The Origin of the Gay Psychotherapy Movement
(Published in Duberman, A Queer World, New York University Press, 1997. 7,300 words)
On Dec. 15th, 1973, a ray of sunlight rose above the horizon, a historic change in the psychiatric and psychological professions providing warmth to gay people who, because of their homosexuality, had been long forced to live a cold, closeted life. It was on that date that the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association announced that homosexuality had been removed as a mental disorder per se from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
It had been a long night. In previous decades, gay people walked in the shadows of society, splitting their public and private lives, terrified that exposure of their homosexuality would result in family rejection, imprisonment, and job loss. Like many men in my generation, I too had been in the closet for much of my adult life. I therefore felt rather proud of my contribution to the December day's event.
The nomenclature change was the result of serendipity. In 1972, the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy was holding its annual meeting in New York City. There was a panel on homosexuality chaired by Helen Singer Kaplan. Kaplan invited Bernice Goodman and me, as representatives of Identity House, to speak on the panel. It was the first time openly gay people spoke at an AABT convention, and the meeting room was filled to capacity.
The convention program also listed lectures by behaviorists noted for their use of the electrical aversion therapy on gay men. The Gay Activist Alliance (GAA), New York's most militant gay rights organization, voted to "zap" (demonstrate) AABT and the professionals who used aversion therapy.
Members of GAA walked into the meeting room and politely informed the speaker that he would be allowed 15 minutes in which to make his presentation, after which gay activists would take over the meeting, which we did. We spoke about the harm done to gay people through the use of aversion therapy. Behaviorists at the meeting were outraged at the interruption.
In the audience was Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist and member of the Nomenclature Committee of the American Psychiatric Association. This committee formulates and makes changes in the diagnostic system. At the time, homosexuality was listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a "sexual deviation."
Spitzer suggested that gay activists take their complaint to the Nomenclature Committee. An ad hoc committee of gay activists, mostly from GAA, was formed to organize the presentation. The committee consisted of Ron Gold (Chairman), Jean O'Leary, Rose Jordan, Ray Prada, Brad Wilson, Bernice Goodman, and myself. A preparatory written report citing recent psychological research on homosexuality was prepared by Brad Wilson and Rose Jordan, and sent to the APA committee.
The ad hoc committee elected to make two presentations at the meeting with the psychiatrists. Jean was assigned the first of these, an oral presentation about the harmful effects of pejorative labeling on gay people. I was asked to discuss the diagnosis of homosexuality from the professional point of view.
Our committee met often. At these meetings, each member was assigned the responsibility of fielding potential questions from the psychiatrists. Jean and I were asked to read our presentations, so that others could critique them. At each of these meetings I reported that I had not yet finished mine. This was met by displeasure, particularly from Gold, who insisted that my presentation be sufficiently militant and confronting. It was precisely because of these demands of militancy that I willfully avoided informing them about my preparation.
I had decided to spend my available time reading about all the diagnostic systems that had been invented to classify human behavior. I found that they went back to the ancient Greeks. With particular interest I read through the American diagnostic systems, which began in 1871 (Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane), right through the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. My intention was to analyze their structure and point of view, to understand them as social documents that reflected the worries and fears of their ages. I began to look on them as spotlighting people whose behavior was inexplicable and therefore condemned. The last thing I wanted to do, at least at that point, was to write something. Nor did I want to play the role of the gay activist at the meeting with the Nomenclature Committee; I did not want to be their antagonist or accuser. I knew they were expecting that, and I thought it the better strategy to take a different approach. But what?
I found that it was not possible to read through the diagnostic systems without starting to chuckle. They could all have been subtitled "Miss Manners Meets the Psychiatrists." Most of the diagnostic categories consisted of socially disapproved behavior. Examples in DSM-II included lying, stealing, the fear of getting syphilis, or simply being a cranky person. I decided to use humor in order to point out the unscientific nature of diagnostic systems.
It was on the evening of February 7, 1973, that I wrote my paper, my lover, William, at my side. The first part highlighted the humor one can find within the pages of diagnostic systems. The second part chastised the Nomenclature Committee for the role the psychiatric profession played in the disenfranchisement of, discrimination against, and legal penalties imposed on gay people because we had been diagnosed as psychopathic and sexually deviant. The press used the diagnosis to picture us as perverts who preyed upon children.
