Assimilation or Liberation
Assimilation or liberation is one of two discussions that take place mainly among homosexuals themselves. The other discussion is that of essentialism versus social constructionism in the etiology of homosexuality. A better and more accurate way of framing this second discussion is who one is, a homosexual’ or what one does, homosexuality’.
The homosexual as a distinct person, which was first advocated in Germany in the 1860s by homosexuals themselves seeking legal rights, was next adopted by sexologists and then by psychiatrists. But it was the American military during World War II with the psychiatric profession that was to play a leading role in defining the homosexual in the United States as a character type, who was sick that persisted until the early 1970s. The Stonewall Riots in June of 1969 sparked a change, resulting in homosexuals beginning to speak for themselves. No longer would they allow others in society to define what it meant to be a homosexual. By many Stonewall was said to be the beginning of Gay Liberation. Before Stonewall the homosexual emphasis was on assimilation in their relationship to the society at large. After Stonewall homosexual emphasis was sexual liberation in relationship to the society. But AIDS that begin among male homosexuals in the late 1970s, resulted in the death of many those homosexuals advocating for sexual liberation.
While the discussion of such things as the relationship of gender to sexuality was limited to scientific, literary, intellectual, and interested circles - as it was, mostly from the nineteen century through the Second World War - the link was not firmly or especially established popularly made. Many pieces of what would eventually be the popular conception of the early-modern homosexual (which let’s say dates from the Second World War to about 1969) were floating independently between sexologists and psychiatrists. There was the effeminate man or pansy, there was the pervert and/or psychopath who could be expected to commit violent crimes of a sexual nature on any sort of person at all, and there was the man or woman, not much spoken of in polite company, who had a tendency to have sex with others of the same sex. When this was spoken of, it was in purely non-sexual terms, like the partners on ranches that Front Runner author Patricia Nell Warren remembers her father mentioning in Montana when she was a child in the late thirties and forties, or those urban bachelors and the ubiquitous maiden aunts and their companions.
What the military did in its rough and ready way was to mush all these things together into one character type - the homosexual. The homosexual was now, for all the world to see an effeminate man (and after the war, a masculine woman) who had sex with members of the same sex, and was either passively or actively pathological. (Archer, The End of Gay and the death of heterosexuality, p. 105)
The status of homosexuals changed around the time of World War II. Prior to this point, identifications with homosexuality were primarily individual experiences. The identification of homosexuals as a group was given impetus by the actions of the military and the federal government who attempted to identify homosexuals and remove them from military positions. Early in the war effort, discovered homosexuals were given dishonorable discharges by the thousands. Later, those who had served in the war were given a newly created category of discharge - a general discharge which was neither honorable or dishonorable (Licata, 1980). The labeling and singling out of these individuals by the government helped to create minority status of homosexuals as group and to promote discrimination against them. (Heyl, Homosexuality: A Social Phenomenon, p. 341 in Human Sexuality: the Societal and Interpersonal Context, edited by Kathleen McKinney and Susan Sprecher.)
Despite this modicum of sympathy initially extended to sexual perverts, the military categorically declared homosexual behavior and proclivities as incompatible with military service. Historian Allan Berube (1990) has documented the ill effects of this military ban on those who managed to stay in the service and those given dishonorable discharges simply for being homosexual. The psychiatric profession that dedicated itself to screening out homosexuals also promised to treat the problem of homosexuality; as it was perceived to affect the individuals discharged and the society that would receive them. (Rosario, Homosexuality and Science A Guide to the Debates, p. 89)
This military ban on homosexuals was a result but not the intent of two psychiatrists. President Roosevelt received a memo from Harry Stack Sullivan and Winfred Overholser suggesting a screening process for identifying potential soldiers who may later suffer from mental health issues. Their intent was to help prevent a situation that occurred after World War I, in which men by the thousands required treatment for mental health issues, including hospitalization that resulted in a tremendous financial cost and burden. President Roosevelt accepted this idea and had these two psychiatrists draw up guidelines, which became known as Medical Circular Number One. But within one year, both the army and navy had revised the guidelines, adding homosexuality to the list of deviations Sullivan and Overholser had said should disqualify those from military service. This revision resulted in the military for the rest of the war and decades thereafter, referring to men and women who engaged or were prone to homosexual activity as sexual psychopaths. This military ban on homosexuals was the unintended result of the actions by psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, who was a homosexual himself.
