Highlights from ECHO Conference Speeches
Vol. 1 No. 2
Report by l. MacA.
As originally printed in the Nov. 1965 issue of Tangents
The 1965 East Coast Homophile Organizations Conference
New York, September 25–26, 1965
Dr. Isador Ruhin, managing editor of Sexology magazine:
The damage done by the present social and legal setup is that, far from preventing the rise of homosexuality, it gives rise to the homosexual as a separate creature. A young man faced with homosexual impulses, feels anxiety, and later — especially if these are realized — increased guilt, leading to self-ostracism. He no longer feels “good enough” to associate with “normal” people. From this attitude it is only one step to choosing, if he can find it, a society of those who share his “vice” and whose members are too often united in self-contempt and shame… But our laws are not specifically anti-homosexual. They spring, rather, from an entire antisexual bias…
James Collier, author of The Hypocritical American:
The American public is still hostile to homosexuality and also to all non-coital sex. What can be done about this? Ventilate. Have the subject talked about. There will be more information and a view of reality may in time lead to more realistic legislation.
Gilbert Cantor, attorney for ACLU and CORE:
I see a clear parallel between the Negro and the homosexual in the area of civil rights. The homosexual faces less discrimination in education, housing and employment, but at the cost of concealment — which is impossible for the Negro. The homosexual, however, in another sense has fewer rights — it is no crime to be a Negro. But this is another parallel: with both Negro and homosexual there is a sexual spectre involved. Under much anti-Negro feeling lies sex fear. The sex fear of homosexuality is somewhat different in nature, since it seems to those fearing it to threaten a diminished demand for heterosexuality and therefore to threaten our system of accepted values. The homosexual who chooses to picket for his rights may expect a different response from that experienced by the Negro.
Dr. Clarence Tripp, clinical instructor, Medical Center, Brooklyn:
A homosexual relationship must be closer than a heterosexual one because there is no sex-difference protection for the partners . . .” The doctor’s advice in case of quarrels: “First, don’t attack the person as ego. Don’t say, “You’re a slob!” Say, “Please wash your dishes.” Second, if your feelings are hurt, don’t attack but explain bow you feel. Third, if attacked, don’t defend, join the attack, try to find every bit of justification in it that you can… And remember, hostility is still a sign of love; when you are really out, you are indifferent…
Ernest van den Haag, Ph.D., New York University:
Picketing will do no good. With the Negro groups these demonstrations were to protest non-institution of the rights given them by law. But the rights and laws came first. The homosexual must fight first for law reform…
Franklin E. Kameny, Ph.D., Washington Mattachine Society:
We have picketed the U.S. Civil Service Commission, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department. The public reaction has on the whole been favorable. There were many expressions of surprise, few provocative outbursts. We emphasized appearance. The women all wore dresses, the men suits with white shirts. Picketing was [pg. 12] conducted in near silence. Several commented it was the best-dressed, most orderly picket line they had ever seen: In making this policy we are not forming any judgement on dress as such, but only noting public opinion regarding dress—that the opposition to the anti-Viet Nam demonstrators centered oftenest on their beards and sneakers. We did not enter into picketing easily and continue to use it as a last resort. We notify the institution several times and offer to call off picketing if they will enter into negotiations . . . .
Paul Goodman, author and critic:
We can’t really plan for a Great Society without first having a decent society . . . At the time of the Jen-kins case I waited, in vain, for some note of revulsion in the press reportage—not to what Jenkins had done, but to what the police had done—some feeling that the cops’ peeking at Jenkins was in itself a moral fault. There was none. And I submit that in a decent society, which we do not now have, there would be one. . . And what would the moral attitude of a decent society be? I would like to think it would be something like mine: Let be! If neurosis springs, as Freud and I seem to have concluded, from what you can’t do, then I would say, by all means Do! You may ask, in the decent society, a freer society, will there be more homosexuality? Yes, I imagine so. I’m not afraid of it….” Question: “What is the greatest problem facing the homosexual today?” Answer: “The atom bomb.” Question: “Has there ever been or is there today a decent society?” Answer: “I think Denmark is pretty decent.” Question: “Are things getting better or worse?” Answer: “Better. An instance is the treatment of narcotics addicts.” Question: “What would be the place of the homosexual in the decent society?” Answer: “In the decent society. I don t think the word ‘homosexual’ would be used.
Dr. George Weinberg:
The bias against homosexuality in analysis (psychoanalysis) has several roots. First, basic, is Freud’s Victorian ethic, that the judgement of any sex activity is its end, and that the proper end must be coitus. Among other less obvious and therefore perhaps more dangerous factors is that of heterosexual jealousy, which gives rise to talk of “immorality” which H. L. Mencken defined as “the lurking fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Still another factor, now noted and sometimes made allowance for in analysis, but more often, sadly, furthered by analysis, is the trend toward uniformity — and certainly the homosexual is not the man next door. Last, with analysis there is an automatic need to look for problems. If homosexuality as such is defined as a problem, the problem, then the analyst has found…a “condition” he can treat.
Weinberg stressed the dangers of psychoanalysis to homosexuals repeatedly throughout his talk. He concluded with the following admonitions to analysts:
1. If you feel repugnance for homosexual activity, it might be well to look at yourself, consider if you are the proper analyst for this patient. 2. Analysis should try to change the patient least, not most. The purpose is to make it possible for the patient to lead his own life, not to make him into someone else. 3. Guilt must be diminished, not accentuated. 4. The analyst must help the patient build a value system with a humanistic orientation, allowing him to realize his full potential in society…
Dr. Ralph Grundlach reported the results of research he has conducted with the co-operation of the Daughters of Bilitis. There is no evidence that lesbians favor one parent over another. One half of the lesbians be has [pg. 13] interviewed have been part of a couple for four years or more. Only two percent appeared to have noticeably masculine characteristics. Two thirds rarely engage in sexual activity.
Gregory Battcock reported on “Homosexuality in the Arts” and made the point that often attacks so phrased are in reality merely means of attacking modern art movements with a convenient weapon. Margaret Lewis, is researching state legislative attitudes toward sex-law reform and reported that progress is slow where it exists at all.