% IssueDate = "11/10/03" IssueCategory = "Reviews" %>
Society and the Healthy Homosexual by Dr. George Weinberg, 1972, St. Martin's Press, 150 pages
Dr. George Weinberg is a straight psychologist who is widely credited with coining the term "homophobia" to describe the fear many people express about homosexuals. His book Society and the Healthy Homosexual caringly described the problem of homophobia and it boldly rejected the prevailing medical opinion that homosexuality was a mental illness.
The title of Weinberg's book humorously mocks an archetypical 1953 book Society and the Homosexual by Gordon Westwood (with introduction by Dr. Edward Glover) that proclaimed, "The [homosexual] man determined to break society will be involved in all kinds of psychopathic crimes; these may seem to have no outward connection with his homosexuality, but a number of seemingly unrelated crimes are often found to have a homosexual origin." Westwood's opinions about society and the "unhealthy homosexual" were widely accepted as being true by virtually all psychiatrists of that era.
On the "Acknowledgements" page of "Society and the Healthy Homosexual," Weinberg credited the gay activism pioneers Lige Clarke and Jack Nichols, editors of GAY for always giving him "a free hand in writing for their newspaper." Weinberg also mentioned his "old friends" Dr. Franklin Kameny and Kay Tobin, author of The Gay Crusaders. Pictures of Nichols, Clarke, Kameny and Tobin now adorn the Gay Today masthead.
George Weinberg's book was very timely. Although it was written for a non-professional audience, it undoubtedly helped in an effort, which was led by psychiatrist Judd Marmor, to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1974. If nothing else, the book's plain English prose helped many gay people feel psychologically better.
1972 was a watershed year for gay nonfiction books. "Lige and Jack" wrote I Have More Fun With You Than Anybody with Weinberg's encouragement. (See Gay Today Review 3/10/03, http://gaytoday.com/reviews/031003re.asp ) Other influential books included The Gay Mystique by Peter Fisher and The Gay Insider/USA by John Paul Hudson (a.k.a. John Francis Hunter). (See Joe Kennedy, "New York Pays Tribute to John Paul Hudson," 6/24/02 http://gaytoday.com/garchive/penpoints/062402pp.htm ) Until 1972, gay nonfiction books were not widely available in mainstream bookstores across America. (Although Martin Hoffman's 1969 book The Gay World was heavily promoted nationwide by the Psychology Today magazine mail-order book club.)
The Oxford Dictionary credits Weinberg for coining the word "homophobia." One historian (Byrne Fone, Homophobia: A History, Henry Holt, 2000) has speculated that the word was coined in the 1960's and he referenced a 1971 paper by Kenneth T. Smith entitled "Homophobia: A Tentative Personality Profile." (Psychological Reports, 1971, 29, 1091-1094) Fone also quoted George Weinberg's definition of homophobia as "the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals." In my opinion, using only this quote overly diminishes Weinberg's book. I have found this exact, but misleading, quote repeated in other secondary source material. (See below for a more complete set of quotes)
Also, Byrne Fone did not mention Weinberg's explanation of who inspired Smith's homophobia study. In Weinberg's book he clearly states, "A colleague of mine, Kenneth Smith, who read a paper of mine on homophobia, did one of the first pieces of research on homophobia that I know of." (pp. 132-136)
Last summer, I did an exhaustive computerized and physical page-by-page search for homophobia references in over fifty years worth of archival journals (the professional peer-reviewed journals that all university libraries index and expect to keep forever). The first publication of the word "homophobia" in an archival journal does indeed appear to be Smith's paper. However, it is indisputable that it was Weinberg's book that popularized the concept of "homophobia."
It is possible that a homophile or gay activist newsletter, such as The Ladder, published the word "homophobia" before 1971 because Weinberg had been writing papers and giving speeches to these groups for many years. (See The Ladder 1965 reference below and 1966 reference in Rodger Streitmatter's book Unspeakable, Faber and Faber, 1995, p. 109, p.364n.85-86)
Nichols also pointed out that the word "homoerotophobia" was defined in Wainwright Churchill's 1967 book, Homosexual Behavior Among Males, to refer to sex-negative attitudes in culture. The root word "erotophobia" has always referred to the fear of sexual love, a concept that is different than homophobia. Nichols does not think either Clarke or Weinberg were consciously aware of "homoerotophobia" when he discussed "homophobia" with them.
