Gay Soul: Finding the heart of gay spirit and nature by Mark Thompson

GSThe Huffington Post includes it in its list of ‘20 books that changed the way we felt about ourselves as LGBT people.’ “It taught me that we are a unique tribe, but that sexuality was only one facet of who I really am.”

The author has a series of with well-known community figures, spiritual leaders, and artists such as Harry Hay, Ram Dass, Andrew Harvey, Paul Monette, James Broughton.

We thought that the interview format was good, though there were sopme leading questions.

It was thought provoking.

The idea that gay men have some sort of shamanic, unique insight because they are outsiders and felt different from an early age was popular at the start of the last century. Whether this will last now that the stigma is lessening is questionable.

Richard Isay says that: We live in a society where fathers are often distant from their whether those sons are gay or straight. … But they’re more distant from a child that they sense is different. Our society is not tolerant of differences, particularly differences that wrongly may be labeled as “feminine.” The idea of not appearing male is particularly odious to straight people. And not feeling masculine to many gay men as well in our society.

(This distant father thing – is it cause or effect? Chicken or egg?)

He reckons: I don’t know if we have a unique vision, but I do think we’re an awful lot more interesting than heterosexual men. We’ve been through more. We’ve me a greater variety of people. We’ve had to deal with more outside of ourselves and inside ourselves as well. It causes us often to be more thoughtful than straight men. Gay men who don’t know themselves are not particularly interesting. Some are trying to live gay versions of conventional heterosexual lives and have blocked off a lot of what’s different and interesting inside of themselves.

To the accusation that gays cannot hold down long-term relationships: We may hold onto an unhappy, unsatisfying relationship from the past with the hope that it will change. Or feeling that what little we got, even if it was bad, is better than nothing….There’s the rage, shame, and resentment that all of us carry us—a need to express our anger at what society does to us. And then there’s need to re-create our early relationships. If we’ve been rejected by a father, for example, we will be inclined to enter into a relationship with a partner in which reject him as revenge for what was done to us, or place ourselves in a position ere we are again rejected. A lot of gay men feel it’s easier to have sex in five minutes and go home.

James Broughton reckons that gay men make a contribution to straights: The most androgynous men, whatever their sexual preference, embody the sturdiest gay spirit. They are freer of the rat races and the desire to be like everybody else. What could give all men liberation and depth would be a realiza­tion that their souls include all the reaches of human possibility.

He advises: Be not shy of the love you can share with other men. Fear of love is fear of the sublime. Put lovemaking before moneymaking and troublemaking. To be a   lover is to practice the major art of life. You must love even if it hurts. It will hurt more if you don’t love.

He also points out the untruth of body/soul dualism: “Those who see any difference between the soul and the body have nei­ther,” said Oscar Wilde. The soul expresses itself throughout the body, in its members, organs, nerves, and cells, in all actions of desire, daring, and droop, wherever you ache and wherever you soar. Every nook and cranny of yourself flutter and stretch, exude and hum, in experiencing the pleasures and pains of being alive. The body is a holy place of romp and renewal. It is not the shameful sewer that orthodox religions insist upon. Novalis said, “There is only one tem­ple in the world, and that is the human body.” From your tiptoe to your topknot you are throbbingly alive in the dance of the divine mystery. The genitals, the anus, and the perineum are the holy trinity at the root of your torso’s experience. The penis is the exposed tip of the heart and the wand of the soul. The perineum animates all the chakras. The anus is the transforming and recycling volcano that fertilizes new growth. The proper activity in a temple is worship. Open your temple to love. Visit other temples.

Paul Monette has become discerning about enemies: I’ve been furious and blunt, as you say, in my impatience and rage with religions…. And yet, in the midst of this nightmare and calamity of AIDS, I have seen such eloquent work done by people who are part of the clergy.

He advises gays to know their rich heritage: The one thing they can’t take away from us is knowledge about our-astonishing literature in twenty-five years. You’ll have to know it. Ignorance is not bliss, and ignorance will not hold back the darkness. I believe that there is a great deal more homo-ignorance than in the world.

The editor does well to point out that there are many fakes: Any person on a spiritual search is likely to meet all sorts of preposterous­ prophets; questionable messengers of the divine are almost certain to be en­tered on the inner quest

Andrew Harvey acknowledges what many feel: I prefer the word breakup” to “breakdown” because I think you do break completely, but you break into another dimension in which you are at the same time infinitely more agile, more awake, and more loving.