The presentation to the committee (see Paper Number 1) was at New York’s Psychiatric Institute on February 8th, 1973. The committee received us cordially. They had read the written report, and they listened carefully to what we had to say. During lunch, Henry Brill, the committee chair, mentioned some of the impediments to removing homosexuality as a mental disorder. The psychoanalysts formed the biggest roadblock. Psychoanalysts were adamant in their belief that homosexual behavior was aberrant, and that it doomed the gay person to a life of loneliness, depression, and ultimately suicide. Only psychoanalysis could save the homosexual from himself, said Socarides, the most pompous of the analysts. Brill and I also gossiped about famous gay psychoanalysts such as Anna Freud and Henry Stack Sullivan.
After many months, and quite a bit of political wrangling from many directions, the Nomenclature Committee voted to recommend the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Their recommendation, however, had to be approved by the Board of Trustees of the American's Psychiatric Association. Most members of the board were sympathetic to the request by the Nomenclature Committee. On the other hand, the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder represented conflicting moral, ethical, political, and economic values. There was sympathy with the idea that gay people have been discriminated against in our society, and that the medical/psychological profession had contributed to that sorry state of affairs. But many members of the association, in particular psychoanalytically oriented psychiatrists, had built their reputations on "curing" homosexuals, and an affirmative action by the board would have been a slap in their professional faces. It would also have an economic effect upon the psychoanalysts, since many gay men would no longer feel justified in going to them for treatment. We gay activists had always maintained that trying to change the sexual orientation of gay people was fueled by economics as much as by psychological theory. The Board of Trustees was forced to face that problem, and they feared a rebellion by the psychoanalytic members of the association who were lobbying very hard and circulating petitions against the nomenclature change.
In March 1973, Richard Pillard, an openly gay Boston psychiatrist, was able to get the Northeastern New England District Branch to endorse the nomenclature change, making them the first APA state association to do so. This was an important step since it demonstrated that local associations would support a decision to remove homosexuality from the list of disorders.
The board decided that the issue was so explosive that a unanimous vote was required for the sake of solidarity. In consultation with the Nomenclature Committee, particularly Robert Spitzer, the board tried to satisfy both sides in the conflict. They finally asserted that some homosexuals are happy with their lives and have no wish to change their sexual orientation. These homosexuals were "ego syntonic." They were "normal" (although they never used that word publicly) and therefore not in need of psychiatric treatment. On the other hand, there were homosexuals who were unhappy with their lot, and they were labeled "ego dystonic," and these homosexuals were in need of treatment, and could remain on the list of mental disorders. It was a compromise that infuriated the recalcitrant psychoanalysts, who successfully raised a petition to force a vote on the nomenclature change by the whole association.
Gay activists were cognizant that a referendum of the APA membership might overturn the nomenclature change. The psychoanalytic group, led by Socarides, sent out a letter to the entire membership challenging the board decision, claiming that the association was being taken over by gay activists and that untold harm would be done to homosexuals who would be deprived of treatment for their unfortunate sexual adjustment if the decision was not overturned. To counter this letter, another one was sent out, this one written by Robert Spitzer and Ron Gold, and paid for by The National Gay Task Force.
The strategy of the activist letter was clever. It argued that a professional organization should support the actions of its Board of Trustees. To reject the decision after both the Nomenclature Committee and the Board of Trustees had carefully considered it, would be an insult to the organization. They also cited many examples of civil rights violations against gay people that had been justified by psychiatric diagnoses. The issue of homosexuality was left in the background since we were under no illusions about the conservative nature of most psychiatrists in the country. Many prominent psychiatrists signed the letter, including the sitting president and all the candidates for the future president of APA. The letter did not divulge that was paid for by a gay activist organization.
Socarides and his psychoanalytic rat pack howled when they learned about the letter. They claimed fraud and demanded an investigation of APA officers, which could not have endeared them to these officials. The investigation rejected Socarides claims.
