This page along with the previous, which is the transcript of the first hour, were originally broadcast October 8, 1974 on WOI-TV in Ames, Iowa. Questions were phoned in 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 on the set at any one time). If a question was her own, it is not single quoted below, otherwise it was the question of a viewer and within single quotes ('why do …?').
Our guests tonight are members of the Gay People's Alliance and the Lesbian Alliance. We've changed two of the panelists, to my left is David Windom and Carolyn Czerna. Welcome to the panel, and going on with the questions, and we have a whole stack of them. 'How do homosexuals recognize each other? Do you have secret signals, does the wearing of an earring by a male have a meaning?' um, …
We have a secret handshake, but we can't disclose it over the air.
I'd rather you didn't and that's all right.
There is no particular way to tell if a person is a homosexual. There are signs that you can tell if someone perhaps is attracted to you, which are no different than if you are heterosexual, once again.
But there are no…
I don't think so….
You can spend a lot of time guessing, and never really know for sure.
I think the earring is directed in my direction. Just because I wear an earring, which a lot of people don't see, but sometimes they do…
I didn't know you were…
I wear an earring because I wanna wear an earring, it doesn't make any difference which side I wear it on.
OK, but, so that , uh, you don't view that as significant?
A lot of people wear earrings anymore…
'How do your religious beliefs allow for your homosexuality, or are you atheists?'
Actually I believe in the Mother Goddess.
Do you, uh, is this a problem?
Religion? Well, it was when I told my parents. In some ways my mother was as upset or more upset that I wasn't going to church anymore than [that] I was homosexual. I was raised as a Catholic and that was my decision to not go to church anymore. It was not because of my homosexuality but of many other things that I saw as not liking in the church.
Are there homosexuals, is there a place for the homosexual in the churches that there are organized now. Are some of the churches more responsive than others?
There are groups of homosexuals who got together and formed their own churches simply because traditional churches haven't met our needs. Although some churches seem to be 'liberalizing,' I don't know if it's only minor concessions they're making, but at least they're actively interested in the question now. For years during the Inquisition gay men were burned as faggots and gay women as witches, so things have changed somewhat.
Not much though, especially in regular organized churches. When my father first found out that I was a lesbian, he immediately went to a priest and the priest said, 'Well, take her to a psychiatrist,' but because he was so freaked out by psychiatry, he didn't. Well, I think that a lot of churches have male supremacy, and both male homosexuals and lesbians are threatening to that.
I think we may be stereotyping to some extent, just lumping all churches and all religions into organized religions because individual parishes within the Roman Catholic Church will vary in their interpretation and I believe there is nothing in my religion that disallows for homosexuality.
This question quotes two things that have been said. One is that ,'Mothers cannot keep their children.' The second statement was, 'Homosexuality is not abnormal.' OK, those are the statements, then the viewer goes on, 'Is it normal to give up your children for the love of another adult versus the love of your children?'
Well, do you give up your children or are they taken away from you?
And you see even if there's a custody case in which the custody is contested and both parents want the child, the mother does not have to be a quote 'active lesbian,' she simply has to 'be' a lesbian and that is a threat, a lever that the father will have at any time to take the case back to court, simply threatening that she was once, or that she has those tendencies. I think it's not a simple question, and unfortunately that's the way it's usually interpreted. What about when a woman gets a divorce and then remarries another man, that's not thought of 'giving up your children for the love of another man.'
A better question would be why do you have to give up any person you love. Why do you have to stop this relationship? I can think of no valid reason.
And, if you give up custody are you giving up your children, because that means that every man who let's his wife have the custody of the children in a sense gives up his children and it would be better to stay married to someone you don't love, simply not to quote 'give up your children,' so that you do not really lose your children, you lose the close custodial relationship but you can maintain a relationship with your children without having custody of them.
Connie this question is directed to you , you mentioned that you do have children. 'How old are your sons, have you told them, does your husband help with them to understand you, or does he have negative attitudes?'
