Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gay Bashing, 1950s Style

Recently two friends of my wife went to Vancouver, BC, Canada, to get married. It was mostly symbolic, because when they returned the the U.S. the marriage wasn't recognized, since they were both women.

The fact that a country would recognize a union between two people of the same sex is a major step forward for gay people. My wife and I aren't gay (as Seinfeld says, "Not that there's anything wrong with being gay!") but we know a lot of gay people. Everyone does. They just might not realize they do, because a lot of gay people are still in the closet.

It was especially true in past generations, when gay-bashing was kind of a national sport, like telling racist jokes, perpetuating stereotypes about all people who weren't the "typical" heterosexual white American. If you were able to hide your true identity to avoid such prejudice, wouldn't you?

I was going through one of my old paperbacks, Washington Confidential, when I came across this chapter, Garden Of Pansies, which might be the most anti-gay material I've read in a mainstream book. I've scanned it and am reproducing it so you can see for yourself how easy it was to publish such a screed in 1951.

I doubt that today any mainstream publisher would publish something that includes every gay pejorative known to the English language: fairy, faggot, swish, queer, used in a totally derogatory way. The authors even admit that their experiences with homosexuals were with people in entertainment, and that was OK with them. It was just all of those damn homosexuals in the government with whom they had problems…

Authors Lait and Mortimer published two or three other books in the popular "Confidential" series, including New York Confidential and Chicago Confidential. The titles probably inspired the popular magazine, Confidential, which, along with its other scurrilous gossip, liked to "out" gay entertainers. In a metaphorical sense, it was like hunting foxes, flushing them out of the brush and then killing them. It could mean the end of a career.

Pages 1 & 2 (152K)

Pages 3 & 4 (157k)

Pages 5 & 6 (151K)

Pages 7 & 8 (131K)

Pages 8 & 9 (144K)

Page 10 (42K)

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