Also that: reputation is nothing and that the only valuable thing is to remain true to the soul.

By way of definition: I mean by the word mystical entering into conscious direct relations with the divine. It must be conscious and it must be direct to be mystical. Mystical is not theological; it’s not having a series of ideas about God, however lucid wonderful. It’s not emotional; it’s not having a series of feelings, however deep and adoring, about God. And it’s not intellectual, in any sense, even in the most refined sense.

He goes on: Homophobia is entirely about extinguishing the feminine and extinguishing the child. Because what are the two great enemies of the masculine myth—the woman and the child!…. homophobia is rooted in the derision and fear of the feminine, so is the destruction of the earth. The destruction of the earth has from our ignorance of where and who we are, which is totally interdependent ­with everything else.

So far so good but I balk at: The earth has AIDS because of the way we’ve treated it.

Instead of saying that ‘AIDS is God’s wrath’ he seems to be saying that it’s Gaia’s wrath.

Andrew Ramer talks of ‘coming in’ as well as ‘coming out’. Coming in refers to the inner, spiritual journey by which the gay man tunes into the gay tribe, the collective unconscious of gay men. His childhood was unusual: “My father did the best he knew how as a straight man to introduce me to gay culture,” Ramer recalls, even though he is quick to admit that those at­tempts were frequently “terrifying.” Andrew’s parents would often argue over their young son’s nonconforming behavior, his father advocating tolerance. “You can’t change people,” he’d proclaim. “Let’s see what we can do to make him happy as he is.” ……Andrew still remembers those outings well.

“All the men were screaming queens,” he says, with a slow shake of his head. “They all had on little cashmere V-neck sweaters, were incredibly skinny, had bad skin, and wore penny loafers and very tight pants. I thought I’d turn out exactly like them.” As the evenings progressed, the men “got drunker and drunker and sat around the piano singing Broadway songs, which I knew but wouldn’t admit that I did…..Born in 1951 to a left-wing, atheist, political, Jewish family in Queens, New York, Ramer had plenty of other lessons about being different while grow­ing up. “I was raised in an environment where I was taught that in a tribe, which was Jews, we have a responsibility not only to educate the world about who we are innately but also to support one another, take care of ourselves, and make lists of all the famous Jews that have ever done anything of significance in world history.”

Gays lead others: ` If gay men are making theater, eventually straight people will come. If we invent a new way of dressing, eventually everyone will dress that way. So in little ways, we’re still doing our innate job for the whole society…. If all of us decided to stay home for a week, the entire cultural life of the planet would grind to a complete halt.

Harry Hay was very interested in the results of a recent study at University of California, Los Angeles, that show there are more connections between the right and left hemispheres of gay men’s brains than in other people’s. This supports my view that gay men are those who are constantly trying to put dreams into words, music, and motion—into new ways of talking to one another. We find the means to bring into articulation our innermost visions. That’s it’s tremendously important right now for gay men to be in sensual and sex-contact as much as possible—it enables that articulation.

On casual sex: In the sexuality found in bathhouses and backroom bars, gay men keep making objects out of each other. The ensuing ejaculatory affairs undoubtedly re­in an eagerly sought release, but they end up being spiritually negative if not, indeed, spiritually taxing in many cases, not to mention a drain on the immune system. I’m more inclined to feel that some of the things that go on in tantric practices are as important, if not more rewarding, in the long run.

So some gay men lack empathy and are fairly alien.

He prefers ‘homophile’ to ‘homosexual’ because it moves the emphasis from sex to love. The Church of England produced a report which used this term though people thought it was because of a fear of sex.

If bishops produced a statement about the earth being flat, that wouldn’t make it true.

Now I know why so many hairdressers are gay: as far as gay men are concerned, we really don’t care about ….struggle. If anything, we would like to share in helping you win. We are able to dress a woman’s hair or body because we have no interest in possessing her whatsoever. Therefore, I can listen to her tell me what she wants to be she would like to look and then help her do that for herself. Every hetero man wants her to be an object: to excite him, satisfy him, do something for him. He thinks of her as an object in his competition game. I see her as she wants to see herself, and so I can share with her all of the talents I have at my disposal. I’m sharing in her joy in herself because I have no interest in her as an object.