Kenneth T. Smith's fairly small 1971 homophobia study was designed to provide only guidance for a larger study. Incredibly, for a mere pilot study, it yielded several statistically significant conclusions that have been reconfirmed by later research. Smith's study concluded, "It appears that the homophobic individual is status conscious, authoritarian, and sexually rigid. He does not seem to be rigid about appropriate non-sexual behavior for men and women. He probably does not see homosexuals as a minority group, per se, since he is accepting of rights for blacks but not homosexuals. Instead, he may view homosexuals as sick, in which case his anxiety about mental illness may be projected onto the homosexual. His attitudes toward security and pleasure motive appear comparable to those of non-homophobics. His stance on pacifism and censorship and his religious affiliation require additional study. He may be attracted to the nursing profession."
While referring to Smith's research, Weinberg optimistically predicted, "Very likely, there will be hundreds of such studies in the future (as there have been thousands of research studies on the prejudice of blacks in recent years), and so I am happy to report on this one as possibly the first of its kind." (Page 133) In fact, Weinberg's book did inspire many homophobia research studies.
Unfortunately, homophobia research got off to a slow start. When homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in 1974, the funding for "homosexual" research was diverted to study "homosexual pedophilia" and "gender identity disorders." In the 1980's, anti-gay Reagan administration policies further inhibited much of this research. In addition, homophobia research studies that were funded in the 1980's, by necessity, focused on the AIDS tragedy.
Fortunately, basic homophobia research ramped up again in the 1990's. For example, one peer-reviewed scientific study found that men who have a negative view of homosexuals get more erections while viewing homosexual pornography than other men. In other words, homophobes are sexually aroused by gay sex. (H.E. Adams, et al., (1996) "Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?" Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 440-445)
Another study tested the hypothesis that aggressive homophobic behavior occurs in men who are conflicted by simultaneous feelings of arousal and anger over homosexuals. This finding may explain why homophobes, such as Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, heatedly demand that homosexuals "keep it private" and stay in the closet. The mere presence of gay people may cause sexual arousal in homophobes, which makes them violently angry. (Jeffrey A. Bernat, et al., (2001). "Homophobia and physical aggression toward homosexual and heterosexual individuals," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 179-187)
As with all good books that people hoard, Weinberg's book is hard to find in used bookstores and even on the Internet. I was fortunate to find a library copy in its original dark red binding, but it was well worn and without the colorful book jacket. (A black and white picture of the book jacket is shown on page 66 of Jack Nichols' chapter introduction in Long Road to Freedom, edited by Mark Thompson, St. Martin's Press, 1994)
Given the recent brouhaha over the privacy of library records, I was amused to find the old library check out card still in the back of the book. Before this library converted to an electronic checkout system in 1987, patrons printed their name and Social Security number on the card, which was then stamped with a due date and kept by the library until the book was returned. The last checkout was in 1981 to a student that lived in a fraternity according to the student directory.
My old college library had a similar publicly visible checkout scheme. I was too scared in 1973 to sign my name and so I recall reading Society and the Healthy Homosexual while sitting in the library. I couldn't "steal" it as many 60's radicals recommended because everybody was physically searched at the exit. Today, electronic tags bound into the book spines will trigger an alarm at the exit. Library records may be "private" now, but government mandated library software programs censor and keep track of everything kids read. This is progress?
Thirty-one years after Society and the Healthy Homosexual was published, I am impressed with how well it has withstood the test of time. Virtually every psychology book from this era is grossly out-of-date. This book remains valid due to Weinberg's reliance on common sense instead of the then fashionable psychotherapy dogmas. This is also a testimony to how revolutionary and forward-looking the book really was.
Surprisingly, perhaps because this book was not meant to be a scientific work, Weinberg does not provide a succinct definition of homophobia even though the first chapter is titled "Homophobia." To be fair, Weinberg did not pretend to have all the answers and he expected future research into homophobia would catch up with similar research that had been done on racism. Despite lacking a completely formed definition of homophobia, anybody who read the book would recognize homophobia when they saw it. Just like the Supreme Court judge who famously said he couldn't define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it.