It was as a result of this military response to homosexuality and after the war a similar response to homosexuality adopted by the federal government that led to homosexuals beginning to organize themselves. Harry Hay and other male homosexuals founded one such group, the Mattachine Society in 1951 in Los Angeles. The Daughters of Bilitis founded in 1955 was a similar organization of female homosexuals. The term homophile’ was chosen by the homosexuals who founded these groups to be used in describing these groups so as to de-emphasis the difference between homosexuals and other members of society, that is the difference of sexuality, i.e. who one had sex with.
In its early manifestations, the homophile movement embraced liberationist principles through the Mattachine Society, founded in Los Angeles in 1951. (Rimmerman, From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States, p. 20
Homosexuals themselves were divided over what their emerging sense of group consciousness meant. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 41)
From their early group discussions, these Mattachine members concluded that homosexuals were an oppressed cultural minority. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 41)
The cultural minority thesis argued that homosexuals had developed differently because they had been excluded from dominant heterosexual culture. The secondary socialization of homosexuals into distinct subculture helped them to develop appropriate new values, relationships, and cultural forms because homosexual life did not fit the patterns of heterosexual love, marriage, children, etc. upon which the dominant culture rests. The proponents of the cultural minority thesis recognized that homosexuals also internalized the dominant culture’s view of themselves as aberrant and were often force by social stigma to lead lives of secrecy, hypocrisy, and emotional stress. These proponents therefore emphasized the need for a critique of this internalized self-oppression and the development of an ethical homosexual culture. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 42)
A difference in ideology that continues even today quickly emerged in the Mattachine Society, assimilation verses liberation, in how homosexuals interacted with society. The assimilation’ strategy encouraged the homosexual to act normal and fit in with other members of society. This continued the historical concept of passing, where a homosexual would be thought of as a heterosexual in their outward appearance and behaviors. Whereas a liberation strategy is to encourage the homosexual to come out acknowledging his homosexuality for all others to see. A movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, Gay Liberation adopted this strategy.
Homosexuality in the 1950s: Assimilation
The split that ultimately occurred between the organization’s founders and its newer members reflected serious disagreements over assimilation and liberation, conflicts that have plagued the movements over the years. The Mattachine founders envisioned a separate homosexual culture while other members worried that such a strategy would only increase the hostile social climate. Instead, they called for integration into mainstream society. (D’Emilio 1983, 81). (Rimmerman, From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States, p. 21)
The alternative assimilationist position sought to achieve societal acceptance of homosexuals by emphasizing the similarities between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Proponents felt that the secondary socialization of homosexuals resulted from a life given over to hiding, isolation, and internalized self-hatred. For this reason, homosexuals should adopt a pattern of behavior that is acceptable to society in general and compatible with [the] recognized institutions . . . of home, church, and state, rather than creating an ethical homosexual culture, which would only accentuate the perceived differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals and provoke continued hostility. The cultural minority analysis was hotly debated in the early years of the Mattachine Society, but after many battles, marked by also by anticommunism, the assimilationists thesis prevailed and served as the ideological basis for homosexual rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 42)
With the adoption of a civil rights strategy as early as the creation of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis in the 1950s, lesbian and gay movements embraced a minority rights" approach to political and social change. They framed specific issues by emphasizing the importance of equality for all human beings as they identified themselves as a distinct minority group. They presented lesbians and gays as ordinary people, eschewing an identity based on behavior. (Rimmerman, From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States, p.49)
Homosexuality in the 1960s: Liberation
The years leading up to Stonewall saw a breach in the assimilationist attitudes of the docile homophiles of the previous generation in favour of more revolutionary ones of people who craved more purely sexual freedom. (Archer, The End Gay, p.91)
Yet the rights-based strategy associated with the civil rights, women’s and homophile movements came under increased scrutiny and criticism in light of Stonewall. The modern gay liberation movement was soon born, built on some of the same ideas that undergirded the original Mattachine Society almost twenty years earlier. For those who embraced gay liberation, a rights-based strategy was far too limited. In their view, the goal should be to remake society, not merely reform it. (Loughery 1998, 323). (Rimmerman, From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States, p. 23-24)
For many homosexuals, gay liberation - and what it means to be gay - was inextricably linked to sexual freedom. The right to have sex anytime, anywhere, and with anybody they choose was, for them, inalienable. (Andriote, Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America, p.73)
In the 1960s and 1970s, the gay and lesbian movement had pursued many goals - the right to be open about sexual orientation and the right to be equal in the eyes of religious bodies and the law. But one of its earliest and most basic objectives, especially for gay men, was sexual freedom: the right to have sexual lives that were untrammeled by the conventions and limits of social norms. (Allen, The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present, p. 125)
It is well to remember that AIDS was presaged by prior epidemics of herpes simplex, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The Stonewall riots in New York City, the 1969 crucible from which the movement for gay liberation was cast, created another social revolution that is no exception to the medical rule. Coming out of the closet has altered not only our social perception of homosexuality but its medical face as well.
