Excerpt from The Sexual Outlaw, a Documentary, by John Rechy, 1977 Voice over: The Ugly Gay World

At its best, all gay experience is liberating, adventurous, righteously daring, revolutionary, and beautiful in its sexual abundance. At its worst it is a stark vision of hell. Stunning in its choreography, giving in its promiscuity, the hunt can turn brutal and raw. The elegant artistic sensibility can slide into bitchiness and bitter cruelty. The glamour can become grotesque. The beauty a haunted parody. Instant love, instant hate. Every indictment of the gay world is a stronger indictment of the straight. The heterosexual norm – marriage, children, home, property – is ingrained into homosexuals as the only possible means of happiness. Homosexuals are taught – by heterosexuals – to expect and even yearn for what, given societal attitudes, is impossible under a different lifestyle. Warring attempts to fuse heterosexual expectations and homosexual needs and realities create the contradictions in the gay world. No criticism of the gay world can be made outside that context, that the straight world has shaped the homosexual with threats of hideous “cures,” insane laws, and “moral” admonitions – attempting deliberately to transform him into a “sick, criminal sinner.” Beyond that important context – which must constantly be emphasized – what of the gay world itself? How is the inner revolution being waged? Gay liberation. Yes. But even that may be used as subterfuge for lack of interior awareness. The necessary exploration of self – alone, isolated – may be dissipated by protection within the club; static rhetoric substituted for active individual responsibility. Increasingly easy on campuses and within other enclosed groups to announce openly that one is gay. The shock is gone. Safe in sympathetic numbers, propped by encountertype jargon, homosexuals may even put down gays in small towns who “don’t come out” (ignoring the vast difference between, say, womby-y glitterbatrs and and dusty, queerhating hick towns). It is equally easy to say “gayisbeautiful – gayisproud.” Almost one word, meaning obscured. But are homosexuals discovering their particular and varied beauty? From that of the transvestite to that of the bodybuilder? The young to the old? The effeminate to the masculine? The athletic to the intellectual? Gay must be allowed variations. It is gay fscism to decree that one must perform this sex act, and must allow that one, in order to be gay; it is gay fascism to deny genuine bisexuality, or to suspect all heterosexuals. Within the gay world, gays still refer to each other as “she” – a putdown of women and homosexuals. Still say “queer” and “faggot.” Still hear without protest brutal “straight” jokes about “fruits.” Still contribute to the breathy excitement at the discovery that a celebrity is gay, as if to be gay is to be naughty. Masculine homosexuals still heckle queens, who are true hero-heroines of our time, exhibiting more courage for walking one

single block in drag than a straight-looking gay to “come out” on a comfy campus. She – and she prefers “she” – hurts our image, we say. What she may hurt most is our symbolic lack of courage; she might just more easily take on a threatening bully or a vice cop than a black-leathered gay might! I spoke once to a group of young homosexuals, so unaware, so unconcerned, and so conservative despite their youth, that I have come to think of them as “Nephew Toms.” They sipped punch and nibbled crumbly sugar cookies – and expressed a murderous complacency. As long as they could go to dance bars and hold hands on campus, hey, well, ah, everything was okay, they kept repeating. As with all minorities, there is no uglier figure than that which preys on his own. Publishers of gay books and magazines, owners of gay bars, restaurants, clothes shops – these often raise their prices, exploiting a certain – inevitable – gay-ghetto mentality. Crank gay psychologists and psychiatrists (not to mention crank straight psychologists and psychiatrists dealing with homosexuals) and vulturous gay lawyers – who occasionally own interest in frequently busted bars that provide them clients – drain homosexuals and notoriously put nothing back into gay causes. Those who do commit their time and money – often providing free aid – are left by richer prospective clients to struggle alone financially. Similarly, powerful gays who could afford to be daring remain in silence. The quiet rich, the closeted politicians, uncommitted gay movie directors, cowardly producers, clowning gay writers. And the often politically reactionary gay middleclass threatened by the prospect of having to see the prosecution of homosexuals in the context of all other minority prosecution; they cringe – these uptight middleclass homosexuals – in stylishly decored, ferned homes – at the thought of street sex (which nevertheless gives them a closet hard-on). Soothed by the now-reactionary soft lisps of the largest-circulation gay newspaper – the Advocate (whose editorials seem to be written by a gay William Buckley but whose money-bringing classified advertisements balk at nothing) – they forget, the silent rich, the cozy students, the “quiet” couples – that the outlaw absorbs the hatred that would otherwise swallow them. Complacency and indifference about our own are among the ugliest aspects of the gay world. Two cops invade a gay area to bust two men – and other gays often watch as if at a circus – making no protest. We read deliciously the details of gay busts. And savage, sexually repressed criminals raid gay areas. So what? – we weren’t their…. Not this time. A sad commentary, that the minority that could be among the most powerful ever has no organization to thwart violence in our sex-hunting areas – we squander our rage in rituals of self-hatred. We reduce “gaypride” to a matter of holding hands in public. After the cleansing rebellion of the Stonewall riot came a few activist lawyers, small radical groups of proud fighters and daring revolutionaries – and more sexual outlaws – but not enough, not nearly enough. And there came as well too many tacky parades of bickering contingents, “gay leaders” riding like grand marshals on limousines flanked by

