[“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.

The Background
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.

The Problem
    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 Goal
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 greatest literature.

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 entire centerspread.
    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 “feminist”.
    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 dildoes.
    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.


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

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