Against the idea of some sort of third sex, Will Roscoe says of berdaches, shamans and the like: It’s not a gene or something built the brain; it’s a set of social practices—social forms and techniques and roles. They occur and reoccur in many times and places because they work and because the way we are psychologically. We were taken with his statement that: Not everybody has to be, should be, or is required to be a flaming queen. But our growth lies through examining the flaming queens among us. You’ve got to be comfortable with that queen. You’ve got to take her hand and walk down the street—and I mean that literally. If you’ve never gone in gone in drag, if you’ve never hung out with some gay guys while they’re in drag in public, I don’t think that you’ve made the progress toward self-acceptance that you need to make. You’ve got to learn to feel comfortable with the most outrageous and sometimes degraded images of us. You can’t just love the good parts of gay men; you’ve got to love the so-called bad parts if you’re going to love yourself as a gay man, too.

Clyde Hall said: Indian people think of the two worlds being separated by a very thin veneer, like a curtain.

It reminds me of Celtic talk about ‘the veil is very thin here when talking of some numinous place.

Given the title of the book, how does one define ‘soul’? I don’t believe in such a thing because it is dualist. However James Saslow comes close to what I think when he says: I’m not sure I have a definition for soul. Spirituality has to do with relationship of the individual to the whole universe. But to the extent that 1 that I have a soul, I’m an atheist. I would put it this way: If the universe as a whole is the big circle, within that there’s this box that is logically organized society, and within another little circle that represents the individual soul. The soul is local and within me—it’s my core identity. I believe there is some connection betweeen little circle in the middle and the big circle at the horizon—they’re both tot rather than logical and organized.

As to their being a purposed in life, I like it when he says: Maybe we’ll find that isn’t have a great evolutionary purpose; maybe our purpose is pure play. I would rather like the idea of a mythology in which gay people represent the play pie, in which our role is simply to be the agents of increasing spontaneity aesthetics and fun.

Ram Dass spoke of a longtime companion. Later, he said, “I got into a lot of trouble for that interview. I choose to be open and honest about my life. When it affects others I must respect their privacy.”

I can’t make him out. He was born Jewish, espouses some bits of Hinduism yet has taken the name of one of the Sikh gurus, albeit adding an extra ‘s’.

(Maybe someone had a sensde opf humour – it was later pointed out to me that it could be spelt ‘Rammed ass.’)

Then he goes on to espouse a Buddhist idea, albeit a good one: Suffering stinks, and then suffering becomes grace. It still stinks, but it’s grace. You’d rather not suffer, unless you’re a masochist, but f you do suffer, you work with it and experience what it’s showing you, which Buddha’s point of view is where your mind is clinging. Because you always suffer where there is clinging.

Where he is good: awakening is the recognition that there are planes of consciousness and that you exist on all of them. You are limiting self incredibly to define yourself only in terms of the physical/psychological planes, as if they were absolutely real. So it’s an awakening into the relative reality of the world you thought was absolutely real. It’s awakening to realize you’re in a prison you’ve created by your own thoughts—that your conceptual definitions of reality are imprisoning you from what reality is, which is something that has no concept.

I used to know someone who regularly travelled to the United States to attend Body Electric workshops so it was interesting to ready Joseph Kramer’s explanation of the theory behind them. His thought about full body orgasms owes a lot to William Reich.

After reading Guy Baldwin I still don’t understand S & M. From my very limited knowledge, though, I think I agree with him when he says: There are a lot of people out there who are doing S/M for reasons that I don’t approve of, in the sense that I don’t think they are engaged in S/M for life-enhancing purposes. Some have harnessed self-destructive impulses to their sexu­ality and found a way to manifest that in the S/M scene.

Ed Steinbecher gives a good tarot meditation.

As ever, I enjoyed reading Malcolm Boyd. In 1976: he announced his homosexual­ity in a New York Times interview. The gay movement was in its nascent stages, and he wanted to join. Neither the gay movement nor the church—nor the world, for that matter—knew quite what do with this self-outed celebrity. Too open for religion and too religious for being gay, Boyd now found that more doors had closed than were opened. He had no choice but to keep on running.

He said: Being gay for me means gentleness, sensitivity, warmth, and service to others. When I meet a gay person who is the opposite of those things, I am of­fended. Because that’s someone who has not realized himself or herself.

To the question How can gay people begin to redeem and separate out the hopeful message that perhaps does exist for them in Christianity?: The principal way is to quit concentrating on gay spirit and get involved in the muck and the reality of gay soul. Too many gay Christians have been re­mote, transcendent, have been involved in churchianity rather than Christianity_ It’s essential to discover a relationship with the radical Jesus Christ. Gay soul the great meeting place for gay Christians and gay Buddhists, gay Jews and gay agnostics. Anybody interested in gay spirituality and theology has a meet’ place in gay soul. However, we have not met there enough.

