This show was broadcast October 8, 1974 on WOI-TV in Ames, Iowa; previous pages on this site explain the show in more detail. Questions were phoned in by viewers, and host Betty Lou Varnum read them to the panel, which consisted of a total of four members of Gay People's Alliance and four members of Lesbian Alliance (only six total panelists on the set at any one time). If a question was Betty Lou's own, it is not placed within single quotes ('why do …?'). Questions from the television viewers that were phoned in are quoted with single quotes. Some of the commercials (noted during the commercial breaks) seemed highly inappropriate at the time, but we couldn't see or watch them in the studio, so we had no idea what they were.
'How do your parents react?'
[Strained, uncomfortable laughter]
Why do you all, kind of laugh at that? Because you've been asked so much, or because…?
Parents are a big problem.
They're a problem.
I think that telling your parents is probably the worst thing you have to go through, because even though you think you may know what they're going to say, you can never be sure because this kind of question is usually never brought up before. So you're afraid that if you tell them you're gay, they're going to throw you out of the house and disown you forever, and all kinds of very major hassles. My parents, however, they've accepted it; I told them they didn't have any choice.
What about your parents' reaction?
Actually I'm an orphan but I don't count, so I would like to address myself to your observation about the reaction of this group; if you look at the makeup of the group we're all fairly young and we've had that as a recent experience, telling parents, it's been a major thing that we're not very far away from, so it's still emotionally quite real, it's not like asking a 50 year old homosexual about parents because by that time, the problem has a much different perspective.
What about yours?
Well, I feel it's a hard thing, but my parents have accepted it as much as they've accepted anything else I've told them that wasn't quite along the lines they had planned for me or whatever, but I don't view it as a major problem because I plan on just going on and living my life, and I do feel it's mostly the parents' problem to deal with their own reaction to it, how they feel about it. They're the ones that are going to have the most problems about it because they probably have all the stereotypes in their head.
Well, I could probably go on for hours, I do always seem to. My mother is dead, and when I told my father, we had a lot of hassles; I guess is the best way to put it—that's putting it mildly, I was even threatened by him and some other things. He didn't respond well at all. That was two years ago, this has sort of gone over a little bit—we get along somewhat better, but we still don't deal with this aspect at all. Whenever it's brought up, it's usually brought up by my father and he still reacts very negatively.
Well, I have the advantage of great distance, my parents live in Massachusetts, so I don't really have to deal with them too much. But when I was home last year at Christmas time, I told my sister, and I guess she freaked out, but I didn't know it at the time, so along about February I get this heartbreaking letter from my father, how, 'I need to seek help' and all this, and, 'Not even the lowliest of animals would do that.' Dear! So one of the counselors at the student counseling center here talked with my mother and kind of calmed her down a little bit, and I sent them some books, but we haven't talked about it at all; they don't even want to talk about sex at all. So, I'm kind of dreading going home this Christmas.
When they first found out, there was a feeling well, I'll get over it, eventually, it's just a phase. Finally they've accepted that it may not be a phase, or if it is I'm going to enjoy it. But, now I guess their biggest worry is because of a lot of the stereotypes that they think, they think I'm going to fall into a lot of pitfalls through life and have a lot of problems that they assume all homosexuals have.
You haven't mentioned, any of you, the one comment, that I would think that you would have had to cope with? And that is, 'What have I done?' 'What have I done wrong?'
Wouldn't that be one of the first responses?
Yeah, 'We tried so hard to bring you up, in the right way…'
'What did I do wrong, it's obviously my fault because I didn't properly…'
Do you feel, any of you, that it was your parents' fault? Did they do anything wrong?
Fault? That's implying that something's wrong in the first place!
I'm quoting what they would probably say. So you're saying that it was not…
The theories that say homosexuals have dominate mothers and weak fathers just don't hold water at all, lots of heterosexuals have dominate mothers and weak fathers. Why do they turn out to be a heterosexual? No one has really explored into sexuality enough that I feel they can accurately say why anyone becomes anything sexually. It's amazing sometimes in our society that people are sexual at all, because we're fed so much negative stuff about sex from the time we're born.
We'll continue our discussion, if you have questions, 294-7307, from Des Moines, 244-3738, for our discussion of the Gay People's Alliance and the Lesbian Alliance, we'll be back after this message.
Our guests tonight are members of the Gay People's Alliance and the Lesbian Alliance. We were talking about the reaction of your parents when you told them that you were homosexual. Dennis, you wanted to say something more about parents whose children may come to them with that statement.
Yeah, I think that a lot of parents just don't know how to react at all and the best advice that I could give them, having been through it myself, the best thing to do is not to freak out, and to try to maintain communication with their children, that's a really important thing. I wish that in my case that had been what happened. I have a book that I've brought over from our office in the union, which is in Room 3. It's called 'Society and the Healthy Homosexual' and I'd recommend this for any parent whose child has told them they're gay, or any gay person, also, who's thinking about telling their parents, cause this has a lot of very effective steps in it. It's written by a psychiatrist, it has a lot of very good information. I wish I'd read it before I told my father.
