HOPS: YEAR IN REVIEW
If you were college age, growing up before or during the fifties or sixties •and a homosexual, chances were that you felt trapped with no one but a shrink to lay your burden on, with no place to go other than the gay bars; that is, if you were lucky enough to come out of the closet and even acknowledge your homosexuality. You probably engaged in much self-deprecation or felt despised, having been told that you were sick and to be pitied. You lived in constant fear of being exposed. You sought information at the library on homosexuality and found little that was positive, and if you were a lesbian, you hardly found any literature at all. In short, you, as a homosexual, lived a life of “quiet desperation”.
Today, one need only contact any of the Gay Liberation groups like Gay Activists Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, Daughters of Bilitis, Radical Lesbians, etc. In 1972, the slogan “Gay is Good” has become a reality for thousands of homosexuals in this country for the first time in their lives. The self-fulfilling prophetic cycle of being told you’re sick and living out that diagnosis is being broken. Books like Dr. George Weinberg’s Society and the Healthy Homosexual, Dennis Altman’s Homosexual Oppression and Liberation, Barbara Love and Sydney Abbot”s Sappho was a Right-On Woman are changing the traditional oppressive and stereotypical portraits of the homosexual. For the first time, the public-at-large has a visible sample of homosexuals who define themselves positively.
Penn State, like many college campuses today, now has a Gay Liberation organization, although our existence and history is stormier than some. HOPS, or The Other Vision: Homophiles of Penn State, began during winter term 1971. Several students felt the need for a discussion group on homosexuality at Penn State. Hence, a Free University class was initiated entitled “Homosexuality as Subculture”. A core of students from the Free U. class formed a Steering Committee for the purpose of chartering a organization. A constitution was devised which followed University procedure for chartering as set down in the handbook of’ “Senate Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students”. It was submitted to the office of Associated Student Activities on March 17, pending review by the USG Supreme Court. The constitution was found to be in keeping with University Policy as established by the University Faculty Senate, and an official charter was granted to HOPS by unanimous decision of the court. HOPS was told that it was permitted use of University facilities and was entitled to all of the rights of a chartered organization.
Shortly thereafter, Diane Whitney, a co-vice president of HOPS, was informed by Raymond Murphy, vice-president of Student Affairs, that HOPS’ privileges were suspended pending an investigation as to the legality of the organization. Privileges were suspended before the investigation was completed; suspended not by USG (which supposedly has the power to charter student organizations) but by Murphy, apparently under pressure from Harrisburg, making it clear that not only was HOPS being judged guilty until proven innocent, but that the power over student affairs was entirely in the hands of the legislature, a reflection of the repressive practices against students as well as gays in this society.
On September 1st, Murphy wrote to HOPS, informing them that the University had denied their charter because HOPS conflicted with counseling and psychiatric services at the University. He ended his letter by stating, “As a matter of educational policy, the University cannot condone or officially sanction any organization whose stated purposes would create such a conflict in this sensitive problem area.” Ms. Whitney wrote to Murphy almost immediately asking for clarification and elaboration of the conflict. The answer came on Sept. 16: “It is not my intention to become involved in prolonged discussion of that decision.”
It was not the intention of HOPS though, to pull back reluctantly and let the charter stay revoked. On February 11th, 1972, HOPS filed suit against the University, charging violation of their civil rights. One of the HOPS plaintiffs, Joseph Acanfora, at that time a student teacher in nearby Park Forest, was dismissed several days later. On Feb. 17th a State College Area school district official claimed that Penn State’s department of education exerted pressure on the school district to remove Acanfora. On Feb. 23rd Acanfora was reinstated as student teacher. Much community and faculty support was given in most notable support coming from Ursula Mueller, faculty advisor of HOPS and assistant professor of Mathematics, who resigned her position in protest of the removal. The University filed its preliminary objections to HOPS charges in Centre County Court on March 7. Since then, HOPS has submitted amended complaints and questioned the jurisdiction of the Bellefonte court over the case. It will hopefully reach court by this fall, when most students are present, informed and able to attend court sessions. Meanwhile, Joseph Acanfora, although reinstated, has yet to receive his teacher certification from the Dept. of Education, as the Board, which has met for about three months, has yet to decide on Joe “morality”. In an effort to find out why the decision has been delayed, about 20 members from HOPS attended a meeting of the Deans of the College of Education one night at Kern Graduate Center. Morality was never clearly defined as far as HOPS members were concerned and the delay appears to be based on fear and prejudice. If the decision of certification is negative, it could mean another court suit besides HOPS main suit.
