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December 7, 2009

LIFE Magazine, June 26, 1964

ThorNYC has made the effort to locate and transcribe the infamous articles about "Homosexuality in America" that appeared in the June 26, 1964, issue of LIFE Magazine. He includes scans of the pages, so you can see the photos and text. So far he's written seven posts on the articles. The first article, "Homosexuality in America," tries to describe homosexual life. The second article, "Scientists search for the answers to a touchy and puzzling question, WHY?," purports to explain the causes of homosexuality. ThorNYC's posts:

  1. The Way We Were (Reported) - 45 years ago
  2. When gay was in quotation marks – Life magazine's "Homosexuality in America," part 2
  3. The bitterness of individual homosexuals – Life magazine's "Homosexuality in America," part 3
  4. The Homosexual Faces Arrest, Disgrace - Life magazine's "Homosexuality in America," part 4
  5. The homosexual: Hungry for youth – Life Magazine's "Homosexuality in America," part 5
  6. Emotionally unstable, immoral, and repugnant – Life Magazine's "Homosexuality in America," part 6
  7. Science Explains Why and How You Got That Way - Life Magazine's "Homosexuality in America," part 7

His source was Google Books, where the text is just barely readable. You can download a text version of the complete transcript (except for photo captions) here.

The articles, while admitting that 90% of gay men are undetectable by outsiders, pretend to explain everything there is to know. Lesbians, of course, don't exist, except in a brief mention in the second article. Homosexuals are all men in LIFE Magazine.

The article, unintentionally I assume, helped millions of gay men to find other gay men by mass publishing this brief guide:

In New York City, swarms of young, college-age homosexuals wearing tight pants, baggy sweaters and sneakers cluster in a ragged phalanx along Greenwich Avenue in the Village. By their numbers and by their casual attitude they are saying that the street--and the hour--is theirs. Farther uptown, in the block west of Times Square on 42nd Street, their tough-looking counterparts, dressed in dirty jackets and denims, loiter in front of the cheap movie theaters and sleazy bookstores. Few of the passers-by recognize them as male hustlers.

By Chicago's Bughouse Square, a small park near the city's fashionable Gold Coast on the North Side, a suburban husband drives his car slowly down the street, searching for a "contact" with one of the homosexuals who drift around the square. A sergeant on Chicago's vice squad explains: "These guys tell their wives they're just going to the corner for the evening paper. Why, they even come down here in their slippers!"

In Hollywood, after the bars close for the night, Selma Avenue, which parallels Hollywood Boulevard, becomes a dark promenade for homosexuals. Two men approach one another tentatively, stop for a brief exchange of words, then walk away together. In the shadows that reach out beyond the streetlights, the vignette is repeated again and again until the last homosexual gives up for the night and goes home.

The article goes into more detail describing San Francisco's gay life, including the actual names of a couple of gay bars. In Los Angeles, LIFE Magazine talked to the police to get their facts:

Inspector James Fisk says that the 3,069 arrests for homosexual offenses made in Los Angeles last year represent merely a "token number" of those that should have been made. "We're barely touching the surface of the problem," Fisk says. "The pervert is no longer as secretive as he was. He's aggressive and his aggressiveness is getting worse because of more homosexual activity."

As part of its antihomosexual drive the Los Angeles police force has compiled an "educational" pamphlet for law enforcement officers entitled "Some Characteristics of the Homosexual." The strongly opinionated pamphlet includes the warning what the homosexuals really want is "a fruit world."

The article then goes on to detail how to conduct a conversation with a stranger on the street if you want to avoid arrest.

Movement to reform laws to legalize private conduct in some states is described.