Later: I feel some anger and rage, getting back to anger and rage, about the fact that a small group of gay people are controlling some of the media represent what is supposed to be gay life and the gay community. Probably seventy eighty percent of gays are honeycombed into the culture or are still in the closet The prototype of the gay male may really be a flabby, tweedy gay schoolteacher who lives in relationship with somebody in a quiet neighborhood. We’ve projected some very mistaken and distorted images of gay life. What’s essential now is to start dealing with gay people as we are. As for the seventy percent or m that are closeted, I’m fascinated. I want to know who these people are. I want address them; I want them to address me. These people are living a gay life. These people are grappling with gay soul.

Thought provoking: Martin Luther King taught me that nonviolence is the way you pick up the telephone. I like that because it’s so specific. Whenever I pick up the telephone I realize how close or how far from nonviolence I am. Some people think that nonviolence means being passive. Gandhi, who practiced nonviolence, was as involved in social action as anyone in the world. But it’s how you accomplish social action. What are your goals? That’s the point. As gay people, we have to be socially active at every level. We’re asserting our own rights, we’re asserting the rights of others, but at the same time I think the way we do it needs to be through nonviolence and uncondi­tional love. It’s important that these be recognized as active, not passive.

He says: Look at the beatitudes, blessed are the poor, blessed are those who have been persecuted. To me, the fact that God is concerned with the poor and the persecuted is very deep.

So far so good, but they he naively asserts: I believe that God has a plan.

Mitch Walker disagrees with Foucault’s social construction theory but fails to give reasons.

One of our members did and said: In the end, I was not convinced that ‘Gay’ is the 3rd (or 4th) sex. For me, being Gay describes ONE ELEMENT of who I am. I am emotionally and physically attracted to men.    That is not a TOTAL description of who I am. Being Gay has enabled me to meet and have friendships/relationships/sex with guys of different social classes, backgrounds, religions, nationalities. Gay covers all classes, castes, religions, backgrounds, political and socio/economic groups.
It absolutely does not mean that we are all THE SAME. I just have to venture into The Pineapple (local gay bar) to know that the ONLY thing I have in common with most guys in there is that  we enjoy SEX WITH MEN. I also believe that  there is a whole spectrum of sexual identity from 100% Homosexual at one extreme…….through bi-sexual, metrosexual, bi-curious… 100% Heterosexual at the other, and that most men are clustered at the 95% Gay or 95% straight level, but that this can change with circumstances.  So, in spite of all the attempts to paint GAY as inherently a different class, breed, sect, religion….and to inbue us with special powers or skills – hairdressers, counsellors, artists, painters, interior designers….whatever –  in the end (if that’s the right expression), Gays can be  tall, short, blonde, redhead, Tory, Labour, Liberal, SNP, UKIP (maybe not)……I  have met both angels and devils in the gay community. I am still left with a fascinating question, which ‘Gay Soul’ makes me think about, but does not answer. What is Gay? Going to bed with a so called ‘Straight’ guy can be very exciting;  but the fact that he wants to know what it feels like to be fucked doesn’t actually make him Gay. Does it?

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The Picture of Dorian Gray – directed by Neil Bartlett on BBC Radio 3

Neil BartlettThere’s a chorus similar to his production of Great Expectations which we saw at Bristol’s Old Vic.

One anachronism was the chorus reciting the Lord’s Prayer with the translation which wasn’t available in Oscar Wilde’s day: On earth, Those who – or is the chorus a voice from the future, commenting on the past. (A reviewer in Dublin wrote than ‘the language breaks into modern turns of phrases which came across as jarring.’ Another explains that ‘. The cast of characters take on the role of the chorus in a Greek tragedy to convey the bloody images and passing of time that we, the audience, cannot see.’

There is a distinctive sound of kissing between Henry and Dorian.

tom cantonGray is played by Tom Canton who was also in Bartlett’s production of Great Expectations. His professional debt was also as Dorian Grey in Dublin in 2012.

Bartlett, at an interview, was asked if the play was a metaphor for Ireland today? Or for society? He said, ‘It’s hard not to feel a twinge of modernity when somebody says about Dorian “You are what the age is seeking for, and what it is afraid it has found.”’

