'Straightening' Out Peninsula's Facts


To The Editors of the Crimson:

Having examined the October-November edition of the Peninsula, we are concerned that many might read the magazine's supposedly scholarly articles with credulity. The authors' manipulation of statistics and citations, in addition to their purported display of charity, could thereby misinform the public-at-large as well as impel anyone with homosexual desires to his or her emotional detriment.

In the interest of both those straight people who, prior to arriving at Harvard, have never before been asked to evaluate their views on homosexuality, and in defense of those who are trying to understand their own sexuality, we seek in this letter to "straighten" some of Peninsula's facts and to repudiate their most dangerous unwarranted assumptions.

To begin with, we challenge Peninsula's assertion that homosexuality is rare. In "De Scopulo," the author discredits A.C. Kinsey's 1948 finding that 10 percent of the American population is homosexual, claiming that those who participated in Kinsey's study were necessarily more open with their sexuality than the American population as a whole. The author apparently did not have the time to examine the entirety of Kinsey's work. Kinsey does anticipate this objection, and states: "We were repeatedly assailed with doubts as to whether we were getting a fair cross-section of the total population or whether a selection of cases was biassing the results... Whether the histories were taken in large cities, in small towns, or in rural areas, whether they came from one college or another ... whether they came from one part of the country or from another, the incidence data on the homosexual have been more or less the same."

The pressured Peninsula staffer failed to recognize not only Kinsey's own search for truth but also that of several other studies which verified the prevalence of homosexuality in the American population, namely R.T. Ross' Measures of the Sex Behavior of College Males as Compared to the Kinsey Reports (1950) and Masters and Johnson's Homosexuality in Perspective (1979). Given that these studies' results correlated precisely with Kinsey's, we wonder whether the "tireless" writer of this article was not a little eager in dismissing the 10 percent statistic. And given that, according to this statistic, 90 percent of the nation is straight (225 million people), we wonder whether, despite their protestations of benign tolerance, Peninsula writers do not intend any harm when they spuriously discredit Kinsey's finding.


If numbers represent power, what purpose other than intimidation could members of such an overwhelming majority have for invalidating any sense of solidarity which the often beleaguered homosexual population of the U.S. (approximately 25 million people) might be able to foster?

Of course, one might argue in the name of Christian compassion that, though cruel, it is necessary to destroy homosexuals' belief that there are others like them. Gay people, as R. Wasinger points out in "If You're Gonna Call Me Names," clearly can not be happy, and must benefit from Peninsula's particular, condescending brand of Tough Love, which seeks to persuade gays that "human beings can resist their impulses," ("Caritas," p.38) i.e. that with enough perseverance gays can discover true moral and physical satisfaction through the practice of heterosexuality. The fact that Peninsula ignores the abundantly documented failure of a multitude of efforts to convert homosexuals, among them prolonged subjugation to electro-convulsive (shock) therapy, neither surprises nor concerns us here.

Likewise, we choose not to dwell on the fact that homosexuals who are unhappy about being gay might be less so if their medically unalterable orientation did not require them to participate in a struggle for basic rights which has continued unjustly for far longer than Wasinger's 20-odd years. Here we are interested in ensuring that Peninsula's version of the adage "hate the sin but love the sinner," informed as it is by the authors' stated desire to develop laws, public policies, and community standards which would publicly "discourage" homosexuality, is not mistaken by homosexuals or straights for either a solution to discrimination-induced unhappiness, or a valid approach towards dealing with gay people. Straights should not presume that homosexuals crave their charity, in any form. And no one should believe that conversion to heterosexuality would prevent any further prejudice to erstwhile homosexuals. The boundaries of bigotry are not so precisely drawn.

Rest assured that the same people who would gladly see laws passed discouraging homosexuality with punishments perhaps as severe as death would be suspicious of a onetime sinner and would treat him with prejudice even should he swear never to commit his crime again. In light of these truths we can see Peninsula's charade of caritas for what it is: a potentially influential camouflage for enduring hatred.

If we felt that Peninsula's sophistry were worth 56 pages of effort, (and if the Crimson permitted editorials of that length) we would point out that almost all of B. Murray's statistics on AIDS may be considered invalid, since they date from a decade ago. We would suggest that M. McDonald should remember, as does his colleague R. Landry, that Freud's psychosexual theories defining homosexuality as a neurosis are but theories, without much current support among contemporary psychologists. And above all, we would inform C. Brown that Plato in the Symposium does praise homosexual love, saying, (among other things) "...if there were only some way of contriving that a state or army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city..."

In conclusion, however, we only wish to express our regrets that the Peninsula staff are so ignorant of homosexuals' capacity to love that they will never realize that gay people's genuine friendship can be as supportive as that of straights. And we wish to offer them our deepest sympathy, for none of them will ever have the opportunity to quote to another man the words of Harvard's own Henry David Thoreau: "If I but love that virtue which he is, though it be scented in the morning air, still shall we be truest acquaintances, nor mortals know a sympathy more rare." Rebecca H. Rhodes '92   Jessie K. Minier '92

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