Historical Documents – 1971 ‘Gay Lib Moves out of the Closet’

By Pat Clawson and Gary Keeper
Sept. 17, 1971, Oberlin Review

[JPG of orginal article – 238K]

Pat Clawson and Gary Keeper are juniors – Ed.

There is a growing Gay Liberation movement at Oberlin. This fall, besides consciousness-raising groups, we plan to have dances, a counseling service, and educational seminars. This article is an attempt to explain the purposes of Gay Lib and the need for a Gay Liberation movement at Oberlin. It is submitted in conjunction with a request directed to Dean George Langeler and the Student Life Committee that we be chartered as a student organization.

Do gays really have problems at Oberlin? After all, most Oberlinians would probably be willing to agree that homosexuals should have full civil rights (no job discrimination, etc.), and even that sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex should be legalized. At the same time, there are a lot of nasty comments about fairies in the Con, a lot of jokes about fags, and a lot of open hostility against gay people. Not only is there an abstract dislike of homosexuality—ugly incidents happen daily in dorm sections.

Hiding in the closet

Gays even at Oberlin are expected to stay out of sight, hide in the closet, keep our “sickness” to ourselves. There is no way for gays to meet openly. How would you react if a friend of your same sex propositioned you? Maybe it is the fear of hostility, of rejection by friends that causes many gay people to have sex only with strangers they meet in the toilet (assuming there are any strangers at Oberlin!). Nor can gay people express their gayness in public. When was the last time you saw a gay couple walking around campus hand in hand—or for that matter, showing any kind of affection when others are around? Face it: any gay who showed feelings of affection for a person of her or his sex would be an object of amazement, if not ridicule and hostility.

Oberlinians have not begun to shake the deep-seated fear of gayness that society teaches us from childhood. We have been taught that gays are sick, depraved debauchers of little kids who can never lead normal lives. Gay males are particularly attacked, since they hardly fit the Amerikan dream of the tough he-man, full of machismo. What happens when we discover that we are attracted to people of our own sex (and who has never felt any kind of physical attraction for someone of her or his sex)? We get this incredible, gut-deep fear that deep down we are fags. So we try to bottle up these feelings by putting down gay people (making sexist jokes, being openly hostile, and so forth). Males get particularly violent about gays, because they see their own latent gay tendencies as a threat to that essence of their being, their rugged masculine power. Our opposition of this Amerikan glorification of a society based on sexual oppression is a fundamental goal, and one shared with Women’s Liberation.

Who is gay?

There are some people who react to Gay Lib by saying, “Well, uh, I think it’s a great thing for gay people but, uh, I’m not gay.” Gay Lin is not just the movement of a few homosexuals—it’s a cause that affects all of us. People are not simply gay or straight—everyone has within them the potential to be attracted to people of both sexes. Society tries to get us to accept the idea that people are either completely heterosexual or completely homosexual so that it can keep us on the narrow heterosexual path. Gay Lib tries to help us realize that it is perfectly natural to fall in love with someone of your own sex one time and someone of the opposite sex another time. We are trying to help people reach their full potential of sexual expression.

Gay Liberation is helping people realize that being gay isn’t a problem—it’s our society’s sexist oppression of gay people that is the problem.