And it's called 'Society and the Healthy Homosexual,' it's by Dr. George Weinberg. Good enough. We're having problems getting a shot of the particular book. OK. 'Do you believe in a gay marriage, and if so, could you be faithful to such a marriage?' Is there any state where homosexuals may legally marry?
Washington, now, I think?
State or D.C.?
Well, in my mind marriage, a traditional marriage comes with all kinds of really oppressive things, like there's gotta be one who's gotta be really dominant, and make all the decisions, and somebody's gonna stay home and run the house and do all the little housewifely things.
Well, I think that's a stereotypical concept of marriage, OK?
But most of the marriages I've seen are like that.
As far as gay people living together for a long period of time and planning on sharing their lives together, lots of people do.
It depends upon how you define marriage, more than anything else. I think it's important for gay people to realize that perhaps heterosexuality, in their roles, haven't worked out so well for them, so I don't think we should mimic their roles necessarily.
Is there any move on the part of the homosexual community to have marriages legalized and to get at least, uh,…?
The homosexual community is not unified in any specific goals, some aspects of it may be working for that, while others aren't. You can't really generalize on any issue.
Before you can make marriage legal, you would have to first make homosexuality legal, and in most states there are statutes on the book, which make homosexuality illegal, so to make homosexual marriage legal is kind of jumping the gun. First we have to get the laws off the books.
This referring to the laws involving the rights of consenting adults?
The sodomy laws they're called. They also apply to heterosexuals as well, legally. Theoretically I think probably 95% of the people of this state are felons, because of the sexual behavior they engage in, because there's only one sexual act which is legal in this state, and it's only under one set of circumstances, which is marriage.
This is directed to the members of Lesbian Alliance. 'Do you want children? Do you ever have any feelings about not having a family?'
Well, I hate kids. [laughter] But sometimes I have these motherhood fantasies, but they go away after short periods of time. I just really can't stand children.
OK, so this is not a loss as far as you are concerned.
I don't think I have any real objections to children. I grew up in a large family, and a lot of the responsibility for the younger ones was on the older ones, and I was one of the older ones. So as far as the responsibility and the little nit picking things that you have to do when you have children, I'm not interested in that at all. Plus, I'm not interested in being a heterosexual in any way, shape, or form, which is what would have to happen if I were going to have a child.
I have three sons, and I think in that question there are almost three answers; there's the fact that even the term lesbian or homosexual does not preclude other kinds of sexual activity or commitments, it's simply something when once that appellation is thrown at somebody, you can never get away from it, [being a] 'homosexual,' as such. And being a lesbian does not preclude having children, caring for them, and maybe if not your own children, being involved in professions for which you can contribute to the life of a child without necessarily having your own to care for.
The question was directly worded for the Lesbian Alliance members, but, uh,…
Yeah, I'd like to know why they didn't ask the men, too. They're assuming that women want to have children only.
Right, well, I'm gonna ask it, put in that part for my question, so do you have a feeling about it?
I kinda don't like, hate kids, too, but I think at some point I might like to have children, and then it's possible to adopt, in some cities it's possible to adopt. Right now it doesn't bother me a lot.
At this point in my life I don't think I'm financially secure enough to afford children or take on the responsibility, I'm still dealing with a lot of things just within myself. Perhaps sometime. I don't want to get caught in the trap once again of saying, 'I have to have children because I've always been told that that's what I have to have to fulfill me,' and I'm afraid that I might get caught in that trap. So, I can't speak for the future, but at this present time it's totally out of the question.
I'd like to have children eventually. I'm in a child oriented major at the university, and I don't see any reason why I shouldn't have kids, I really like kids!
So that, um,… are you speaking of adoption or are you speaking of having your own children?
It probably would be adoption.
What are the, there are, as I understand it, changing attitudes on the part of the courts toward homosexual adoptions. Is this fairly widespread or is it still…?
It's pretty hidden right now.
I believe in Minneapolis there's a court case going on right now where two men wish to adopt a child and they're encountering some difficulties. They are, in some places, placing homosexual teenagers in homosexual foster homes, but that's as far as any trend has gone with more than one specific case.
And as far as if you're a mother and a lesbian, getting custody of your children through the courts is very difficult. They set up impossible conditions, such as you can't live with the woman you love.
Or you have to undergo rehabilitation, …
…if you want to keep your children.
Or they don't give them to you at all.
How did you realize that you were homosexual?
I think that that's a question, once again, I would throw back, 'How does anyone realize they're heterosexual?' to who's asking, assuming they are. For me personally, I had sexual awakenings when I was in puberty like almost everyone else I know, and my sexual impulses were predominantly directed toward members of the same sex, when I was 12. But unlike my heterosexual brothers and sisters, who were supposedly going along the 'normal route,' all of a sudden I realized everybody [would] thinks I'm 'queer' or something, and I put this great big wall, this emotional block, up in my mind, to try to protect myself, and that lasted for seven years, so I didn't really admit it to myself until I was 19, but I sort of originally realized it when I was 12.
Was this true for all of you, that the realization came fairly early?