I'd rather not discuss my ex-husband, but my sons are all very young, and they, at this point, have no particular fears about expression of love towards one sex or another, they are young. They're all under 8, and so as much as they're able to understand, they're familiar with words and love and tenderness, but I don't there has come a time yet to have an adult discussion about what this society thinks about homosexuality with them.
'Do you ever have any trouble with your employers because of your homosexuality?'
This, undoubtedly, may be true for you because you're all relatively young, but has the tradition been that you have reason to perhaps fear that you will have trouble. Is it… a concern to you?
I should hope in the future that things will be at such a point where you don't have to worry about loss of your job. In many cities across the country now, sexual orientation has been added to the human rights code, where it says you can't discriminate on the basis of sex, color, creed, race, religion, etc.. They've added sexual orientation. Minneapolis and St. Paul are two examples, fairly close, and hopefully, eventually the entire country will have this type of protection, cause we're a minority group just as any other minority group.
Except that just because you have the law it doesn't mean it's going to be enforced, or that people are going to follow it. They could fire you on some clause like you didn't show up for work Thursday of last month or something. And the actual cause is because you happen to be a homosexual, but you couldn't prove that.
Still if the laws do change it's one positive step and hopefully that would lead to attitude change. It tends to be some of the pattern which has been created I think in the past.
'What other sorts of discrimination do you encounter?' They refer specifically to jobs, schooling, and that sort of thing. You've already taken care of jobs. What about other sorts of discrimination?
Social discrimination if you happen to be involved in what would be a marriage with a same sex partner, your partner is not automatically included as a husband or wife, may not even be introduced, may be totally ignored in a social setting simply because they don't know what to do. And you're not automatically related. If you should die, very elaborate wills have to be made out so that that partner would share in your life the way a marriage partner would share. There just aren't any vehicles, legally and economically, for expressing commitment.
Any other ways?
I'm afraid personally we're here on the island of the university which is a 'more liberal atmosphere,' perhaps we don't meet with as much hostility as people outside the university community might, so perhaps we can't talk that well about that.
Any other comments? [pause] 'Do you have any bitterness toward heterosexuals?'
If there's any bitterness at all it would have to be a specific heterosexual who's done something to a gay person, because, OK, there have been instances where parents of gay people have gone to their employers or their schools and had them thrown out or, maybe, like gangs of queer beaters who get up maybe like four people to one person, which is really a masculine way of proving how butch you are and how much you're above the only person. That's the only kind of bitterness I feel, and not to heterosexuals as a whole.
Anyone else? [pause] 'How did you deal with the guilt feelings that were mentioned earlier, when you first started realizing that you were a homosexual?' you said, that there was a period one of you, I think [Dennis], that there was a period when you felt very guilty about it.
I don't know if I said there was guilt or if I said I was afraid. I think, I think there was more fear than guilt in my case.
Well, either way, how did you…
When I was 19 and started deciding this was what I am I had to deal with it, I don't know, I positively re-enforced myself, I went out and met other gay people, talked about being gay, and just worked on making myself feel better about myself, and as I did that, the fear went away. For me…
Let's assume that perhaps this question is from someone who perhaps is experiencing guilt feelings. Do you have any suggestions to them about working their way through?
They can contact us, we act as a supportive organization, I think Lesbian Alliance does too. Our phone number is in the Daily, our phone in the union right now is 294-5237, and we have people there in evenings, if people want to call in just to talk, or anything, you don't have to commit yourself. We have meetings Sunday nights in Frisbie House, which is on Lincoln Way here in Ames. Perhaps you can talk about yours?
We have a post office box, 1287, at the ISU Station, we also have meetings every Sunday night, which are usually advertised; that they can check the Daily and find out where those meetings are going to be.
'What are your attitudes towards bisexuals?'
I am a bisexual, only it's been often said by people who claim to be bisexual they're not persecuted for their bisexuality, they're persecuted for the homosexual half, so even though the term lesbian comes from the outside, it's something I have to accept because it can be used as a threat against me. There is some feeling that saying you're a bisexual is a cop-out, that you're just afraid to go all the way and say, 'Oh, I am a homosexual.'