About 10,000 psychiatrists voted in the referendum. Fifty-eight percent supported the actions of the board, while thirty-seven percent voted against it. One wonders why the majority of voters supported the deletion of homosexuality as a mental disorder, beside the belief that homosexuality is not abnormal. I think there are three reasons. For some, it was a matter of supporting the officers of their organization, regardless of the wisdom of the action. Others voted their conscience, understanding that discrimination against gay people was a very real problem, and they wanted to help remove the stigma. I suspect that hostility toward Socarides was a third reason. Many psychiatrists were embarrassed by his bull in a china shop approach to conflict, his arrogance, and his inability to negotiate or compromise. They simply did not want to be on any side that included him.
One of the criticisms leveled against the APA for removing homosexuality as a mental disorder is that science does not advance by a vote of hands. These critics forget that any list is produced by a group of people who vote for or against it. Science, I learned from my reading of diagnostic systems, has little to do with it.
The effect of the nomenclature change was electric. On the most obvious level, the diagnostic status of homosexuality, the change meant that the psychiatric/psychological profession had no justification to continue "curing" sexual orientation. There had been sodomy laws in almost all the states that depended upon the medical opinion that homosexuality was perverse. The APA decision laid the groundwork to challenge these laws, a process that is still incomplete. The publicity around the event also encouraged many gay people to come out, as if the APA gave them permission to disclose their homosexuality to friends and family. For gay men who hated their homosexuality, the announcement was like an elixir that restored self-esteem and confidence.
The announcement was also profound on a meta-level of analysis. It was not only the pathologization of homosexuality that had been attacked by the gay liberationists and gay professionals. On a deeper level, the campaign to change the diagnostic status of homosexuality challenged the foundation on which the psychiatric/psychological professions judged sexual behavior. Before 1973, the foundation was simply the moral code of our society. That which was immoral was invariably also illegal, and, hence, pathological. That is why homosexuality was categorized as a sexual deviation in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual II, along with the paraphilias -- for example, fetishism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadism, and masochism.
The removal of homosexuality from the list was an attack on the use of morality as the basis for diagnosing sexual behavior. But if the moral code were no longer the standard for judging the pathology of a sexual behavior, then what would replace it? The foundation for the diagnosis of all sexual disorders fell apart like a house of cards. Why couldn't the same standard of internal conflicts be used with all the other sexual deviations (now called mental disorders)? A shoe fetishist may be quite happy with his sexual experiences. Is he no longer suffering from pathology? The result of the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the list of disorders has brought about a more relaxed attitude toward those who are involved in "kinky sex." While these behaviors are still classified as mental disorders, they no longer carry the degree of heinousness they were associated with in the past.
The Early History of Gay Psychology
How did organized psychiatry get turned around from condemning homosexuality to approving of it? There were a number of factors that coalesced in the early 1970s. There was first of all of the diminution of the psychoanalytic movement’s power to control psychiatric thinking. Another factor was the rise of multidisciplinary sex research, unfettered by the cliché beliefs of the psychoanalysts. A third reason was the drive among gay psychiatrists and psychologists to come out of the closet and work for the common good of gay people. I played a role in some of these factors, but I began working for the gay movement in earnest first by joining the gay rights movement, then by working as a psychologist in the gay community.
Before the 1970s, there was no established alternative treatment for gay people in New York City. Virtually every therapist set the goal of changing the patient’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. This goal was not necessarily imposed on the patient. Gay people were a distinctly unhappy group, suffering from significant depression and loneliness, which subsequently led to a higher than average suicide rate.
The origins of gay psychotherapy begin in the fertile soil of the 1970’s political movements. Previous to that date, gay organizations such as the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis aimed at fitting into society. Their goal was to be accepted by the heterosexual majority. They acted like ladies and gentlemen, watchful of their manner, respectful to authority, and conservative in dress.
The 1969 riot at the Stonewall Inn galvanized a younger group of gay people into organizing the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which identified with left-wing ideologies, liberation movements such as the Black and women’s movements, and confrontation tactics. Their members believed that social activism was required to counter prejudice against gay people. Unlike the earlier gay organizations, they were not good boys and girls. They were spoiling for a fight.