Weinberg's definition of homophobia can be gleaned from the following passages in the book:
"The prevailing attitude toward homosexuals in the U.S. and many other countries is revulsion and hostility." (First sentence in Preface, no page number)
"This book is in part an examination of a disease called homophobia - - an attitude held by many non-homosexuals and perhaps the majority of homosexuals in countries where there is discrimination against homosexuals." (Third and fourth pages of Preface, no page number)
"I would never consider a patient healthy unless he had overcome his prejudice against homosexuality. Of course if the person is himself homosexual, the prejudice he holds is barring the way to easy expression of his own desires. But even if he is heterosexual, his repugnance at homosexuality is certain to be harmful to him." (Page 1)
"A fellow looked at a reproduction of Michelangelo's painting of Adam on the wall of my office, and turning away, told me he hated it. . . he turned away in disgust from perhaps the finest nude ever drawn." (Page 3)
"What causes homophobia - - the dread of living in close quarters with homosexuals - - and in the case of homosexuals themselves, self-loathing? Volumes have been written - - by psychologists, sexologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and physiologists - - on homosexuality, its origins and its development. This is because in most western civilizations, homosexuality is itself considered a problem; our unwarranted distress over homosexuality is not classified as a problem. Homophobia is still part of the conventional American attitude." (Pages 4-5) As mentioned above, part of this quote has been used out of context in several histories.
Weinberg has said he selected the suffix "phobia" because he believed "the roots of homophobia is fear." (See Gay Today "George Weinberg, Ph.D. Interview," 2/3/97, http://gaytoday.com/garchive/interview/020397in.htm "George Weinberg: Love is conspiratorial, deviant and magical," 11/1/02, http://gaytoday.com/interview/110102in.asp ) Intellectual homophobes characteristically nitpick that the word uses Greek and Latin incorrectly.
The traditional definition of a phobia is something that causes excessive fear and anxiety. In addition to fear, Weinberg's numerous examples of homophobia also included components of revulsion, disgust and prejudice. Recent functional MRI brain scans show that different regions of the brain are activated by the emotions of "fear" and "disgust." The differences between the emotions of "fear" and "disgust" may be significant in understanding homophobia.
For example, the look and smell of dirty diapers will "disgust" most people, but very few people have a diaper-phobia that makes them "fearful" and "anxious" about diapers. People hate disgusting things, but disgusting things also fascinate them. (See "Oh, Yuck!" Josie Glausiusz, Discover, December 2002, pp. 32-34)
A recent study found homophobia to be a "disgust" reaction instead of a "phobia." These researchers believe homophobia is psychologically closer to racism. (University of Arkansas psychologists presented this finding at the June 2002, American Psychological Society convention, New Orleans http://altpenis.com/penis_news/20020509222641data_trunc_sys.shtml Significantly, Weinberg also observed this similarity between racism and homophobia over thirty years ago.
The results of this study are credible even though they have not been confirmed. However, I am concerned that anti-gay individuals, who typically deny being homophobic, will misinterpret the lead author's conclusion that "homophobia shouldn't be pathologized." All modern definitions agree that homophobia is a mental illness if it causes harm or disabling distress. To suggest otherwise only enables the denial of homophobic individuals who naturally resist being labeled as mentally ill.
Racism and homophobia are equally wrong but are worse when they occur together. U.K. activist Peter Tatchell's essay "Homophobia: Why can blacks bash gays?" (New Statesman, 14 October 2002, pp.14-15) discusses "the crushing strength of black homophobia." Twenty-five mostly black fans of reggae anti-gay lyrics, such as "Kill the batty boy" and "Kill the chi chi men," recently kicked and punched Tatchell for protesting this hate music.
Anti-gay religious training also breeds homophobia. A recent scientifically sampled campus-wide study at Texas A&M measured this relationship as part of a larger study about the acceptance of women at this formerly all-male, all-military school. Unlike previous studies, this one looked to see if the 18 to 19 year old students that were raised in more conservative religions were more homophobic than other students. The authors' multi-variable statistically significant results confirmed this hypothesis. However, the authors found highly homophobic persons even in liberal religions, which means that religious training is not the sole cause of homophobia. Consistent with President Bush's beliefs and most religious teaching, homophobic Texas A&M students typically do not support discrimination against gay people, but they also believe that homosexuality is immoral and dangerous to the family. This type of homophobia would explain why so many people oppose gay marriages and gay clerics while they simultaneously oppose discrimination. (Barbara Finlay, Carol S. Walther, "The Relation of Religious Affiliation, Service Attendance, and Other Factors To Homophobic Attitudes Among University Students," Review of Religious Research, Vol. 44, No. 4, June, 2003)
I believe we should be compassionate with homophobes and encourage them to seek treatment, to overcome their psychological distress about homosexuality, before they cause any harm. I also pray to God that homophobia research will lead to a cure or treatment for homophobia. Maybe then we can provide a cure to the radio talk-show host Dr. Laura who said homosexuality is a "biological error." (How about creating a web site www.HopeForHomophobes.org?)
