Imagine that you were gay and living in New York in December 1963. Like the rest of the country you were undoubtedly still recovering from the shock of President Kennedy's assassination a few weeks earlier. Perhaps the Christmas holiday would lift your spirits somewhat. Then on the morning of Dec. 17, 1963 you picked up the New York Times and saw a lengthy news story on Page One with the headline, "Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern". Quite a dispiriting way to start your day.
The article, which began, "The problem of homosexuality in New York ...", was wide-ranging in scope, covering legal issues; opinions from psychiatrists; observations about habits, night life and occupations of gay men as well as the neighborhoods they congregated in. Words such as "problem", "degenerates", "inverts", "disease" were sprinkled throughout. (Perhaps the song "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" from The Sound of Music was inspired by the "problem" of homosexuality that psychiatrists were trying to solve.) However, the article also served, unwittingly, as a course in Homosexuality 101 for isolated homosexuals or those just coming to terms with their same-sex attractions.
Here are some of my favorite, jaw-dropping passages (some are paraphrased).
- Sexual inverts have colonized three areas of the City: Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side from the upper 40s through the 70s, and the Upper West Side.
- Dregs of the invert world congregate around Eighth Avenue and 42nd St.
- They have their favored clothing suppliers, who specialize in the tight slacks, short-cut coats and fastidious furnishing favored by many, but by no means all, male homosexuals.
- The word "gay" has been appropriated as the adjective for homosexual. A homosexual probably derives secret amusement from innocent employment of the word in its original meaning by "straight" - that is, heterosexual - speakers.
- In summer, the New York homosexual can find vacation spots frequented by his kind - notably parts of Fire Island, a section of the beach at Jacob Riis Park, and many others.
- In some areas of the East Side "middle class" homosexuals lead outward lives that are prosperous and even gay in the original sense. By contrast, homosexuals who live in the Upper West Side are of a less prosperous class who drift through boarding houses.
- The tendency of high-fashion designers to produce styles that minimize or suppress womanly curves isn't an expression of homosexual hostility toward women, but rather an expression of fear.
- 1962's "Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals" recommended that a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son. He acts as a neutralizing, protective agent should the mother make seductive or close-binding attempts.
And yet, despite the less then positive depiction of New York City's gay residents, a number of positive observations were made:
- No attempt is made, the police commissioner said, to enforce the theoretical ban on private homosexual conduct between consenting adults.
- Parental concern over homosexual offenses involving minors is probably excessive, according to most psychiatrists and public officials - no more common than molesters of girls. Prevailing psychiatric opinion is that a single homosexual encounter would be unlikely to turn a young man toward homosexuality, unless a predisposition already existed in the individual.
- From homosexual subjects he had treated, Dr. Abram Kardiner noted that it was easier and less risky for a homosexual man to find a paramour than it was 25 years earlier.
- Dr. Bieber believes that wiping out negative attitudes would contribute to healing homosexuality rather than creating it.
- In a study of 300 homosexual men, 97% told freelance writer Randolfe Wicker that they would not change even if change were easy.
The full article can found here.