Why be a Homosexual? (Enquiring Persons Want to Enjoy Sex)

posted by Madame Bubby

Jim Cassidy
Jim Cassidy

Sex Play, which appears to be an early 1970s gay porn “naughty picture book,” features an article by gay porn star Jim Cassidy entitled, “Why Be A Homosexual.” (Cassidy appears in several vintage gay porn flicks - Whatever Turns Ya On, A Deep Compassion, The Light from the Second Story Window, and Chapter 3 - available on DVD at those links and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com.)
 

Sex Play cover

But the piece needs some immediate context. This picture book's full title is Sex Play: A Marital Guide for the Gay Male, which is most interesting, because of course at that time gays could not get married, but it assumes that there will be gay couples in long-term but not legally recognized relationships: “homosexual marriages.”

And the forward/editorial by a doctor lends the contents of the book, mostly pictures of different sex acts and positions with some explanation about their benefits to a healthy sexual relationship; authority and credibility. For example, the good doctor proclaims, “There must be a basic reason for homosexuality – it's been with us since the beginning of time and at certain plateaus, during the world's existence, was actually approved of and considered highly aesthetic.”

Yes, true, but here's where pre-existent prejudices come to the fore, “A homosexual can be as masculine as any hetero male and sometimes even more so. If a list were published of the inverts in professional sports, every phase of government, teaching, scuba diving – you name it – it would certainly seem unbelievable.”
 

Men kissing in Sex Play

It's quite daring that he mentions gays as teachers, given the false claims that gay guys are pedophiles, but the use of the word invert really shows prejudice. More significantly, in the late 19th and 20th century, invert was equated with homosexuality, an inborn trait; male inverts inclined to traditionally female behaviors and interests, and vice versa.
 

Sex Play editorial

Yet this theory seems to refer more to transgender individuals, looking at it hindsight, but, more significantly in the context of the times, the good doctor feels the need to show that the homosexuals aren't necessarily “nellies” but also that the masculine ones are the ones who hide their true inversion by living in the closet with a male lover. Very much a product of the times, this view: sexual liberation was occurring, but in the long shadow of the closet, a closet which confused often sex with gender.

Thus, perhaps, the question about why one should be a homosexual in the last article of the publication, seems initially to be almost a tautology. This article begins with the usual arguments that no one knows why someone is a homosexual, but one can spot the nelly ones; it's the more macho ones need to stay underground. Cassidy does allow for a “middle” category, “architects, artists, dress designers, hair dressers, and yes, teachers and members of the clergy ...” Yes, anyone can be a homosexual, but are there degrees by which one behaves as one? The author seems to assume that homosexuality most probably equals, to a great extent, sexual inversion.

But, later in the piece, Cassidy makes some valid points about how young men, using the example of his own experiences in the small town of Delaney, are socialized to be around homoerotic situations, like locker rooms, but that these situations involve references to heterosexual behavior, boasting about “conquests,” even though these guys are experimenting with each other sexually in circle jerks and the like.
 

Why Be Homosexual article headline

Perhaps referring obliquely to his own experience, he claims that, “once in a while, again more often than you would think, a true homosexual will emerge ...” Or, maybe, the person discovers he is already is one, was born that way, but there's a caginess going on here about the issue, followed, though, by some honest insight about how heteronormative sex/gender roles are constantly pushed on male youth, with emotionally damaging results to a young gay guy.

But, ultimately, Cassidy argues, it's all about “wildly throbbing cocks or hot, pulsating cunts.” Even the guy who feels like he must have sex with a girl, but then finds his true sexual fulfillment in a male relationship, having experienced both, he implies that sexuality exists on a spectrum, with bisexuality as a flexible, not rigid, center, an “and” instead of an “or.”

Thus, the supposedly restrictive social norms of a small town, with its rigid patriarchal gender roles, can actually, even for both sexes (though it's clear that the men who end up the choices, not the women, a serious, even lethal inequality reflective of the time this piece was written), end up transmuting into, as Cassidy claims, a “new generation [that] doesn't believe in merely love for the opposite gender; they are including their own sex for what it's worth, a delightful, sexual experience, although opposite from early training, and professing love for all people.”

Anyone can be gay; anyone can be straight; anyone can be bi. Homo, hetero, invert, whatever. Enjoy! The cause and the end result are the same.
 

