Gay definition header

Definition of:


An Unpublished Letter to the Editor

In response to "'Gay' as an Adjective"

with additional material on gay, homophobia, Nazis, marriage & promiscuous

To the editor:

Regarding Scott Thiemann's piece on the power of language (EW, 9/9/2004): some words like gay, loon, bitch, turkey indeed have more than one definition and some insults use said glbt, etc., but I don't think "in the old days the word [gay] solely meant happy" as Thiemann says. That was not the only definition of gay. My 1958 Thorndike-Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary defines: "gay, adj., 4. dissipated; immoral" which needs no change of definition "to indicate ... socially unacceptable people who have peculiar attractions and behaviors." Such usage is seen in the English folk tale A Pottle of Brains:
(Compare the title with a letter from Sherley, 1623, telling of calming the Pilgrims by sending "for a potle of wine," or a letter written by Gabriel Harvey in 1575: "To requite your gallonde of godbwyes, I regive you a pottle of howedyes.")
"but mind thy manners, and speak her pretty, my lad; for they wise folk are gey and light mispleased." Rather than the word developing a new use, it is our vocabulary that has increased a notch. Such a gay meaning has been in our English lexicons all along.

A similar example would be from the parallel saying in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: "Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger." Here Tolkien has not given us a new use of subtle, but has employed one of its alternate meanings—per the dictionary: "subtle adj. 4. sly; crafty; tricky: subtle schemers.."

Now, to gather all the meanings of gay it helps to look at its etymology. Our English word derives from the French gai. Consulting my French dictionary I see gai means first of all cheerful, merry, happy, same as does gay in English. Nothing surprising there.

Secondly, it indicates a bright cheerful article of clothing as also does English gay. We all recall from the Christmas carol:

        Don we now our gay apparel
        Fa, la la la la, la, la, la, la.

Also (James 2:2-3)—AV "For if there come into your assembly a man ... in goodly apparel ... and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing..." That usage was once more common. Ref. George Willison, Saints and Strangers (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945) pp. 8, 117: "Unlike their Puritan neighbors at Boston, with whom they are so often confused to their disadvantage, the Pilgrims passed no laws against 'gay apparel.' Many of the Pilgrims had large and varied wardrobes. That of Ruling Elder William Brewster, one of the most exemplary of 'ye saincts,' contained for wear on occasion—though presumably not on the same occasion—a red cap, a white cap, a quilted cap, a lace cap, a violet coat, and '1 paire of greene drawers.'" ... "Said Cushman, 'You may see it amongst the best pollitiks, that a commonweale is readier to ebb than to flow when once fine houses and gay cloaths come in.'" Here's a more recent citation from Werner Keller, translated by William Neil, The Bible as History (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1964) pp. 65-6: "When the Arabs speak of Paradise they think of Damascus. What other Mediterranean city can compare with this place which every spring is decked with an incredible mantle of gay blossom? In all the gardens and in the hedgerows beyond the city walls apricots and almonds are a riot of pink. Flowering trees line the road ..." "Bright and colorful" is meant by gay in these quotes.

The third meaning of the French gai is a "euphemism for drunk: merry, tipsy." From this meaning derives that of our English gay for being out of kilter, as in the wise folk being 'gey,' or wacky, losing one's moral compass, as in the "dissipated; immoral" in my dictionary. And, yes, the sexually disoriented which use has come into vogue for homosexuals but from the "confused" meaning, not the "happy" one.

Wait, wait, wait. How did we get from drunk to homo? It's a good question and I don't claim to be any kind of expert in linguistics, just a heavy reader, but the question deserves some investigation before we move on to the next topic. Let's look at what Joshua Whatmough, Professor of Comparative Philology in Harvard University, says in his book Language a Modern Synthesis published by The New American Library, New York, 1957, pp. 72ff, about changes in general.

We know that vast changes of meaning may occur in the use of a word as time goes by. French tête means 'head,' but its Latin original testa means 'pot,' and for 'head' Latin used caput. ... ¶At first glance, finding (A) Latin testa 'potsherd' and (B) French tête 'head,' we might suppose neither of these two classes of objects nor their names to have anything in common. But historical and comparative method satisfies both the phonetic relationship (with Fr. tête from Latin -es- before -t), and the high probability of this particular semantic shift as demonstrated by the actual use of human skulls as drinking cups, by modern Tibetans and Kaffirs, or by the ancient Gauls in Italy. But in the transition from (A) to (B) there would be an intermediate stage (C) in which either meaning might appear, with a gradual decreasing frequency of (A) and a rising one of (B) until the transition was completed: Venn diagram ABCBut (B) starts as merely peripheral to (A) Venn diagram AB—presumably a soldier's jocular use of the word, as when on the stage a speaker in Aristophanes refers to his head as his 'brain pan.' Now the meaning and occurrence of caput 'head' had become so frequent as to be commonplace, but testa 'pot' was much rarer, and the contextual linking of the two was quite small in republican Latin. A frequency count has been made, and the proportion is 12 caput : 1 testa. Then the superficial external similarity of the two objects enables them to be associated one with another, at first occasionally and then more frequently, until the delicate equilibria of frequency, rank, conspicuousness, size and meaning relationships were restored. What has happened is that the peripheral meaning of testa (low frequency) has attached itself to the nuclear meaning of caput (high frequency), thanks to the association of similarity of shape or circumstances (say on the battlefield), and then usurped it. It is very noteworthy that we have the testimony of Livy to the use of skulls as drinking cups by the Gaulish Senones about 210 B.C., which accords well with the date of Plautus from whose Latin the frequency count was made.

Herodotus in The Histories, 4.65, tells us, "With the heads of their worst enemies, the Celts proceed as follows: once they have sawn off everything below the eyebrows, they carefully clean out the head. If the [Celtic] owner is poor he will merely stretch calf-leather round it, and use it thus. But if he is rich, he will also line the inside with gold and use it as a drinking vessel."

Okay, English gay and French gai are identical in their sound and the former derives from the latter etymologically, so that ground is already covered. It remains to consider how gai euphemism for drunk—as in merry, tipsy—came to be used for gay homosexual.

First we have quoted "they wise folk are gey and light mispleased" from an English folk tale. Here let's speculate that gey as in merry/tipsy drunk was associated with a wise one's murmuring like a drunken person as in, say, (Acts 2:4,13-17) "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. ... Others mocking said, These men are filled with new wine. But Peter said unto them, These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day, but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." Here is a case where a wise person's utterances can be mistaken for, associated with, drunkenness.

A wise person is kind of reclusive, has been heard muttering, perhaps incantations in another language, and people start getting real polite in his or her presence. "She's gey," they might say, as of murmuring drunk. That was certainly true of Gandalf the wizard in Tolkien's novels of whom it was said "Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger." He knew languages of men and elves and was always saying something in one of them. Butterbur the innkeeper at Bree was quite intimidated by him, imploring Gandalf not to turn him into a toad when he forgot to relay his message.

But we don't really hear that exact usage of gey these days. But that corresponds to some of the rest of Joshua Whatmough, p. 79:

A form that takes a semantic jump without recovering equilibrium falls into oblivion. This explains the disappearance of many a jocular slang expression after a sudden popularity. Frequency of usage is too high for so long as the jocular basis for the semantic extension remains present, there is constant overuse, the slang utterance becomes 'tired' and the form is lost; but if the jocular basis is put into the background, the repetition is strong enough to entrench the form (hitherto of low frequency) in its extended or shifted meaning but not so strong as to destroy it. This is precisely what happened to testa 'pot' in becoming tête 'head.'
Although Tim LaHaye in The Unhappy Gays, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 1978) p. 39, is incomplete in his analysis of gay, he does bring out a good point:
As far as I can discover, the term gay blade was first used in England during the seventeenth century to describe what we refer to as a "swinger" today—the Don Juan type of ladies' man who seemed to live a gay life. But gay was strictly a heterosexual word.

It's not hard to imagine how that got started from gay euphemism for drunk, because a gay and tipsy man might wave his sword around and stick it anywhere. "Blade" being a phallic symbol, "gay blade" is a swinger.

In fact, if this swinger were also a braggadocio, he might also be termed gey in the earlier sense. It might help us were we to envision a possible scenario. Let's take this example from Peter Delacorte, Games of Chance (New York: Seaview Books, 1980) p. 255.

"Elsie and I both thought that Dave and Angie were the perfect example of opposites attracting. Dave was sort of garrulous, a hail-fellow-well-met, and Angie was, well, quiet and mysterious, and ... I knew that Dave was fooling around. That's the kind of guy he is. I assumed Angie just accepted it. Then Ray started showing up. He'd fly down here every few months, stay at their place, ... and it was just hell for Dave, and that's when he really started seeing other women. Her brother was a sort of threat to Dave ... it was as if he came down periodically to test Dave, to see if he was taking good care of Angie, and Dave couldn't stand that. I was convinced that the brother was trying to break up that marriage.

... "Ray would sit there talking, and it'd be 'fuck this' and 'shit that,' real gutter talk, and then he'd turn around and tell you something about Descartes ..."

"He speaks eight languages," Murphy finds himself saying.

We see a brother who is both crude and well versed in literature, speaks eight languages, his garrulous brother-in-law who was "really fooling around," and his sister just has to accept it, and well, he might coin an expression like "gay blade," but it wouldn't be a compliment. It might stick, though.

How about the dictionary definition of "gay, dissipated; immoral"? How might that have come from the French gai a euphemism for drunk? Well, we need look no further than Shakespeare for an example of a foreign pun—in a play full of puns—indicating both a typical movement style of the drunkard and his broader character type. Twelfth Night, Act 5, Scene 1.

        SIR TOBY ... Sot, didst see Dick Surgeon, sot?
        CLOWN O, he's drunk, Sir Toby, an hour agone;
          his eyes were set at eight i' th' morning.
        SIR TOBY Then he's a rogue and a passy measures
          pavin. I hate a drunken rogue.

Evidently "a passy measures pavin" is a play on the Italian passamezzo pavana, a slow and stately court dance, representing the way a drunken scoundrel orchestrates a slow waltz back home through the alley hoping not to get caught, to awaken his Mrs. or whomever. He passes with measured step along the paving: passy measures pavin. It's an excellent pun quite at home with the other puns in this play. It shows how drunkenness can represent broader character faults: a rogue—dissipated and immoral; how a movement style of the drunkard can define his character; and how the words themselves may be borrowed from another European language. That's all that's necessary for the French gai euphemism for drunk to represent "gay blade" or "dissipated; immoral."

The generality of moral degeneracy in the scoundrel is expounded on by Henry David Thoreau in Walden, Higher Laws:

All sensuality is one, though it takes many forms; all purity is one. It is the same whether a man eat, or drink, or cohabit, or sleep sensually. They are but one appetite, and we only need to see a person do any one of these things to know how great a sensualist he is. The impure can neither stand nor sit with purity. When the reptile is attacked at one mouth of his burrow, he shows himself at another. If you would be chaste, you must be temperate. What is chastity? How shall a man know if he is chaste? He shall not know it. We have heard of this virtue, but we know not what it is. We speak conformably to the rumor which we have heard. From exertion come wisdom and purity; from sloth ignorance and sensuality. In the student sensuality is a sluggish habit of mind. An unclean person is universally a slothful one, one who sits by a stove, whom the sun shines on prostrate, who reposes without being fatigued. If you would avoid uncleanness, and all the sins, work earnestly, though it be at cleaning a stable. Nature is hard to be overcome, but she must be overcome. What avails it that you are Christian, if you are not purer than the heathen, if you deny yourself no more, if you are not more religious? I know of many systems of religion esteemed heathenish whose precepts fill the reader with shame, and provoke him to new endeavors, though it be to the performance of rites merely.

I hesitate to say these things, but it is not because of the subject — I care not how obscene my words are — but because I cannot speak of them without betraying my impurity. We discourse freely without shame of one form of sensuality, and are silent about another. We are so degraded that we cannot speak simply of the necessary functions of human nature. In earlier ages, in some countries, every function was reverently spoken of and regulated by law. Nothing was too trivial for the Hindu lawgiver, however offensive it may be to modern taste. He teaches how to eat, drink, cohabit, void excrement and urine, and the like, elevating what is mean, and does not falsely excuse himself by calling these things trifles.

Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man's features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.

As "all sensuality is one," drunkenness (French gai) can be applied to other forms of which the wise woman may have spoken, and the townsfolk mistook her for breaking taboos and called her "gey." Or it was generalized to "gay" for its many forms. But then the snake having retreated into its hole, emerged from another and we ended up with "gay blade" or plain "gay" referring to the one "cohabit[ing] sensually," heterosexual and homosexual respectively.

I've not done historical statistical research to show the movement of one word meaning to another, just some logical possibilities. It is clear that gay now can refer to homosexual, a kind of dissipation/immorality, and the shift had to come from somewhere, so why not that route(s)? Regardless, the meanings of gai (drunk), gey, gay blade, gay (dissipated; immoral), gay (homosexual) have similarities perhaps greater than their differences, so we might say such use(s) has been around a while but with modification from time to time. In that case we might simply want to consider what the redoubtable Professor George P. Marsh has to say in LECTURE XII, "The Vocabulary of the English Language" of his Lectures on the English Language (London: John Murray, 1863), pp. 179, 80:

Special changes of vocabulary can frequently be explained after they have once happened, but very seldom foretold, and words sometimes disappear altogether and are lost forever, or, like some stars, suddenly rise again to view, and resume their old place in both literature and the colloquial dialect, without any discoverable cause for either their occultation or their emergence.