All kidding aside, Weinberg's book does list five chief motives for homophobia. Remarkably, all of them remain true today. The first and most obvious one is the religious prohibition against homosexual behavior. (p. 8) Like the study mentioned above, Weinberg concludes that homophobia cannot be blamed solely on the Church. I agree, but the role religion plays in homophobia is often denied or underestimated as the above study confirmed.
The second motive is "the fear of being homosexual oneself." (p. 11) Weinberg illustrates this with an audience member's reaction to a speech given by Dick Leitsch of the New York Mattachine Society at Ohio University: "But you see, Mr. Leitsch, if you take the laws away, and the social stigmas too, against homosexuals, then everyone will be homosexual."
Weinberg said Freud called this a "reaction formation." Another example of this was the case of President Johnson's long-term personal assistant Walter W. Jenkins. In 1964 Jenkins defended the reinstatement of a file clerk, who had been fired for homosexual acts done as a minor, with the excuse that the clerk "would not actually control air traffic." Ironically, just months later after tacitly agreeing to the irresponsibility of homosexuals, Jenkins was fired for having sex with another man. (p. 12)
"Another motive for resentment toward homosexuals," said Weinberg, "is that they are seen as constituting a threat to one's values," such as marriage, a good job, a good family name and money. "Anyone who does not adopt a society's usual value system runs the risk of being seen as undermining society." (p. 16)
All of the above motives eerily mimic the recent concerns about the legalization of "homosexual sodomy" that were expressed by Senator Bill Frist and Justice Scalia. Homophobes fear that legalized "sodomy" will cause society to descend a "slippery slope" to moral depravity where all deviant behavior is legal. (GayToday, "'Separate but equal?" Scrutinizing the sodomy decision," http://gaytoday.com/viewpoint/070703vp.asp July 7, 2003)
Weinberg's fourth motive for homophobia is "repressed envy." (p. 12) Weinberg proposes that straight men are envious of the fact that gay men can be happy without having to compete for women. Gays are also viewed as being free of the family duty of raising children. Perhaps this is why so many homophobes enviously accuse gays of demanding to receive "special rights" when they are only asking for "equal rights."
The final motive that distresses some people is "the thought of persons without children reawakens their fear of death. . . It jars these people to think the homosexual may not be concerned with leaving 'his own flesh and blood' after him." (p. 17)
In addition to the above motives, the issues of sexism and male privilege in our society are also mentioned as reasons for prejudice against homosexuals. The taboo of crossing male and female gender roles underlies the unwarranted assumption that gay men are crazy to forgo male prestige and power. (p. 21) Weinberg believes that "the homophobic reaction . . . is a form of acute conventionality. Ultimately, it condemns because of difference. It has every basic attribute of an irrational social prejudice."
This intense desire of homophobes to be conventional may explain why nearly two third of Americans oppose gay marriages while paradoxically agreeing that discrimination against gay people is wrong. In today's society, nondiscriminatory behavior is conventional and homophobes desperately want to comply. They hate being called homophobic because it says they are discriminating against gay people. As in the Reggie White case mentioned above, when homophobic behavior is pointed out, homophobes become angry and they will often assume the victim role by accusing gay activists of denying them their freedoms of speech and religion. Such hardened anti-gay behavior is nearly impervious to any rational response.
In Weinberg's view, homophobes think "that something is frighteningly wrong when a human diverges from the standardized pattern of existence." (p. 19) He notes that while the uneducated may react with overt hostility, those who consider themselves enlightened and educated will disguise their hostility by shifting their irrational fears to an intellectual level and presenting it as if it were rational.
Dr. Robert Epstein, who recently resigned as editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, is a classic example of an intellectual who has struggled to rationalize his homophobic behavior. (See Gay Today "Psychology Today Promotes Queer Alien Sex and Ex-gays" http://www.gaytoday.com/viewpoint/050503vp.asp and "Something is Queer about 'Psychology Today'" http://www.gaytoday.com/penpoints/110402pp.asp ) In an editorial defending the "rights" of homosexuals to seek ex-gay therapy, Epstein spent many words portraying him self as enlightened and educated about the biological and psychological origins of homosexuality, without mentioning that it is always unethical to coerce children into ex-gay therapy.
