psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts especially, to inherit the priestly function of taboo enforcement. Menninger, for example, described homosexuality as "high in the kingdom of evil" and stated that he could not bring himself to "condone it." If, as the good doctor supposed, homosexuality is an illness, how does one "condone" or condemn?
This moralistic tone seems ludicrous to a sophisticated reader informed by modern attitudes toward sexuality, but the outcomes of stereotyped mass diagnosis of a vast array of humans are far from humorous. The development of some therapeutic systems as agencies of sexual and social conformity has been related by C.A. Tripp in his book The Homosexual Matrix and others as essentially an expression of Judeo-Christian taboo. The an expression of Judeo-Christian taboo. The ancient term "faggot" (a bundle of sticks, kindling or firewood) was historically associated with homosexuals being burned at the stake, along with such other dangerous social deviants as witches, heretics and Jews.
In certain periods, the Inquisition considered homoerotic activity as prima facie evidence of demonic possession. These good Christians also possessed effective therapies with which to exorcize sexual demons; however, rather than such clumsy jargon as "behavior modification," they (like the Gestapo) employed more forthright terms ... and methods.
Several major psychologists deny that homosexuality should be a subject of abnormal psychology, seeing it instead as an appropriate area for social psychology. Gay people are indistinguishable from heterosexuals on any available valid measure of personality. The once popular opinion that homosexuality is a pathological condition, or even associated with such broad labels as "neurosis" or "malad-justment," is heavily contradicted by psychological evidence.
In 1957, Evelyn Hooker reported that three psychiatrists could not distinguish differences among 30 matched pairs of gay and straight men, as manifest in Rorschach tests. Miller and Hannum found no differences in MMPI scores (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), between matched groups of heterosexual and homosexuals in a 1963 study. William Horstman found similar lack of difference in MMPI scores nine years later. Mark Freedman reported similar outcomes in lesbian response to the Eysenck Personality Inventory. Using similar personality measures, Siegelman (1972) found no significant differences, and C.G. Watson found no evidence for the paranoia hypothesis in homosexuality. Research by Brenda Dickey found the sexual role-conflict model to be unsubstantiated.
The psychiatric and therapeutic assault on sexually variant people is an ugly embarrassment to modern psychology. It is unnecessary to provide a lurid detailed account of past therapeutic attacks upon individual dignity. It is sufficient to state for the record that these forms of therapeutic aggression have ranged from psychic attack (i.e., deliberate attempts to increase guilt, lower self concept, etc.) through varieties of chemical and electrical aversive conditioning, to actual cases of brain surgery and legal castration. The record of these abuses of clinical psychology and psychiatry is thoroughly documented by Tripp and Nicholas Kittrie, author of The Right To Be Different. The evidence indicates a more appropriate target for the term "perversion."
As so often in the history of oppression, there has been a tendency to blame the victim. Several of the anti-homosexual psychiatrists, such as Bergler, Beiber and Hatterer, have described homosexuals as "exquisite injustice collectors." Considering the evidence, this process has not required a great deal of effort on our part--injustice in several forms has occasionally come around and collected us.
The future is far more important and promising for Gay people than the past, but the record deserves a clear reading. A brief review of past inhumanity also indicates why snide jokes and clever ridicule can ultimately have very ugly results. This is also why many people may find anti-homosexual humor less than funny. In a similar way, Black people tend to react to "jokes" about slavery, and Jews to "humor" about ovens.
Interested readers may refer to a recent fascinating history of Gay people in America by Jonathan Katz, and a more comprehensive analysis of the subject by Wainwright Churchill (1967, new edition 1976). In Male Homosexuality: A Cross-cultural and Cross-species Investigation, Churchill presents considerable evidence that homosexual and bisexual variations are biological traits in humans and higher mammals.
There is no great need to dwell on past bigotries, nor do most of us believe that heterosexuals bear some kind of collective guilt. What we do ask of you is an intelligent understanding of human variation, and advise in a friendly way that you accept and ennoble sexual love in yourselves and others as an intrinsic human quality in and of itself. We find that straight folks who love and accept their sexual selves are rarely a threat. Sexual fear and superstition has often been related to oppression of other kinds: consider the weird mythologies among some white people about Black sexuality.