... A knowledge of the primitive sense of a word very often enables us to discover a force and fitness in its modern application which we had never suspected before, and accordingly to employ it with greater propriety and appositeness.

It seems to me that it's explainable what happened to gay and now that it has emerged like a powerful star that had once grown dim, we need not be completely surprised when we consider that's sometimes the way of words, but we can use it to better effect knowing its history.

According to CGB in Word Lore: The History of 200 Intriguing Words (New York: Gramercy Books, 2006) pp. 103f., "The homosexual sense of gay was most likely derived from the primary meanings in the early part of the 20th century: 'happy, carefree, hedonistic'—stereotyped homosexual personality traits," which I've discussed in my review elsewhere of the movie "Dark Victory." CGB gives "another possible source in the slang term gaycat 'a boy, often involved in pederasty, who acts as a lookout for tramps or criminals.'" Since it's possible that gaycat also contributed to the development of the homosexual meaning—it need not have all come by one route as the frequency of use being small at first, any small contribution would be significant—, we shall look at this word too. CGB's timeline shows "the 'homosexual' sense of gay not established until the late 1930s or early 1940s, ... then known only to homosexual, bohemian, or artistic subcultures, [but] by the 1950s known to the general public [who] considered it slang, used in the heterosexual community in the 1960s, [and] the preferred term of self reference for most homosexuals by the 1970s."

In my opinion the most likely source of gaycat came from a cartoon in the 1910s. In our information age we are bombarded on every side with messages we must necessarily tune out, but back then it was the newspaper that conveyed the news of the world, which everyone read. A well known cartoonist was drawing back then named H.T. Webster. To help you understand his times, I shall quote from the Philo Calhoun's Biographical Sketch of Webster in The Best of H.T. Webster (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953) p. 10.

One has only to look back forty years in the old files of America's foremost humorous journals to appreciate what crude and primitive fun-makers our grandfathers were. It was a commonplace to lampoon the Irish, the Jews, and the Negroes in childish and cruel caricature. The mother-in-law joke was still going strong and the endless pranks of the Katzenjammer Kids were a Sunday dinner conversation piece. Webster's humor had a flattering subtlety, a robust geniality and a nostalgic warmth which appealed to many who were frankly bored with the slapstick pattern of the current funny men. Webby was bringing his art into higher levels of good taste, and nice people who wouldn't allow an average, so called "funny paper" in their homes, were laughing and remembering what they laughed at. ¶During the middle teens of the century, Webster had rooms in New York.
gaycatOkay, here we have in New York one of his laughed-at and remembered cartoons appearing in 1916. It is easy to imagine someone in a jocular manner around the dinner table, doing a play on words directed at the hapless kid. He looks miserable, so we shall go with that theme. The song he is asked to sing begins with the letter G, the Merry in the song rhymes with the Murray in his nickname, both ending in y. We need a one syllable word to substitute for "wild" in "wildcat," and inevitably, we end up with "gaycat." Look at the cartoon and tell me we wouldn't get one or two "gaycats" in all of New York!

Now, in New York in 1910s, with all the immigrant population from Europe, many would be familiar with a French euphemism called "gay" and so might substitute it when needed to refer to one leaning towards sexual confusion. It's an idea.

Okay, you know the way people post cartoons at home and office, especially ones that remind them of some person or incident there where it's posted. Well, some gang, say, has an effeminate boy working for them as, say, a lookout, or he looks girlish. The boss of the outfit posts the cartoon at his headquarters as kind of a joke and it stays up for years. The gaycat grows up and maybe gets his own gaycat. The term is used as in-house slang and eventually the cat is dropped and gay is used as an adjective for homosexual.

Considering slang usage, let's look at a fictional representation of how a Negro porter in 1938 spoke. From Peter Quinn, Hour of the Cat (New York: The Overlook Press, 2005) p. 118.

"Looks like they're sprucing up the place," Dunne said. The hallway was half-covered with scaffolding. The receptionist's station had been demolished.

"Today was Miss Marlene's last day. Landlord says the tenants can answer their own phones. Put her out to pasture, if that's where they put she-cats the likes of her."

"Place will never be the same."

If she-cats can refer to a person's sex, then it seems to me gay-cats can refer to someone's sexual (dis)orientation, as far as slang goes.

Let's compare gaycat with the derivation of a similar sounding slang word hepcat.

Several etymologists point out that hep—U.S. slang for aware, well informed, up-to-date—became popular during World War I and therefore may have come from the drill sergeant's counting cadence for marching, "Hep, hep, hep." A recruit who got out of step was told to get hep, that is, wake up and conform; hence hep came to mean knowing one's way around.
—Christine Ammer, Fighting Words
If we contrast gaycat with hepcat, we arrive at the original French meaning of gay as tipsy, drunk—that is, someone who's off the mark, compared with someone who is hep, on the mark, a hepcat. Therefore gay means pretty much the same thing whichever way it is derived.

An intriguing analysis of an outright manipulation of gaycat to influence the homosexual meaning of gay can be seen in my review elsewhere of the 1939 movie Dodge City.

I now want to look at such statements as LaHaye's, Ibid.,

Why Pick on "Gay"?

Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. objects to this synonym for homosexual by saying, "Gay used to be one of the most agreeable words in the language. Its appropriation by a notably morose group is an act of piracy."—"The State of the Language 1977," Time, January 2, 1978, p. 36. In recent years the homosexual crowd has taken over the word until the rest of us are reluctant to use it.

And from Robert McCrum et al., The Story of English (New York: Elisabeth Sifton Books, 1987) p. 343.

Next Year's Words

All but one of the speakers of The English Language: Deterioration in Usage ... unloaded a truckload of familiar complaints. ... Good old words were acquiring bad new meanings. "It seems to me," remarked one peer, "virtually impossible for a modern poet to write, the choir of gay companions. What has happened is that a word has been used for propaganda purposes which have destroyed its useful meaning in English.

As much as I prefer the subject of homosexuality not come up in polite society, and as much as I lament the deterioration of the English language, I still can't bring myself to blame the homosexuals per se for appropriating the term gay to describe themselves. After all, vocabulary sometimes takes its own strange course and we just have to live with it. What other term could be used colloquially? If we go beyond the technical terms lesbian and homosexual, we are left with a series of words that have more than one meaning:

variation of dike
short haircut
bundle of sticks for fuel
magical being
an edible food
female ruler
man as in homo sapiens, homo erectus, etc.

You know, we don't give them a lot of options if we insist they use a word of unique definition to describe themselves. And the one they picked smacks of humility even more than does queer in that "dissipated; immoral" is lower than odd. And don't we heterosexuals sometimes use ambiguous words?

Take the word fresh. "Fresh as a daisy." Also "one of the most agreeable words in the language," I would say. As well as describing recently picked flowers it can also describe a man's state who's got a good night's sleep. Fresh and ready to go. And it can describe a man who's made a presumptuous advance on an unsuspecting woman. We don't tell ourselves we've pirated an innocent word to describe unbecoming behavior, do we?

There are many wholesome uses of gay that remain unaffected by the current trend. I shall quote you some of each variety and let's see if my reader can pick the correct meaning. From BOOK OF ETIQUETTE BY LILLIAN EICHLER, VOLUME II, © 1921. "THE BALLROOM" "Everything in the ballroom should suggest gayety, light and beauty." I don't see a problem with that.

The Laws of Etiquette, by A Gentleman [EBook #5681] Edition: 10. "It is a common practice with men to abstain from grave conversation with women. And the habit is in general judicious. If the woman is young, gay and trifling, talk to her only of the latest fashions, the gossip of the day, etc." Yes, two possible meanings of gay would work in that sentence, but only one makes sense given the context, sexist though it may be.

From Bill Pronzini, Sentinels (New York: Carroll & Graf Pub., 1996) p. 204. "They were making noise over there in eleven, laughing and whooping, just having themselves a gay old time." Do I need to clarify that this is referring to a heterosexual couple in order for the meaning of happy gay to click?

Here from Scott Turow, The Laws of our Fathers (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1st ed., 1996) p. 330: "When I split with Charlie, Mike Dornich was one of those guys who came to my mind, mild, angular, witty. With Marta one night, watching Nikki play with Clara, Marta's older daughter, I confessed these thoughts. Marta was alarmed. 'Jesus, Sonny,' she whispered, 'he's gay.' I realized instantly she was right, and felt amazed by myself, the way we forever see others through the lens of our own needs." Here by the context and also by the whispered epithet, we understand she is not talking about happy children at play when informing her friend of the sexual disorientation of "one of those guys."

"My gay butterfly is entangled in a spider's web then."—Henry David Thoreau, Walden. Is any intelligent reader going to think he is talking about a girl butterfly who likes girl butterflies? Or a happy butterfly for that matter? Come on, now. It's caught in a spider's web. How happy is it going to be? No, it is a colorful butterfly, that meaning of gay. This was sort of a trick question to keep you on your toes.

Let's take an easier example, from Mitch Silver, In Secret Service (New York: Touchstone, 2007) p. 149. "Edward gave them our gift from the little leather hold-all he carries around: a simple ballotin from La Maison du Chocolat, done up in that gay red and gold paper we found in that shop on Madison Avenue. You remember."

For a non-American English, let's cite Gerald Hammond, Twice Bitten (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999) p. 27: "The spaniel at work just then, Pru, being even more sociable than the rest, pushed through the hedge and went to make her acquaintance and she squeaked with delight and went down on her knees to pet the dog. ¶She stood up ... and came close to the hedge. 'Yon's gey bonny dogs you hae there,' she said." Since bonny refers to the dogs' appearance—being well formed and comely—,then gey refers to their striking coloration be it black on white, not the "ebullience" of the hunting dogs.

And of course there's the song "Scarlet Ribbons" where a father overhears his young daughter praying for such ribbons for her hair, but he is unable to provide them. Imagine his surprise when he peeks in later to see them on the bed "in gay profusion lying there".

Here is one of those examples where two meanings of gay can apply, in Martin Cruz Smith, Polar Star (New York: Random House, 1989) p. 281. "Under the black-and-white screen, Anton Hess was an exhausted man. The colored screens seemed inappropriately gay, tuned into some happier wavelength." An engineer monitoring some screens is cast into a somber mood by the black-and-white screen, in contrast to the colored, the gay, screens "tuned into some happier wavelength."

Here in adverbial form it is still being used in 2004, from Michael McGarrity, Slowkill (New York: Penguin Group, August, 2004) p. 2: "He stopped to stretch his legs, and a convertible sports car with the top down zipped by, the woman driver tooting her horn and waving gaily as she sped away."

Okay, here's the bonus one. E.B. White, One Man's Meat (New York: Harper & Row, 1982) pp. 62-3, "The World of Tomorrow," May, 1939

The voice of Mr. Kaltenborn in the City of Man says, "They come with joyous song," but the truth is there is very little joyous song in the Fair grounds. There is a great deal of electrically transmitted joy. Tomorrow's music, I noticed, came mostly from yesterday's singer. In fact, if Mr. Whalen wants a suggestion from me as to how to improve his show (and I am reasonably confident he doesn't), it would be to snip a few wires, hire a couple of bands, and hand out ticklers. Gaiety is not the keynote in Tomorrow. I finally found it at the tag end of a chilly evening, far along in the Amusement Area, in a tent with some colored folks. There was laughing and shouting there, and a beautiful brown belly-dancer.

Another gay spot, to my surprise, was the American Telephone & Telegraph Exhibit. It took the old Telephone Company to put on the best show of all. To anyone who draws a lucky number, the company grants the privilege of making a long-distance call. This call can be to any point in the United States, and the bystanders have the exquisite privilege of listening in through earphones and of laughing unashamed. To understand the full wonder of this, you must reflect that there are millions of people who have never either made or received a long-distance call, and that when Eddie Pancha, a waiter in a restaurant in El Paso, Texas, hears the magic words "New York is calling ... Go ahead, please," he is transfixed in holy dread and excitement. I listened for two hours and ten minutes to this show, and I'd be there this minute if I were capable of standing up.

However racist the material, the author's intended meaning of gay leaves no room for doubt. In fact I would say that writing and speech have degenerated since yesteryear, but it's not because the gays have been ripping off straight vocabulary for their own purposes, but because the straights have been so busy worrying about expressing themselves in non-racist and nonsexist (PC) speech that they've forgotten the excellent use of the language. To the point, "gay" is there for our use and always has been. Don't blame the queers.

A couple final examples: One from Randall Silvis, An Occasional Hell (Sag Harbor, NY: The Permanent Press, 1993) p. 149. A man who had been rendered impotent by a gunshot receives this criticism from a woman he cares about but who doesn't know of his condition.

"You couldn't bring yourself to make love to me ... and I'm not supposed to be hurt by that?"

Quickly he thought of a half-dozen things to say, a half-dozen ready lies, off-roads, detours, switchbacks to lead her away from understanding. He dismissed them each in turn.

She said, "You weren't doing me any favors, you know. I might not be twenty-three years old but I'm not so desperate for attention that I have to go around asking men for favors."

"You're a beautiful woman," he said. "Age has nothing to do with it."

She softened just a bit. "Is it ... are you gay, Ernie?"

He smiled. "Not since the carefree days of youth. And even then, not in the way you mean."

Here where her usage of gay in context clearly means homosexual, he is nevertheless free to answer it by its other meaning as a ready means of circumlocution. We don't always want to do that, but just the possibility means we can, and the former main use of the word is not entirely lost.