He also said that the biggest challenge was deciding which of Wilde’s beautiful sentences I could bear to leave out. He cut what he calls ‘the most marvellous chapter in the book….a very long one where absolutely nothing happens except that Dorian wonders about the meaning of life. I cut the whole thing. And then found a way of doing it.’

One reviewer said that it was ‘terrifying transformation of Oscar Wilde’s novel. ‘ and that ‘Bartlett’s play unsettles by taking Wilde’s trademark epigrams and sending them through the fires of hell. The witticisms are all present and correct, but have been dipped in brimstone. And the director has not shied away from the one area that would be Wilde’s undoing ­homosexual love. But there are no rose-tinted spectacles in use: gay rape leads to suicide and unlawful male love permits the fiendish Gray to force a former “friend” into helping him dispose of a body with chemicals.

It’s a shocking and intense 90 minutes. But this superb production also defines what a good radio play is all about: showing the human condition, with all its frailties, in a way that the listener will never forget. Just like Dorian’s portrait.’

The question abides: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?

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Tearoom Trade : Impersonal Sex in Public Places (Observations) – Laud Humphreys

TT(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

‘Tearoom’ in the USA, like ‘cottage’ in the UK, is slang for a public toilet. Married men frequented tearooms on their way to or from work to have furtive sexual encounters with other men.

Such encounters were carried on with a secret language or code of gestures and looks so as to distinguish those who were looking for sex from those who were there to use the toilets for their ‘intended purposes’.

These encounters were illegal and police went to great lengths to catch them. Sometimes they employed ‘pretty police’ to entrap them. At other times, they hid in the roofs and snooped before making arrests. Many of those arrested committed suicide rather than face public shame in the courts and in the subsequent newspaper reports.

Others were subject to blackmail – indeed this is probably the main reason why the law changed, spurred on by Dirk Bogarde’s film ‘Witness’.

Laud Humphreys was a sociologist who also happened to be an Anglican priest. He made a study, for his PhD, of the men who engaged in these encounters and this book is the result of his findings.

The encounters usually involved three people: the two engaged in the sexual activity, and a look-out, called “watchqueen” in slang. By offering his services as the “watchqueen,” Humphreys was able to observe the activities of other participants.

 These encounters were great levellers of social class. A managing director could get off with a lorry driver – the former worked flexitime so had more opportunities.)

38% of Humphreys’ subjects were neither bisexual nor homosexual; 24% were clearly bisexual; 24% were single and were covert homosexuals, and only 14% corresponded to the popular stereotype of homosexuality – clear members of the gay community interested in primarily homosexual relationships. 38 percent were Roman Catholic or their wives were. Since the birth of their last child conjugal relations had been rare. Their alternative source of sex had to be quick, inexpensive, and impersonal so as not to be any kind of involvement that would threaten their already shaky marriage and jeopardize their standing as father of their children. They wanted only some form of orgasm-producing action that was less lonely than masturbation and less involving than a love relationship Because Humphreys was able to confirm that 54% of his subjects were outwardly heterosexual with unsuspecting wives at home, an important part of his thesis was the incongruity between the private self and the social self for many of the men engaging in this form of homosexual activity.

He concluded that these encounters were harmless (but what about STDs passed on to ‘innocent’ wives?), and posed no danger of harassment to straight men. His research has convinced many police departments that such encounters resulted in victimless crime; hence they were able to focus on other problems.

He also concluded that most of the men he observed were married and had “respectable” lifestyles using the biblical term ‘breastplate of righteousness). In addition, Humphreys described a large portion of the men as “socially conservative” outside of the public restrooms. These findings surprised and angered people in both the heterosexual and LGBTQ communities

His work caused a major debate on privacy for research participants and is now often used as an example of highly controversial social research.

He did not get his subjects’ consent, used their car number plate numbers to track them down, and interviewed them in disguise without revealing the true intent of his studies, claiming to be a health service interviewer, and asking questions about their race, marital status, occupation etc.

The ensuing arguments led to half his colleagues at the University of Washington leaving his department.

Journalist Nicholas von Hoffman was given some details of the case by one of the angered members of the Sociology Department and wrote an article about Humphreys’ research and offered the following condemnation of social scientists: “We’re so preoccupied with defending our privacy against insurance investigators, dope sleuths, counterespionage men, divorce detectives and credit checkers, that we overlook the social scientists behind the hunting blinds who’re also peeping into what we thought were our most private and secret lives. But there they are, studying us, taking notes, getting to know us, as indifferent as everybody else to the feeling that to be a complete human involves having an aspect of ourselves that’s unknown.”

