In late October 1969, four months after the Stonewall riot in Greenwich Village ignited the gay liberation movement, TIME Magazine ran a story on homosexuals that was featured on the cover. Titled "The Homosexual in America", it was the first time a newsweekly gave such attention to America's gay population. Unfortunately, for the most part it was an unflattering portrayal based on the prevailing negative attitudes of the times. Its condescending tone was somewhat similar to that of a CBS News documentary that aired in 1967 called "The Homosexuals" which portrayed homosexuals as pitiable creatures.
Reading it today, parts of the article are amusing (e.g, "For many a woman with a busy or absent husband, the presentable homosexual is in demand as an escort — witty, pretty, catty, and no problem to keep at arm's length"), but for the most part it was a troubling depiction of gay men and lesbians. Throughout the article the terms "homosexuals" and "deviates" were used interchangably. Perhaps this harsh tone was society's way of pushing back in response to the fledgling gay liberation movement taking shape.
Here are some particularly wounding exceprts from the article:
- The late Dr. Edmund Bergler found certain traits present in all homosexuals, including inner depression and guilt, irrational jealousy and a megalomaniac conviction that homosexual trends are universal. Though Bergler conceded that homosexuals are not responsible for their inner conflicts, he found that these conflicts "sap so much of their inner energy that the shell is a mixture of superciliousness, fake aggression and whimpering. Like all psychic masochists, they are subservient when confronted by a stronger person, merciless when in power, unscrupulous about trampling on a weaker person."
- The once widespread view that homosexuality is caused by heredity, or by some derangement of hormones, has been generally discarded. The consensus is that it is caused psychically, through a disabling fear of the opposite sex. The origins of this fear lie in the homosexual's parents. The mother — either domineering and contemptuous of the father, or feeling rejected by him — makes her son a substitute for her husband, with a close-binding, overprotective relationship. Thus, she unconsciously demasculinizes him.
- Homosexuality is essentially a case of arrested development, a failure of learning, a refusal to accept the full responsibilities of life. This is nowhere more apparent than in the pathetic pseudo marriages in which many homosexuals act out conventional roles—wearing wedding rings, calling themselves "he" and "she."
And here is how the article concluded:
The life of a homsexual is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste — and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.
10 years later Time would publish another gay-themed a cover story, this one titled "How Gay is Gay", which offered a much more positive and accurate portrayal of our lives.
(The complete article can found at this link.)