By John E. Adams
Apr. 16, 1971, Oberlin Review
John Adams, ’71, is a voice major in the Conservatory – Ed.
Why gay liberation on the Oberlin campus?
There are a number of people who feel that the oppression of the society in which we live not only pervades the Oberlin campus but is intensified by the unique “cliqueishness” in the campus social structure.
The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) has been formed all across the country to fight the enslaving lies and myths which America hopes to perpetuate. We are following the example of the Third World and The Women’s Liberation movement in rejecting what we are told we must be, and fighting for an alternative to this oppressive society. We know that we are not sick; at least we are beginning to feel that our sexual drives should not force us into a repressive life style. Beyond all the Freudian rot about our mothers and fathers, and the phony masculine myths about our inadequacies, lies not dispelled by bullshit theories, we like making love with people of the same sex. We feel good and whole making love. We want to remain homosexuals.
A lot of human relationships are a mess in America, not to mention the relationship of America and Americans to the rest of the world. What else can one expect in a capitalist system? America has everyone competing with each other, putting everybody down. Competition and its rewards (money, things, objects, property, a degree, a rich husband or wife, lots of alimony) are the economic basis of this society, and how people get the necessities of life (economics) determines the quality of their lives, and how they will relate to each other. People can’t relate very well when they are taught to view every person they meet as a potential threat.
I feel it is necessary to make this point, for in its own way the Oberlin community reflects some of the same values and attitudes which have choked the equal development of humanity in this country.
One consequence of capitalism in AmeriKKKa is the rigid enforcement of male supremacy. Men are supposed to be strong and dominant, and women weak and passive. The male heterosexual-supremacist model of human relationships, combined with the throat-slashing marketplace of capitalism, reduces us all to objects, to things, statistics, with men on top, and women on bottom. You can’t have a decent and whole relationship with another person when it’s based on keeping one of the people of peoples down.
Because this system makes most people powerless (only a few men make the decisions that fundamentally determine the lives of most of the people on this earth), we feel threatened, and cling to the idea that the only way we can retain some control over life is by following the basic sexual roles (and in the case of Blacks a basic back seat, second-class lackey role) dictated by the white male sexist society. Men get their power by controlling women—and women their worth by making themselves appealing and subservient to men. The system by which men oppress women, which is the key to much of the economic and social slavery in the world today, is called sexism.
Homosexuality, especially proud, sincere and bold homosexuality, threatens all the rigidly formulated heterosexual-supremacist, male-chauvinist (=sexist) nonsense that goes by the name of love. Homosexuality scares “straight” men because they think that to be homosexual means to be sick or to just simply to be feminine (God forbid!), on the bottom, passive, not in command. They believe that to engage in homosexual acts means the loss of all their power as the oppressor sex—a traitor to his sex and to himself, only half a man.
Homosexuality, like Women’s Liberation, allows us to reject all the dehumanizing masculine/feminine roles this society forces on people, and to build new ways of relating to each other as equal human beings. It allows us to examine, and to reject, the whole nuclear family structure, which locks woman to man, and children to both, in a box that limits human growth and perpetuates the authoritarian, male-dominated model of human relationships. Homosexual liberation forms the basis for a new way of relating to people, where sex is the natural outcome of feelings you have for another person.
Our first task is to get ourselves together. We are going to have to spend a lot of time talking openly to each other about our lives, our doubts, our fears, and our encounters with “straight-walled” fronts…called people. We are going to come to confront, then rip apart the anti-homosexual notions that even our best friends hold against us. Identifying homosexual feelings in ourselves is not easy. The secrecy concerning homosexuality is society’s most effective means of repressing those feelings. When a man gets turned on by a woman, he knows what the feeling is. He has seen other men and can identify his feelings with theirs. Models are not available for these same feelings toward another man. They can only be discussed as “friendship” (?) When homosexuality is discussed, the talk is usually derogatory, e.g., faggot, queer. Homosexuality is never presented openly as a legitimate way of relating to another person. (“How can this be me? I’m no queer!”) Thus our first identification of this feeling is that it is QUEER. Labeling a feeling this way does a lot to the way we relate to it. (Not fair!)…The choice is either to deny it or admit to it and deal with those feelings.
Fear not, “Oh straight “(?) society, every homosexual is not on a constant ‘make’ for a ‘trick’. I do believe that sex or one’s sexual drive in a personal life is only one facet of a personality; however dominant a facet I contest that it is only part of the whole man or woman. Total revolution demands the re-evaluation of all existing institutions in our society. What may have served us in another time and place may very well be oppressive to us now. The validity of any institution is determined by whether it truly serves our human needs in a meaningful and fully satisfying way.
Marriage and the nuclear family are two of the most heavily defended institutions in American society. But the rising divorce rate alone would suggest there is something wrong here. Then there is the bearing and raising of children within the traditional institutions, a matter which seem poorly managed, if one can judge by the myriad problems adults trace back to their childhoods. At first glance it would seem that these are things that only concern heterosexuals, but mot of us are born into families, regardless of our sexual orientation and are taught the dubious values of these institutions. May gay people even use them as models for their own relationships, either advocating or proclaiming gay marriages. We should take every opportunity to develop something better in both cases.
I do believe that Gay Lib should be understood for what it is. Firstly, it is NOT only an “organization,” it is a MOVEMENT. There cannot be members and non-members – the condition of the homosexual in society does exist, it is our problem, and with or without these meetings and actions, Gay Liberation and Homosexual life goes on…on and off this campus. What we’re trying to do is get ourselves together to create the changes that have been too long coming. Obviously, some kind of “organization” is needed, that is, coordinating, so that we will not simply be talking, but doing. So, the “Structure” everyone is up tight about is not an organization of all interested homosexuals. It is quite possible that Gay Lib might offer to those who find the “Friday Night Identity Crisis” too much to bear, a chance to talk about those things with which they cannot deal. If the development of Gay pride can get some people away from the “Grass Crutch”…Right on!
If “We operate on a good Old American basic: the majority of students rule and determine their own life-style,” I feel that the life styles of all the students should be realized including the expression of love between all humans with no regard to sexual difference or preference. We can’t play it straight anymore. We’ve got to be just what we are. Those of us who feel a commitment, get behind the actions. Let’s get ourselves together. Let’s talk about this world out here and build on an understanding of why and how we are needed now to do these things. If we do so, we’ll soon begin to see the structure and leadership emerge. If we don’t we can’t expect either consensus on actions or trust in those of us who want to do something.
Tear into the ideas expressed by this statement of purpose and keep doing this until we all believe in it. While we can all begin to reap the benefits of the movement, we should soon learn that what we’re doing is not for ourselves only, but primarily to help insure that all of our brothers, gay and otherwise, can get a crack at a better life.