GLF self-destructed due to internal conflict. It was replaced by the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) an equally militant but more efficient organization. One of its most popular slogans was "The cure for homosexuality is rebellion." Its popularity was based in part on anger against the psychiatric establishment for the psychological harm they had done to gay people. The GAA subscribed to the popular left-wing notion of the day that "elitism" contributed to the oppression of gay people. Elitism was reflected in what were described as "vertical hierarchies," an organizational structure in which important decisions were made by executives, officers, or "professionals." The ideal organization was "horizontal," whereby every member of the group had an equal say in the setting of goals and tactics. "Participatory democracy" was the name given to this early 1970s idealistic form of democracy. It was not an efficient system of decision-making. In fact, meetings of the GAA and other organizations built on participatory democracy (such as early gay counseling centers) resembled something between a lunatic asylum and trench warfare.
Gay psychotherapy was an offspring of the gay rights movement. A group of activists, some of whom were young gay professionals, dedicated themselves to changing the psychiatric/psychological professions attitude toward, and treatment of, homosexuals. This group had two goals in mind: to provide counseling services to gay people in emotional crisis, and to work politically toward removing the stigma from society. With regard to the first of these goals they knew that many gay people prefer to see a homosexual rather than a heterosexual counselor. Many gay people liked, even preferred, their sexual orientation, and resented a heterosexual therapist's assumption that they should become heterosexual. "I don't want my homosexuality to become the center of treatment" was an often-heard comment by gays who sought psychological help.
In 1971, Identity House (called "I House) was opened as a weekend walk-in center in the rectory of the Church of the Holy Apostle in Chelsea. Its founding members were Sidney Abbott, Bernice Goodman, Barbara Love, Tina Mandel, and myself. Goodman was a social worker and I a graduate student in psychology. The other three were socially concerned lesbians who were active in both the women's movement and the gay movement. The five founders sat as members of the steering committee, and I was asked to serve as director. No one received a salary. The walk-in center was staffed each evening by a male and female peer counselor who provided support to gay men and women who walked in (no appointment was necessary) and wanted to talk about their emotional problems. The peers were supervised by professionals who volunteered their time. Gay people who needed long-term therapy were referred to therapist on the staff who supervised the peers.
As an organization, I House was ahead of its time. It started serving gay people two years before the APA nomenclature decision removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. We had no other models of gay counseling on which to base our services, nor were there public or private funds available to us. Our only source of income were donations contributed by gay people counseled in the walk-in clinic. With that small sum, the organization had to pay rent, advertising, and the phone bill.
I House, though it had a director and a steering committee, operated on the basis of "participatory democracy," and therefore believed that a consensus of the entire group was required to formulate policy, rules, and procedures. Virtually all the founders and charter peer counselors of the group were veterans of the gay rights and the women's movement, and they knew from the experience of their own lives about the pain gay people suffered. Even though they were deeply committed to providing the best possible services, the organizational structure led to an extraordinary number of internal conflicts between the members, and between members and officers.
The seeds of dissension were sown the first day I House opened its doors. In retrospect one can see that the conflict was unavoidable. In the early 1970s, gay people mistrusted professional therapists, accusing them, not without justification, of using their power against homosexuals. Professionals had not only diagnosed homosexuality as a mental illness, but had often justified legal sanctions against gay people. The nonprofessional founders of the organization were suspicious of and feared the intentions of any professional, including those who helped found the organization. At the same time, however, they were dependent on the same homosexual therapists to train and supervise them. The internal conflict of being dependent on people they did not trust simmered for over a year.
The professionals, who numbered only a few, believed that peer counseling was in the best interest of gay people. At the same time, they mistrusted the intentions of the peer counselors, believing, not without justification, that some of them wanted to be therapists, even without academic credentials. While a few of the peers returned to graduate school for training, others believed that compassion for gay people and proper supervision were all that were necessary to be a "therapist" in the clinic as well as in private practice. The professionals were adamantly opposed to the view.
It was only a matter of time until suspicion and conflicting intentions had a profound effect both in the steering committee and during meetings of the membership. General meetings were already peppered with strife. Angry outbursts were common, and because "elitism" was frowned on, the chair was prevented from curtailing discussion. The undercurrent of hostility between professionals and peers finally erupted, and the future of the organization and its services was in jeopardy. Neither side saw room for compromise.