The sociological manifestations of homosexuality have changed radically in the recent past. As Jonathan Weber noted, the incidence of syphilis a few decades ago was almost exactly equal between men and women but is now found mainly in homosexual men. Since homosexuality is almost surely as old as humanity and is present in almost every society, the unusually high incidence of syphilis among homosexual men today cannot be ascribed to homosexuality per se but to significant changes in homosexual behavior in the recent pasts. New expressions of homosexuality concomitant with the gay liberation movement have created an unusual and new disease profile for gay men.
The medical literature is quite explicit about some of these new manifestations of gay male life. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 282)
HIV truly strikes where we live. Its mean of transmission - sex - is the very thing that to many of us define us as gay men, drives our politics and our erotics, gives us our modern identity, provides the mortar of much of our philosophy and community, animates much of our lives. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 5)
Indeed, there is no record of any culture that accepted both homosexuality and unlimited homosexual promiscuity. Far frome being the universal default mode of male homosexuality, the lifestyle of American gay men in the seventies and eighties appears unique in history. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 225)
The extensive casual networks of gays engaging in sex apparently for the sole purpose of sensuous pleasure, and in so many different ways, went far beyond anything that had occurred before in the United States or elsewhere or that anyone could have imagined just a few years previously. Without question, the sexual style of gay communities in the 1970s and early 1980s was a specific historic phenomenon (Bateson and Goldsby, 1988:44) (Rushing, The AIDS Epidemic Social Dimensions of an Infectious Disease, p. 27)
When AIDS hit the homosexual communities of the US, several studies were conducted by the vigilant CDC to determine what it was in the homosexual lifestyle which predisposed to this immunosuppressive condition. There were really only two things which distinguished the homosexual lifestyle: the promiscuous sex and the extensive use of recreational drugs. (Adams, AIDS: The HIV Myth, p.127)
In sum, gay sex institutions and the sexual activity in them became the functional social equivalent of family, friends, and community: They promoted social bonds that gave gays a sense of belonging and social support. (Rushing, The AIDS Epidemic Social Dimensions of an Infectious Disease, p. 30)
Other men who had participated enthusiastically in the life of the ghetto had grown tired of its anonymity and inverted values. They questioned why membership in the gay community had come to require that one be alienated from his family, take multiple drugs and have multiple sex partners, dance all night at the right clubs, and spend summer weekends at the right part of Fire Island. Rather than providing genuine liberation, gay life in the ghettos had created another sort of oppression with its pressure to conform to social expectations of what a gay man was supposed to be, believe, wear, and do. (Andriote, Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America, p.24)
Gay historian Dennis Altman notes that in the liberated seventies, when promiscuity was seen as a virtue in some segments of the gay community, being responsible about one’s health was equated with having frequent checks for syphilis and gonorrhea, and such doubtful practices as taking a couple of tetracycline capsules before going to the baths. To gay men for whom sex was the center and circumference of their lives, their only real health concern was that illness would prevent them from having sex - which, to their way of thinking, meant they would no longer be proudly gay. (Andriote, Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America, p.37)
The complex research agenda that characterized the period from the early 1970s to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic reflected major changes within the gay and lesbian communities themselves. The decision by a large number of people to openly label themselves gay men and lesbians changed the experience of same-gender sexuality. From a relatively narrow homosexual community based primarily on sexual desire and affectional commitment between lovers and circles of friends, there emerged a community characterized by the building of residential areas, commercial enterprises, health and social services, political clubs, and intellectual movements. (Turner, Miller, and Moses, Editors. AIDS Sexual Behavior and Intravenous Drug Use, p.127)
These observations of new syndromes associated with a very active male homosexual life-style suggests that both the type of sexual activity and the extent of promiscuity associated with it changed markedly during the 1970s. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 285-286)