From Ken Jackson, Control (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987) p. 142.

The powers redid the newsroom last January and February. They put in new carpet, went for designer wallpaper, all new furniture. Desks, now in head-to-head clusters, have head-high, fabric covered dividers at their fronts. "Looks like a fuckin' savings and loan office," Gil Pacer, the cop-shop reporter, had said when all was complete. "Even with the gay, oh-so-fuckin'-gay wallpaper." It had, too.
Newspaper reporters are more careful in their speech than the average Joe. The ordinary use of "gay wallpaper" says it is colorful, but when we are talking about designer wallpaper, and its description is amplified by "oh-so-fuckin'-gay wallpaper," we are to understand there is something queer looking about it, whatever that means. Here gay can modify such wallpaper without preempting its former usage.

Take another of our English words derived from the French: picnic. It too is one of the most agreeable in the language but can—according to my dictionary—be used as slang for "a very easy job." Do we criticize American workers for co-opting our pleasant word for their own purposes?

And aren't there other words with multiple uses that get into the sexual? There is cock a rooster, or cock getting a gun ready to shoot, or cock …

And if we're willing to dish out blame, perhaps we should give credit too, to the gays and "liberated" straights who stopped using rubbers and now use condoms. They gave us a break on the other word. It could have gone the other way, as in Simon Brett, Singled Out (New York: Scribner, 1995) p. 16:

... "Shouldn't I have a French letter on?"

The detached part of her brain registered the phrase. Where did he come from? How old did a man have to be to use the expression "French letter" in the nineteen-seventies?

And gays sure aren't the only ones to find new uses of words. How about, Ibid., p. 140: '"I thought we should meet up," said Emily, "now that Tom and I are an 'item'." The hands came out of their sleeves for the fingers to mime quotation marks round the word "item." It was a mannerism which Laura particularly disliked.' Was it not perhaps tabloids that started charging our ordinary word item with sexual overtones?

I went and purchased a monster head for my Halloween display, but it wasn't ugly enough so I left it at the booth of a gal who does face-painting to get her to add some blood to the forehead. She said she would also touch up the nose where the green had worn off. I returned an hour later to notice she had barely started to outline the blood and was now painting the face of a little girl. I asked the woman, "You haven't got to the blood yet?" She replied, "No, I haven't got to the blood yet." The little girl sitting in the chair having her face painted said timidly, "You haven't got to the blood yet." Language has to be taken in context. We'd no sooner want to bloody the girl's face than we'd deny an older girl the right to say no, and mean it, to an unwanted sexual advance. But the feminists go further and tell us that "no means no," when in fact depending on the circumstance it could mean any number of things, some of them quite monstrous were they to be applied to the situation they are addressing. But the language should be free to do other things in other places. Feminist propaganda would subvert that.

And God help you if you ever want to soften a social interaction by calling one of these feminists dear or honey.

We're also not free to call a spade a spade, but they keep changing what they are allowed to be called and get into a snit if we use the wrong word. It's these other groups that mess with our language way more than the gays do.

Gays have weightier issues—like being accepted—than worrying so much about what they are called. Ref. Michael Nava, The Burning Plain (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1997) p. 200: "The word queer is ambiguous; for decades it had been an epithet, but many younger gays had co-opted the word and proudly described themselves as queer, in the same spirit that long-haired college students in the sixties used to call themselves freaks." And there is a certain faddishness to gay. It can go out of style just as easily as it came in. Witness Gina Arnold, Kiss This (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1997) p. 166.

Portland is home to a group of people for whom the terms "gay" and "lesbian" seem totally outdated—like saying "colored person" or "Negro" rather than "black" or "African American."


It's not their name but their actual identity that should concern us if anything. Are not gay folk also subtle schemers? I mean, if wizards banded together to try to get themselves taken for a protected minority, one might think that. And as they are "light mispleased" and "quick to anger," their militancy might disturb some people. Nevertheless, they are but men, Homo Sapiens, and such unreasoned fear of man (i.e. "homophobia"—homo=MAN + phobia=FEAR, the correct construction that's hardly ever used right) should be tempered with the proverb, (Prov. 29:25) "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."

"But," you might say, "I thought the definition of homophobia was 'the fear of homosexuals.'" Yes, that is what is popularly put forth, but let's take a lesson from a conversation in Jim Hougan's novel Kingdom Come (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000) p. 49:

"I joined the Agency because, until then, I'd wanted to be an historian. And what I found was—what I learned in college was—it's no longer possible to be an historian."

Roscoe gave him a puzzled look. "Why do you say that?"

"Because historians collect facts and read documents. They do empirical research and analyze the information they've collected. Then they publish their findings. They call it the scientific method, and it's something you can't do in a university any more."

"Why not?"

"Because the structuralists—or the poststructuralists—or the postcolonialists or whatever they're calling themselves this week—take the position that reality is inaccessible, facts are fungible, and knowledge is impossible. Which reduces history to fiction and textual analysis. Which leaves us with ..."

"What?" Roscoe asked.

"Gender studies. Cultural studies. What I think of as the fuzzies."

Are you, dear web reader, looking for a definition of homophobia from gender studies, cultural studies, the "fuzzies," or would you like to look at some historical analogies? If the latter, I have a chart for you to peruse.
A Comparison of Diseases, Then and Now
The Way of a Pilgrim The Peculiar Institution Who Will Rise Up?
by elder Ambrose by Kenneth M. Stampp by George E. (Jed) Smock
A Spiritual Adventure Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South A Call to Confrontational Evangelism
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1974) pp. 36-9. (Vintage Books, circa 1955) pp. 28, 109. (Newark: The Campus Ministry USA, 1999) pp. 117-120.
Feeling sorry for a young village girl whose father belonged to a sect which had no priesthood, I advised her to read her prayers in the right form as given by the tradition of Holy Church. By the 1830's slavery, now an integral part of the southern way of life, was to be preserved, not as a transitory evil, an unfortunate legacy of the past, but as a permanent institution—a positive good. Homosexuality is no longer simply accepted on the university campuses as an "alternate lifestyle," but it is actively promoted by the administration.
The girl came to me one day in a state of great distress and worry, not knowing what to do. Her father wanted to make her marry a man of his own religion, and they were to be married not by a priest but by a mere peasant belonging to the same sect. "How could that be a lawful marriage, wouldn't it be the same thing as fornication?" cried the girl. She had made up her mind to run away somewhere or other. According to the distinguished Dr. Samuel Cartwright, of Louisiana, there was a disease peculiar to Negroes which he called Drapetomania: "the disease causing negroes to run away." In 1990, OSU opened The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Services Office. The director said education will be a large part of the office's duties: We hope to eliminate homophobia by setting up a speakers' bureau to do presentations on gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues."
Cartwright believed that it was a "disease of the mind" and that with "proper medical advice" it could be cured.
The first symptom was a "sulky and dissatisfied" attitude. "Heterosexuals who take the course will find that their sexual identity is socially constructed."
"But," said I, "where to? They would be sure to find you again. ... You had better pray earnestly to God to turn your father from his purpose and to guard your soul from sin and heresy. That is a much sounder plan than running away." To forestall the full onset of the disease, the cause of discontent must be determined and removed. A Christian man, Dewayne W., who had been a homosexual for twenty-two years and involved in the "Gay Rights Movement" in San Francisco, gave a powerful testimony and message. About forty sodomites heard Brother Dewayne give a firsthand account of the tragic, miserable and anything but "gay" lifestyle. He boldly proclaimed that Jesus had made him a new creation and a normal man, and Jesus would do the same for them. Some mocked, some cursed and some listened.
"You would be caught at once and sent home again, and punished as a tramp into the bargain. You had far better go home and say your prayers there. And if you don't want to marry, make out that you are ill. The holy mother Clementa did that, and so did the venerable Marina. There are many other cases of the same thing. It is called a saving pretence." If there were no ascertainable cause, then "whipping the devil out of them" was the proper "preventive measure against absconding."
Gender Relations in German History Portrait of America, Volume II
power, agency and experience from the sixteenth to the twentieth century from Reconstruction to the Present
edited by Lynn Abrams & Elizabeth Harvey Stephen B. Oates, U. of Mass., Amherst
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1997) pp. 70ff. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1978) pp. 405ff.
    In July 1715, Christina, wife of wheelwright Balthasar Schauth in the Württemberg village of Onstmettingen, claimed she had been pregnant for 14 months. On 8 July her crisis at last arrived. She summoned her sister, the parson and his wife, and, from the fields, the midwife. She showed her sister a bucket of bloody matter that had come from her, she said, and as the sister stirred it, she discovered eight frogs in the mess. The midwife cleaned them, as she would have done with a baby, and the parson urged Christina to thank God for helping to end her curious and burdensome pregnancy. None disbelieved the evidence of his or her eyes. That afternoon, Balthasar Schauth took the frogs to the Balingen physician in a small linen bag. "Look, this is the child my wife had," he said. Rauchendorff was "very surprised" but again not disbelieving. He only wondered whether in springtime Christina had bathed in or swallowed water with frogspawn in it.     The more reckless McCarthy became, the more strongly the Administration opposed him. In mid-May, 1954, the President threw the Constitution of the United States at him. McCarthy became involved in demands that were flagrant violations of the rights of the Executive and from the White House came a blunt statement of those rights, which "cannot be usurped by any individual who may seek to set himself above the laws of our land."
... The Senator could have emerged from the hearings partially intact if he had now made some moves to present himself as a reasonable, responsible person. But Joseph McCarthy was not interested in being partially intact. He went on looking for the haymaker and the right man was present to see to it that when the Senator swung his wildest, he swung himself flat on his face.
Meanwhile the news of the birth spread quickly in Onstmettingen. Not surprisingly, Christina's everlasting pregnancy had been gossiped about for the past two months; it had gone on so long that many suspected that Christina might have given birth secretly, been "unfaithful" to the child (ihm ein untrew erwiesen) or even killed it. Instead of dropping these grave suspicions after the birth, the parson reported, there was now great "uproar" among the people. The birth, it quickly turned out, was fraudulent. Someone had seen Christina's half-sister catching the frogs. This was decisive. Christina was arrested and taken to Balingen. The chief Army counsel, Joseph Welch, was a senior partner of the eminent Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr and he had a well deserved reputation as an infinitely shrewd trial lawyer. At the hearings Welch sat questioning away, his long, drooping face quizzical, his questions softly spoken and deftly insidious, dropping a damaging little jest and looking utterly surprised when people laughed. The sessions were only eight days old when the Army counsel drew blood. Welch was driving hard at a photograph which the McCarthy forces had produced, cropped to show only Stevens and Schine together although the original photograph contained two other men. The Army counsel brought out that the original had hung on Schine's wall and he questioned James Juliana, a Subcommittee employee who had arranged the cropping, as to why he had not brought the whole picture.
... There is no way for us of reconstructing Christina's true condition. Perhaps she had not been pregnant at all, or she had lost the child after the exertions of the washing day. It is striking that she did not think she might regain trust by simply telling people either that she had miscarried or that Rauchendorff believed that she suffered from a growth. Since everyone might well have believed that Christina was barren, her sudden pregnancy seemed strange anyway; hence the laughter of the women in the spinning-bee. When it did not result in a birth she became vulnerable to accusations that she had harmed the child. Thus the frogs were more than a means of "shutting people up." The fraud was also a cry for compassion. Women who gave birth to animals were sure to be pitied; some exhibited the animals and received gifts. But in Christina's case the strategy failed. Her disappointment that she was unable to deliver a child went unrecognized. Instead of compassion people had only insisted on knowing what had happened to her body. One can hardly imagine what it must have been like for her to leave the prison and return to Onstmettingen. JULIANA: "I wasn't asked for it. ..."
WELCH: "... You were asked for something different from the thing that hung on Schine's wall?"
JULIANA: "I never knew what hung on Schine's wall."
WELCH: "Did you think this came from a pixie? Where did you think this picture that I hold in my hand came from?"
JULIANA: "I had no idea."
There was a stir of voices and McCarthy interrupted. "Will counsel for my benefit define—I think he might be an expert on that—what a pixie is?"
Welch's face was beatific. "Yes, I should say, Mr. Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy. Shall I proceed sir? Have I enlightened you?"
The spectators roared. Roy Cohn's pouting lips hardened into angry lines. The Senator glowered.
Here were some examples where if we take a social practice as a norm, then someone who cannot accept it so well can be considered diseased, or some other explanation found, when perhaps it is he who is healthy and the social order sick.

Let's consider the above chart one section at a time going clockwise, starting from the lower right corner. First of all the pixie bringing the wee picture because she just couldn't carry the full size one. How convenient! Secretary Stevens had posed with Schine and two other men, but it suited the McCarthy camp to show a special connection between Stevens and Schine, so they cropped the picture to show just the two of them.

Now we want to take our poor conservative bloke and examine if he suffers from homophobia in the sense of being afraid of homosexuals. One thing we notice about him is that he fails to credit the influences on and contributions to society by homosexuals and their place in it. We can pick out little bits here and there that the conservative bloke has neglected to consider. But here it is more as if we had cropped the big picture he normally views of a predominately heterosexual world with homosexuals but a small part of it, just as the picture above was pared down. Just because he doesn't have some pixie sitting on his shoulder and whispering in his ear all the time about homosexual influences doesn't make him fearful of queers. No, in the picture of the world he has before him, homosexuals are but a small part lost in the clutter.