Through the legal hassle, HOPS has tried to remain active in its social and educational spheres. Right through the school year HOPS has continually met at the Shelter, 400 E. Prospect Ave. on Wednesday evenings. It has been difficult meeting off campus because the Shelter is too far for people who would like to come but who are afraid of coming out. If HOPS had an office on campus, people would be more inclined to stop by and would feel less threatened. Also, as HOPS is denied regular facilities, it has been difficult having a central location for a library and headquarters where gay and straight can socialize.
Every Thursday night, HOPS held Free University classes with such topics as History of the Gay Liberation Movement, Lesbianism and the Women’s Movement, Politics of Homosexual Oppression, Homosexuality and the Law, The Mythology of Homosexuality, etc. Through the sponsorship of another chartered student organization, HOPS was able to reserve classrooms for its Free U. classes.
Earlier in Fall of 1971, HOPS put out its second newspaper called The Alternative, but with time being drained into the court case, it was difficult to put out further issues of the paper. As a result, a compromise led to a few issues of a newsletter called ZAP which contained short newsy articles rather than lengthier, more substantive ones. But HOPS hopes to have another issue of The Alternative out in time for registration this fall.
Four HOPS mixers were held in the HUB Ballroom this year with the help of rock groups who offered their talents almost gratis on behalf of HOPS. Mixers were possible on campus only by reserving facilities under the name of other chartered organizations. Even the advertising for HOPS functions always has to cite the sponsoring organization. Mixers were attended by as many as 500 persons each time, both gay and straight. The spirit at most of the mixers was easy and free.
Two Lesbian conferences were held this past year, one in October and one in early May. Women from New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other cities came to share ideas with local women. Because gay women often have modes of relating different from gay men, it was necessary to have these Lesbian conferences.
On April 14th HOPS met in the HUB Assembly room for its Colloquy Workshop. The session format followed along the pattern of brief speil, questions and answers. Out of this workshop, HOPS received more support from those who attended, including a professor who donated several books to our library. HOPS will hopefully have another Colloquy workshop next spring, ‘72.
Much advertising was geared towards HOPS’ Gay Liberation Festival June2 -- 4th which reached gay groups and individuals from several nearby cities and towns. The festival, held with the backing of USG, included workshops, picnics, and parties. Even with fun as one of its goals, HOPS had to remember that its subsidiary goal was in attaining funds towards the court case.
The year culminated for many HOPS members in Philadelphia’s Gay Pride march held June 11th and New York’s Christopher Street march June 25th. Philadelphia’s march was attended by about 5,000 gays and several thousand more sidewalk watchers. New York’s was larger, sweeping down 6th Ave. to Sheeps Meadow and back to Washington Square for a Gay-In. HOPS marched with its huge banner, sharing the joy of solidarity and strength felt by all the marchers.
One of the most encouraging and politically inspiring instances at the New York march occurred when a graduate of Penn State’s class of 1962, who was standing on the sidewalk, saw the HOPS banner, came over and asked if she could march with the HOPS contigent. She was proud of what we were doing at Penn State, and wished such a group had existed when she attended Penn State.
Moments like that make the struggle that HOPS is engaged in all worthwhile.
From Constitution and by-Laws of Homophiles of Penn State (HOPS):
Article II: OBJECTIVES
Section 1: Developing and implementing appropriate programs to aid the homosexual in the University community in his or her endeavor to understand and accept his or her sexual orientation.
Section 2: Providing as many opportunities for meaningful social interaction among homosexuals in the University community as are permissable under existing State, Federal or local laws.
Section 3: Creating greater harmony and understanding between homosexuals and the community at large.
Section 4: Encouraging members to engage in political activities for the purpose of reforming statutes concerning homosexual behavior.