A change in who homosexuals actually have sex with, became more significant during the 1960s and resulted in new sexual behaviors among male homosexuals. Prior to the 1960s homosexual men had sex with heterosexual men who were called "trade". The latter was the passive partner in a sex act. But as the stigma against homosexuality increased heterosexual men became frightened that they too might be labeled homosexual and thus were no longer willing to be passive participates in sexual activity with homosexual men. This resulted in more homosexual men having sex with other homosexual men and the specific sexual behaviors themselves also changed. This change in male homosexual behavior also resulted in the changes in some of the specific diseases that effected male homosexuals and dramatic rates in the instances of sexually transmitted diseases among male homosexuals.
Behaviors among male homosexuals
In the 1070s an extraordinary proliferation of clubs, bars, discotheques, bathhouses, sex shops, travel agencies, and gay magazines allowed the community to "come out" and adopt a whole new repertorie of erotic behavior, out of all measure to any similar past activities. (Grmek, History of AIDS, p.168-169)
Furthermore, in previous periods in history when homosexuality had been widely accepted socially, as, for example, in classical Greece, there had been no sexual practices remotely resembling those associated with the gay subcultures of the 1970s and 1980s. (Rushing, The AIDS Epidemic Social Dimensions of an Infectious Disease, p. 27)
We don’t know, in real quantitative terms, what really changed in homosexual behavior in the 1970s, but it is possible to identify three major areas of change: the expansion of homosexual bathhouses and sex clubs, which facilitate numerous sexual contacts in one night (by 1984 one bathhouse chain included baths in forty-two American cities, including Memphis and London, Ontario), the emergence of sexually transmitted parasites as a major homosexual health problem, especially in New York and California, and a boom in ;recreational drugs - that is, the use of chemical stimulants such as MDA, angel dust, various nitrates, etc. - in conjunction with what came to be known as fast-lane sex. These three elements would all be linked to various theories about AIDS during the 1980s. (Altman, AIDS in the Mind of America, p. 14)
Evidence convincingly argues that before the middle of the century gay sexual behavior was vastly different from what it was to become later, that from mid century onward there were fundamental changes not only in gay male self-perceptions and beliefs, but also in sexual habits, kinds and numbers of partners, even ways of making love. These revolutions reached a fever pitch just as at the moment HIV exploded like a series of time bombs across the archipelago of gay America. When gay experience is viewed collectively, it appears that the simultaneous introduction of new behaviors and a dramatic rise in the scale of old ones produced one of the greatest shifts in sexual ecology ever recorded. There is convincing evidence that this shift had a decisive impact on the transmission of virtually every sexually transmitted disease, of which HIV was merely one, albeit the most deadly. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 39)
As the gay version of the sexual revolution took hold among certain groups of gay men in America’s largest cities, it precipitated a change in sexual behaviors. Perhaps the most significant change was the fact that some core groups of gay men began practicing anal intercourse with dozens or even hundreds of partners a year. Also significant was a growing emphasis on versatile anal sex, in which partners alternately played both receptive and insertive roles, and on new behaviors such as analingus, or rimming that facilitated the spread of otherwise difficult-to-transmit microbes. Important, too, was a shift in patterns of partnership, from diffuse systems in which a lot of gay sex was with non-gay identified partners who themselves had few contacts, to fairly closed systems in which most sexual activity was within a circle of other gay men. Also important was a general decline in group immunity caused by repeated infections of various STDs, repeated inoculations of antibiotics and other drugs to combat them, as well as recreational substantive abuse, stress, and other behaviors that comprised immunity. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 57-58)
The primary factor that led to increase HIV transmission was anal sex combined with multiple partners, particularly in concentrated core groups. By the seventies there is little doubt that for those in the most sexually active core groups, multipartner anal sex had become the main event. Michael Callen, both an avid practitioner and a careful observer of life in the gay fast lane, believed that this was a historically unprecendented aspect of the gay sexual revolution. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 75)