But in Florida early this year the Legislative Investigation Committee's consideration of homosexuality produced an inflammatory report, calling for tougher laws to support the conclusion that "the problem today is one of control, and that established procedures and stern penalties will serve both as encouragement to law enforcement officials and as a deterrent to the homosexual [who is] hungry for youth." Its recommendations would make psychiatric examination of offenders mandatory and create a control file on homosexuals which would be available to public employment agencies throughout the state. The report, which included an opening-page picture of two men kissing and photographs of nude men and boys, was so irresponsible that it brought attacks from the Dade County state's attorney and the Miami Herald, which described it as an "official obscenity."

Some things never change:

Homosexuals are unwelcome in the armed forces, where forced segregation of the sexes develops more pressure for deviate activity (as it does in prisons). Many homosexuals are drafted for the service--and quickly weeded out when they have been identified. Homophile groups have protested the unfairness of a system that forces a man into military service and then rejects him with a "less-than-honorable" or "dishonorable" discharge because of a psychological condition over which he has no control. But a DOD official explains the policy: "If we didn't throw them out, we'd be condoning homosexuality. The services' position has to be that homosexual practices prejudice morale and discipline."

The second article runs the gamut, listing every cause for homosexuality that anybody has ever suggested:

  • He cannot help it.
  • Young men in big cities are thrown in with co-workers or neighbors who are gay and who flatter and befriend the young men, sometimes giving them money. Next thing you know, he's got his legs in the air.
  • At puberty, young men are very interested in sex, but girls are not. Boys join same-sex athletic teams, go to boys boarding schools and boys summer camps. The result is that the most masculine of boys get the greatest opportunity to experiment with sex with other boys. The article has no explanation for all those boys who did all those things but still grew up heterosexual.
  • Teenage shyness may scare a boy away from girls, so he "quickly embraces the other world." The article has no explanation for why he is not shy around men.
  • Freud's narcissistic period and Oedipus phase; the overprotective mother. Again, there is no explanation for heterosexuals who had overprotective mothers, nor an explanation for homosexuals who grew up without any mother at all.
  • Fathers are uninterested or hostile, even jealous or given to disparagement or ridicule. No explanation for the contrary examples, again.
  • Psychosis.
  • Imprisonment converts 70% of men into "practicing homosexuals."
  • Thrill seekers take it up because it is illegal.
  • It's caused by "the stimulation of sexy movies, books, magazines and outright pornography."
  • Failure to "encourage heterosexuality."

Another interesting fact: the Institute for Sex Research says "...fully 85% or more of homosexuals look and act very much like other men and cannot be spotted for certain even by the experts [one presumes that the Institute consider themselves to be the 'experts' rather than the gay men who do the actual spotting]. Often the only signs are a very subtle tendency to over-meticulous grooming, plus the failure to cast the ordinary man's customary admiring glance at every pretty girl who walks buy."

Here's the one bit about lesbians: "There are also women homosexuals, of course, but the number is much smaller--by the estimate of the Institute for Sex Research, perhaps only a third or a quarter as high as the figure for men. One reason, some analysts have suggested, is that it is far easier for a woman who is afraid of men to perform adequately in marriage than it is for a man who is afraid of women. At any rate, women homosexuals are not nearly so numerous, promiscuous or conspicuous as their male counterparts, and the various studies have largely ignored them."

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | December 7, 2009 at 09:48 PM


this is a great article for history sake. I had a great laugh as it shows ignorance at it's highest. Sub gay for women, blacks, jews, (muslims today) and you get the idea of how ignorance is. People's (ruling class)fear of the unknown and how the unknown preaches hate. Great article to not be taken serious in this age. Great mirror of how it was.

Posted by: robert hamilton at Sep 16, 2011 9:37:27 AM

Worry not, anna. If I took down posts because I thought people weren't interested, this blog would be a LOT smaller.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Apr 18, 2010 8:40:39 AM

So excellent of you to preserve this for posterity! LGBT history is so often overlooked. PLEASE don't take it down because you think people aren't interested.

Posted by: anna at Apr 17, 2010 11:21:44 AM

I have a copy of this magazine...someplace...

Posted by: ROJ at Dec 9, 2009 3:16:31 PM

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