Okay, when he does notice them, he notes that there seems to be something wrong with them. A gay man dressed to the nines, having effeminate gestures and a lisp, seems somehow out of step with the world, just as the neighbors noticed there seemed to be something wrong with Christina's functioning. Yes, but her "giving birth" to frogs hardly saved the day. Sure, homosexual behavior sometimes occurs in nature. Say, scientists discover a sometimes homosexual Mexican toad. Some amphibians can change their sex when the sex ratio balance of their population becomes skewed. So what? Frogs are not a part of a human's reproductive cycle, so the message is lost on him.

Okay, moving along, his religion condemns homosexual practice. Maybe some people's religions are more lax, but religious tenets can be found calling homosexuality sinful, or that sincere people can interpret that way. As shown above in my chart, even prayer can be done the "wrong" way, and marrying wrong can be considered "sin and heresy," so no big surprise if someone's religion has homosexual practice in the same category. We don't need some mysterious disease to explain it.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. A man walks into a bar and orders a cold one to slake his thirst. He's never been there before and soon discovers he has inadvertently walked into a gay bar, finding himself being hit on by some of the other patrons. His reaction is to leave his brew on the table and make a beeline for the door. Is he suffering from homophobia?

Not necessarily. Remember the Negro who ran away from his master. He was not suffering from some strange disease of Drapetomania, but had found bondage not to his liking. The man in the bar prefers a heterosexual establishment just as the Negro prefers freedom. We don't need to invent strange diseases to explain their discontent.

That leaves us with brother Dewayne who used to be a homosexual but he got religion and deliverance. He hadn't really enjoyed his gay lifestyle, and he speaks out against it. He is not sick now but well. No, we do not want to put some strange homophobic disease on him now that he is a happy heterosexual. We shall just pronounce him well.

But as that wellness is self-described as normalcy, we can hardly call the norm diseased when it doesn't cotton to homosexuality. Ergo, just because a person doesn't accept homosexuality as normal and will speak out against it, that doesn't mean he suffers from some affliction named homophobia.

Another comparison might be to look at what the Paris press in 1839 termed daguerréotypomaie for the craze Louis Daguerre's invention of photography created—ref. Helmut Gernsheim, The History of Photography. "Perhaps no other invention ever captured the imagination of the public to such a degree and conquered the world with such lightning rapidity as the daguerreotype." According to one eyewitness to its public release, "An hour later, all the opticians' shops were besieged, but could not rake together enough instruments to satisfy the onrushing army of would-be daguerreotypists; a few days later you could see in all the squares of Paris three-legged dark-boxes planted in front of churches and palaces. All the physicists, chemists, and learned men of the capital were polishing silvered plates, and even the better-class grocers found it impossible to deny themselves the pleasure of sacrificing some of their means on the altar of progress, evaporating it in iodine and consuming it in mercury vapor."

Competing for the claim of photography's invention was English physicist William Henry Fox, whose inferior quality paper photographs eventually supplanted the fragile daguerreotypes. The easier to handle paper photos have so completely dominated daguerreotypes—which can't even be made into duplicates—that if one ever hears about daguerréotypomaie at all, it would be from some narrow historical period. Similarly, the more stable heterosexual relationships, which can even reproduce their kind, have so dominated homosexual ones in this world that true "homophobia" would only occur, if at all, in special contexts. I mean, where is the threat, that straights would fear queers? Straights trying to protect their malleable children from the well observed militancy of homosexuals should one gain a position of influence hardly qualifies.

Maybe there is such a thing as homophobia. I am not a doctor, so what do I know? But if there is some clinician who has a patient suffering from an unreasonable fear of homosexuals, he might not be talking about it—patient confidentiality—, and he might do well to find some other name for the affliction so it doesn't get confused with a mere propaganda term loosely bandied about by people with a self serving agenda. I am just considering definitions, and if a term describes a condition that doesn't exist, we might not miss losing it from our vocabulary. Who needs to know about drapetomania?

I shall quote Marsh, pp. 160-1, on

Fighting Words Doctrine

Reaction of Words

§ 7. There is a fact of immense moral significance, which seems to have been only in modern, indeed in comparatively recent times, brought into notice, and made matter of distinct consciousness, though accessible to the observation of men ever since words first had a moral meaning. Its discovery is perhaps connected with the increased attention which individual words, their form and force, have received in the study of philosophy and language. It is one of those instances where, in the progress of humanity, we come suddenly upon the outcrop of one of those great truths which like some rock-strata, extend for many days' journey but a few inches beneath the surface, and then burst abruptly into full view.

The fact to which I allude is that language is not a dead, inelastic, passive implement, but a POWER, which, like all natural powers, reacts on that which it calls into existence. It is a psychological law, though we know not upon what ultimate principle it rests, that the mere giving of verbal utterance to any strong emotion or passion, even if the expression be unaccompanied by any other outward act, stimulates and intensifies the excitement of feeling to that degree that, when the tongue is once set free, the reason is dethroned, and brute nature becomes the master of the man. The connexion between the apparently insignificant cause and the terrible effect belongs to that portion of the immaterial man, whose workings, in so many fields of moral and intellectual action, lie below our consciousness, and can be detected by no effort of voluntary self-inspection.

But it is an undoubted fact, and a fact of whose fearful import most men become adequately aware only when it is almost too late to profit by the knowledge, that the forms in which we clothe the outward expression of the emotions, and even of the speculative opinions, within us, react with mighty force upon the heart and intellect which are the seat of those passions and those thoughts. So long as we have not betrayed by unequivocal words the secret of the emotions that sway the soul, so long as we are uncommitted by formal expressions to particular principles and opinions, so long we are strong to subdue the rising passion, free to modify the theories upon which we aim to fashion our external life. Fiery [fighting] words are the hot blast that inflames the fuel of our passionate nature, and formulated doctrine a hedge that confines the discursive wandering of the thoughts. In a personal altercation, it is most often the stimulus men give themselves by stinging words, that impels them to violent acts, and in argumentative discussions, we find the most convincing proof to our conclusions in the internal echo of the dogmas we have ourselves pronounced. Hence extreme circumspection in the use of vituperative language, and in the adoption of set phases implying particular opinions, is not less a prudential than a moral duty, and it is equally important that we strengthen in ourselves kindly sympathies, generous impulses, noble aims, and lofty aspirations, by habitual freedom in their expression, and that we confirm ourselves in the great political, social, moral, and religious truths, to which calm investigation has led us, as final conclusions, by embodying them in forms of sound words.

As one example homophobia, a vituperative word we have coined, sets us up for argumentative confrontations. We have a moralduty to take more care in our word selection.

Let's look at some terms a little more closely. From Henry L. Roediger III et al., Sociology Second ed., (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1986) pp. 532-3.


Cultural abnormality involves any deviation from a societal standard or norm. To be considered normal, behavior must be socially acceptable. This perspective emphasizes value judgments. What one person considers abnormal, another may view as perfectly sensible. Indeed, the "abnormal" at one time can become "normal" at some later time. For example, in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association [under pressure] removed homosexuality from its list of disorders: a sexual deviance now became by implication a sexual choice. The fact that abnormality involves a cultural value judgment reveals something else about these behaviors: they differ only by degree. Most psychologists accept the idea of a normality-abnormality continuum in which behavior well within the norms of society falls at one end while abnormal behavior is at the other end.

Some segments of society having become desensitized to there being anything so unusual about homosexuality, now classify it within the normal range of sexual expression. Ref. Jon Katz, The Last Housewife (New York: Doubleday, 1995), p. 136.

By and large, the neighborhood had reacted to the street's first lesbian couple with a yawn, I was happy to note. ¶Jeannie and Carol had fit easily into the rhythms and tasks of suburban life. Jeannie said she sometimes wept over the stories she'd heard about lesbian couples in preceding decades struggling to do what seemed so ordinary for them.
Times have changed making it easier for them to continue openly as they are. It seems normal to them and people aren't treating them badly for it, at least not in their particular neighborhood, not this year. Does that qualify all disapproval in some other neighborhood, some other year as unreasonable fear of homosexuals? Not necessarily. These are, after all, value judgments that fall on a continuum. Only an extreme should be termed a phobia. Another possibility for this appellation is suggested in James Kahn's, The Echo Vector(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987), p.77.
Maybe he was inventing new syndromes to hit around a cluster of random symptoms. He knew he was a storyteller, after all. Maybe he was a Munchausen, as well.

People with Munchausen's syndrome were confabulators. They invented symptoms, they created painful symptoms and even dire illnesses in themselves, just to get medical attention, attention from doctors and nurses. Maybe Jordan was creating syndromes and illnesses in other people, so he could garner some attention from Chessie. Wouldn't be Munchausen's syndrome, exactly, then. More like pseudo-Munchausen's.

Maybe, just maybe this "homophobia" of widespread aversion to homos is a confabulation. Pseudo-Munchausen's syndrome.

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf. When the real wolf showed up, the village was unresponsive to his cries. Say a community decides not to let homosexuals teach in their schools. These are decent people for the most part who live and let live, but they are acting out of a protective instinct for their children and from value judgments opposing homosexuality. They are not hateful or filled with unreasoning fear. They just want what's best for their children as they see it. There are a hundred other jobs the homosexuals can have with no opposition. To label that spot on the continuum "homophobia" is to fly in the face of the townsfolk's own self-knowledge. What happens then when we use the same term to describe someone who really is unreasonable enough to cry about? The good hearted townsfolk aren't gonna get all that worked up about delivering his victims.

Are they really worthy of that epithet? Who indeed is overreacting? Who, if anyone, has mental health issues here? Let's look at some words from LaHaye, pp. 174-178, 199.

In November 1973, the American Psychiatric Association, meeting in Washington, D.C., removed homosexuality from the category of mental illness. Instead they created a new category, 'Sexual Orientation Disturbance,' referring to 'individuals whose sexual interests are directed primarily toward people of the same sex,' and they advocated that homosexuality be considered merely one form of sexual behavior.

In fairness to the field of psychiatry, it should be noted that the resolution passed by a narrow margin and has been vigorously opposed by many of the country's leading psychiatrists. Several from the Menninger Foundation stump the country, warning that some sexually sick people running around now are labeled 'normal.' Many psychiatrists accuse their colleagues in the Association of 'caving in under political pressure,' without sufficient research or scientific evidence to justify such a change. The result of a 1977 poll of psychiatrists, published in Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, indicated 69 percent still believe homosexuality to be pathological (a sickness), 13 percent were undecided.

Space will not permit the recitation of other signs of homosexual militancy—

Do you understand why militant homosexuals hate Anita Bryant so? They suffered their only defeat at the hands of Christians who rallied to the leadership and the cry of "Save Our Children." The homosexuals had come up with a program that was so blatantly evil that on June 17, 1977, 202,319 voters (69.3 percent) called for the repeal of the Dade County ordinance that forbade even Christian schools from excluding homosexual teachers. As Miss Bryant declared afterward, "The people of Dade County—the normal majority—have said, 'Enough! Enough! Enough!' They have voted to repeal an obnoxious assault on our moral values despite our community's reputation as one of the most liberal areas in the nation. All America and all the world will hear what the people have said."—Anita Bryant, The Anita Bryant Story, Revell Publishing Co., p. 125

The Aftermath

Howls of protest resounded from homosexuals, bleeding heart liberals, and the news media throughout the nation. As one leading weekly magazine wailed, "Americans have not quite matured sufficiently to permit others their own personal sexual preference." They missed the whole point! Americans haven't matured enough to permit perverts to teach our children that deviant sexual behavior is a normal way of life.

Everyone Discriminates

The media and educators have become paranoid about the subject of discrimination, carrying their position to illogical extremes. While we do not believe in racial-discrimination, we do maintain sexual[ity] discrimination. A vast majority of Americans (95 percent) believe that heterosexuality is normal and homosexuality is abnormal. The majority do not oppose the minority's right to live and work in our country, but we do contend that they cannot teach our young, and most would insist that they should not be entrusted with enforcing our laws. There is nothing evil or un-American about that—it is honorable and fair. But if we fail to stand up and defend our position, we will be defrauded of our majority rights by a loud, militant, and overinfluencial minority.
To return to my earlier analogy, using for illustration a brief excerpt from Margaret Ross Seward Peters, with E.M. Anderson, Home, Miss Moses, (Higganum, CT: Higganum Hill Books, June 1, 2006)p.72., as spoken by a Southern slavewoman in her own dialect:
The lithograph in the newspaper feature a creature like Behemoth. Letters branded on his breast spell SLAVE POWER. He's poppin' a pie into his great black maw. The pie called AMERICA. He wrapped in Old Glory and a scroll called THE FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT. His fingers holds a smokin' cigar called THE CONSTITUTION. Before him stand a pudgy little man dressed like a doctor. This here is Dr. Samuel Cartwright, a Southern physician famed for his views that the hapless Negro can only be raised up by benevolent bondage. Dr. Cartwright's readin' to Behemoth from a paper he done wrote explainin' how fugitives suffer from DRAPETOMANIA, the compulsion to run away from home. A banner of big black words over it all reads A CURE FOR DRAPETOMANIA
Heterosexuals have the power to protect their children, the power to maintain decent standards for society, the power to classify truly perverted behavior as such. Is it any wonder that there's a pathetic attempt to characterize those who do anything to exercise that power as suffering from a disease, homophobia? That is exactly what was done to diffuse Black power with a supposed disease of drapetomania.


