THE DAILY COLLEGIAN

MAY 19, 1971

 

Homosexuals shed secrecy

Gay subculture emerges

 

By JIM WIGGINS

Collegian Contributing Editor

 

In the term used by homosexuals themselves, the gay subculture at Penn State has finally “come out.” After years, maybe decades, of hiding and secrecy, of “staying in the closet,” homosexuals here have publicly, declared their existence and are beginning to fight for legitimate status within the University community.

In past years it was different. The gay subculture, although very much present, was visible only to the careful observer who watched the action in certain downtown bars or on Old Main wall late at night. The message was more blatantly purveyed by notes scrawled on toilet stalls in men’s rooms across campus, but for the most part, gays stayed underground and out of sight, known only to themselves.

Now, in 1971, three years after homosexuals at Columbia University started the first above-ground campus homophile organization in the United States, gays at Penn State have shed their cloak of secrecy by founding The Other Vision: Homophiles of Penn State. Why their sudden emergence?

“It’s part of the spirit of the times. Homosexuals, like other minorities, are sick and tired of getting shoved around,” Frank Kameny explained.

 

Governor’s Address

Kameny is the man who incurred the displeasure of two important Pennsylvanians, Gov. Milton J. Shapp and University president John W. Oswald, when he grabbed the podium following the Governor’s address at Old Main Friday to demand an immediate reversal of the University’s decision to temporarily suspend the HOPS charter pending an investigation of the organization’s legality.

In sharp, angry tones he denounced Raymond O. Murphy, acting vice president for student affairs, as a ‘‘be-knighted bigot,” and later called him a ‘‘sick man who should be put on compulsory sick leave.” Murphy is the man who the gays believe is responsible for the suspension of the HOPS charter, which was obtained through regular channels from the Undergraduate Student Government Supreme Court on April 20.

Kameny threatened legal action under the First Amendment if the University refused to immediately reinstate the privileges to which HOPS is entitled as a regular USC-chartered student activity, including use of University facilities and access to student activities funds.

 

Conferred With Oswald

During the harangue, Shapp conferred with Oswald in frantic whispers. Replying, the Governor executed a deft political put-down and then retreated into Old Main visibly ruffled, cutting short a question and answer period. Stunned, the crowd dispersed quietly. Kameny and HOPS, it appeared, had won a tactical victory; they had made their point.

This sort of confrontation is not new to Kameny, who, at 46, is an aging warrior in the Gay Liberation movement. A decade ago he founded the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society -- the NAACP of homosexual civil rights groups -- and since then, as a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, he has waged a continuing battle against employment discrimination of homosexuals by the Federal government and private industry.

Last year he ran for the District of Columbia congressional seat as a publicly declared homosexual – the first to his knowledge anywhere in the world. He lost, but considers his defeat a victory that will lead to the “politicalization of gays.

 

Harvard Graduate

Balding and dressed in a rumpled business suit, Kameny, who has a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard, does not fulfill the lisping, prancing stereotype that has come to symbolize the homosexual in American society. The only clue to his sexual leanings is a small “Gay is Good” button on his lapel. He takes credit for coining the phrase.

Kameny will preach the message of homosexual equality to any willing ear. In word choice and delivery, his style borders on the evangelical.

Interviewed at a HOPS steering committee meeting Saturday night, Kameny spoke his mind on the new gay militancy. “People are refusing to hide, to cringe in corners,” he explained. “Homosexuals are first class people, first class citizens, homosexuality is not an affliction and by God, we’re going to enjoy it.”

Kameny takes quick issue with the belief that homosexuals are sick and in need of psychiatric treatment. Homosexuality, he explained, is simply a preference in no way inferior to heterosexuality. It has been labeled a sickness by “bad science” aimed at engineering social conformity and by the “bias, bigotry and ineptitude” of the psychiatric profession.

“Homosexuals are sick because a sick society says they are sick;’ he said.