 Concerning the risk that his notes could have been seized to identify men engaged in illegal acts, he said he would have risked going to jail rather than hand them over. Others said no researcher should have such power over others, no matter how good their intentions are. Humphreys argued his deception was justified as the acts were so stigmatised he would not have got the information otherwise.

 There are still married men who engage in these encounters in public places because they don’t have ‘somewhere to go’. They don’t fit into the binary categories of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. They are usually labelled as ‘men who have sex with men.’ With easy pickups facilitated by the internet and by aps. Such as Grindr, it remains to be seen whether this way of meeting the likeminded will die out. (Jane Ward has done a study of men who use Craigslist in Los Angeles for such encounters – in which 85% define themselves as ‘str8’)


how public park restrooms are a wonderful example of how people find ways of carving out privacy in public spaces

At shortly after five o’clock on a weekday evening, four men entered a public restroom in the city park. One wears tennis shoes, shorts, and teeshirt; the third man is still clad in the khaki uniform of his filling station; the last, a salesman, has loosened his tie and left his sports coat in the car. What has caused these men to leave the company of other homeward-bound commuters on the freeway? What common interest brings these men, with their divergent background, to this public facility?

They have come here not for the obvious reason but in a search for “instant sex.” Many men—married and unmarried, those with heterosexual identities and those whose self-image is a homosexual one—seek such impersonal sex, shunning involvement, desiring kicks without commitment. Whatever reasons—social, physiological, or psychological—might be postulated for this search, the phenomenon of impersonal sex persists as a widespread but rarely studied form of human interaction.

There are several settings for this type of deviant activity—the balconies of movie theaters, automobiles, behind bushes—but few offer the advantages for these men that public restrooms provide. “Tearooms,” as these facilities are called in the language of the homosexual subculture, have several characteristics that make them attractive as locales for sexual encounters without involvement.

I have researched a metropolitan area with more than 90 public toilets in its parks, only 20 of which are in regular use as locales for sexual games. Restrooms thus designated join the company of automobiles and bathhouses as places for deviant sexual activity, second only to private bedrooms in popularity. During certain seasons of the year—roughly, that period from April through October that Midwestern homosexuals call “the hunting season”— tearooms may surpass any other locale of homoerotic enterprise in volume of activity.

Public restrooms are chosen by those who want homoerotic activity without commitment for a number of reasons. They are accessible, easily recognized by the initiate, and provide little public visibility. Tearooms thus offer the advantages of both public and private settings. They are available and recognizable enough to attract a large volume of potential sexual partners, providing an opportunity for rapid action with a variety of men. When added to the relative privacy of these settings, such features enhance the impersonality of the sheltered interaction.

There is a great deal of difference in the volumes of homosexual activity that these accommodations shelter. In some, one might wait for months before observing a deviant act (unless solitary masturbation is considered deviant). In others, the volume approaches orgiastic dimensions. One summer afternoon, for instance, I witnessed twenty acts of fellatio in the course of an hour while waiting out a thunderstorm in a tearoom. For one who wishes to participate in (or study) such activity, the primary consideration is finding where the action is.

Drives and walks that separate a public toilet from the rest of the park are almost certain guides to deviant sex. The ideal setting for homosexual activity is a tearoom situated on an island of grass, with roads close by on every side. The getaway car is just a few steps away; children are not apt to wander over from the playground; no one can surprise the participants by walking in from the woods or from over a hill; it is not likely that straight people will stop there. According to my observations, the women’s side of these buildings is seldom used at all.

One respondent, who has cooperated with the researcher in a number of taped interviews, claims to average three men each day during the busy season.

I have seen some waiting turn for this type of service. Leaving one such scene on a warm September Saturday, I remarked to a man who left close behind me: “Kind of crowded in there, isn’t it?” “Hell, yes,” he answered. “It’s getting so you have to take a number and wait in line in these places!”

There are many who frequent the same facility repeatedly. Men will come to be known as regular, even daily, participants, stopping off at the same tearoom on the way to or from work. One physician in his late fifties was so punctual in his appearance at a particular restroom that I began to look forward to our daily chats. This robust, affable respondent said he had stopped at this tearoom every evening of the week (except Wednesday, his day off) for years “for a blow job.” Another respondent, a salesman whose schedule is flexible, may “make the scene” more than once a day—usually at his favorite men’s room. At the time of our interview, this man claimed to have had four orgasms in the past twenty-four hours.

