HOMOSEXUALITY: Gays on the March

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co-leader of New York City's Parents of Gays, took the news calmly when her son Charles told her twelve years ago that he was a homosexual, but she soon learned that a mother's acceptance is not enough. Three years ago, Charles, 46, and his lover John, 48, committed suicide shortly after John's employer found out he was gay and demoted him.

In spite of the risks they run, older homosexuals often come out simply to avoid the finally intolerable strain of living a lie. Explained Minnesota State Senator Allan Spear, 38, after he gave a local newspaper a story about his homosexuality last winter: "I felt I was going to be much more comfortable in a situation where I wasn't going to be hiding what I am, enduring gossip behind my back." His heavily liberal constituency took the news calmly and is expected to re-elect him. For Elaine Noble, 31, the first avowed lesbian to be elected to state office (to the Massachusetts legislature in 1974), coming out was more difficult. It cost her her job as an advertising executive, her female lover, who was afraid to be seen with her, "and at least for a time, a certain portion of my sanity." There were obscene phone calls, dirty words written on her car, slashed tires. People looked on her as "a freak, a tattooed lady." "I wonder, if we knew the cost," she says, "would we still have done it."

Noble finally answers yes, but many others are less certain. "To publicize the fact that you are gay," says a lesbian lawyer in Chicago who has defended gays in civil rights cases, "is something that very few people can handle. All of these younger gays are coming out of the closet, and I'm ready to go back in."

The Gay Culture: Fast and Loose

Many homosexuals lead quiet private lives. But for those looking for action, the gay bar is a long-established meeting place. As police harassment has declined, the bars have proliferated. There are now some 4,000 in the country. Once seedy, dark and dangerous, many gay bars are now bright and booming. A few have developed into mammoth entertainment centers. Studio One in Los Angeles has four bars, a restaurant, game rooms and a nightclub that also attracts ordinary heterosexuals and stars like Burt Reynolds, Raquel Welch and Liza Minnelli. "Gay people like to be awed by their own numbers," says Peter Winokur, manager of Mother's, a bar in Atlanta that is regularly filled to its 1,100 capacity.

The gay bar is usually a sexual marketplace. Though most bars are classless—a college professor may walk out arm in arm with a welder—the trend in big cities is toward variety and segregation. There are bars for writers, artists, blacks, collegians, businessmen, middle-class women, "drag queens," transsexuals, male prostitutes and sadomasochists. At the Eagle, an s. and m. bar on Manhattan's Lower West Side, the uptown "Bloomingdale's crowd" is derided by a tightly packed throng of men in leather and Levi's. They come by subway or taxi rather than motorcycle, but they often wear motorcycle outfits, chains, handcuffs at the hips. Various colored handkerchiefs indicate different exotic sexual specialties, all of which can be quite confusing (see box page 43). "The leather bars are dangerous," said a New York bank vice president who was once handcuffed

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