Kameny believes the courts can be an effective battleground in the war for homosexual rights, and he has advised HOPS to seek a temporary court injunction against the University that would reinstate the organization’s privileges as a chartered student organization. HOPS is presently investigating the legal procedure by which this can be done.

Further, he has suggested that the homophile group bring a charge of criminal conspiracy against Murphy and Oswald for conspiring to deprive persons of their constitutional rights.

 

Homophile Organizations

Kameny is convinced the University “does not have a legal leg to stand on” in the HOPS case. He estimated that between 50 and 75 campuses across the country have homophile organizations which are completely legal and enjoy university approval.

As Kameny and HOPS continually point out, there are no laws in the state which make it illegal to be a homosexual. There are laws which prohibit certain sex acts between two persons -- even between man and wife -- but these laws are seldom enforced.

Kameny discounted the argument that the University administration -- fearing a ruckus in the state legislature similar to the one raised last fall when 24-hour visitation in campus residence halls was made official -- moved against HOPS with one eye on the upcoming appropriations fight. “You cannot make people’s rights contingent on the prejudices of legislators. Rights are rights, period.”

 

Gay Leaders

Kameny and other leaders of the gay movement, Tina Mandel of Daughters of Bilitis, Wayne Steinman of the Gay Activist Alliance in New York and Barbara Gettings of the Homophile Acton League in Philadelphia, were in State College over the weekend to conduct Colloquy workshops on homosexuality.

Their other reason for being here was to provide moral support and tactical advice to HOPS, now facing its first major challenge from the University administration.

Miss Mandel, co-chairwoman of the New York chapter of Daughters of Bilitis, the oldest lesbian organization in the country, saw Murphy’s action an attempt by the administration to shove the HOPS controversy aside, hoping the organization will fall apart.

 

Vow Unity

HOPS members vowed this will not happen. They said HOPS will not become another Tau Epsilon Phi. (Thu Epsilon Phi fraternity had its charter revoked last term after it initiated short-lived coed living program, which crumbled after 10 weeks).

The HOPS steering committee has made public its plans to work during the summer for the establishment of a Gay Liberation House off-campus. The house, they said, will be a center for gay social activities, discussions about homosexuality and counseling of homosexuals.

The latter is necessary, they said because personnel in the University Division of Counseling are hostile to ignorant of homosexual problems.

 

Paid Membership

HOPS at present has a paid membership of 50, but members estimated there are at least 2,500 homosexuals on campus who have not joined because of reluctance to admit their sexual inclination or fear of the legality issue. Heterosexuals refrain from showing their support fearing “guilt by association.” they said.

But the members are pleased, and somewhat surprised, with the reaction from the University community. All agreed that “student response has been amazing.”

Apparently the enthusiasm with which Penn State homosexuals have “come out” astonished even the hard core HOPS members. One member who was instrumental in establishing last term’s Free University class on the gay subculture -- out of which HOPS grew -- compared the current gay scene to that of his 1956-60 undergraduate days at the University.

 

Astonishing Difference

“It’s astonishing the difference, back then you could never have imagined it,” he said. “None of us involved with the Free University class had any idea it would come to this.”

HOPS members are confident they will win their battle with the University, and Saturday night they projected their thoughts toward future struggles in the Gay Liberation movement here.

Steinman, a young organizer of Gay Activist Alliance programs in New York, told of a current attempt by homosexuals at Columbia University to establish a gay student lounge.

That appealed to the HOPS steering committee, and they discussed, half-seriously, demanding of the University a gay interest house in a campus residence hall and, eventually, a means by which incoming freshmen could choose between a gay or straight roommate. All these, Steinman said, have been discussed at Columbia.

If. the Penn State phenomenon holds true -- things which happen on urban campuses, like black militancy and anti-war disruption, happen here two or three years later -- then it is not unlikely that these are some of the issues which HOPS can be expected to push in the future.

In the words of Frank Kameny, “Everything heterosexuals have, homosexuals are going to have.”