Sex Play quote and image
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The Gay and Lesbian Softball League Phenomenon

Gay softball players in Chicago

As in most sports, my youthful experience was negative or at least ambiguous. Perpetrating the stereotype that lesbian or “masculine women” and nuns (often equivalent in many eyes to lesbians) play softball, the principal of the Catholic school, the formidable pantsuit-wearing Sr. Judy was obsessed with softball. She claimed I was not playing with enough enthusiasm (she wielded the same accusation during volleyball practice), and I was banished to right field. I purposely let the ball hit me when it flew toward me, and I was banished to the sidelines. And I thought softball would be easier than baseball, because the ball was bigger and softer and supposedly easier to hit and catch. Oh well …

Fast forward several years later, and a work friend told me her easygoing, sports-loving husband saw a group of guys near the lake playing softball. He, like many (or most) straight males, was socialized to join guys playing games outside, and he asked if he could join them. He played with them for a while, really enjoying himself, but after a guy patted him rather too enthusiastically on the ass, he realized he was playing with members of the local gay softball league. He was not homophobic about it, but he was just surprised. Or maybe just a tad homophobic, perhaps, because he was subscribing to the stereotype that gay men did not play sports.

Instead, lesbians did – especially softball. This stereotype persisted, even as recently as the time Elena Kagan was nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court. The Honorable Ms. Kagan was not married, and she played softball. Therefore, she must be lesbian.
 

Elena Kagan playing softball
Elena Kagan playing softball

And around that time, in an article in the New York Post, the token straight gal (gay teams have rules limiting the number of straight players) on an all-lesbian softball team, says (I don't think she was being homophobic, but I wonder) that her teammates were “so husky you might wonder whether they have a beard to shave.” Yikes. And she says one teammate offered her a toaster to “switch hit.” (What brand? I might do it for a four-slot Kenmore that takes bagels.)

It's a shame that stereotypes obscure the truth about these leagues, that “LGBT sports clubs and events provide an opportunity for individuals to experience a sense of pride, a safe and welcoming environment, and feelings of belonging to the larger gay community” (Sara Mertel in her dissertation on the sociology of an LGBT softball league, summarizing an article by Elling, Knoop & Knoppers). I consider these leagues comparable to the gay chorus movement, which has allowed gay men to teach and learn as musicians on both amateur and professional levels in an inclusive environment. Talent is talent, art is art, but in this context, they become vehicles of liberation and, some might, argue assimilation.

In fact, in the early heady days of gay liberation, gay and lesbian softball leagues sprang up very quickly, beginning in San Francisco in 1974 with the formation of the Community Softball League, which eventually included both women's and men's teams. These teams actually competed against each other and, quite telling, against the San Francisco Police softball team (quite a revolutionary moment, to say the least, given the history of victimization by the police).
 

Gay team vs. police team San Francisco softball game
Gay team vs. police team San Francisco softball game

In 1978, an international organization called NAGAAA (North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance) was formed to govern the many leagues participating in gay sports. According to a piece in Outsports, this organization was a realization of the vision of Chuck Dima, a New York bar owner, who orchestrated a tournament where the gay softball teams from San Francisco and New York played each other. The first women's team competed in 1979. Today, the NAGAAA incorporate 41 individual softball leagues, and hosts the Gay Softball World Series, first held in Los Angeles in 1980.
 

Gay softball game in San Francisco, 1977
Gay softball game in San Francisco, 1977

Now, ironically, the gay softball world faces another challenge, and it's not the holy haters. In 2011, three guys on their gay softball team sued the NAGAAA after they were determined to be non-gay (one was apparently bisexual), and their team was stripped of its second place finish. The National Center for Lesbian Rights backed the men. The Court upheld the straight limit, dismissing the discrimination claims. In the settlement, the players were reinstated and their second-place finish is now fully recognized, while NAGAAA maintained the Constitutional right to limit the number of straight players on a team.
 

NAGAAA North American Gay Softball Division logo

There's the tension: assimilation and identity in a world that doesn't just tolerate LGBTQ persons, but even sees them as exemplars of strength and talent. I don't think I will go out and join a gay softball league (I might get banished to the benches too based on my skill level). But I would certainly watch, and not only the softballs. Or maybe, just maybe, the hot young studs would let me be the “water boy” … hmm …

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Not All Gay Guys Are Klutzes!

Not All Gay Guys Are Klutzes!

The Huffington Post some time ago published a story on how a majority of LGBT youth are harassed or feel unsafe in in gym class. Whether the harassment is tied into actual athletic ability or physical coordination was not clear (discrimination by morally conservative coaches based on their views on being gay, regardless if the students plays well or not, seems to be more the focus there). 

 

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