Issue No. 16
THE NUMBERS GAME
An article by Joseph Dalton
Since roughly the time of the Korean War (World War 21/2) in the late 1940s and early ’50s, the international Gay movement has drawn its inspiration and much of its intellectual armoury from the United States of America. This has entailed the use of a great deal of ‘scientific’ evidence to counter the old notion of homosexuality as a sinful, or ‘animal’ or diseased condition.
This was very wise on the part the movement in all of its manifestations from the courageous but inevitably ultra-closeted founding Mothers and Fathers (so to speak) of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society to the street-wise generation of Stonewall and beyond. We appeared to be the rational, logical level-headed element in disputes with our opponents. It justified the moral anger of the GLF (Gay Liberation Front).
Did we not rest our case on solid, scientific, empirical evidence? Why were we waiting … for equality in law, at work, in housing? Our arguments emboldened ourselves as individuals, and as a self-conscious factor in society, convinced or neutralised the general public, and embarrassed our opponents. They were reduced to quoting irrelevant bits of an irrelevant Book, to smear tactics – or to silence. Our arguments were based, in the main, on the Kinsey Report.
One In Twenty
This (‘Kinsey”) seemed to indicate that a very substantial proportion of the population was specifically homosexual. This proportion was One in Twenty, to quote the title of Brian Magee’s condescending little volume published in 1966. These figures have never been challenged and up until quite recently it would have been madness for Gay people to have done such questioning. We were fighting for a place in the scheme of things. We did not want to be thought mad, bad or dangerous to know. Arguing about the niceties of Kinsey’s figures would have been grotesquely inappropriate.
But now the Gay movement has succeeded; this statement will be greeted with gasps of anger and astonishment; but it is undoubtedly accurate. It may be many long years before we are fully integrated into society (and thereby change it beyond recognition) but the days of lobotomies, ice-baths and “aversion therapy”, to name some of the instruments used in “civilised” countries, are gone forever.
So we can cast a cold eye on the Kinsey Report. And note that there is a lot wrong with it. It is, in many ways, a classic piece of American ‘social science’, with the classic faults. These include the fact that the investigators did not go off-Campus – to test the general public. Admittedly the general public would probably have been less forthcoming about their sexual preferences — especially if they had been out of kilter with those that were socially acceptable in the Truman (and McCarthy) years.
This means that the people surveyed by Kinsey and his assistants were, in effect, self-selected. This alone skews the resulting figures in a number of ways. Kinsey was known to be open-minded on sexual matters (this certainly was not the case with the majority of psychologists, psychiatrists or the medical profession in general). Because of Kinsey’s ‘stance’ Gay people – lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and other sexual minorities were prepared to be more up-front with him, than with other investigators. It left the investigators open to those who were not telling the truth — or were telling the investigators what they (the subjects) thought they wanted to hear.
Commonsense and experience of the ‘political wing’ of the Gay movement, of the telephone helplines, the gay social groups and Centres – the ‘community’. And of the pubs, clubs, discos, saunas – the ‘scene’, including the cottages where gay men, anyway, all meet on an equal basis, impelled the ‘the agony in the crotch’ tell us that he Kinsey figures are an exaggeration.
Homosexual people do not constitute anything even remotely like five per cent of the over-all population. Half of that figure might be accurate and it is more than defensible to quote a figure of one per cent — or less. This figure covers homosex-ually-oriented people (largely men. It seems accurate to say that there are fewer specifically homosexual women, possibly because in our culture women are allowed more leeway in expressing themselves physically, thus dispersing a build up of homoerotic feeling. There has been lately the phenomenon of “political lesb-ianism”. Women’s sexuality appears to be a more elastic thing than that of men) rather than Gay people. GLF used “Gay” to mean anyone who was not 110% heterosexual.
One In One Hundred
This more reasonable figure gives a more realistic perspective on the position of Gay people in society. It gives a more reasonable perspective on homosexual people as people. If you think there are roughly three million homosexuals in the UK you must also believe that hundreds of thousands if not several million are utterly without backbone. This is self-evidently inaccurate. People have ‘come out’ with courage, fortitude and flair in the most difficult and painful circumstances.
Accepting that the true figure is something like six hundred thousand or fewer, spread over all age groups from early adolescence to extreme old age, it becomes obvious that most of these people have surfaced and are part of the Gay sub-culture. This again, ranges from a yearly phone call to the local Switchboard to being … President of NIGRA [the Northern Ireland Gay Right Association – upstart 2013]. We are, largely, aware of each other’s existence.
This assessment gives a more accurate picture of the burgeoning Gay comm-unity. “Out” Gays are not the tip of an iceberg vanguard of a huge timorous majority, the “mere” ten thousand or so that turn out for Gay Pride marches in various parts of these islands are a substantial percentage of the overall gay population.
Instead of a ragbag of committed people all apparently going in different direct-ions, we are generally-speaking a disciplined sub-culture tending in one direction – towards genuine civil liberty and equality, and at a very fast pace. Our apparent diffuseness irritates the tidy minded, nevertheless we are approaching emancipat-ion faster than the Catholics or the Jews did in the previous century, and faster than non-European immigrants at present.
The above may appear over-sanguine to the committed or the alienated. It must be emphasised that building a community while exhausting is deeply satisfying. Whether it is a few hours a week in a pub backroom that is achieved, or a full-scale Gay community centre.
The future for Gay people is bright, even if we suffer momentary setbacks. We must be realistic, our effect on society at large, is predicated on our being in a morally strong position, where the largely indifferent majority are not prepared to oppress us, or stand over the oppression of an inoffensive minority. And one were our enemies are reduced to living in a nostalgic dream world. This is how the ’67 Act was achieved from ‘within the closet’.
Nobody today could listen to a Sir Cyril Osbourne clone claiming that there were no homosexuals in the House of Commons (even if a number had not come out) with a straight face.
We will achieve legal equality and a rationalised age of consent, we can also achieve job protection and legal recognition and protection of longstanding relationships. Where we may come a cropper, is demanding more out of society and / or the state than we are entitled to in terms of head count. ‘Probable’ Gays can’t be counted as the ‘real thing’ just for the sake of bamboozling the rest of society.
Gay people have played a great part in sexualising our culture, but there’s little chance of homosexualising it. Society will not even become ‘bi-sexual’ so much as omnisexual. This will be the best of all settings for homosexual people and all other sexual minorities. This will not come about by wishful thinking nor probably in a short period of time but by self-discipline and self-reliance, rising from the “bottom” to the “top”. We are, happily, in a position where traditional notions of leaders and led simply will not function.
- About.com – The Gay Population