Any other responses?
I think bisexuals really get the short end of it, because they don't have any organization, really, OK they get it from heterosexuals for their homosexual half, and they get it from homosexuals a lot of times for their from heterosexual half, and so they're really caught in the middle.
But they put themselves in the middle, too.
Do they, by choice?
They are in the middle, they don't put themselves there.
It's important to remember, too, that bisexuality isn't necessarily half this and half that; there are degrees of homosexuality and heterosexuality in every person. You may have a negligible amount of either one or you may be somewhere in the middle or somewhere on either side of the middle or the end.
Well it does emphasize the sexual aspect of sexuality, rather than the intimate relating to another human being because you've grown to love that person, it emphasizes the bed aspect of sexuality.
I think that bisexuality is the ideal, that everybody has certain aspects of homosexuality and heterosexuality in them, and as soon as any kind of oppression as far as sexism can be dealt with, then possibly everybody will be bisexual, and we'll feel free to relate to either sex.
'Would you prefer, any of you, to be heterosexual?'
If I'd wanted to, I would have been by now.
We would prefer to have the rights and privileges of heterosexuals, but…
But you don't wish that whatever the…
That I was an entirely different person so I wouldn't receive any persecution for the person that I am? That's what's underlying that question.
This question dealt with, um, in part at least, 'Do you believe in God and the Bible, because if you do you're going against what the Bible says in that homosexuality is wrong'
The Bible doesn't say that.
The Bible has no relationship with God, anyway. The Bible was written by people, usually priest-kings who had a lot of authority and wanted to keep it that way. So they wrote all these things against people who wouldn't follow their will.
Well, you're offending some people, cause some people do believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, no matter who wrote it, and I'm taking exception to the fact that it says anywhere in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong. I can't talk to the person who wrote that card, but if you can search out those passages in the original words, you can see that it's really left to original interpretation as to whether the Bible actually does say homosexuality is wrong.
I believe one of the passages admonishes women from wearing red dresses and also from eating shrimp… and includes in that homosexuality…
Yeah, those are abominations.
Abominations, yeah. Some people wear red dresses… and eat shrimp!
Yeah, I would question anyone who does things exactly by the Bible, I don't think there is anyone who doesn't go against the Bible if you would take it literally and interpret it that way.
'How old were you when you had your first homosexual relationship? Was it with an older [person] or person of the same age?'
Why not younger?
I was 13 and the other person was younger than I was and initiated our relationship too, I didn't… as far as I can recall, I wasn't keeping score, exactly, but…
I think this goes back to the Welby program and what is implied there, but….
My impression is that most people's first experiences are with someone close to the same age. I don't know, this isn't anything we've ever talked about, is it?
My first experience was with a woman who was several years older than I am and I initiated that relationship, so if they're trying to get at any kind of cause and effect thing, there, I don't think they're going to find it.
In my case I'd been involved in gay liberation for almost a year before I even had had my first homosexual experience, so I was like 19 or 20 at the time.
This is for the women in the Lesbian Alliance. 'Does lesbianism have any relationship to the feminist movement? If so, what is it?'
It has everything to do with the feminist movement, because if women had equal rights with men, lesbianism would not be an issue at all. I mean if women had a right to live and to make love with whom they wished to make love with, it would be an empty word, it would not be a threat.
And in cases feminists have become political lesbians, and have had homosexual experiences because they feel that that it is more of an equal relationship than they've had with men.
OK, there are many women who call themselves lesbians simply by the definition that they love women, they're spending their energies with women, and they may be 60 years old and have never, quote, 'gone to bed' and getting into the intricacies of what sexuality is. Their primary interest and support comes from women and they call themselves lesbians.
Does it seem to you that some of the problems with gay liberation are the same with women's liberation, in that women are held in low esteem and men who love other men are held in low esteem because they're felt to be like women?