For comparison to homophobia let's look at xenophobia: a fear and hatred of foreigners. Garden variety kind, as in Peter Delacorte, Games of Chance (New York: Seaview Books, 1980) pp. 201f.

He went to France with a couple of thousand dollars in traveler's checks and a notebook full of distant cousins' addresses, with fantasies of sitting in sidewalk cafes, chatting fluently with lithe and pliant Parisiennes. ¶But after two weeks of unabated xenophobia, of reading the Paris edition of the Herald-Tribune cover to cover every day and spending his evenings at any American movie he could find, he'd had it with France, and one miserable lonely Sunday night he took a cab back to Orly."
Let's take an example from a situation recounted in Dr. Fred Schwarz, Beating the Unbeatable Foe: One man's victory over communism, leviathan, and the last enemy (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1996)pp. 16, 477.
I was born in Brisbane on January 15, 1913, one year before the outbreak of the First World War, which raged for four dreadful years. An active ally of England and France, Australia sent many sons to serve and die in France and Gallipoli.

A patriotic fervor swept the country, and Germans were hated. Given Dad's German name and foreign accent, he was widely suspected of harboring German loyalties and had great difficulty supporting his growing family. (My father served as a laborer on the waterfront and in many other humble jobs.) ¶We were very poor.

This patriotic fervor bringing about a hatred of Germans could rightly be termed xenophobia. Jobs were hard for him to find in those circumstances. Out of every hundred he'd qualify for, he'd be lucky to land one. Butif he were in an environment where out of every hundred jobs he qualified for, only one wouldn't take him because of his German background—some national security sensitive job, say—, we would want to find another word to describe that to differentiate it from the harsher environment of only one job out of a hundred. So we'd call it, say, "erring on the side of caution" and let it go. (I'm not making political statements here, just trying to define terms.)

Several years ago a neighboring town from me did have such an initiative to restrict homosexuals from teaching school. Boy, did the rhetoric fly! As in most such votes, the results were roughly fifty-fifty, the overwhelming majority of people not condoning homosexuality but many tempering their views by not wishing to abrogate the freedom of others, whence the even score. The people voting to restrict homosexuals from this one job were called "Nazis" when they were merely acting cautiously on behalf of their kids.

This macro conflict was played out in the microcosm in my house between me and my housemate of opposing views. I start with a candid conversation in Graham Watkins, Virus (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995), p. 24.

"Look," she answered, "I can well imagine that there were doctors, back when AIDS was firing its opening salvos, that doubted that a disease could strike selectively at male homosexuals, but the fact is—"

Mark grunted derisively. "Come on, Lucy," he said. "You know better than that; doctors knowledgeable about infectious diseases know damn well there was nothing odd about a viral epidemic spreading in the gay community. Gay men tended to be promiscuous in places like the San Francisco bathhouses, and, of course, they practice anal intercourse; that means the virus is passed into the partner's intestine, which is designed by nature to absorb things directly into the bloodstream. We've always known that other diseases passed that way, like hepatitis B. Hep B has always been a problem for gays and IV drug users who share needles; another virus transmitted the same way isn't a big surprise. Or rather shouldn't be."

Lucy sighed. "Well, maybe not—but that 's the sort of thing you heard people saying. Doctors just like everybody else."

Continuing with a description by Mirko D. Grmek, M.D., Ph.D., in History of AIDS about homosexual practice in the 1970's and 1980's :

Studies showed that most American homosexuals living in large cities had several dozen sex partners each year; mean figures of eighty to one hundred partners were not rare, and some mounted into the hundreds. About ten percent of homosexuals interviewed had had sexual contact with over five hundred persons during their lives. In medical terms the almost immediate result was an increase in the "classic" sexually transmitted diseases, notably syphilis and gonorrhea; of certain viral diseases, such as hepatitis, herpes, and cytomegalovirus; and intestinal 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.

Now from LaHaye, pp. 31, 40.

Sexual Promiscuity

Moral fidelity among homosexuals is almost unknown. Even those who enter into a lifetime love relationship with another usually play the field frequently. One psychologist writer suggests that it is not uncommon for a homosexual to "have sex" with as many as 2,000 different people in a lifetime. Even if he is only half right in his estimate, such promiscuity taxes the imagination of even the most immoral heterosexual. During the past twenty-five years that I have been counseling people, I have interviewed many sexually promiscuous individuals, but none even came close to that number of different "affairs." One woman suffering from orgasmic malfunction held the record for my studies; she claimed to have had relations "with almost one hundred men" in her lifetime. Frankly, I thought she was exaggerating.

Contrast that record for heterosexual infidelity with the estimate of 2,000 sexual partners (not only by the above mentioned psychologist but also by several homosexuals I have talked to) and you begin to see the enormous difference in the sexual lifestyles of the homo and the hetero. ...

In a San Francisco Chronicle story in the March of 1976, the operator of a large venereal disease clinic with an annual budget of over one million dollars a year reported that 70 percent of their clients were homosexuals (San Francisco is often referred to as "the homosexual capital of the world," with more "gay bars" and homosexual haunts than any other major city). One homosexual newspaper lavishly praised a Los Angeles clinic that handles 7,500 VD patients a month.

And from Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague Newly emerging diseases in a world out of balance, pp.270-1:
... The all-heterosexual, mostly middle-aged research advisors simply couldn't fathom what was going on in the U.S. Gay community at the time.

"Every time we do an NIH site visit the definition of 'multiple sex partners' has changed. First, it was ten to twenty partners per year. That was 1975," Osborn complained. "Then in 1976 it was fifty partners a year. By 1978 we were talking about a hundred sexual partners a year and now [1980] we're using the term to describe five hundred sexual partners in a single year.

"I am duly in awe. Perhaps somewhat disbelieving, but duly in awe," Osborn concluded. ... ¶"We've got to pay attention to this ecology," Osborn warned. "There's something disturbing going on."

To the happy participants in the gay freedom movement, it was the ecology of sexual liberation. A price to pay, so to speak, for newfound freedom.

"I calculated that since becoming sexually active in 1973, I had racked up more than three thousand different sex partners in bathhouses, back rooms, meat racks, and tearooms," gay pop singer Michael Callen wrote—M. Callen, "Surviving AIDS" (New York: HarperCollins, 1990). "As a consequence, I also had the following sexually transmitted diseases, many more than once: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis non-A/non-B; herpes simplex Types I and II; venereal warts; amebiasis, including giardia lamblia and entamoeba histolytica; shigella flexneri and salmonella; syphilis; gonorrhea; nonspecific urethritis; chlamydia; cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) mononucleosis; and eventually cryptosporidiosis."

Of course, now we have the spread of AIDS added to the mix, which isn't pretty. As an illustration I take an inventory of an AIDS sufferer's "death row" medication, from Michael Nava, The Burning Plain (New York: G.P. Putna p. 47.
Dazed, I wandered from room to room. There were dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, mold in the shower, a layer of powdery film over the furniture, and the air was rank. In the bedroom, the sheets were stained with semen and a bottle of lubricant had fallen on its side and spread a puddle of goo on the floor. A condom floated in the toilet bowl. I opened the medicine cabinet, searching for aspirin, and was confronted by row after row of Josh's medications. Pills, syrups, ointments, hundreds, thousands of dollars' worth. I picked a bottle at random: Xanax, prescribed for the anxiety attacks that consumed him when his head cleared from all the other drugs long enough for him to realize he was dying. I poured the pills into the sink, then grabbed another bottle, Prozac for depression, and then an ointment I had rubbed on the parts of his body where his flesh had begun to necrotize. I didn't stop until all the medicine cabinet was empty.
Perhaps we should also put a face on all this sexual activity. Here's from Brett, pp.69-70:
"So am I going to be let into the bijou secret of who it is?"

"The father?"



"Oh. Oh well, there you go. It's not that you don't know, is it? I mean, you haven't been putting it around so much that it could be virtually any cock in the London telephone directory?"


"No, I thought not. Not your style, is it, Laura sweetie? Now if it'd been me ..." He spread his hands wide in a gesture of mock-modesty. "I mean, where would one begin? In the last week alone the candidates must be in double figures. Oh dear, I have been a bit reckless recently. Still, what can a chap do? It's the penalty of being absolutely gorgeous—something I have to live with. Men just swarm around me—positively swarm—bees round a honey pot. And, though I say it myself, a very nice little honeypot I've got too. No, I think, all things considered, it's just as well there isn't a womb at the end of my arsehole. So many suspects ... I don't think Hercule Poirot, Miss Marpole and Sherlock Holmes, pooling their resources, would ever find out whodunit."

The studies above were done in big cities including San Francisco and Seattle. I live in a smaller city but on the I-5 corridor between the two. My landlord was a practicing homosexual—no mistake as a friend of mine caught him in the act with another man in a toilet stall. He kept bringing all these young men home who would use our common bathroom. I don't know where he found them, but a known park for homosexual pickups is easily accessable off I-5. When I looked in the toilet bowl, I could visualize an alphabet soup of diseases I'd read about. I didn't know what was in there. I think if I invited Hercule Poirot, Miss Marpole and Sherlock Holmes to examine the bowl, they couldn't tell me either.

It is my habit to toss small items around by hand. If one fell in, the water could splash out on me. Even if I caught just hepatitis, the board of health would close down the food processing plant where I worked. I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow workers to close the toilet lid.

My housemate had a philosophy based on Andrew Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People under which he felt we should go along with the way others do things so as to please them. Since the landlord left the potty seat up, he felt we should leave it up too.

We went round and round in argument, just as half the community wanted to protect those they were responsible to (their children) from homosexuals while the other half felt we should be open and welcoming to everybody. We ended as democratic as we could. He left it up and I put it down.

By and by, we both moved away and eventually I had occasion to talk to the American Indian who lived out back. What did he do, I wondered, about the toilet? He told me that one day when the landlord was at work, he dismantled it, loaded it into his pickup, and took it to the dump. When the landlord got home and complained, he told him to take his tax refund money and buy a new one. Now, that is worthy of comparison to the Nazis. But not the other.

Let's look at Christine Ammer's definition of Nazi in Fighting Words published by Dell, New York, 1990, p. 198.


A person who subscribes to extreme views that include racism and a belief in white supremacy, and who takes brutal measures to carry them out. These were the tenets of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party, which took power in Germany in 1933, fought vigorously throughout World War II, and was finally abolished in 1945.

And from William F. Buckley Jr., Nuremberg The Reckoning (New York: Harcourt Press, 2002)p. 331, we can get a good idea of international feelings towards the Nazis in the aftermath of WW2:
There were no interesting philosophical developments. "The evidence relating to war crimes has been overwhelming," Judge Parker said. "War crimes were committed on a vast scale, never before seen in the history of war. They were perpetuated in all the countries occupied by Germany, and on the high seas, and were attended by every conceivable circumstance of cruelty and horror. There could be no doubt that the majority of the war crimes arose from the Nazi conception of 'total war'."

Judge Parker stressed the mobilization in the Third Reich of all energies to the war-making enterprise. "Everything is made subordinate to the overwhelming dictates of war. Rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment; freed as they are from the restraining influence of international law, the aggressive war was conducted by the Nazi leaders in the most barbaric way. War crimes were committed when and wherever the Führer and his close associates thought them to be advantageous. They were for the most part the result of cold and criminal calculation."

Edward R. Murrow defending his lack of objectivity when broadcasting from England during the blitz said the stakes were so high that he had to make sure his reporting had maximum impact.

And for a philosophical underpinning of the Nazis, I shall quote from John W. Whitehead, Grasping for the Wind (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) pp. 58-9.


Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) wrote Mein Kampf in 1923 and expressed in it his adherence to evolution in justifying genocide. As anthropologist Arthur Keith has said, "The German Führer ... consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution."—Arthur Keith, Evolution and Ethics (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1949), p. 230. Evolutionary ideas can also be seen in Hitler's wish to develop a master race and in his human breeding experiments.

Racism therefore is also a sequel to evolutionary thinking, and Darwin himself may have provided the racist element of the theory. Though the title of his book is often cited as The Origin of Species, the complete title is The Origin of Species of Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The probable implication in Darwin's title is the favored race is the white race.

Esteemed Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionist himself, has documented the racism of evolutionary thinking. Concerning Darwin and "non-Western people," Gould has written that "his basic belief in a hierarchy of cultural advance, with white Europeans on top and natives of different colors on the bottom, did not change."—Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: Norton, 1996), p. 416.

It might be technically correct to call the toilet-to-the-dump a "Nazi solution"—even though the tenant being an Indian and the landlord from Hawaii, there is no question involved of Master Race—simply because of the extreme solution. That's what we think Nazis represent. But restricting homosexuals from teaching jobs influencing our kids, that is not a case of "everything being made subordinate to the overwhelming dictates of [heterosexuality]" as there are ninety and nine other jobs they are not restricted from. This even though heterosexuals constitute a sort of "master race" by comparison as any race that can propagate itself will succeed over a race that cannot. But we let them live peacefully with us. The stakes are not so high that they won't have work if they cannot teach children, so why all the rhetoric?

Allow me to paraphrase an ancient fable about a farmer's wife and a mouse. The mouse, so the story goes, was peering out through a crack in the barn wall one day to see what kind of food the mailman was delivering. When the farmer's wife opened the package, it wasn't food at all; it was a mousetrap.

The mouse went out to raise the alarm with the other animals. The chicken just wasn't impressed by the mouse's concern. "A mousetrap is no bother to me. You must have mousetrap-phobia. Yes, that's what it is."

Next, the mouse told the pig. "You're all upset about a what?" the pig replied. "But mousetraps are common items on a farm. Everybody knows that. You better get used to it. You're a mousetrap-phobe."

Next, the mouse tried the cow. "Moo," the cow said contentedly. "I just live and let live. No sense getting all upset about nothing. You may suffer from mousetrap-phobia, but I don't. I just live and let live. Moo."

The mouse went back to the barn sad and dejected. None of the other animals on the farm shared his vital concern. They just called him names.

Late that night he heard a snap sound like a mousetrap closing on its prey. The farmer's wife rushed out to see what was caught. In the dark she failed to notice the deadly venomous snake whose tail was pinned by the trap, and the snake bit her.

Soon the farmer's wife developed a fever. Wanting to reduce the fever with the folk cure of chicken soup, the farmer went out and wrung the chicken's neck and cooked a bowl. But it didn't help. The fever got worse and worse.

The friends of the farmer's wife came to encourage her, and the farmer felt obliged to feed them so he went and butchered the pig. But the fever persisted despite all their concern and then the wife died.

Their friends, family, and church came from miles around to console the farmer. To feed them he slaughtered the cow.

The mouse watched all this sadly from the crack in the barn wall. He realized that when one living creature is threatened, all are.

Yes, a Christian—or a heterosexual with certain values—will regard homosexuality as something counter to his lifestyle, as does the mouse the mousetrap. Yet he is not the only one implicated by this intrusion, for through the agency of sickness, society as a whole is threatened.

Rather than leave the subject of Nazis in the grip of generalities, let's look at how the Nazis actually treated homosexuals. From Lynn Abrams & Elizabeth Harvey, Gender Relations in German History (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997) pp. 180-6:

National Socialist policies toward female homosexuality

Claudia Schoppmann

Translated by Elizabeth Harvey
The regime launched a fierce attack upon marriages that had remained childless. The prominent population expert Friedrich Burgdörfer labelled childless marriages as "racial desertion." While all this propaganda appears to have had little impact on the birthrate, it had an impact on the lives of lesbians. The propaganda targeted at the single and childless woman was bound to affect lesbians particularly, since for obvious reasons they were more likely to remain unmarried than heterosexual women. After 1933, many of the estimated one million lesbians in Germany got married to escape social pressure and in some cases to avoid losing their jobs. ...

The Nazi policy of "deterrence through punishment" was to be achieved through the radical tightening-up of Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code which since 1871 had criminalized sexual acts between men. In the new version of June 1935, the paragraph read: "A male who indulges in indecent activities with another male or who allows himself to participate in such activities will be punished with imprisonment." Prison sentences of up to five years were envisioned, and the newly devised Paragraph 175a provided for sentences of hard labor of up to ten years (in so-called aggravated cases, for instance when the partner was under 21 years of age). ...

While the criminalization of male homosexuality was never questioned, and the criminal law on male homosexuality was tightened up, the Criminal Law Commission of the Ministry of Justice, which was responsible for drafting new legislation, decided in 1935 to reject the proposals to extend Paragraph 175 to women. The discrepancy in the treatment of male and female homosexuality was justified with reference to socially defined gender roles.

  1. It was argued the more emotional style of friendship between women would make it too difficult to draw the line clearly between behaviour that was permissible and behaviour that was forbidden; ...
  2. It was pointed out that male homosexuality posed a greater menace than female homosexuality to public life and the political institutions. Where men were concerned, it was feared that a "homosexual plague", threatening as it did the rigid sexual norms essential to the maintenance of order within the state, would lead to the "corruption of public life." Homosexuality among women, it was argued, in view of women's generally subordinate status and their exclusion from positions of power, posed no comparable risk. Furthermore, criminalizing female homosexuality was thought to be all the more superfluous since the real threat posed by the feminist movement had been removed. Feminist organizations had been dissolved or brought into line with the new regime: ...
  3. Argument against the criminalization of female homosexuality was derived from assumptions about marital relationships and from the stereotype of the lesbian who was only "pseudohomosexual" and thus "curable." According to Otto Thierack, the later Minister of Justice, writing in 1934, "A woman – in contrast to a man – is always capable of intercourse." ...

Although lesbianism was not criminalized, the Nazi regime went to some lengths to put pressure on lesbians to conform at least outwardly to the heterosexual norm. ... ¶There are only a few known cases where women were persecuted because of their homosexuality, since officially they were usually accused of other "offenses" such as "political unreliability" or "subversion of national defense" (Wehrkraftzersetzung). ... ¶All we can say is that there was no systematic persecution of lesbians comparable to the persecution of male homosexuals in the Third Reich.

For a period comparison, take England's treatment of homosexuals. From Litch Silver, In Secret Service (New York: Touchstone, 2007) p. 214
In the 1940s and 1950s, the practice of homosexuality in Great Britain was a crime, punishable by an extended gaol term (eighteen months). Though gentlemen of influence and/or means were usually able to avoid prison, the threat of a public trial was enough to drive the practice, and the practicioners, underground.

I've concluded that the current fad of crying "Nazi!" at the slightest legal impediment to homosexuality is, on the one hand, usually overstating the case, and, on the other, really ignoring the unequal treatment of male and female homosexuals in Nazi Germany. What puzzles me, though, is what with all the bad press our early American Puritans got from Hugh Hefner's playboy philosophy, the source of legal remedies against homosexuals was not laid at their door too where it belongs. The first application of capital punishment in "New Canaan" was for a sex act between a boy and a horse:

A servant on Lord Brewster's farm at Duxbury, a youth of seventeen, had slipped into strange and sinful ways—"Horrible it is to mention," exclaimed Bradford, "but ye trueth of ye historie requires it"—and was indicted for his transgressions.

Fortunately, the Pilgrims knew just how to proceed, for several similar offenses had recently been committed in Massachusetts, and the authorities had written Plymouth for advice. Bradford in turn had consulted a few distinguished divines to ask their opinions on three questions—

  1. should death be inflicted for unnatural sins,
  2. how far can the magistrates go in forcing a confession from the accused, and
  3. is one witness sufficient to convict of a capital offense?
In brief depositions Reyner and Partridge agreed that death was a proper penalty for such sins, as evidenced by the Scriptures; that the magistrates could not employ force or torture to extract a confession; that at least two witnesses were required for conviction in a capital crime. While agreeing on the first point, the larned Mr. Chancy" was not of their opinion on the others, and from Scituate came a long disquisition on every phase and mode of "carnall copulation," running on page after page, studded with dozens of citations in support of every point, such an exhaustive treatise as might have been expected of one about to become a college president, even though the subject was somewhat esoteric:

"Ye judicials of Moyses, ... grounded on ye law of nature, or ye decalogue, are immutable and perpetual, which all orthodox devines acknowledge; see ye authors following ... [After filling up ten lines] And more might be added. I forbear for brevity's sake, to set downe their very words." None could deny that the Mosaic code prescribed death for "adultry, Levit: 20. 10., Deut: 22. 22., Esech: 16. 38, Jhon: 8. 5 ... So incest is to be punished with death, Levit: 20. 11, 22. Beastiality likewise, Levit: 20. 15., Exod: 22. 19. Rapes in like manner, Deut: 22. 25. Sodomie in like sort, Levit: 18. 22, & 20. 13. And all presumptuous sins, Numb: 15. 30, 31 ... as discovering of nakedness, Levit: 18. 20., which is retegere pudenda, as parts per euphemismum (saith Junius), or detegere ad cubandum, (saith Willett) ... Abulensis says that it signifies omnes modos quibus ... Add to this a notable speech of Zepperus de legibus (who hath enough to end all controversies of this nature) ... Againe, some sinnes of this nature are simple, others compound ... but when there is a mixture of diverce kinds of lust, this is capitall, double & triple. ..."

In the end the youth confessed and was summarily executed for his sins, "according to ye law, Levit: 20. 15." ...

Finally—and here Bradford laid a finger upon a profound truth—"it may be in this case as it is with waters when their streames are stopped or dammed up, when they gett passage they flow with more violence, and make more noys and disturbance, than when they are suffered to run quietly in their own channels. So wickedness, being here more stopped by strict laws and ye same more nearly looked unto so that it cannot run in a commone road of liberty as it would and is inclined, searches everywhere and at last breaks out where it getts vente."

Willison, pp. 359-61.

In the movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry there was a new fireman on the team who appeared dangerous because of some pent up emotion he kept hidden. When finally he was allowed to "come out of the closet" as a homosexual, he appeared tame as a pussycat. These current debates on whether or not to restrict homosexuality in some way(s) or to allow it to flow in the stream of liberty with all the other sex practices we allow, this harks back to the early days of our country, of America, and our religious heritage. It's just that the current obstacles being debated are dams in front of homosexuals. Those wanting to keep them in place are from a long religious tradition more closely allied to the Pilgrims and Puritans than to the Nazis.

A more apt analogy to the Nazis would be legislation like that in Oregon preventing discrimination in hiring of homosexuals, where religious exceptions are allowed for churches only in jobs relating to their main purpose, or ENDA which does likewise but exempts church schools sponsored by a major denomination yet leaves Bible bookstores, say, under it. First amendment rights of freedom of religion regarding associations with blatant sinful practice go out the window except for some church institutions, and even there only in narrow segments of them. Quoting—with permission— from Backgrounder #34:


The most extreme example of "keeping the church out of politics" probably comes from the infamous Nazis. Officer Josef Goebbels wrote in 1935 of the coming conflict between Christianity and Nazi power, "For the Churches there is only one solution ... back to the sacistry," (not just the church building, but the tiny room where communion vessels are stored). Hitler himself boasted that his Nazis had excluded the clergy from "the Party political conflict, and led them back into the Church. And now it is our desire that they should never return to that area for which they were not intended." (J. S. Conway The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933-45 (1968) pp. 65, 114-115, New York: Basic Books, cited in Ken Wilson, The Moral Mandate to Vote (2000), Huntington House, PO Box 53788, Lafayette, LA 70505.

The homosexuals as a group are not economically deprived and so do not fall under the Supreme Court's classification as a "suspect" group entitled to special civil protection, as do sex and skin color, intrinsic attributes as opposed to behaviors. Although there are sure to be exceptions, having two breadwinners and no children is a formula for economic success. There is no systematic discrimination against the queers.

Rather, it is a powerful homosexual lobby that wants to impose its values on society by restricting any religious qualms to a Nazi-like subset of churches, while everybody else's First Amendment rights to even speak against it (hostile work environment) can go out the window. From Margaret Ross Seward Peters, Home, Miss Moses (Higganum, CT: Higganum Hill Books, 2006) p. 380.

Outside my tent I often finds a gaggle of freedmen fixin' to ask me it they really free; they done stayed on their plantations and some of their old masters either told them they wasn't free or the new Yankee law say they free to work six days a week and half a day on Sunday for no pay and hardly a share of the crop to keep 'em. I straightens 'em out 'bout that.


Perhaps for balance we should look at homosexual pairings that are more or less faithful to just their one partners. Could we, should we, refer to them as married? Worthy of consideration is this from Marvin Harris, Culture People Nature fifth edition (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988) pp. 317-18.


One of the problems with the proposition that the nuclear family is the basic building block of all domestic groups is that it rests on the assumption that widely different forms of matings can all be called marriage. Yet in order to cover the extraordinary diversity of mating behavior characteristic of the human species, the definition of marriage has to be made so broad as to be confusing. Among the many ingenious attempts to define marriage as a universally occurring relationship, the definition proposed by Kathleen Gough, who has studied among the Nayar, merits special attention. But it must be read more than once!
Marriage is a relationship established between a woman and one or more persons, which provides that a child born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited by the rules of the relationship, is accorded full birth-status rights common to normal members of his society or social stratum.
Kathleen E. Gough, "The Nayars and the Definition of Marriage" In Marriage, Family, and Residence, P. Bohannan and J. Middleton, eds., p. 68. Garden City, New York: Natural History Press, 1968.

According to Gough, for most if not all societies, this definition identifies a relationship "distinguished by the people themselves from all other kinds of relationships." Yet Gough's definition seems oddly at variance with English dictionary and native Western notions of marriage. First of all, it makes no reference to rights and duties of sexual access or to sexual performance. Moreover, it does not necessarily involve a relationship between men and women since it merely refers to a woman and "one or more" other persons of unspecified sex.

Gough does not mention sexual rights and duties because of the case of the Nayar. In order to bear children in a socially acceptable manner, pubescent Nayar girls had to go through a four-day ceremony that linked them with a "ritual husband." Completion of this ceremony was a necessary prerequisite for the beginning of a Nayar woman's sexual and reproductive career. Ideally, the Nayar strove to find a ritual husband among the men of the higher-ranking Namboodri Brahman caste. The males of this caste were interested in having sex with Nayar women, but they refused to regard the children of Nayar women as their heirs. So after the ritual marriage, Nayar women stayed home with their sisters and brothers and were visited by both Namboodri Brahman and Nayar men. Gough regards the existence of the ritual husbands as proof of the universality of marriage (although not of the nuclear family), since only children born to ritually married Nayar women were "legitimate," even though the fathers were unknown.

But what can be the reason for defining marriage as a relationship between a woman and "persons" rather than between "women and men"? There are many instances in African societies—the Dahomey case is best known—in which women "marry" women. This is accomplished by having a woman, who herself is already usually married to a man, pay a bride-price for a bride. The female bride-price payer becomes a "female husband." She starts a family of her own by letting her "wife" become pregnant through relationships with designated males. The offspring of these unions fall under the control of the "female father" rather than of the biological genitors.