Weinberg thinks that the "ostensibly valid intellectual inquiry" into what causes homosexual development "is frequently an expression of hostility or fears, which become presented as if they were part of a serious intellectual exploration." He adds, "It is noteworthy that we seldom hear the question: How did a person become heterosexual?" (p. 19)
The question "What causes homosexuality?" is closely related to the homophobic question "How can homosexuals be cured?" In Chapter 3 ("The Case against Trying to Convert," p. 41) Weinberg lists the various methods used at that time to "convert" or "cure" homosexuals as follows: behavioral therapy, moral persuasion, the masturbation method, brain surgery, the use of electrical shocks or chemicals that make you nauseous when viewing homoerotic material, and "Homosexual Anonymous" support groups. Tragically, all of these methods are still being used.
Weinberg carefully rebutted the "hundreds of research studies" that claimed success in converting homosexuals into heterosexuals. Despite the fact that homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders nearly thirty years ago, a small but dedicated group of therapists are still providing unproven ex-gay therapies to children under the guise of treating a "gender identity disorder." (See "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality" http://www.gaytoday.com/reviews/122302re.asp ) The only proper use for this diagnosis is to bill insurance for surgery and hormone treatments performed on consenting adult transsexual or intersex individuals. Ex-gay therapy on children is always unethical as mentioned above.
Younger readers may find it hard to understand the negative emotional impact that these "therapies" had on all gay people back then. For a fictionalized but emotionally accurate impression of the medico-politics of the 1960's, I highly recommend watching Stanley Kubrick's 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange. The lead character Alex (played by a very young and sexy Malcolm McDowell) is subjected to "aversion therapy" to eliminate his desires for "sex and violence." The movie has pleasantly homoerotic undertones even though Alex is outwardly an overtly heterosexual working class lad. Alex's character represents the quintessential "rough trade" male hustler.
In A Clockwork Orange the conservative "law and order" politicians exploit Alex to demonstrate that murderers can be "cured" and released, which will allow prisons to be shut down and taxes to be cut. After Alex is successfully "cured" but accidentally "conditioned" during treatment to become sick while listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in D minor, the liberal "liberty and free speech" politicians try to undermine those in power by using Alex as an example of inhuman and totalitarian governmental policies. The conservative politicians, faced with losing the next election, blame the mess on "bad advice" from doctors. To "protect" Alex from "harm" the conservatives "put away" the liberal party's "subversive writer." Then Alex is provided with "reconditioning therapy" and an "adequate job and salary" to help the conservatives win. He tells the press he is now cured. "I was cured all right," he sarcastically says to himself. The movie is a metaphor for the politics of "curing" homosexuals.
Even though the "aversion therapy" scenes in this movie are fictional, they accurately reflect the methods used to "treat" homosexuality. In actuality, many homosexual men have been shown gay pornographic movies and then either electrically shocked or injected with a drug to make them sick. The idea is based on the same methods used to train a "bad puppy." (Apologies to http://www.badpuppy.com ) An electro-mechanical instrument measures the size and number of erections to see if the therapy is working. (The RigiScan penile plethysmograph is still being used by the Kinsey research lab: http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ercapub/v20n2/25c.html ) Results published in mainstream medical journals show that only a few bisexual men changed their behavior for a short while after aversion therapy, but no exclusively homosexual man has ever been "cured."
Regarding the treatments for homosexuality, Weinberg noted, "Only some of the treatment methods use punishment as such; but the effect of trying to wipe out one's sexuality is always punishing." After examining the literature, he found many of these treatments were based on "slip-shod" research and a lack of rigorous "experimental design and use of statistical methods." Ironically, homosexuals were not alone in needing treatment. According to Weinberg, the psychoanalyst Irving Bieber, who published the "definitive" psychotherapy study on homosexuality in 1962, once wrote that bachelorhood is symptomatic of psychopathology. (p. 38) The bachelor-Republican Florida U.S. Rep. Mark Foley should be concerned about this. (See "Foxy Family Values & Bachelor-Republican Politicians," http://www.gaytoday.com/penpoints/060203pp.asp )
In the 1987, second edition, of the 1975 book The Homosexual Matrix, author C.A. Tripp wrote that Irving Bieber had filed an official ethics complaint alleging that Tripp's book had "publicly impugned his 'scientific honesty' and credibility." (1987 Update DD, p. 287) In the first edition Tripp had accused (without explicitly naming Bieber) a "New York psychiatrist" of writing a "358-page book" claiming, "19 to 50 percent cure rates" for homosexuality, without ever showing another doctor a single successful case for verification.