In the middle of the century, and particularly in the sixties and seventies, gay men began doing something that appears rare in sexual history: They began to abandon strict role separation in sex and alternately play both the insertive and receptive roles, a practice sometimes called versatility. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 76)
It was an historic accident that HIV disease first manifested itself in the gay populations of the east and west coasts of the United States, wrote British sociologist Jeffrey Weeks in AIDS and Contemporary History in 1993. His opinion has been almost universal among gay and AIDS activists even to this day. Yet there is little accidental about the sexual ecology described above. Multiple concurrent partners, versatile anal sex, core group behavior centered in commercial sex establishments, widespread recreational drug abuse, repeated waves of STDs and constant intake of antibiotics, sexual tourism and travel -these factors were not accidents. Multipartner anal sex was encouraged, celebrated, considered a central component of liberation. Core group behavior in baths and sex clubs was deemed by many the quintessence of freedom. Versatility was declared a political imperative. Analingus was pronounced the champagne of gay sex, a palpable gesture of revolution. STDs were to be worn like badges of honor, antibiotics to be taken with pride.
Far from being accidents, these things characterized the very foundation of what it supposedly meant to experience gay liberation. Taken together they formed a sexual ecology of almost incalculably catastrophic dimensions, a classic feedback loop in which virtually every factor served to amplify every other. From the virus’s point of view the ecology of liberation was a royal road to adaptive triumph. From many gay men’s point of view, it proved a trapdoor to hell on earth. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 89)
Anal sex had come to be seen as an essential - possibly the essential - expression of homosexual intimacy by the 1980s. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 101)
Another relative novelty was the increasing flexibility of sex roles. Homosexuality in more traditional cultures had typically followed rigid patterns: certain men were the insertive partners in oral and anal intercourse, others the receptive ones. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, American gay men often took both insertive and receptive roles. Rather than serve as cul-de-sac for the virus, as heterosexual women often did, gay and bisexual men more often acted as an extremely effective conduit for HIV. (Allen, The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present, p. 125-126)
These data demonstrate definitively that the gay liberation movement resulted in a great increase in promiscuity among gay men, along with significant changes in sexual practices that made rectal trauma, immunological contact with semen, use of recreational drugs, and the transmission of many viral, amoebal, fungal, and bacterial infections far more common than in the decades prior to 1970. The same data strongly suggest that recent changes in sexual and drug activity played a major role in vastly enlarging the homo- and bisexual male population at risk for developing immunosuppression. Since promiscuity, engaging in receptive anal intercourse, and fisting are the three highest-risk factors associated with AIDS among gay men and since each of these risk factors is correlated with known cases of immunosuppression, they represent significant factors in our understanding of why AIDS emerged as a major medical problem only in 1970. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 290-291)
Whatever the cause of AIDS, single or multi-factorial, it is certain that the promiscuous homosexuals of the late seventies and early eighties were fertile ground for an epidemic. (Adams, AIDS: The HIV Myth, p.131)
Diseases among male homosexuals
In medical terms the almost immediate result was an increase in the classic sexually transmitted diseases, notably syphilis and gonorrhea; of certain viral disease, such as hepatitis, herpes, and cytomegalovirus; and internal parasites such as amebiasis. Skin disorders of an otherwise relatively rare nature, and chronic diarrhea, became the daily lot of homosexuals. The rise in these disorders preceded the AIDS outbreak, and already indicated the point at which the epidemiological situation was ready to explode. (Grmek, History of AIDS, p. 169)