I think so…
Right. An effeminate man is much more difficult to take for a very masculine man, strong, and…
But also the lesbian movement and the women's movement are sometimes very much at odds with the gay male liberation movement because of their sexist attitudes. Because they are men, and they sure have a lot of them…
I think it's good to have a program like this. Maybe I shouldn't say anything about Iowa City, but we were at a conference there last spring, and I know the women there refused to meet with the men, and even to allow them to try to understand why they would not meet with them. You don't feel this way, apparently, or you wouldn't…
We don't feel this way, but felt it was entirely the prerogative of those women if they thought what they needed was to get themselves together was…
I did too, I didn't object. Many men there did object, however. A few were really upset…
…which is why many men object to lesbians, because it means, as one fellow told me, well, 'ladies only, and there's no place for me.' I mean, you know, people don't like to be left out.
Well, I didn't feel that way but i think it is nice, though, that we can, at least,…
Well I've been to some dances in Iowa City. Going to that, the men and women were at odds for some really basic reasons. The men were being pigs. The women probably have dealt with that before, they probably have good reason to feel that way.
'Would you consider going through a change of sex operation?'
I think that is transsexualism, which is an entirely different subject from homosexuality.
'Why are you having a program on homosexuality?' Now I think that I'd better answer that one. Because I think that that falls on my shoulders at this point. We're having a program on homosexuality because in fulfilling our commitment to the FCC, and seeking out the needs and interests of our community, one of the areas that is prominently mentioned is minority groups. This is a minority group. They were in contact about the Marcus Welby program, and we said perhaps it would be a very good idea to allow these two minority groups to talk to you and explain the aspects of their lifestyle, and their feelings, and so that's why they're there, and so that's the reason. 'What kind of home do you think two homosexuals could give children?'
A very loving home. I mean that's a kind of strange question for anybody to ask.
I think again they're losing sight of the individuals. Two heterosexuals may provide a very terrible home for children, and two homosexuals might also provide a terrible home, and then, depending upon the individuals, how much they love children, how much they're willing to give… it would depend upon individuals.
Perhaps I'm making judgments from the gay parents I've seen, which aren't a lot, but like in this area, the gay parents I have seen, the children they have seem to be a lot healthier than a lot of area children in that they're being raised in a more open atmosphere, where sex is perhaps not repressed as much and is not being made "dirty" or anything. So in that sense, the gay parents I have seen are raising probably healthier children than a lot of the straight parents I have seen.
May I?… What you said for your attitude about sex, which may connote all sorts of things to the listeners…
Right, when I mentioned that I had three children the first worry of one class was that my sons were going to be experimenting with one another, and I was puzzled by that, since they weren't particularly worried that the children of heterosexual couples were going to be experimenting with each other, simply because their parents were heterosexual.
This is a question that relates to the fact that… uh, 'Are you ever worried about the fact that you're not going to have children, so that [pausing] homosexuals would die out if you all [getting confused].' I'm not sure… this is horrible the way it is written down.
From my point of view, there are 50% more people in the United States than when I was born, and I can't see that my bringing children into the world is going to help the situation that much. There are 2 ½ times as many people in the United States as when my father was born. It seems to me that people would begin to feel crowded. A little bit…
I'm not sure if that's the way the question was meant…
No, I think they're implying, that homosexuality, the tendency to it is in the genes.
Heredity… "…would die out." If everyone on this planet were homosexual the race would die out. Again, it is the emphasis on the sexual act, and there have been times and crises on this globe when people mated because children were needed, and it was not within the romantic atmosphere,…
Plus, artificial insemination is possible.
There is a tribe in Africa, where, for the men, there is a specific time in their lives, when, 100% of the male population has to engage in homosexual behavior or else they are ridiculed, much as men in our society are ridiculed if they do engage in homosexual behavior. And yet, you know, they just can't envision that this can co-exist with heterosexuality and their tribe has not been dying out. It's the African Siwan tribe.