The Progressive View in Modern Psychology
A dramatic transformation of professional perspective in both psychology and psychiatry has occurred in recent years. A vestige of the anti-homosexual judgment remains among some psychoanalysts and those influenced by the field. Like battleship admirals, certain analysts have far too much of their professional lives (and profits) invested in obsolete ideas and notions.
The American Psychological Association has made an official statement of considerable significance in denying that homosexuality is an illness or pathological disorder. The American Psychiatric Association has made a similar supportive resolution.
Clinicians of a more humanistic persuasion, such as Harry Stack Sullivan, have taken a much more positive view of homosexual and bisexual adaptations. A notable example of an enlightened clinician is Carl Rogers. Appearing last year as the Burton lecturer for the Graduate School of Education, Rogers stated his support for sexual variations, which he termed "lifestyles"; he repeated his belief that public opinion is in a process of positive change toward tolerance and acceptance.
Society and the Healthy Homosexual, by George Weinberg, a heterosexual psychiatrist, is a very readable book for anyone, and articulates the progressive perspective. Enlightened clinicians such as Edwin Barker, associate professor of Education and Clinical Psychology, tend to deny the validity of conversion treatment or alleged "cure" for homoerotic behavior. They believe that the clinic, if it takes any role, should assist in overcoming guilt and internalizing oppression, and help toward positive self concept and life adaptation.
Anthropology and Modern Sex Research
In several ways, new views in psychology have followed the previous leadership of Anthropology, a discipline which profited from cross-cultural scope, and therefore more cosmopolitan perspectives. The American Anthropological Association has issued a statement describing homosexual and bisexual variations as common across many cultures, and well within human adaptations which are quite normal. Distinguished anthropologists who have persuasively articulated this position include Ashley Montagu and Margaret Mead, who has stated that she considers fear and condemnation of sexual variation to be a destructive malad-justment.
Modern sex research, as represented by John Gagnon in Human Sexualities, has greatly expanded the scientific understanding of bisexuality, homosexuality and variations thereof. Interdisciplinary investigations of human sexual expression as it appears in real life, convey a vastly more positive view of sexual variation than do older generalities derived from narrow and unrepresentative clinical cases.
In a cross-cultural social analysis of self-affirmed male homosexuals in Denmark, Holland and America, Martin Weinberg and Colin Williams (1974) accumulated a considerable amount of interesting data. Much of their evidence tends to contradict popular stereotypes.
In their sample populations, 69 per cent of the males have had long-term affectional relationships with other males; 56 per cent have had sexual relationships with women; 19 per cent are actively bisexual (probably a low figure considering the sample is derived from Gay milieux). Older homosexuals in these samples are happier and better adjusted than younger Gays, and finally, homosexual men who are acculturated to Gay social life have more positive social relations with heterosexuals, and fewer negative expectations. These findings indicate that what may be publicly visible does not represent what we really are. Heterosexuals and homosexuals are in fact far more alike than different.
For Heterosexual Readers
This brief review is merely an attempt to correct some misconceptions, not an indictment. You are not responsible for the past, but the future surely belongs to all of us. Hatreds and fears are destructive self-deceptions, and they exact a human cost.
We who vary sexually remain largely invisible to heterosexuals, yet we represent the same human diversity. Many of us now remain invisible not from guilt or shame, but simply because this adaptation is vastly more convenient. Our sexuality is certainly not the chief organizing principle of our lives. We have the same variety of aspiration, achievement, and human warmth. We are everywhere that you are, and share large parts of your lives: in school, in your sport, on the U.S. Olympic team, in business, in your home, and even in your family, in other words: the kid next door, someone's brother, sister, daughter or son.
We know you intimately, we have grown up with you, and we have shared your lives, become your friends--in so many ways we are part of you.
If you maintain a social conscience and oppose oppression, don't stand by and let it happen.
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