The appearance of a multitude of epidemic diseases almost immediately after gay men had carved out zones of sexual freedom has opened up the grim, almost unthinkable possibility that for gay men, sexual freedom leads inexorably to disease. As time goes on and the epidemic continues to rage among gay men while largely sparing the rest of the population, that nightmare grows only more plausible. It was one thing to believe we were accidental victims who would soon be joined in our sorrow by everyone else. It is quite another to discover that we will not be joined, that we stand almost alone, consumed with disease. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p.18)
And so, without most gay men knowing it,a revolution in disease transmission began almost as soon as the steady disco beat filled the air. The rise of gay core groups in which men combined anal sex with very large numbers of partners profoundly altered the microbial landscape and created entirely new opportunities for a host of diseases that until then had been held in check. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 57)
The combination of multiple sex partners and anal sex in relatively intense core groups had already created an unstable sexual ecology for some gay men even before Stonewall. An article in the American Journal of Tropical Medical Hygiene published in 1968 noted that certain pockets of Manhattan’s growing gay community had begun to display the medical profiles of a Third World slum or a tropical island, with far higher than average rates of traditional STDs and gastrointestinal parasites. After Stonewall this process sharply accelerated, creating a radical new medical situation in the gay world. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 66-67)
The incidence of venereal diseases has long been recognized to be a sensitive indicator of levels of promiscuity. Rates of venereal diseases began a noticeable climb during the mid-1950s, as advances in birth control became widely available, and they skyrocketed during the 1970s. Whereas the increase was found among both men and women during the 1950s and 1960s, the vast increase in new cases of venereal diseases during the 1970s was found almost entirely in homosexual and bisexual men and has been directly attributed by the medical community to the consequences of gay liberation. The title of an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1977 by Dr. S. Vaisrub said it all: Homosexuality- a risk factor in infectious diseases.
Analysis of the increases in specific venereal diseases provides a detailed look at the growth of homosexual promiscuity. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 287-288)
Some gay men became unwitting guinea pigs for the elucidation of how various diseases were transmitted. Diseases such as amebiasis, shigellosis, and giardiasis were not known to be transmitted sexually prior to 1970. Their sexual transmission was first documented in gay men, and they are now known to be associated with anal intercourse and anal-oral contact. Once again, these diseases therefore provide measures of increases in these types of gay sex.
All these disease were rare in the United States and England prior to the 1970s, with outbreaks almost always associated with fecal contamination and poor public hygiene. This picture changed dramatically in the aftermath of gay liberation. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 289)
Some physicians saw what was happening even as it happened. Dr. H. Most and Dr. B. H. Kean, for example, noted that the Manhattan homosexual community had begun to display the unusual disease profile typical of a tropical isle or Third World country beginning about 1968. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 290)
Urban gay American men were affected with diseases that were previously considered problems only in the poor, undeveloped areas of the world. After repeated bouts of these diseases, treatment with increasingly powerful antibiotics, and use of the recreational drugs that were for many were just another normal part of ghetto life, the immune systems of many gay men were suppressed to dangerously low levels. (Andriote, Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America, p.39)
During the 1960s and 1970s, US doctors reported sexually transmitted diseases as the rate of 5-7 million cases per year. Thus the CDC knew the dramatic increase of chlamydia and the high rates of infertility that it causes. It knew of the increase of syphilis and of STDs that previously were rare. It was especially concerned about the spread of hepatitis B, which clustered in gay populations. It enrolled a cohort of 7000 gay men to study their lifestyle and viral load in connection with the search for a vaccine. From this study it knew that syphilis, gonorrhea, and hepatitis B were endemic in the gay populations of the cities. Parasitic infections of the colon, known as ‘gay bowl’, were also endemic. It was found that the annual hepatitis infection rate among gays was an astonishing 12%, as against a 1% lifetime rate for the general population. The stage was set for rapid transmission of unusual pathogens.