'How do psychologists react to you, or treat you?'
We stay away, probably, from most of them. There are some, who, like I said before, still have the view that homosexuality is an illness. And those who do not, well, I'm fine with.
There have been several questions about individual occupations of the panelists, but we decided earlier that we're not going to talk about their occupations as such, and things like their home towns, and ???? and things. So if you wondered why the questions about occupations has not been asked it's because we decided earlier that perhaps it would be just as well in this case, not to go into that. 'What type of future do you see for yourselves? How do you see yourselves when you're 60?'
I think that's too far away for me. Um, I don't even know what I'm going to be doing a year from now, exactly. I have certain plans, maybe, but I'm not really certain about those, even.
Do any of the rest of you see yourselves at 50 or 60?
I guess again I'd like to say that this is not a representative group. It's young and it's people who feel that they can afford the openness, afford to be seen as quote 'homosexuals,' and so, to get any conclusions, even to say what our occupations were and to come to a general conclusion, or do homosexuals have hopes for the future… we can't really draw any conclusions from the group that's here. But I don't mean to stop anyone else from answering that question, I just wanted to keep that perspective.
Any other comment?
I see myself as probably being older and hopefully more mature, and all those good things that are supposed to go with you as you grow up.
'When you realized you were homosexual, was there a sudden moment when you knew it, or was it a gradual realization?' This refers back to what we were discussing earlier. Did you just know it or was a gradual development of knowledge?
Well, I had many crushes when I was in grade school, even, say on teachers, or women students in high school. I don't know when I first knew that those feelings were homosexual. I remember running across an article about homosexuality in magazines, but one thing about growing up as a lesbian, is that most of the literature has been on male homosexuality, so you don't see yourself hardly reflected, hardly at all, you read an article hoping you find out something about yourself, and what you find out about is male homosexuality, and really not yourself at all, whether it is good or bad.
'What are gay bars and are they necessary?'
What are heterosexual bars and are they necessary? And I guess gay bars are necessary because of the kind of persecution people receive. Going into a bar in Ames, you cannot quite behave (I don't mean behave exotically) just simply behave tenderly or stand too close or sit to close to someone in a bar in Ames…
What would happen if you did?
It would depend. Sometimes nothing, sometimes you would interest a few rather virile males in the place in taking you on, or you would just let it be known. For us, this may not be a problem but for some people who wish to be together and to go out for and evening, to go out and be tender with each other in a public bar, they would fear that people would, quote, guess, about them, so they need a place where they could feel protected, and feel they're not going to be spied upon, or accused simply of being with each other.
Or looked down upon.
Probably to answer the first part of the question, in case they [viewers] don't realize, gay bars are bars where gay people tend to congregate, although they're not necessarily all homosexuals that are there. That's by definition.
Then you find by implication that the business of 'and are they necessary' there was an implied aspect of making contact. This was a place where homosexuals could contact other homosexuals?
Um, I don't understand your question.
That perhaps the necessity was that this was at least one place where you could make contact?
Yeah, that's true.
Is that a reason?
That's one of their big functions, where you can meet other gay people, so you don't feel isolated.
This is to the women. I'm quoting now from the question. 'Did you choose the homosexual way of life to the heterosexual due to an incapacity to cope with heterosexual relationships and the heterosexual way of life? If this is true, isn't this as negative a thing, to run away from heterosexuality, as it is from homosexuality?' [pause] I think that's more of a statement than a question.
Yes, and it's presuming a certain kind of running away. I simply fell in love with an individual before any kind of sexual contact—fell in love with an individual who happened to be a woman, and then I began to understand what the distinctions were between homosexual and heterosexual, that was forbidden to me because I happened to fall in love with a woman, not a man. That doesn't speak for everyone. That just speaks for me.
Anyone else want to comment on the question? … This is directed to the panel as a whole. 'What do you think causes people in old age to turn to a life of homosexuality after a life of heterosexuality?'
Repressed homosexuality, possibly.