acolytes. On sweet floats, coy boys posed in loincloths. It may be that overall – and with marked exceptions – the gay minority cares less for its own, does less for its own, than any other minority. That may be in large part because what holds other minorities together – ready identification, familial ties – is absent from the gay minority: It is very easy, and tempting, to “pass.” (A homosexual psychiatrist claims that “gay problem” would be resolved instantly if overnight all homosexuals turned a definite, defining colour.) Unlike blacks, say, who have black fathers, black mothers, black sisters, black brothers, the homosexual is gay in total isolation in his family. He is often cast out when he is “discovered.” There is this additional factor: Since his is a minority defined by its sexual preference, the gay energy flows into two areas – the revolution of the sexhunt and the revolution against bigotry. Fear of rejection, at the root of so much of gay isolation, alienates us from each other and often makes us mean. Threatened by rejection by the straight world of parents, friends, teachers, the gay child finds fear of detection a factor in his early life; he hates what creates it, his homosexuality. Even as a “liberated” adult, that nailed fear may fester to infect every contact, wound every possibility. Attracted to each other, we often turn away in fear. We have intimate relations one moment and the next day we’ll cross the street to avoid each other, in fear. We often use each other in misdirected anger, even hatred. Fear of threatened taunts on our “masculinity” pushes us to become posturing studs in fascist uniforms. Xeroxed pseudo-“butch” comformity. We want to marry. We long for one true lover. Wrong? No – if one wants that. But one should not have to marry or have only one lover. Adopt children? Well, we might be better parents than some. Join the army? Become cops! Support the rancid institutions that have slaughtered us? Join the churches that have crucified us? Revolutions are thwarted when the threatened established order hands out crumbs. So they may well “allow” us to marry, join their armies, become cops and church members. But they won’t let us fuck. Trying to be straighter than straight in our lifestyles is a form of self-hatred. Yes, there is much in the gay world that demands critical exploration. But hardly a word of criticism is heard about those tendencies that just may weaken us as surely as outside pressures; not a word from gay newspapers or magazines not a word – at least not a public word – from ever-ready gay “spokesmen,” one under each palmtree in Los Angeles. For a gay person to criticize any aspect of the gay world is to expose himself to howls of wrath and betrayal. Because of that, a “serious” gay newspaper carries an approving cartoon on fistcucking – but refuses to run a news item on the fact that this increasing activity has caused maiming and death. A magazine prints a glossary of

“symbols” – coloured handkerchiefs, single earrings, keys, all displayed to indicate desired sexual positions and acts – but doesn’t point out that these symbols may obviate even the few exploratory words we might otherwise exchage to discover each other, in sex, yes, but also, at least at times, beyond sex; extending rather than limiting possibilities. Allowing no interior criticism of the gay world, we invite a deceptive lulling that disastrously drains us by assuring us that all is fine, fine. We prefer not to face that when we weaken ourselves through lack of introspection, we strengthen the real enemy. Then the handcuffs snap on our wrists and the sticks bash our skulls. Straight expectations clash with gay realities, and the result may be a vision of hell. The glorious abundance of the sexhunt becomes the murderous ansiety to feel sexually tested every moment of the search – glorious when you “win,” suicidal when you “lose.” The obsession with youth and appearance which makes us beautiful can make us desperate. (Old homosexuals wasted – we cast away even the heroic fighters who “came out” when it was really courageous; we have no tradition of respect.) The anxiety about being busted at any moment augments our sense of instability in every area of our lives – the profession prepared for years may be shut away in an instant. Our obsession with fantasy, often our escape in childhood, may tender us invisible to each other’s reality. The fulfilling freedom of orgies may, in the exclusive extreme, cancel out love, the dark side of cruising freezing all tenderness. And the most grotesque – heavily rationalized – reflection of the heterosexual world’s hatred of the gay, is the proliferation of sadomasochism. Sadly, it is not true that we homosexuals no longer hate ourselves or each other. Many – and increasingly more and more – do not. Many still do. And most just less.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful