Behavior: The Homosexual: Newly Visible, Newly Understood

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Last week's report to the National Institute of Mental Health (TIME, Oct. 24) urged legalization of private homosexual acts between adults who agree to them.* It was the latest sign that the militants are finding grudging tolerance and some support in the "straight" community. The Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., for example, has responded to a recent case by declaring that a governmental agency could not dismiss an employee without first proving that his homosexuality would palpably interfere with the efficiency of the agency's operations. The New York Times, which for years shied from the word homosexual, in June permitted a homosexual writing under his own name, Freelance Critic Donn Teal, to contribute an article on "gay" themes in theater. In large cities, homosexuals have reached tacit agreements with police that give them the de facto right to their own social life.

Homosexual organizations across the country run discussion groups and record hops. A San Francisco group known as S.I.R. (Society for Individual Rights) organizes ice-skating parties, chess clubs and bowling leagues. Nor is it necessary for a homosexual to join a homophile organization to enjoy a full social life: homosexuals often are the parlor darlings of wealthy ladies ("fag hags"). Marriage in these circles can involve a homosexual and a busy career woman who coolly take the vows for companionship—and so that they can pool their incomes and tax benefits for a glittering round of entertaining.


Homosexuals with growing frequency have sought the anonymity and comparative permissiveness of big cities. It is this concentration of homosexuals in urban neighborhoods rather than any real growth in their relative numbers that has increased their visibility and made possible their assertiveness. According to the Kinsey reports, still the basic source for statistics on the subject, 10% of American men have long periods of more or less exclusive homosexuality; only 4% (2% of women) are exclusively homosexual all their lives. These may be inflated figures, but most experts think that the proportion of homosexuals in the U.S. adult population has not changed drastically since Kinsey did his survey, giving the country currently about 2,600,000 men and 1,400,000 women who are exclusively homosexual. Despite popular belief, these numbers are not substantially increased by seduction: most experts now believe that an individual's sex drives are firmly fixed in childhood.

Inevitably, the homosexual life has attracted eager entrepreneurs. A firm in Great Neck, N.Y., runs a computer-dating service for homosexuals; San Francisco's Adonis bookstore has some 360 different magazines on display that carry everything from lascivious photos of nude men to reports on the homophile movement and lovelorn advice by "Madame Soto-Voce." Police and homosexuals agree that operating a gay bar is still an occupation that often appeals to Mafiosi. In New York City, sleazy movie houses along Broadway now match their traditional offerings of cheesecake with "beefcake."

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