I'm not sure that sexuality is something that is completely defined in people, I think it is something that has a potential to change, and perhaps any time in you life these changes may be going on. So, perhaps just a change in their attraction. Perhaps it's more convenient in older age, too, I'm not sure.
They don't have that much to fear for one thing, and the number of women there are compared with the number of men, it would be so rare to find an individual with whom you could be warm and tender, at that age you don't have too much… you don't have to plan a whole life, you don't have to quote, 'plan a homosexual life,' because suddenly someone tells you you're homosexual.
'What exactly is the Gay Liberation Movement?'
Well, I can talk about its history. In different areas of the country there are different goals for different gay liberation groups. It's impossible to generalize. Gay liberation was formed, well, spread across the country after a gay bar was raided by police, which is not an uncommon thing. And it was the first time that the gay people fought back; it was on Christopher Street in New York City. Several days of riots ensued, and out of this sprang up an organization, and the organization just went across the country very fast…various organizations. Doctrine and dogma, it various from people to people.
You mean there's no across the board endorsement of this piece of legislation or 'this kind' of thing?
Well, there might be specific goals that you know, no gay liberation group would be against, but like…
Well, implied in gay liberation is freedom for homosexuals, and however that can be brought about. Changing the laws… education, such as things like this program… changing people's minds… getting rid of the stereotypes and fears about homosexuality… And I think those are pretty common in most groups.
Gay liberation would be liberating not simply for gay people but for all people, in terms of dealing with their own homose… what a slip… dealing with their own sexuality honestly.
I think to help people understand homosexuality rationally rather than emotionally. To realize that we're not a threat. I don't think that anyone here is trying to threaten anyone else.
Not threatening. There have been implications in some of the questions that have come through. And, down in the stack a little bit and you're all fairly normally dressed, uh [group giggle]… 'Are you giving a fair picture of the homosexual? Why aren't some of you wearing makeup or not wearing makeup?'
I'm not wearing makeup.
All right, Uh, are you…?
[fun sarcastic] Well listen, my suit and tie were at the cleaners, and they didn't get them ready in time for the show!
Once again, this goes on to more fundamental questions for gay men who do want to wear things which are generally reserved for women in our society, and they're women's apparel, it's a freedom thing once again. I feel people who want to wear make up if they're a man or even a dress as such, I don't think their rights should be infringed upon. That's a right of free expression. I don't think we need to apologize for these people.
I think everyone here is giving a fair picture of him or herself.
And I think most homosexuals in this community, they dress comfortably, as most people do now.
Transvestism, male transvestites are not exclusively homosexual people. Lots of times heterosexual men enjoy in what society refers to as women's apparel. It's as common among heterosexuals as homosexuals.
Which I think in that listener's question is a confusion, even the transsexual question and confusing homosexuality automatically with transvestism and transsexualism, I think there are a lot of misconceptions which need exposing and exploring.
'You seem to be defensive about the questions that are being asked. Do you feel animosity toward the questions that are being submitted?'
I think it's tremendous that we've had this many questions.
Do you consider these as crank questions?
It doesn't seem to me that these have been really unfair. You've responded sometimes rather strong or rather defensively to them but you're not casting dispersions on the asking of the question.
No, we're not casting dispersions on the question asker, or even the question, but having heard some of these questions many times, we're trying to answer more than the question, because we see something behind the questions, so we want to answer the question and some other questions, which may have helped to compose the question.
You know, often times I think we need to ask these same questions back to the heterosexuals. That's perhaps when we're sounding defensive, when we say 'what do the heterosexuals feel about this, about themselves,' but it's important for them to realize that the basic aspects are very parallel in these questions.
'Why did you feel it necessary to tell your parents about your homosexuality?'
I think it would be better if I told them than finding out from somebody else, cause knowing the town I grew up in, they probably would have found out, probably would have been through gossip, and it wouldn't have been fair to them at all, for somebody else to tell them that I was gay. And it's a big load off myself. Now I can do pretty much what I want to, without having to worry about them.