In 1973, two professionals on the steering committee, Bernice Goodman and I, and Don Sussman, the director of the walk-in service, decided to resign. We believed that the gay community needed a full-time counseling center, staffed with legally qualified professionals and administered by a full-time director. We wanted an "elitist" organization with efficiently chaired meetings. "Seed money" was found to rent a large Upper West Side apartment, and in June 1973, it opened to the public with a full-time director and administrative assistant. We each earned a salary of $50 a week. As director, and because of the inadequate salary, my lover and I took the master bedroom for our quarters. Many gay and lesbian therapists volunteered three or more hours a week, without remuneration, and provided therapy for gay people. The therapy fees were turned over to the organization to pay expenses. The organization was called the Institute for Human Identity (IHI), unfortunately creating some confusion in the public mind between IHI and I House.
Within the first few months, all available therapy hours will fully booked. Though IHI was the first full-time gay counseling center to open in New York City, it was not the first in the country. That honor goes to the Homophile Community Health Center, directed by Don McGaw in Boston. Counseling centers opened later in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
There were a number of ways in which we tried to inform the gay community about our services. Perhaps the most humorous of our strategies were the nightime forays to "the trucks." The area called "the trucks" was located in Greenwich Village only a couple of blocks from the Hudson River. During the day, huge food trucks occupied the space. At night to gay men wandered into the trucks to have sex. During weekend nights one might find hundreds of men having or watching others having sex.
Don Sussman and I decided to advertise the new therapeutic services of IHI by going to the trucks. On a number of Friday and Saturday nights, we drove there, opened up a folding table on the sidewalk, and served coffee to the gay man milling around. Along with every cup of coffee went an IHI brochure. Serving coffee led to continuous conversations and discussions about the counseling needs of gay people -- just what we wanted. We were amused when we later saw "the trucks" listed on intake forms as the referral source for new clients.
Some of the IHI services were unique. For instance, we offered a natural childbirth class for pregnant lesbians and their lovers. The class was advertised in the Village Voice, and the ad drew a large number of homophobic phone calls. But it also piqued the interest of some news reporters, who wrote about the class and the counseling centers.
There was a therapy group for lesbian couples led by a lesbian, and one for male couples led by a gay man. IHI also advertised a group for heterosexually married gay men, and our phones did not stop ringing for two weeks, suggesting the high incidence of gay married men. Unfortunately, almost all of them were looking for sex with other gay married men, not for a support group. "What you do in this group?" was the most common question asked over the phone. "What!" most of them exclaimed after a description of the support group, "You just talk?" Click. We then advertised for a unique group composed of couples in which one member of the pair was homosexual and the other heterosexual. That group was very successful.
It was during my tenure as director of IHI that I started writing and publishing, and again it happened by chance. In 1974 I received a phone call from Bill Cohen, who requested a meeting with me. He and his partner wanted to start a new company, called Haworth Press, which would specialize in publishing professional journals. Since Bill was gay, he wanted his first venture to be the Journal of Homosexuality, a professional journal that would publish the latest social science research about homosexuality. He asked me to be its founding editor. There were very few gay psychologists who were out of the closet in those days, and he came to me because of my affiliation with a gay counseling center. Given that Bill and his partner were investing their own money in the company, beginning their venture with a gay journal was a very brave act on their part.
I intended to announce the publication of the journal during the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Hawaii. There was a panel on homosexuality scheduled for the conference. Sitting on the panel were four psychologists, two of whom were friends, Harold Greenwald and Albert Ellis. There was no openly gay person on the panel, typical for the time. Just before the panel discussion began, a gay friend mentioned to me that he heard the panel chair say to friends, "I have to leave now and chair the fag panel."
In the audience were quite a number of gay psychologists, although we did not know each other yet. The panel members made their presentations, describing gay life in the usual pejorative ways. At the end of the panel, the chair asked whether there were any questions. Furious, I jumped to the microphone and asked why there were no gay psychologists on the panel. The chair said, "There aren't any in APA."
"Well, you're looking at one," I responded, becoming the first gay psychologist to come out on the floor of the APA. I then gave a critique of the bias of the panel and asked both Howard and Al to tell us whether they have had any homosexual experiences, and how they felt about them. Howard replied that he did, but did not like it, while Al said that he enjoyed the experience -- although neither statement was very descriptive. (In retrospect I am shocked at my rudeness.)
