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Early Gay Liberation Movement at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 1971-1978
Lambda Line

Letters Regarding Boys in the Band and Gay Liberation

I didn't go to Boys in the Band in 1971 but eventually I did read it. Several years later, in 1973, it was shown in the Maintenance Shop in the Union, and still once again in about 1976 it was presented. I think I must have gone to see each of the later versions. It functioned as a nice vehicle for many closeted theater people to come to grips and escape their own closets; otherwise it wasn't all that compelling. There were a few good lines.

Lambda Line

The Iowa State University Daily, December 8 and 9, 1971

(Images and text)

A Letter to the Daily
A Letter to the Daily

Boys in the Band

To the Editor:

As a member of the cast of "The Boys in the Band," I was disturbed by a recent letter published under the title "Homosexuals discriminated against" and signed "Gay Liberation Front -- Ames." It distresses me to see a worthwhile movement disgraced by a spokesman who is contradictory, inaccurate, and (worst of all) irresponsible.

According to the letter, "The Boys in the Band" is a piece of "trash" and "sensationalism" which "perpetuates the ignorance of stereotyping (homosexuals) and the idiom of the locker room." It is difficult to believe that whoever wrote this letter even attended the play. Stereotyping? Of the play's nine homosexual characters, only two contain even the faintest elements of the homosexual cliché. Each of the nine characters is a delicate balance of failure and triumph -- a fully dimensional human being. I would invite you to ask the audience members (homosexual or heterosexual) if they felt that homosexuality was being ridiculed.

Quite the opposite is true. By making the homosexual a whole human being, the audience is able to identify with him and recognize the injustice of a society which considers homosexuality a criminal and immoral act -- a perversion instead of a preference.

The letter goes on to condemn the play as unrealistic because of its unhappy ending. IN a society which views an act of homosexual love as morally disgusting and even punishable by imprisonment, one could hardly expect the characters to ride off into a shimmering crimson sunset at the final curtain.

As for the play being "trash" and "sensationalism," read the critics . . . . . Gene Siskel (Chicago Tribune): "The ultimate strength of 'The Boys in the Band' is that Crowley does not attempt to present the archetypal homosexual. . . In my opinion and the opinion of film and drama critics all over the nation, (The Boys in the Band) is art presented in good taste." Richard Watts, Jr. (The New York Post): "All the once forbidden words are there and the action is highly explicit, but the play . . . doesn't strike me as a mere exercise in sensationalism. It has its share of outspoken humor, but is essentially thoughtful and serious."

The letter is unashamedly contradictory regarding the question of "balance" in the university's treatment of the subject of homosexuality. "(Because it is discriminatory and allowed the play to be produced,) the university obviously believes that there is no need for a balanced picture." Yet only two paragraphs later "a balanced picture" is no longer a good thing. . . . . "There was, of course, that lecture last year sponsored by the Committee on Human Sexuality, but then a heterosexual was also invited to the lecture to balance the picture. We mustn't allow our students to hear only a homosexual viewpoint."

The letter goes on to summarily condemn the "straight (heterosexual) media" for discrimination against homosexuals. Why can't you believe that it is possible to be heterosexual and still deplore discrimination against homosexuals? Does one have to be black to detest racial discrimination? Does one have to be Jewish to detest Nazism?

There are anywhere from 800 to 2,000 homosexuals at ISU. How many members does the Gay Liberation Front claim to have? Whoever you are, I sincerely hope you will find a new, more responsible spokesman.

Mark Henriksen
Telecommunicative Arts

More about 'Boys'

To the editor:

In a time when the American public likes to think of itself as sympathetic toward minority groups who have long been suppressed (e.g.: some of my best friends are Indians and blacks), one minority group stands out as still having extreme prejudice displayed against them. That minority is the homosexual.

The average American views the homosexual as a horrible social deviant who is as likely to rape their six-year-old son as he is to walk across the street. It is an extreme injustice of the American people perpetrated upon such a person just because he prefers intimate relationships with someone of his own sex. He is probably no more apt to rape your son that is any heterosexual to rape your daughter. All homosexuals are seen as deviants while all heterosexuals are not. This is obviously a great wrong.

This last week, Boys in the Band (perverted trash?), was put on in Curtiss Auditorium. It was a play that dealt with homosexuality. The viewing public may have thought it showed the homosexual as being suicidal (although only one out of eight showed the slightest inclination towards such), or a person who visits psychiatrists (here it was two out of eight). Although studies show, and if I'm wrong I'm sure that a greater percentage of homosexuals commit suicide and visit psychiatrists than do heterosexuals, that is not what the play is about. Says Mart Crowley, who by the way is the playwright, "Those who think that this play is about homosexuality are all wet. It's about man's ability to self-destruct and that man is his own worst enemy."

I now ask those who wrote the letter if they saw the play. It's a play that deals with nine individuals who have feelings of love and hate just like any other people on the face of this earth. A crisis is forced upon them and they react, just like any human being might react. Whether or not they are homosexual makes no difference, that they are people makes all the difference in the world. As an indication of your coming out, you might sign your names to future letters.

E.J. Evans
English and History

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