Wide as it is, Gough's definition ignores certain mating relationships that take place between males. For example, among the Kwakiutl, a man who desires to acquire the privileges associated with a particular chief can "marry" the chief's male heir. If the chief has no heirs, a man may "marry" the chief's right or left side, or a leg or an arm.

In Euramerican culture, enduring mating relationships between co resident homosexual men or between co resident homosexual women are also often spoken of as marriage. It has thus been suggested that all reference to the sex of the people involved in the relationship should be omitted in the definition of marriage in order to accommodate such cases. Yet the task of understanding varieties of domestic organization is made more difficult when all these different forms of mating are crammed into the single concept of marriage. Part of the problem is that when matings in Western culture are denied the designation "marriage," there is an unjust tendency to regard them as less honorable or less authentic relationships. And so anthropologists are reluctant to stigmatize woman-woman or man-man matings, or Nayar or matrifocal visiting male arrangements, by saying they are not marriages. But whatever we call them, it is clear that they cover an enormous behavioral and mental range. It is not a fact of science that any one of them is more or less "natural."

Since the term marriage is too useful to drop altogether, a more narrow definition seems appropriate:

denotes the behavior, sentiments, and rules concerned with co-resident heterosexual mating and reproduction in domestic contexts.

To avoid offending people by using marriage exclusively for co resident heterosexual domestic mates, a simple expedient is available. Let such other relationships be designated as "non-co-resident marriages," "man-man marriages," "woman-woman marriages," or by any other appropriate specific nomenclature. It is clear that these matings have different ecological, demographic, economic, and ideological implications, so nothing is to be gained by arguing about whether they are "real" marriages.

The term domestic partnershipseems to be the alternative in vogue for those opposed to "homosexual marriage" per se. Unless we want to be more specific I suppose it will have to do. I've written much elsewhere discussing mixed marriagewhich I defended in part because it had its own legitimate dynamic. I'm not opposed to diversity per se, but to perversity. A "domestic partnership" is ideologically neutral while defining as an entity pairings of those who choose to go that way.

Mr. Justice Douglas in delivering the opinion of the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut ends it succinctly: "Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, it is hoped enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects." Marriage has its own dynamic, its own place in a social sphere which should not be subverted to promote causes, political faiths, or commercial or social projects. Even the U.S. Supreme Court regards it as "sacred." In my opinion we should find other ways to promote our causes than by tampering with a sacred institution.

For more discussion of marriage, see my review of the movie "The Five Year Engagement."


That's a well understood word in the sense of referring to one having multiple sexual liaisons, but multiplied sex is but a derivative of a broader meaning. According to my dictionary its meaning goes like this: "promiscuous adj. 1. mixed and in disorder: a promiscuous heap of clothing. 2. making no distinction; not discriminating: promiscuous friendships."

As an example of 2. let's take a passage from Barry Unsworth, Losing Nelson (New York: Nan A. Talese, 1999) pp. 8-9, describing the Battle of Cape St. Vincent:

Collingwood ranges up in the Excellent, last ship of the line. He passes within ten feet of the San Nicolas, eighty guns, and blasts her in masterly fashion with two broadsides in succession.

Ten feet. The length of this table. That would be about it. Almost jumping distance. These towering ships, fighting so close, hardly more than the length of a man between them, launching their thunderous fire, shuddering from stem to stern with the repeated recoil of the guns—the English gun crews could deliver a broadside every seventy-five seconds. Dismemberment and maiming inflicted almost within range of an embrace. Hard even for a landsman of the time, the notion of such closeness, such promiscuous intimacy of destruction. How much more so for us now, with our concept of war as distant erasure, a button touched, a figure or a thousand figures obliterated on a screen.

That "promiscuous intimacy" was probably a reference to the mixed signals of friend and foe displayed by such closeness. It certainly was not referring to topless sunbathing on the deck, although this author can also use promiscuous in the customary sexual sense (ibid. p. 122.): "For a while he was the lover of marchesa Girolama Lepri, notorious for her promiscuity. This was a profligate, licentious, profoundly corrupt society."

Promiscuous comes from the Latin promiscuus which was from the phrase pro miscus, "as common." When a woman's sexual favors become common property, as it were, she is called promiscuous.

An example of definition 1. is the description, ibid., page 219, of "the nature of daily life on board a ship like this, the suffocating promiscuity of the lower gundeck, where several hundred men, among them a good number of disturbed or violent persons, lived in a proximity from which there was no escape, sleeping in hammocks slung from the beams and eating at mess tables put up between the guns. At sea, with the gunports closed, it would be dark and hot, the air would be thick with the stench of unwashed humanity. And the latrines, only six of them, out in the open, in the bows, six 'seats of ease' for upwards of five hundred men ..." That's quite in line with "1. mixed and in disorder: a promiscuous heap of clothing."

For another example of 1. I shall quote from Paul Russell, The Coming Storm (New York: St. Martin's Press), p. 98:

"That's fascinating," Tracy said gamely, and Louis thought ...: why on earth has Reid been reading Freud? But then he was like that, an omnivorous reader. One never knew what he was going to dredge up next.

"For Freud," Reid summed up grandly, "the search for knowledge, even in its purest, most disinterested form, is at base what you might call sexually inspired."

"Oh please," Louis said testily, accustomed as he was to these pronouncements lobbed his way, like ineffectual missiles, in a years-long campaign to sow doubts. ...

Reid laughed his obscene belly laugh. "Louis resents my intellectual promiscuity," he explained to Tracy.

He was an omnivorous reader, so he was intellectually promiscuous in the ideas he dredged up: "mixed and in disorder." He didn't have just one intellectual game plan.

For an example of definition 2 from the same author, let's take ibid., pages 67-68:

Betsy's boundless enthusiasm ambushed him at the front door. Drooling and slobbering, deliriously happy, she desired him as no one, it seemed, had ever desired him. She kept leaping up to put her paws on his thighs. "Hey," he told her, "I missed you too." In the empty living room he could see Noah rousing himself from what appeared to be a nap on the sofa.

"Jesus, what a racket," Noah complained.

"Fit to wake the dead," Tracy told him.

"Well, I guess that would be me." Noah stood and stretched. ... "Your dog, by the way, is a whore," Noah observed matter-of-factly. ...

"How so?" he asked seriously.

"Well, the instant you were gone, she transferred all her affections to me. One hundred percent." Kneeling, Noah encircled Betsy in his arms. "Didn't you, girl? You didn't think about him one bit." ...

Kneeling down, Tracy in turn nuzzled with Betsy—who did seem promiscuously eager for any affection that came her way.

Betsy's affections do seem to be promiscuous, per definition, "2. making no distinction; not discriminating: promiscuous friendships."

Promiscuous can refer to sex, and often does, but there are other perfectly legitimate uses of the term. Take nondiscriminatory hiring. If we keep adding categories to the point where we are including behaviors, then nondiscrimination to that extent is promiscuous.

Oregon has a new law starting January 1, 2008, where employers of 15 or more people must so hire nondiscriminately without regard to sexual orientation and a bunch of other factors. The churches protested that law as it would force them to hire those whose behavior they disapprove of. As a sop the legislature exempted them for positions that dealt with a church's "main purpose."

I remember back in my college days working for a large factory. The man they had running the factory store (that sold discounted products to employees) was known to be homosexual. This job of his was not within the "main purpose" of that plant but sold that company's brand from other plants to employees here. He once invited me to his house for some reason and proceeded to get me drunk. I mean, it might be proper to offer a guest a drink, but he kept them coming, and I being a new drinker kept imbibing. I was relatively high when I left. Now, what was that all about? Unsworth has his own example, pp. 186-191. Hugo works the bar at the Nelson club twice a week. The bar is not the main purpose of a club honoring Horatio Nelson, but he gets to meet all the members.

I heard my name called, and when I stopped and turned I saw ... that it was Hugo, unfamiliar in a macintosh. I had only ever seen him in the rather skimpy clothes he wore when behind the bar—tight waistcoats, shirts with narrow collars, that sort of thing. We had passed each other, it seemed, and he had recognized me at the last moment and called after me.

"You don't usually go this way," he said.

"Well, no. I felt like a bit of exercise, so I decided to take a turn or two around the square before making for home."

... I was about to resume my way ... bidding Hugo a cheery good-night, when he said, "I live quite near, just around the corner. Would you like to come for a coffee or something?"

He had a basement flat ... He took my coat and umbrella and hung them up in the narrow hallway. I sat on the sofa ...

"Take your jacket off if you feel too hot," he said now. "I keep the heating full on, it's my only extravagance."

"I'm all right like this," I said. It was indeed very hot in the room, and the predominance of red made it seem hotter still. ...

"I love the heat," Hugo said. "I should have been born in the tropics. I like to go round, you know, just light clothes. Sometimes in the summer I don't bother with clothes at all. It is very private here, no-one can see in."

I said nothing to this. Hugo waited some moments, then said, "Rise above it, that is what we've go to do, ... that's the only way. Take my case now. I have only got these two evenings at the bar, and on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons I work a bookshop in Covent Garden. I have to manage on that for the time being. There was someone sharing with me, but he walked out two weeks ago. Just up and left without a word and took a looking-glass that used to belong to my grandmother, framed in silver and mother-of-pearl—a family heirloom, you might say."

"Can't you get it back from him?"

"He didn't leave a forwarding address, did he?" Hugo gave a twitch of his right shoulder. "What a creature," he said. "After two years and a bit. I don't know why I am talking to you like this—I just feel you are a very understanding person." ...

Hugo shifted in his chair. "Well, anyway," he said, "one has one's value as a human being, they can't take that away, can they? I am a bit of a psychologist, and working behind a bar gives you scope for it, if you know what I mean. Of course, you have to have intuition. I am very rarely wrong about people. You always struck me as a free spirit. First time I saw you, I thought to myself, here is someone who knows his way about, someone who has seen a thing or two, been in some odd corners. Someone not easily shocked. A man of the world in the true sense of that term. ...

I was conscious now of the beginnings of a headache. "Who is that chap with the silver hair and spangly suit?" I asked.

"Who do you mean?"

"The man on the wall behind you." ...

"That is David Bowie."...

"You can't really tell whether he is a man or a woman, can you? Why is he wearing that sugary, shiny stuff all over him?"

That is stardust. David Bowe belongs among the stars."...

Then he straightened up, moved away. "Got to begin somewhere," he said. "Let's try this." He put in the disc, then turned towards me. He was smiling, I suppose in anticipation of the music. But it seemed to me that his face changed when he met my eyes. A moment later a sound of lamentation filled the room, a voice that resonated with shuddering falls, as if the recording had been made in some remote and echoing cavern far from human eyes. It was like all the sorrow of my dreams. I was sweating heavily and I felt giddy. I spoke loudly through the music, explaining to Hugo that it was late, that I had to leave. He seemed not to understand.

I went quickly into the hallway, found my coat and umbrella, and fled up the stairs into the street.

Sometimes a position outside of the main purpose is the most sensitive there is. That person manning the company store would meet most every man in the plant during his tenure. The bartender would get to know everyone in the club. Would there be vulnerable men come by? Would there be vulnerable people in the church whom they would not want exposed to homosexual employees in some sensitive position even and especially outside the church's main function?

Let's take a for instance. Say some homosexuals want to work for a church organization that doesn't cotton to that sexual (dis)orientation. They take it to the courts that allow under the new law they must be allowed to work as secretaries as that doesn't fall under the "main purpose" exception. They just greet people, set up appointments, sort the mail, and take dictation.

With that precedent out of the way, a dyke gets hired as secretary to an organization that gets a lot of battered and emotionally traumatized women as its clients. She befriends some of them, and invites them home, and makes some moves on them. The church can't fire her for it. Is this what we really want?

God is not happy with certain unnatural sexual practices. Included in them is (Lev. 18:22, 28) "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. ... That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you."

I was talking to a woman who went to a Bible School in Florida. She was telling me there was a certain town where the homosexuals came every year from all over the world to have a big beach party. One day a big storm came and took all the sand away. Now there is no more beach to have a party on.

Remember Hurricane Katrina? Many people from New Orleans still haven't returned. It happened right about the time they were geared up for their annual "Freedom Days" gay pride celebration.

California is so pro gay rights that Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law that schoolbooks are no longer allowed to refer to a family of a mom and a dad. Then they had those fires in southern California that drove people from their homes.

There's a saying in one of the spy novels I read that once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action. These pro-homosexual places where the land spews out the people is just a bit too common these days. Some people are concerned and it is likely there will be public debate on Oregon's new law banning discrimination in hiring gays. I here want to look at the terminology appropriate to such debate and to suggest calling such a hiring policy "promiscuous," especially for a church.