Throughout most homosexual encounters in public restrooms, nothing is spoken. One may spend many hours in these buildings and witness dozens of sexual acts without hearing a word.

I have noted more than once that these men seem to acquire stronger sentimental attachments to the buildings in which they meet for sex than to the persons with whom they engage in it. One respondent tells the following story: We had been discussing the relative merits of various facilities, when I asked him: “Do you remember that old tearoom across from the park garage—the one they tore down last winter?” Do I ever! That was the greatest place in the park. Do you know what my roommate did last Christmas, after they tore the place down? He took a wreath, sprayed it with black paint, and laid it on top of the snow—right where that corner stall had stood. . . . He was really broken up!

“I’m not toned up anymore,” Tom complains. He is gaining weight around the middle and losing hair. As he moves past 35, Tom will face the aging crisis of the tearooms. Less and less frequently will he find himself the one sought out in these meetings.

Well, I started off as the straight young thing. Everyone wanted to suck my cock. I wouldn’t have been caught dead with one of the things in my mouth! . . . So, here I am at forty—with grown kids—and the biggest cocksucker in [the city]!

Around the turn of the century, before the vice squads moved in (in their never-ending process of narrowing the behavioral options of those in the lower classes), the Georges of this study would probably have made regular visits to the two-bit bordellos. With a madam watching a clock to limit the time, these cheap whorehouses provided the same sort of fast, impersonal service as today’s public restrooms. I find no indication that these men seek homosexual contact as such; rather, they want a form of orgasm-producing action that is less lonely than masturbation and less involving than a love relationship. As the forces of social control deprive them of one outlet, they provide another. The newer form, it should be noted, is more stigmatizing than the previous one—thus giving “proof” to the adage that “the sinful are drawn ever deeper into perversity.”

The bars are O.K.—but a little too public for a “married” man like me. …Tearooms are just another kind of action, and they do quite well when nothing better is available.

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The Marrying Kind: Homosexuality and Marriage – Brenda Maddox

TMK(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This book is a study of homosexuality and marriage. This issue has taxed me for some time now as two of my friends are both gay and married.

Given the conservative estimate of the percentage of people who are gay, there must be hundreds of thousands, at least, in Britain who are both gay and married – so it is not an abnormality so much as a common variation amongst patterns of marriage.

The book contains several case studies, sympathetically written up. What emerges is that successful marriages are those where the ‘straight’ partner says something like ‘I have to love that half of my husband/wife because it is part of the whole.’ Marriage is an exploration and such exploring will uncover much – where it is left veiled then there is a break down in trust and communication. If the ‘problem’ is affecting a greater number than most would expect, more needs to be done to make people aware of homosexuality so that they can face up to their own fears. If the commonly held ‘spectrum theory’ i.e. that all of us are somewhere a line between 0- 10 regarding erotic preferences, then this is an issue that affects more marriages even than the hundreds of thousands mentioned.

With gay liberation one might expect gays to marry less often but this is not the case because many want children and a partnership of opposites and many on the continuum find it possible to carry on a furtive gay existence, either with a regular lover ‘on the side’ or, sadly, in odd encounters in public toilets – a sociological study in America (Tearoom Trade) by a clergyman (Laud Humphreys) revealed that the vast majority of people who use toilets for anonymous sex are married men on their way home from work; some research in England suggests that it is the same here. Gay liberation has worked for exclusively gay people – they can settle down with a partner – but it is those whose primary orientation is female who are driven to the use of toilets. Moralising about such behaviour may stir up guilt – the use of toilets is itself guilt-inducing, – but it seems that a more open acceptance that all of us are on a continuum and that homosexuality is no more odd than left-handedness will be needed if people are not to be driven to act in such secretive ways.