Thus on the eve of AIDS, the CDC was fully-aware of the increase of sexually transmitted disease and the possible bacterial and viral bomb’ that the sexual revolution had planted. (Caton, The AIDS Mirage, p.25-26)
HIV aside, there are powerful additional reasons why we need to face the facts of why AIDS happened to gay men. Almost every researcher studying the epidemic is convinced of one overarching fact: that if gay men ever re-create the sexual conditions of the seventies, the same kind of thing will happen again with other microbes. There are already drug-resistant or incurable diseases circulating in the gay population - things like hepatitis C, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, various strains of herpes - and they all stand poised to sweep through the gay population the moment we provide them an opportunity to spread. (Rotello, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, p. 7)
If we now go back and ask why AIDS emerged as a problem for gay men only in the past decade or so, despite the acknowledged antiquity of homosexuality itself, the answer becomes clear: AIDS became a problem for homosexual men only when rampant promiscuity, frequent anal forms of intercourse, new and sometimes physically traumatic forms of sex, and the frequent concomitants of drug use and multiple concurrent infections paved the way. As Mirko Grmek has concluded, American homosexuals created the conditions which, by exceeding a critical threshold, made the epidemic possible. This conclusion stands regardless of whether one wishes to interpret the social revolution of gay liberation as the means by which HIV has spread, the vehicle for transmitting HIV with all of its necessary cofactors, or the direct cause of the immunosuppressive habits that have medically debilitated so many gay men. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 291-292)
Who gets AIDS?
From Stonewall to the first AIDS alert was only twelve short years. In the Eighties and early Nineties, displaced anxiety over the horrors of AIDS turned gay activists into rampaging nihilists and monomaniacs, who dishonestly blamed the disease on the government and trampled on the rights of the gay majority, and whose errors of judgement materially aided the rise and consolidation of the far right. AIDS did not appear out of nowhere. It was a direct result of the sexual revolution, which my generation unleashed with the best intentions, but whose worse effects were to be suffered primarily by gay men. In the West, despite much propaganda to the contrary, AIDS is a gay disease and will remain one for the foreseeable future. (Paglia, Vamps and Tramps. p.68)
From its very beginnings the most striking features of the AIDS epidemic in the USA and in Western countries was its dominance in the male homosexual population. It was therefore logical to search for clues for the cause of the disease among practices or characteristics of this lifestyle. (Schoub, AIDS and HIV in Perspective, p. 4)
AIDS in America has two primary sources at present: unprotected anal intercourse, which is associated with gay male behavior and which probably accounts for the bulk of the existing cases nationwide; and intravenous drug injection with virus-contaminated needles, which is currently the major source of new cases and is likely to be the source of most cases within a few years. (Perow and Guillen. The AIDS Disaster: The Failure of Organizations in New York and the Nation, p.55)
The disease first became evident among male homosexuals and intravenous drug users, and in the United States it remains disportionately concentrated in these two populations. (Rushing, The AIDS Epidemic: Social Dimensions of an Infectious Disease, p.1)
AIDS, however, has remained absolutely fixed in its original risk groups. Today, a full decade after it first appeared, the syndrome is diagnosed in homosexuals, intravenous drug users, and hemophiliacs some 95 percent of the time, just as ten years ago. Nine out every ten AIDS patients are male, also just as before. Even the very existence of a latent period strongly suggests that years of health abuse are required for such fatal conditions. Among most AIDS patients in the United States and Europe, one extremely common health risk has been identified: the long-term use of hard drugs (the evidence for this new AIDS hypothesis will be presented in chapter 8 and 11). AIDS is not contagious nor is it even a single epidemic. (Duesburg, Inventing the AIDS Virus, p. 217)
Any, or all, of these possibilities would explain why AIDS has remained almost completely within the originally defined high-risk groups rather than spreading, as other venerable diseases had done, to low-risk groups as well. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 114)
It is, of course, always dangerous to generalize about any group of people, and people with AIDS are no exception. And yet certain generalizations about who is most likely to contract AIDS have proved to be useful from a medical perspective. We recognize that the vast majority of people with AIDS are gay men /or intravenous drug abusers. These generalizations provide clues about what may cause AIDS, what may dispose people to contract the syndrome, and how the disease may spread. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 224)
Some people are far more susceptible to AIDS than others, and the reasons are from mysterious: immunological exposure to semen, blood, or other alloantigens; multiple, concurrent infections; prolonged medical or illicit drug use; malnutrition; and so forth. None of these risk factors is new, however. Why, then, has AIDS become epidemic only recently?