All's Well That Ends Well
Act Two, Scene III
HELENA [To Bertram] I dare not say I take you; but I give
Me and my service, ever whilst I live,
Into your guiding power. This is the man.
KING Why, then, young Bertram, take her; she's thy wife.
BERTRAM My wife, my liege! I shall beseech your Highness,
In such a business give me leave to use
The help of mine own eyes.
KING Know'st thou not, Bertram,
What she has done for me?
BERTRAM Yes, my good lord;
But never hope to know why I should marry her.
KING Thou know'st she has raised me from my sickly bed.
BERTRAM But follows it, my lord, to bring me down
Must answer for your raising? I know her well:
She had her breeding at my father's charge.
A poor physician's daughter my wife! Disdain
Rather corrupt me ever!
KING 'Tis only title thou disdain in her, the which
I can build up. Strange is it that our bloods,
Of colour, weight, and heat, pour'd all together,
Would quite confound distinction, yet stand off
In differences so mighty. If she be
All that is virtuous — save what thou dislik'st
A poor physician's daughter — thou dislik'st
Of virtue for the name; but do not so.
From lowest place when virtuous things proceed,
The place is dignified by th' doer's deed;
Where great additions swell's, and virtue none,
It is a dropsied honour. Good alone
Is good without a name. Vileness is so:
The property by what it is should go,
And not by title. She is young, wise, fair;
In these to nature she's immediate heir;
And these breed honour. That is honour's scorn
Which challenges itself as honour's born
And is not like the sire. Honours thrive
When rather from our acts we them derive
Than our fore-goers. The mere word's a slave,
Debauch'd on every tomb, on every grave
A lying trophy; and as oft is dumb
Where dust and damn'd oblivion is the tomb
Of honour'd bones indeed. What should be said?
If thou canst like this creature as a maid,
I can create the rest. Virtue and she
Is her own dower; honour and wealth from me.

We've had a long public debate already over civil rights with respect to race, and one of our orators—not the first, but perhaps the most quoted—dreamt of a day when his children would be judged, not by the color of their skin but by their character." We do better to discriminate on the basis of virtue rather than by outward trappings of class. The shorthand for this sentiment is that we don't practice discrimination, not based on skin color and a variety of other factors. We leave out the part that we do discriminate based on character. Nobody thinks about it.

Now we want to include the homosexual in a category not to be discriminated against in, say, hiring opportunity. How does the homosexual fit into that formula? Let's consider his case. From Martin L. Gross, The Psychological Society (New York: Random House, 1978) pp. 212-4.

Dr. John Money, John Hopkins University School of Medicine medical psychologist who specializes in sexual identity, reminds us [of] new knowledge in genetics, chromosome counting, behavior genetics and hormonal action on human sex characteristics. ...

Dr. Money stated when interviewed, "Sex identity is fixed early in life, and once differentiation takes place, it is fixed and there is no backtracking." ...

"The general rule here is not that all members of the species grow up bisexual in varying ratios," Dr. Money outlined in the International Journal of Psychiatry, "but they are unipotential. Whatever the outcome, masculine, feminine or ambivalent, it becomes fixed." ...

Psychosexual identity of children starts in the embryo and becomes firmly fixed sometime between eighteen months and two and a half years of age. ... By that time it is generally too late to change psychosexual identity. He speaks of boys born without a penis who can assume female identity if raised as girls beginning prior to two and a half years of age. But in those unfortunate cases where parents have sought sex change for a child for similar reasons at age four and a half, it is too late for real adjustment.

The John Hopkins researcher is convinced that psychosexual status, the gender identity the child feels, is the result of many factors. It includes its chromosome make-up, its social environment in the first two years and a predisposition based on hormonal action within the uterus. These prenatal hormones may come from within the fetus itself, from the mother through the placenta or even from drugs.

I am aware that some homosexuals have been delivered from homosexuality when they've become Christians—I've met at least one. I also know that even simple therapy can effect a change in sexual orientation, witness the doctor's account in Your Intimate Connection, the erstwhile homosexual's treatment complete when his wife gave him a card: "Happy birthday, tiger!" What I want to point out is that as a matter of public policy, we cannot expect every homosexual to change into a heterosexual any time soon. In this case the only virtuous sex option open to one not inclined to marry a member of the opposite sex, is to remain celibate.

Our current situation is not that of a large number of celibate homosexuals seeking employment in off-purpose positions in churches, but rather a lot of quite political gays, financially well off—as they've no family to support with their two incomes—, fully intent on practicing their perversions and wishing for more legal status. As this Oregon anti-discrimination law is so new, and so controversial, there is bound to be a modicum of public debate. For those who don't perceive homosexual activity as morally good or morally neutral, whose judgment of it is a character judgement rather than a superficial one, the anti-discrimination rhetoric people are used to is ill suited to convey their position. Without stating a position myself in this debate, I'd like to point out that the term promiscuous, in the sense of being without discrimination, communicates more directly the thought of such churches and people, that the law is forcing them to hire promiscuously. It means without discrimination based on sexual (dis)orientation, but it also carries the correct connotation they are trying to convey.

Let me give you a concrete example. Suppose a church has a qualified applicant for secretary but they want to consider her character as people coming into the office form their impressions of them from her. She is the woman described in Hiroshi Wagatsuma, "The Social Perception of Skin Color in Japan," in Daedalus, Spring, 1967, reprinted in John Hope Franklin, Color and Race, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969) p. 144.

Although there is no basis on which to generalize, the following report by a student who had sexual relations with a white woman may deserve some note:
Perhaps I was a little drunk. Under an electric light I saw her skin. It was so white that it was somehow incongruent with her nature. Such a pure whiteness and this girl of some questionable reputation.
He associated the whiteness of a woman's skin with purity and chastity, and felt white skin incongruent with the woman's promiscuous tendency.
The hiring board of the church is divided on this issue. In one camp are those who feel that her white skin is just the ticket to impress people of our "purity and chastity" while the other side feels that, white skin aside, it would be much more detrimental to our witness if this promiscuous applicant ended up having a fling with one or more of the many men entering the office. (I hope that church makes the right decision, but it's not for me to decide here.)

Now, flash ahead to January of 2008, and some Oregon churches do not like the new law forcing them to hire without regard to sexual orientation. Say one has a qualified male applicant for work at a concession stand at some church functions. There is just the matter of his character. He is a homosexual and has been living with his homosexual partner for two years.

Again, there is divided feeling. As long as he does his job competently, what should it matter what he does in the privacy of his home? That is one camp. The other side recalls the decision with the promiscuous secretary applicant, how they didn't want to risk a scandal and the corruption of the men coming into the office. They point out that practicing homosexuals are not known for their fidelity. What is going to happen when his partner up and leaves one of these days? Why, he is going to attempt to form homosexual liaisons with the men of his acquaintance, quite possibly ones he meets working at the church functions. He may even attempt that before his partner leaves. They don't want him hired.

Again, it is not my purpose to decide this issue here, but to point out that the new law could well be thought inconvenient enough for some to attempt to overturn it through a public vote, in which case they will need public debate, with the terminology to convey their ideas.

Say they come up with a statement about overturning a law forcing them to hire without regard to sexual orientation. If they say they don't believe they should be forced to hire without such discrimination, what is heard will be—as related to that promiscuous secretary applicant with the white skin—that we know we should not be allowed to discriminate based on skin color, and sexual orientation is just the next step in our enlightenment which some of us are hesitant to take. However, if they say they shouldn't be forced to hire promiscuously, what is heard—as related to that promiscuous secretary applicant with the white skin—is that it's a character issue not to be confused with the superficial color of skin, etc. Of course, it would be up to a public vote what kind of law we want in our society, but the people who consider it a character issue will be expressing themselves better, in my opinion.

It's on the order of using certain terms and not others to talk about, say, race. Take the following story from James Hime, Night of the Dance (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003), pp. 64, 67, 113-6, 118.

"Hey, Sheriff," Stan says, "I hear you finally got up the nerve, fired that black deputy."

"Maybe you ain't heard, you damn insensitive Indian, they don't like to be called black no more." Stan's about one-sixteenth Cherokee which makes him an Indian in Dewey's book. "They prefer 'Aferkin American.' Anyhow, I didn't have to fire him. He got pissed off and quit." ... ¶"Law says I got to be an equal-opportunity employer. Always will be."

Later after he is rehired, he's on patrol with his partner who asks him...

"Its' Friday night in the country, Clyde. What do you think he was doing?"

"Fuck if I know, man. I grew up in Oak Cliff."

... Anyway, I figger this kid is seventeen, eighteen, somethin' like that. A kid like that would get in his car with his girl, maybe with a buddy and his girl too, ice down some beers in the back, beers they would have scored through an older brother or somethin', drive around some, then head out somewhere lonesome to park."


Yeah, you know, pull over down some dead-end road or out in a cotton field, or maybe over at the golf course. Drink some beer, neck some, try to feel off his girlfriend."

"That's the big Friday night deal around here, huh?"

"Yep. What did you all do in Oak Cliff when you was growin' up?"

"Pretty much the same thing. Only we wasn't goin' for just a feel. And it wasn't in no cotton field neither. Wallowin' 'round in some cotton field like some kind of farm animal, that ain't no way to treat a lady."

Where did you go then?"

"They got motel rooms up there, you can rent 'em by the hour, you know what I'm sayin'?"

"That sounds about your speed."

... "Let me ask you somethin'," he says to Bobby. ... You ever said the word 'nigger'?"

Bobby glances over at Clyde, then goes back to looking out the windshield. "You see a gate over there on the right anywhere?"

"You ain't answered my question."

"What question?"

"You ever say the n-word? Nigger."

Clyde, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but this here is rural Texas. People say that word as often as they say 'Bible' or 'football' or 'beer' or any other kind of word. I grew up here, lived here a long time before I ever met you. What do you think?"

"Have you said it in the last year?"


"What about the last month?"

"Come on, Clyde."

"The last week?"

"Yonder it is." ...

"Whose place is this?" Clyde asks when he gets back in the cruiser.

Bobby slips the cruiser into gear, starts driving along a dirt road. "I ain't completely for sure. Could be the Swiss guy. It's close to his place anyhow."

"The who?"

"It's a man from Switzerland. I heard he has himself some hotels over yonder, and he's richer than God. I met him once. Nice feller, got him a thick German accent, talks like a Nazi in a war movie. Bought about three hundred acres out here, oh, maybe twenty years ago. Runs some kind of European cattle on it, but he don't get over here much himself so he has some hands that do it for him. I forget what you call 'em, his breed of cattle that is. They all white. Like an albino cow. I remember now. They're called Simmental. That's it."

"Y'all probably think they prettier that way, huh?"

"What do you mean?

"A cow that's all white. Prettier than a regular ol' black Angus cow, got more sex appeal. Lookin' at a cow that be all white, probably give y'all a hard-on, huh? Y'all be tempted to go parkin' with a cow like that, it bein' all white and beautiful and shit."

"Come on, Clyde. Give me a break."

I'm just sayin'."

Nobody wants to go parkin' with no cows."

...........Later in the night................


... "Yeah, what?"

"I'm sorry I used that word."

"Do what?"

"I'm real, real sorry. I ain't never gonna use that word again. I swear to God."

Discrimination. We all use it. Clyde discriminates in how he treats a lady: not like some farm animal. Bobby discriminates between gals and cows. The girlfriend in the car discriminates on where to draw the line. The Swiss fellow discriminates on breed of cow: all white. But implicit in this little story is that employers of ten or more people have to hire without discrimination based on (among other things) race and color. We don't discriminate based on color there. We call such nondiscrimination a good thing.

If in a political debate someone wants to champion discrimination based on sexual orientation as a good thing for sensitive positions—like discrimination based on breed is a good thing—he is going to come across sounding like a villain. If, however, he says hiring promiscuously without regard to sexual orientation is a bad thing for sensitive positions, he's correctly expressed his position without the pejorative term, just as 'Aferkin Americans' have steered us away from terms detrimental to their status.

Let's use an example for changing the wording, from Willison, p. 347:

Thus, quite by chance, Plymouth had a settled minister at last, one of the Puritans' castoffs. Born at Belton, Lancashire, and a graduate of Cambridge with great but absurd pretensions as a scholar, Smith was quite pleased at first with his "studdie in new Plimmouth in new Ingland," spending much time there in literary composition, strewing his pages with Greek and Latin phrases, often indiscriminately mixed.
Because of the prolific and haphazard sprinkling of Greek and Latin phrases mixed together indiscriminately, we could call them a promiscuous mixture, just as was Reid's intellectual material. Promiscuous does not have to refer to a sex life. In fact a careful writer might make the distinction, as in Hime, page 182:
"It should be easier to talk about this, especially with you. There are certain, ah, parallels between us as fathers, where our daughters are concerned. But that doesn't seem to make it easy, really."

"I'm not sure I understand what you're gettin' at."

"Your daughter, being gay, must have caused you some ... I don't know, discomfort."

"A thing can only be what it is."

"I guess you're right. Sissy could only be what she was. And she was ... promiscuous. Sexually speaking. ..."

There are other, nonsexual, usages of the word promiscuous which is why a careful speaker made the qualification.

Next I give an example of a political use of promiscuous to emphasize the raw deal some women have received through history. Note the intermingled metaphor. From Cornelie Usborne, Wise women, wise men and abortion in the Weimar republic: gender, class and medicine in Lynn Abrams & Elizabeth Harvey, Gender Relations in German History (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997) p. 155.

... for this photographer the female body was a disposable commodity useful for commercial exploitation and sexual gratification. The machine paradigm of the body had bred the idea that each model needed a back-up (hence the promiscuity) and once a model became inefficient (when pregnant after inadequate contraception) a hurried repair job was undertaken or it was scrapped and replaced with a newer model, as happened when the mistress was dropped shortly after she underwent an abortion.
Here an idea breeds as does a uterus: "paradigm ... bred the idea," and what would have been in an industrial age a positively connoted metaphor of backup machines, is rightly connoted negatively by the word promiscuity.
                                                    Earl Gosnell
                                                Poet Laureate of
                                            Longfellow, Colorado


Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


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