You don't realize that you're homosexual, you have feelings long before you even encounter the word or encounter the bad attitudes that society has about that word and the acts involved with it. But you have feelings for members of your same sex probably long before you realize that you're 'homosexual' and everything that that term implies, and then you go through the process of feeling that you're a bad person, and then having to work through that, and really say positively, 'I am a homosexual, and I feel good about that.' It's a very long process, but you have the feelings probably when you're a child.
But I think one thing that every one here has said is somehow it's come from the outside, somehow certain kinds of behavior, you notice that other people are beginning to call you names or begin to suggest to you that you're somehow different, and I remember in my childhood before I knew I had any sexual feelings at all, simply because of being rather aggressive in baseball and football and being called things like 'dyke' or 'butch' and not having any concept what those words meant, and was simply behavior that was not appropriate to a little girl, and these words, and even the term 'homosexual,' they're words that are used like weapons, by peers or supervisors simply to make you behave in a way, the way everyone else behaves.
Yeah, and the comments that you get are very sparse and [far] between and they're always bad, almost always bad. And so you either have trouble finding any identity for yourself, not really knowing what your identity is, or you assume that you have a bad identity, that you're bad because of it.
I think it's important for the viewers to also realize we're in the minority. There are lots and lots of people out there who are still dealing with it, they may be much older than us, they may never be able to completely come to grips with this just because of what society has said and done to them. And I think it's really a sad state of affairs when society can't accept diversity within itself.
'What type of lifelong relationships do most homosexuals seek, or do they seek lifelong relationships at all?'
I don't know if we can speak for most homosexuals, as far as real feelings, we can only speak for ourselves.
We'll settle for that.
All right, I want a lover eventually, a marriage, if you will, a long-term relationship.
I hopefully feel I am in a long term relationship, and have been with Connie for over a year and a half. And we hope to make this live out our lives together.
So ideally it would be that, a lifelong, whatever they say…
Commitment to each other, right.
I don't know if I really want a long term relationship, or if I've just been socialized into wanting some kind of a long term relationship. Because when you're growing up you see all these ads, practically everything you hear or have told to you is, 'You're going to grow up and you're going to raise a family, and when you're old and gray, you'll have all these loving grandchildren or whatever, and you'll never be alone,' which usually does not work in this country.
Well, I haven't really sat down and made up my mind that, 'This is what I'm going to do,' but sometimes I feel like I want to find a lover and live with her for the rest of my life in a very closed monogamous relationship, and other times I feel like I want to live with a group of women in a collective or something like that, and have a very open relationship. I think ideally that would be the best, and have my needs met by a group of people; men and women, too. …I don't know, I'm still young, you know.
'Could you comment on the American Medical Association documented reports on the low levels of male hormones in homosexuals?'
Is this homosexual males?
I thought I'd read reports just a little while ago that said they could not find any conclusive evidence that there was a difference in hormonal levels…
Yeah, there are documented reports which say that, too, that there's no…
They don't know what they're talking about half the time.
We don't necessarily respect organizations which consider us sick. I don't think they deserve my respect, at least.
Working at it from the other end, the injection of hormones has not converted anyone to heterosexuality, it has simply altered physical characteristics, it has not changed the emotional makeup of anyone.
All right, so you would discount the importance of that particular study.
Or any studies that try to identify a physical or social cause for homosexuality.
So that we can discard all the questions that are stacked here that say, 'Do you believe that homosexuality is brought on in part by heredity or environment or both or neither?'
OK [? unintelligible over laughter].
Well it seems to me like all the studies are being done on 'what causes homosexuality,' but I haven't heard of a study being done on 'what causes heterosexuality.' And they're always looking for a cause, like there was something wrong, that's the basic thing I don't like about these kinds of studies. They start out thinking something's wrong and they look for a cause.
Yeah, one of the basic assumptions there is heterosexuality is quote 'normal' because that's what other animals and things do. If you study other animals, there's homosexual behavior that's exhibited in all other mammals, particularly in primates, and often times this is when members of the opposite sex are available. So, it's obviously mammalian in heritage for us. It's just a basic potential that people have to be sexual, that's the important thing to realize.
All right, so, you're discounting environment, …
We didn't say that.
We don't know.
You're not accepting it as…
We didn't respond really to the question, we just said, 'What causes hetero…'
All right. But this question is asked a number of times, and I think that, …
There's a train of thought, a school of explanation, that you are born basically just sexual, bisexual if you will, but with no real tendency, and then you're socialized into heterosexuality because you're never really given the opportunity to see that homosexuality is possible. I guess that would be what I'd subscribe to, in answering that.
However, how does that hold true?; otherwise there wouldn't be homosexuals if that held true.
There also might not be heterosexuals, so I discount both of those theories…
You can find objections to almost any theory, you know.
We weren't addressing ourselves to that question because it's not that we don't believe that there are environmental and psychological factors influencing our development, it's just that the reason people want to know what in the environment, is so they can quote 'cure it,' not accepting it as a possible result naturally of the environment, both alternatives, heterosexual and homosexual activity.
All right, then I will pass along on that, and I will remind you that the numbers to call if you have questions, 294-7307, from Des Moines, 244-3738. We will be back after this message.