The recent spread of AIDS can be understood only in terms of one of the most basic principles of epidemiology: disease that are transmitted by exposure to blood or by sexual means are social diseases. It is impossible to understand such diseases from a purely medical, biological, or laboratory perspective. (Root-Bernstein, Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus, p. 281)
Homosexuality in the 1980s: A Return to Assimilation
The belief in a predetermined sexual orientation is most visible in the emerging conservatism in the gay rights movement. Although the concept of conservatism seems antithetical to the cause of gay rights, it has been expressed recently as an effort to assimilate gays and lesbians into the mainstream heterosexual culture. The assimilationist is not so much a challenge to conservatives as an effort as an effort at accommodation. Whereas as conservatives have portrayed homosexuality as a threat to traditional values, assimilationists attempt to show that homosexuals can embrace the same values they are supposed to threaten. (Brookey, Reinventing the Male Homosexual: The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene, p. 137)
The push for assimilation, however, is not new. The original homophile organizations of the 1950s, such as the Mattachine Society, Daughters of Bilitis, and One, Inc., adopted a policy of assimilation. (Brookey, Reinventing the Male Homosexual: The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene, p. 137)
The contemporary assimilationist movement resembles Mattachines policies in two important ways. (Brookey, Reinventing the Male Homosexual: The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene, p. 138)
First, it is designed to deny any attempts to challenge the heterosexual norms of society. (Brookey, Reinventing the Male Homosexual: The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene, p. 138)
The current assimilationist movement, like the older Mattachine Society, has deferred to the authority of science. (Brookey, Reinventing the Male Homosexual: The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene, p. 139)
Assimilation or Liberation
Whether by assimilation or liberation the merits of homosexuality are very weak and detrimintral for both the individuals invovled in homosexuality and for society at large. Both statgeies are aimed at the legitmatization and normalization of homosexuality, homosexual behavior. But it is much more than about a specific behavior, homosexuality, it is about how society defines those essential factors which give a society meaning and provides for a healthy society gender, the family, and community. These last quotes are by those self-identify as homosexuals themeselves.
Gay and lesbian identity politics is, only in part, about the social status of self-identified homosexuals; it is also about the meaning of sexuality, gender, the family, and even community in our society.; (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 225)
The lesbian and gay communities, however, have considerable ambivalence toward the campaign for citizenship, because the outlaw status of homosexuals is historically very significant. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p. 225)
I have argued that lesbian and gay identity and communities are historically created, the result of a process of capitalist development that has spanned many generations. A corollary of this argument is that we are not a fixed social minority composed for all time of a certain percentage of the population. There are more of us than one hundred years ago, more of us than forty years ago. And there may very well be more gay men and lesbians in the future. Claims made by gays and nongays that sexual orientation is fixed at an early age, that large numbers of visible gay men and lesbians in society, the media, and schools will have no influence on the sexual identities of the young, are wrong. Capitalism has created the material conditions for homosexual desire to express itself as a central component of some individuals’ lives; now, our political movements are changing consciousness, creating the ideological conditions that make it easier for people to make that choice. (D’Emilio, Capitalism and Gay Identity, p. 473-474 in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader by Henry Abelove, Michele Aine Barale and David M. Halperin)
In short, the gay lifestyle - if such a chaos can, after all, legitimately be called a lifestyle - just doesn’t work: it doesn’t serve the two functions for which all social framework evolve: to constrain people’s natural impulses to behave badly and to meet their natural needs. While it’s impossible to provide an exhaustive analytic list of all the root causes and aggravants of this failure, we can asservative at least some of the major causes. Many have been dissected, above as elements of the Ten Misbehaviors; it only remains to discuss the fail of the gay community to provide a viable alternative to the heterosexual family. (Kirk and Madsen, After the Ball How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of the Gay’s in the 90s, p.363)
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