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(Note: each and every instance of the word “gay” is highlighted in the reproductions of the magazine pages, since that is the word I searched by in the Life archives to find this article. The pink highlighting of Life magazine’s often sensationalistic and biased reporting is mine.)
Life magazine, June 26, 1964
HOMOSEXUALITY IN AMERICA
By Paul Welch
Photographed for LIFE by Bill Eppridge
Rejected by the ‘Straight’ World, Homosexuals Build a Society of Their Own
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Metal is much in evidence in the room: chains on the wall, the bunches of keys hanging from the customers’ leather belts. “That’s part of the sadistic business,” Ruquy explains. “We used to wear chains on our shoulders. Now the keys are in.”
“The effort of these homosexuals,” Life judged, to appear manly is obsessive — in the rakish angle of the caps, in the thumbs boldly
hooked in belts. Ruquy says, “This is a place for men, a place without all those screaming faggots, fuzzy sweaters, and sneakers. Those guys — the ones you see in the other bars — are afraid of us. They’re afraid to come here because everything looks tough. But we’re probably the most genteel bar in town.”
The hostility of the minority “leather” crowd toward the rest of the “gay” world is exceeded by the bitterness of individual homosexuals toward the “straight” public. One junior advertising executive, who has been under a psychiatrist’s care, spills out his rancor:
“I have to make believe all day long. If we're out for lunch, I go through the same complimenting and flirting routine with girls that you "straight" fellows do. I have to constantly on my guard not to say or do something that will make them suspect I'm 'gay.'
“At night I have to get out and forget it. I don’t like to go to ‘gay’ bars night after night, but I’ll tell you what I do like to do. I like to go to ‘straight’ bars, find some guy with a good-looking girl and take her away from him. I couldn’t be less interested in the girl, but it’s a way of getting even.”
There are many homosexuals, better adjusted that this young executive, who behave like solid members of the community. They hold good jobs in business, the professions or the arts. Many of them have apparently strong heterosexual relationships, get married and have children. They go to church, engage in civic activity, see their psychiatrists. They are there in unmeasured numbers, involved to some degree in homosexuality. The only difference between them and the "straight" world is the fear of exposure and their troubled consciences.
There are also the "respectable" homosexuals who pair off and establish a "marriage", often transitory but sometimes lasting for years. Unburdened by children and with two incomes, they frequently enjoy a standard of living they otherwise would not be able to attain.
There are also the “respectable” homosexuals who pair off and establish a “marriage,” often transitory but sometimes lasting for years. Unburdened by children and with two incomes, they frequently enjoy a standard of living they otherwise would not be able to attain. Recently such a “couple” entertained at Sunday brunch in a New York City suburb. Their country home – they also rent an apartment in the city, where both work – is a contemporary ranch house, with swimming pool. The hosts were a self-made businessman and the manager of a fabric salon. Their guests included a stockbroker, a TV actor, a couple of New York advertising men and a leading fashion designer.
In contrast to the homosexuals who avoid all public identification with other homosexuals are those who join “homophile” organizations. A recent phenomenon in American society, the homophile groups actively conduct programs to increase public understanding of homosexuality in the hope of getting more sympathetic treatment, particularly from law enforcement agencies.
One of the earliest and most active homophile clubs, the Mattachine Society, was started in 1950 as a secret organization by a group of Los Angeles lawyers, ministers and doctors, not all of whom were homosexuals. By 1954, it had become incorporated as a nonprofit, educational group and branches had spread to other cities. Mattachine branches are now located in Low Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. and are independent of each other; their common aim is to promote the acceptance of homosexuality by society.
In San Francisco, for example, the Mattachine Society operates much as a social agency: it helps homosexuals find jobs in the city, gives them legal advice when they get in trouble with the law and serves as a liaison with police and health departments. The Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society, however, functions much as a lobbying group. It has challenged what it considers to be discriminatory practices against homosexuals in Civil Service jobs and in the armed forces. It has enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union in specific cases involving homosexuals and government agencies, including the first such case to reach the Supreme Court.
One Incorporated, another homophile organization formed in Los Angeles in 1952, publishes a monthly, One Magazine, mailed to subscribers throughout the country and sold on newsstands. One Inc. basically is involved in education and propaganda. UIt has an education division called the “One Institute of Homophile Studies,” which offers courses “designed to give parents, ministers, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, sociologists and the public an understanding of homosexuality and homosexuals.”
These formal homophile groups share the same problems – small memberships, insufficient funds and the hostile atmosphere in which they try to promote their cause. Although membership rolls of various societies are held confidential, homosexuals are reluctant to join simply because they fear that their names may reach the hands of the police.
Homosexuals everywhere fear arrest -- and the public exposure that may go with it. In Los Angeles, where homosexuals are particularly apparent on city streets, police drives are regular and relentless. The running battle between police and homosexuals has produced bitter feeling on both sides. Leaders of homophile societies in Los Angeles and San Francisco have accused the police of "harassment, entrapment and brutality" toward homosexuals.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
[caption 1] When Hollywood police closed “gay” haunts near Santa Monica Blvd. Bar, Barney Anthony put up a sign warning homosexuals. “I don’t like ’em,” he says. “There’s no excuse. They’ll approach any nice-looking guy. Anybody does any recruiting. I say shoot him. Who cares?”
[caption 2] Hal Call, president of San Francisco’s Mattachine Society, a homosexual organization, gets press ready for the monthly Mattachine Review. Available to subscribers or on newsstands, the magazine carries articles on homosexuality and fiction on homosexual themes. The society has only 200 members, but the Review’s circulation is 2,500.
[caption 3] In Los Angeles Don Slater edits magazine, One, for homosexuals, circulation 5,000. In a recent editorial he wrote, “It is the responsibility of every thinking homosexual to be enlightened.”
[caption 4] On Mondays, San Francisco’s Jumpin’ Frog bar shows movies to “gay” clientle. It has many requests to show Some Like It Hot, in which Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon wear women’s clothes.
To read the entire series:
The Way We Were (Reported) - Part 1
When gay was in quotation marks - Part 2