In the audience were Marty Rogers and Steve Morin, psychologists from California who had been talking together about the formation of a gay group in APA. It was after the confrontation at this panel that they organized the Association of Gay Psychologists, and held their first meeting at the APA convention in Montreal the next year.
That evening I attended a cocktail party hosted by Howard. "Why did you tell people you're a homosexual?" he asked. I gave the obvious reply. "But I've known you for years," he said, "and I know you're heterosexual." There was nothing I could say that would convince him. Finally, he came to the conclusion that my statement was a ploy to seduce women! This bizarre reasoning made me aware of how painful it must have been for him to learn of my sexual orientation.
In 1976, while still director of IHI, I was approached by Frank Taylor, formerly editor-in-chief at McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, to write a book for parents who learn that a son or daughter is gay. He sought me because of my affiliation with IHI and the fact that I was public about my homosexuality. A Family Matter: A Parents Guide to Homosexuality, published in 1977, was the first book for parents of gay children.
Taylor was also the representative of the English firm that had published The Joy of Sex. It sold an enormous number of copies worldwide, and the publisher made a fortune from it. They thought they could repeat the financial success with the Joy of Gay Sex. The publishers and Taylor (given the times) agreed that only Americans could write that kind of book, and of Americans, only New Yorkers. Taylor asked me whether I would write the book. We agreed that my strength was as a psychologist and counselor to the gay community, and that the book demanded a co-author who was, among other qualifications, a skilled writer (which I was not), and whose sex life was more catholic than my own.
The young novelist Edmund White was chosen as my co-author. It turned out to be an excellent collaboration. We were very different; Ed was a Midwestern WASP with a strong literary background, and I, a Brooklyn assimilated Jew, with expertise in psychology. Fortunately, though different in ethnicity, we were very similar in terms of our gay political beliefs. Ed was at the Stonewall the night of the riots, and I admitted to some envy because of it. We wanted to write the kind of book that we would have wanted to read ourselves as adolescents, a book that would be a guide to help men come out. We reasoned, therefore, that the book should have a wider focus than just sex. We set as our goal to advise the reader about life in the gay community. Eventually the majority of passages in the book were of a nonsexual nature. Ed and I lived just a few blocks from each other in those days, so it was easy for us to meet frequently, talk over our strategies for the book, and trade essays for critiquing.
We agreed that the book should be sexually stimulating. Toward that end we wrote six masturbation stories and spaced them throughout the book. We also wrote rather openly about the "kinkier" varieties of sex, such as bondage and water sports, and we tried to serve as wise older brother to teenagers struggling with their feelings and their homophobic families.
This was in early 1977 when Anita Bryant had started railing against homosexuals. The publisher's were very worried that the public outcry against gay people would seriously effect sales, and that books might be confiscated by local officials and governmental customs offices. Many people are under the impression that publishers like to have their books confiscated or burned. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is very expensive to fight censorship battles, and it is a rare publisher who is willing to do so.
Worries about censorship led to the removal of all the masturbation fantasies that Ed and I had enjoyed writing. The lawyers also objected to the worried "shit," and went ballistic over our essay on "bondage," which they pared down to only a short paragraph. Then, one day, the editor-in-chief at Crown Publishers summoned me to his office to ask why Ed and I insisted on writing the word "cock" rather than "penis." By this time we had been through many hours of censorship and our patience was wearing thin. "Because a cock and a penis are not the same thing," I responded with hostility. "Your penis is part of your anatomy, while your cock is something you fuck your wife with." Cock stayed in the book.
More serious was the problem over the essay on teenagers. The publishers rejected our essay out of hand because it did not condemn sex between teenagers and adults. They insisted that we label such men abnormal and immoral, and that we advise teenagers against sex with older men. The publishers may have been overreacting to the Anita Bryant scare, but Ed and I agreed that we would not condone a blanket condemnation of sex between teenagers and older man, as the publishers were demanding. In the end, we agreed that it was better to drop the essay in its entirety rather than publish faulty information. This is why there is no essay on teenagers in the original Joy of Gay Sex.