Research suggests that there are five types of gays: i) close-coupled, as good as married people of the same gender; ii) open-coupled gays – they maintain a primary relationship with each other which allows each to dabble in other affairs – is this because they are, by nature, unfulfilled by a partner of the same sex and need to seek what is lacking in another partner of the same sex? Is it an honest admitting that men are capable of performing the sexual act in such a way that their bodies are divorced from their emotions and intellects? If so, I think they need ‘liberating’ from that sort of masculinity and to be enabled to discover the feminine that is in them – women rarely play the field sexually in a dispassionate way. iii) single gays who are very promiscuous – they need to fulfil the demands of the libido and, I suspect, kill off the ability to form a secure relationship; many of the more vociferous gay liberationists actually made a virtue, pre-AIDS, of this lifestyle e.g. John Rechy, the U.S. novelist. It was a protest against conventional morality. Such morality doesn’t understand homosexuality but it never will do if it has the evidence of promiscuity. v) those who do not function as homosexual with others, sexually – often sublimating it e.g. the scoutmaster, devoted teacher, vicar &c. These have given an immense amount to society, more than we can ever know, but at what cost to their own developing maturity? Gays from all these groups do marry and do sire children. Many turned to marriage either because they were unaware of their feelings, which I find incredible but have to admit to be true because this book goes into the evidence, or in the hope of a cure – fortunately even the R.C. Church instructs priests NOT to recommend marriage as a cure.

The wife of a gay man has no conventional wisdom to fall back on for support in coming to terms with her situation and she is not very likely to spill the beans to those around her who might be able to support her. Just as most mothers know, intuitively, that their sons are gay, research suggests that many women know, subconsciously that they are marrying a gay man – for fear of sex and the hope that he’ll not be too demanding, as a conquest cf. the ‘fag-hag’ who loves to be in the company of gay men who flatter her but pose no threat sexually.

Lesbian wives are in a different position – many do not discover their orientation until after marriage and the degree of physical intimacy commonly accepted between women makes it harder to draw the line between philial and erotic friendship ­two men hugging each other, apart from on the football field, is so unusual that it becomes obvious what is going on. Lesbian mothers risk the loss of custody of children so often prefer to remain closeted. They also face the ultimate in male chauvinist piggery, the desire of many husbands to watch their wives making love to another woman, making real the fantasies fed by much pornography.

Fears that children will miss out if brought up by a gay parent are based on the mistaken theory that homosexuality is contagious or that it seeks to convert children (paedophiles on the whole are heterosexual) or that the environment will be unhealthy. This book gives much evidence to show that this is not true.

I wonder to what extent the advent opf same- sex marriage will alter things.

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One Teenager in Ten- ed. Ann Heron

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)oti10

A collection of short autobiographies by some gay teenagers in the states. Despite the days of liberation and the so-called permissive society, it is quite clear that most of these kids have suffered considerable pain in terms of the loss of friends and the isolation they feel as a result of their sexuality. There seems to have been no progress here since the past two generations. Where there has been progress is in terms of guilt-feelings. The past two generations will have probably had less ostracism because they will have been less honest, indeed less sure, about themselves but they will have faced guilt and self-doubt about their sexuality, assuming themselves to be the only ones in an age when the subject was never mentioned except by comedians in jokes and in condemnatory sermons.

Clergy and teachers need to be more clued up on this subject, not least because their employers are amongst the more repressive and they risk trouble if they seriously care pastorally for gay teenagers. Gay teachers and gay clergy are the most vulnerable and yet the most knowledgeable – their role is probably to spread their gospel to ‘straight’ clergy and teachers for the latter to act. Individuals have exercised tremendous pastoral care in the past but society at large is still very prejudiced to the extent that gayness if probably the largest intolerance-area, despite gay people forming society’s biggest minority group after the elderly.

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Two’s Company — Catherine Storr

TC(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

A reputable publisher has published this teenage fiction by a reputable author a candid look at relationships between a married couple on holiday whose marriage is on the rocks, two daughters going out with two boys and falling in love and then discovering that the boys are a gay couple. It deals with unrequited love and homosexuality in a sensitive way without a tragic ending and the author is to be commended for writing on a taboo subject about which teenagers reflect anxiously and are so often denied help about.

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Sweet Like Sugar – Wayne Hoffman

SLS(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

I couldn’t resist a book whose opening line is: I was looking at Internet porn when the rabbi opened my door.

I loved this moving, engaging yet improbable story. I wanted to read more yet decided to take my time as it was going to be a sad day when I finished it because there was no more to read.

The narrator is a lapsed Jew, gay and an advertising designer. Kurt Cobain’s suicide was a pivotal moment in his childhood.

He remembers with affection the Judaism of his youth and rediscovers a book from his childhood.

His parents become concerned when he befriends an orthodox rabbi and a discussion finally ensues about the similarities between being Jewish and being gay.

The novel asks whether everyone has a “bashert” – “We are all destined to have someone come into our lives.”

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