How Far We Have Come


Hendrik Hertzberg remembers Stonewall:

Even in the legendarily liberated nineteen-sixties, mainstream attitudes toward homosexuality were benighted to a degree that is difficult to exaggerate. “Sodomy” between consenting adults was against the law almost everywhere. “Perversion” was a firing offense throughout the federal government, not just in the military. The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a “sociopathic” mental disorder. In the Daily News, gays were “homos.” In 1966, three years before Stonewall, Time, then the voice of middlebrow, middle-class respectability, published a long essay on “The Homosexual in America.” The magazine, while acknowledging that “homosexuals are present in every walk of life,” concluded that homosexuality

is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding and, when possible, treatment. But it deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in tasteand, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.

Hilzoy reacts to the above excerpt from Time:

For some reason, the tone in which this is written bothers me almost as much as the content: it's somehow curdled. The condescension, the fake knowingness, the pervasive underlying "heh heh heh" -- it sets my teeth on edge. As long as one gay man or lesbian is denied the right to marry, or legally discriminated against because of his or her sexual orientation, or asked to leave the military after honorable service, we haven't come far enough. But we have come a long, long way.

(Graph from John Sides)