Ed and I reacted to the publishers’ interference in our own characteristic ways. As the New York Jewish, gay militant, I was confrontational, while Ed, the Midwestern WASP, was more subtle in his reactions (and perhaps more effective). here are two examples. One evening, while at dinner with the publishers (who I viewed as the Mafia), I told them I did not want to have dinner with them anymore. When asked why, I simply told the truth, which was that I did not like them, and saw no reason to suffer through a tedious meal with people I do not like. Ed thanked me profusely afterwards.
One day, the English editor of the book (in contrast to the American editor), who was heterosexual, said that he wanted to learn more about what homosexuals were like. He wondered whether he might go somewhere and observe them. Since he was already in the presence of two homosexuals, I gathered that he wanted to watch gay men have sex. I was not sympathetic to his request, which I interpreted as either condescension or an indication that he was in the closet. Ed had no such reservations. "I know just a place you should visit,” he said, laying a trap for the editor, but flashing the WASP charm Ed is rightly noted for. "It's called ‘ The Toilet,’ but don't worry about the name, it's not so bad." Ed then gave him instructions on how to get there. I could never have done that. Readers old enough to remember "The Toilet" can imagine the shock this proper English editor experienced when he entered that foul-smelling place. He faithfully reported to us what happened, but he never asked for our advice again.
The publishers’ fear of legal troubles over the book were not unfounded. Even though the publishers were English, no British press would publish it in England. The chain bookstores in the United States carried the book under the counter and out of sight so that straight customers would not be offended. Some libraries bought the book to a chorus of objections by the religious right about "immorality" and demands that it be hidden from the eager eyes of children.
A French Canadian firm published the book and sent thousands of copies to Paris. French customs seized and shredded the books. Thousands of English addition books were seized by Her Majesty's Customs in London and burned.
Jearold Moldenhauer, owner of Glad Day Book Shop in Toronto, ordered copies of the book. Her Majesty's Customs confiscated the book because it had descriptions and drawings of anal intercourse. It is prohibited to import such materials into Canada. Moldenhauer, at great financial risk, decided to sue for the return of the books. I volunteered to appear at the trial. The customs officer testified that anal intercourse was on the prohibited list for entry into Canada. When asked whether he considered the educational or cultural value of the book, he said, "That's not my business."
My own testimony was rather straightforward. I gave the history of the book, the reasons for writing it, and the goals we set for it. I also noted that the book was part sex manual and part counsel for young people entering the gay world. The cross-examination consisted of asking me about the pictures and descriptions of anal intercourse. The Crown asked whether I knew that there were nine pictures of anal intercourse in the book. "I've never counted them," I said, "but I'm willing to accept your account." It was all quite polite, the Canadians not taken to dramatics in the courtroom as we are here.
The judge's verdict was a model of fairness and sensibility. In what must be counted as one of the finest legal decisions for gay people, Judge Hawkins wrote, "To write about homosexual practices, without dealing with anal intercourse, would be equivalent to writing a history of music and omitting Mozart." The books were ordered returned to the Glad Day Book Shop.
(The book was revised in 1992 by Felice Picano and I without censorship in any way from HarperCollins, our publisher.)
I House and IHI were safe havens for gay professionals. They were the only places where professionals could relax the vigilance required at the usual workplaces. Many of the same professionals in the daytime jobs were forced to subscribe to the notion of gay men as abnormal or face dismissal.
By the mid-1970s the tide had turned against participatory democracy and nonprofessional control of counseling centers. Professionals were too busy to participate in endless meetings and internal conflict. They expected efficiency from administrators who handled the day-to-day operation of the clinics. Peer counseling was still the mainstay at I House, but it took a back seat role and IHI and at most other gay clinics in the country. Eventually peer counseling ceased to be offered at IHI.
In 1978 I resigned as director of IHI. Afterword my writing and private practice took up most of my time. Is also allowed my lover and me to spend more time together. William and I would ultimately share our lives for over 20 years. He was with me the night of February 7, 1973, when I wrote the presentation for the APA Nomenclature Committee. He watched the growth of IHI and the gay movement, and he proofread all of my books.
