[“Back to Basics” appeared as an opinion piece in Gay Community News, August 23 & 30, 1980.]
Back to Basics
by John Lauritsen
A novice, reading the gay press, might be perplexed
as to what “gay people” are and what their movement is
attempting to accomplish.
It is my conviction that the gay liberation movement
has lost its bearings — that there is an urgent need for
theoretical clarity, for rethinking of basic premises. With this in
mind, I offer the following “basics”. Though brief, they
are not intended to be dogma; reasoned criticisms, thoughtful
amendments and corrections will be welcomed.
Human males are powerfully attracted to other males — erotically
and emotionally. This attraction is not the product of peculiar life
experiences of any sort, nor of hormonal imbalance, nor of genetic
aberrations, nor any other such etiological foolishness. The male
capacity to love another male is inborn, a phylogenetic characteristic
of our species. If a man has any libido at all — if he is not a
total eunuch — his libido has a homosexual component. As Mario
Mieli expresses it: “Homosexual desire is universal!”
Therefore, the following definitions:
• A gay man is a man who has recognized and accepted his desire and capacity to love another man.
• A straight man is a man who has denied,
consciously or unconsciously, his homoerotic impulses. He does not have
— as yet — the capacity to love another man.
Note that neither definition makes reference to
women. Almost all gay men have had some amount of heterosexual
experience, and it is assumed that most of the remainder would be
capable of doing so, should the need arise.
For about 2500 years (dating from the Holiness Code
of Leviticus, ca. 500 BC) there has been a taboo on sex between males.
The taboo on male homosexuality has been the most powerful taboo of all
Judeo-Christian culture: an offense believed worse than murder, the
“abominable and detestable crime against nature”, the
“unspeakable crime”, the “sin so horrible that it
must not be mentioned in the presence of Christians.”
In consequence, gay men have been horribly
persecuted over the centuries: stoned to death by the Jews; put to the
sword, castrated, tortured, and burned at the stake by the Christians;
and exterminated in Nazi concentration camps.
A powerful human desire — held down by a correspondingly powerful taboo. This is the problem: Men are not free to love men.
The taboo on sex between males must be destroyed for all time. All
sodomy statutes (the generic term for antihomosexual laws) must be
abolished. All sexual superstition, all theological morality, must be
replaced by rational, secular ethics. The morbidly restrictive
Judeo-Christian outlook must be superseded by a reaffirmation that
pleasures of the mind and body are intrinsically good. Life is good.
Gay men must reestablish the validity and beauty of
male companionship, male friendship, and male love. We must preserve
our heritage, which includes a noble tradition and much of the world's
Far too much of our energy has been spent in pursuing causes other than
our own, in hopes that the “Left” will reciprocate by
adding gay liberation to the Liberal/Radical/Revolutionary roster of
approved causes. To some extent this has already happened, but to our
detriment. Our struggle against superstition and tyranny, for the right
to love each other, has been reduced to standard liberal
egalitarianism: the efforts of still one more minority —
“gay people” — to obtain “equal rights”.
In this framework, our struggle is essentially no different from that
of “disabled people”, to whom GCN recently devoted an
The greatest diversion, and the greatest source of
divisiveness within our movement, has been “feminism”. Gay
men have been brainwashed into believing that feminism is so intimately
linked to the gay liberation movement, that we must suspend our
critical faculties and kowtow to anyone and anything
The results have been disastrous. Feminists have
disrupted and censored whatever displeased them. They have acted as
conveyor belts bringing prudery and bigotry into the heart of the gay
liberation movement itself.
To appease the seemingly implacable feminists, the
gay liberation movement has repudiated its own goals and traditions.
Those who wished to sing the praises of Male Love have been drowned out
by feminist choruses howling MALE HATE!
Feminists, raging like Juno against Ganymede, have
proclaimed that pederasty is “not a gay issue”. Deluded and
self-hating gay men have agreed with them. So much for what the Ancient
Greeks considered the highest form of love: pedagogical eros between
man and youth.
The same feminists have demanded that gay men devote
their energies to such nonsensical pursuits as combatting
“classism” and “looksism”. These, whatever they
mean, apparently are “gay issues”.
Not only have we been diverted from our natural
priorities, but we have been gulled into supporting causes that are
directly inimical to our own best interests.
The history of the homosexual rights movement, from
the 19th century onwards, is a struggle against censorship.
Notwithstanding, feminists have succeeded in fobbing off their crusade
against pornography as a “gay issue”.
As gay men, our very self-definition is based on an appreciation of
male companionship. Yet the feminists have succeeded in enlisting gay
support for compulsory integration of the sexes in all areas of life,
private as well as public. Gay men have complained in the pages of GCN
that some gay bars have been known to exclude females. This is a
perverse joke. Gay men have nothing whatever to gain by furthering the
advance of the Unisex Monolith. On the contrary, we ought to demand
that at least some sanctuaries remain where men can freely associate
with their own kind.
Of course lesbian and women's groups have
traditionally excluded men from membership and meetings. They are
absolutely correct. And we should follow their lead.
The time has come for gay men to reclaim the gay
liberation movement by bidding adieu to our sisters and becoming
autonomous. The women who sincerely support gay liberation will
understand perfectly our need for all-male groups.
However provoked, we should not become misogynists.
We can work together with women in coalitions, joint actions, etc.,
provided we take care of our own movement. We should remember that
women have their own struggle to wage, and that they themselves are the
major victims of feminism, which, far from being a synonym for women's
liberation, is a reactionary diversion from it. We ought to support the
valid demands of the women's liberation movement, the same as those of
other progressive movements.
At any rate, we must no longer be diverted from the
tasks at hand, nor lose sight of our ultimate goals. Especially, gay
men need to explore and rediscover how to relate to men. This requires
an all-male environment, as it cannot be done in an atmosphere where
female gendarmes are present to intrude at any time they feel that
standards of feminist correctness are not adhered to (or, not
incidentally, that they as women have not received enough attention
from the men).
It would seem basic that women should not dictate
the rules by which men conduct male relationships. Such issues as
pederasty, transvestitism, S/M, “promiscuity”, etc. are
men's issues, to be evaluated by men, and it is as offensive for women
to dictate to us on these issues, as it would be for men to dictate to
women whether they should wear makeup, create neologisms, or use
Gay men have a right to male companionship, with or
without the permission of women. We have a right to be ourselves, and
as men — with men — for men — to fight for our own liberation.
IT IS ONLY BY MEN THAT MALE LOVE CAN BE FREED!
John Lauritsen New York, NY
I write books and am
proprietor of Pagan Press, a small book publisher. Each of our books
is unique and well produced. Please check out the Pagan Press BOOKLIST — John Lauritsen