The New Medical Attacks on Gay People
The war over the mental status of gay people has now entered a modern phase. Threats have come from two quarters. The first, and more important from both theoretical and practical points of view, is the rise of modern biological theories to explain the origin of homosexual desire. These explanations are hotly contested in the gay community. For the most part, gay men view them favorably for both personal and political reasons. Their argument is similar to that over Paragraph 175 of the German penal code in the last century. The code declared homosexual behavior a crime, based on the belief that homosexual behavior was voluntary, therefore perverse. Critics, following the theories promulgated by Ulrich and Hirschfeld argued that homosexuals are born, not made, so that their sexual behavior is neither voluntary nor willful. The proposed biological explanation in Germany repudiated criminal sanctions against homosexuals and at the same time reduced their sense of personal guilt. The same arguments are made today by gay men who are in favor of biological rather than psychological theories of etiology. For those gay men who feel guilty over the sexual desire, a biological causation relieves the feeling of culpability.
Many lesbians, on the other hand, reject biological explanations of human behavior, particularly sexual orientation. They argue that sexuality is a social construction unfettered by biological influences, learned through society's demands for a strict dichotomy between male and female behavior.
One important biological proponent believes that homosexuality results from prenatal hormonal changes in the brain of the fetus before the fourth month of gestation. He further states that it might be possible to prevent the development of homosexuality by interfering with this process during pregnancy, thereby preventing the birth of a gay child.
There have been a rash of new studies on the genetic and physiological differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Studies have looked at two aspects of biology: genetic comparisons of twins and the differences in anatomical cerebral structures between gay and straight men. The twin studies demonstrate that concordance of sexual orientation runs about 50 percent or so in identical twins, but only about 20 percent between other siblings, so that biology plays a significant role in the determination of sexual orientation. But why only 50 percent? Doesn't that mean that psychological factors contribute to sexual orientation as much as biological ones ask social constructionists who eschew physiological explanations?
I have yet to hear a psychological theory or social constructionist idea that can explain why little boys and girls violate the rules of sexual behavior taught by family and society. A very high percentage of gay men were sissies during their childhoods. They were teased and beaten by siblings and other children, often depreciated by their own parents. There were criticized for walking the wrong way (like a girl), throwing a ball wrong (if they were willing to throw the ball in the first-place), or for being close to their mothers rather than to their fathers (domestic rather than aggressive).
In my experience as a psychologist, I have heard countless gay men reflect on the pain of those early years, and how much they wanted to please their parents and peers. Were these children stupid? Were they unaware of what was expected of them? So many of them would have jumped at the opportunity to trade their depreciated tea sets for the enviable jocks’ uniform. I cannot fathom how social conditioning theory can explain this behavior.
I believe that sexual orientation will be found to be biological in origin, and I say that even though current research does not yet support this conclusion. How one behaves sexually and romantically, on the other hand, seems to me to be a function of growing up in a particular society at a particular period of time. Biology provides the template; social learning the human behavior. This is called a “biosocial approach.” Time will tell.
The concept of "sexual addiction", also called "sexual compulsion" is a second new attack on the mental status of homosexuality, this time by some gay psychologists. They maintain, in this controversial form of treatment, that the model of addiction to drugs is analogous to "addiction" to sex, and every bit as harmful. Other psychologists have disagreed. What is noteworthy is that all the symptoms of "sexual compulsion" are behaviors still frowned upon by society at-large, for example, masturbation or frequent sexual partners, or sex outside the primary relationship. Gay men who volunteer for treatment are motivated by guilt over their sexual behavior. In previous decades, homosexual behavior was classified as "compulsive" by psychoanalytic writers, and many gay men confessed their sins and went for the "cure." Many gay men still feel guilty about their sexual desire, and this may be the wellspring for allowing the label of "sexual compulsion" to be pinned on them. It is for this reason that many gay professionals look upon the sexual compulsion movement as driven by homophobic ideology.
It is difficult to fully understand why we condemn certain forms of sexual behavior -- like "promiscuity." I am certain that when we condemn the behavior of others there is a strong component of envy of the other person’s freedom and abandonment, of their indifference to what people think, and of their ability to smash into smithereens the beliefs about romance, love, and intimacy that our society values over sex. Those who would suppress sexual expression, it seems to me, are acting like cops, not social scientists.