In Chapter 2, "The Bias of Psychoanalysis," Weinberg predicts, "The day may come when prevailing psychiatric opinion will be that homosexuals are not all sick men and women. But it is not advisable for homosexuals to wait for this." (p. 35) Weinberg explains how psychoanalysts had misused Freudian theories about the origins of homosexuality to support their viewpoint.
Weinberg quotes a famous letter from Freud to a mother, telling her that converting her homosexual son into a heterosexual was unlikely and difficult as doing the reverse. It is clear from reading Freud's letter that by the 1950's psychoanalysts had incorrectly distorted Freud's work to justify their own homophobia. (A photo of the original letter is printed in the April 1951 The American Journal of Psychiatry, pp. 786-787)
To buttress the case against psychoanalysis and the view that homosexuality is a mental illness, Weinberg references Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, M.D. who wrote a series of influential books starting with his 1961 The Myth of Mental Illness that questioned the existence of "mental illnesses." (p.30) Szasz's work remains popular today with the controversial anti-psychiatry groups, Scientologists and "psychiatric survivor groups" that oppose any use of psychiatric drugs because of their potential for harm. Szasz's work has also been misused to justify shutting down mental hospitals without providing for the truly ill.
Despite the continuing controversy over Szasz's work, his observations about psychoanalysts were insightful. For example, Karl Menninger, who Weinberg labels as a "supposedly progressive psychoanalytic spokesman," once "advised a homosexual man to live continently." (p. 30) Szasz observed that this "bears out the suspicion that his medical role is but a cloak for that of the moralist and social engineer."
In Chapter 4, "The Healthy Homosexual," Weinberg said that a higher percentage of "gay liberation leaders" had never suffered from guilt. Later research confirmed this idea. (Walter G. Stephan, "Parental relationships and early social experiences of activist male homosexuals and male heterosexuals," Journal of Abnormal Psychology (1973) 52:3, 502-513. The "activists" in this study were gay men in Jack Baker's University of Minnesota FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) group, which I joined in 1972.)
"Why never any guilt in your case?" Weinberg asked Randolfe Wicker, one of the first in the movement to declare him self to be homosexual on national television (The Les Crane Show in 1964. Wicker's picture is also included in the Gay Today masthead.)
Wicker replied, "Well, my mother was hard of hearing, and she was not a trusting person. So I guess people's opinions didn't matter much."
Weinberg notes that in 1972 "it is still considered a freak-show when homosexuals are allowed on a major network to present their case. They are usually asked in advance not to 'get political,' which means not to discuss the unfair penalties against homosexuals." (p. 105) In other words, homosexuals had to portray themselves as "victims" in need of "compassion" rather than as "political activists" asking for something. Today there are many gay voices on TV, but Fox News host Bill O'Reilly still admonishes gay activists that they are "hurting their cause" by not "shutting up" about their "lifestyle."
Also in Chapter 5, Weinberg talks about "Communication with Parents." He quotes the notorious 1968 book by Peter and Barbara Wyden, Growing up Straight, which remains popular with ex-gay groups. The late Peter Wyden is the father of Oregon's U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. Not long after Wyden wrote this book he committed Ron's brother to a mental institution. (Including a brief stay at the famous Menninger Clinic) It is unclear why Peter Wyden was so obsessed with raising two "straight" sons that he would write a book about it. Are Wyden's sons gay?
Weinberg quoted Wyden as telling parents that it was natural to reject their gay children: "Almost everybody gets anxious in the presence of abnormality. Few of us are comfortable with a deformed person. Almost everybody is happy to leave the hospital after visiting a sick friend." (p. 93) In a 1998 book, Wyden poignantly discusses how he "handled" his son's long-term struggle with "schizophrenia," which many 1960's psychiatrists blamed on bad parenting.
Instead of shunning your child as the Wydens recommended, Weinberg advises parents to seek out reading material in the libraries of "homophile groups" in lieu of looking in medical books under "deviancy." He cautions how Congressman Dowdy from Texas tried to pass a bill in 1964 that would "deny homophile groups the right to solicit funds desperately needed to present their viewpoints." (p. 104)
Weinberg also provides tips on "coming out." His advice is as valid today as it was then. I know that his advice helped me when I came out to my mother thirty years ago. Her first reaction was to ask me what it was she did wrong. I was prepared to calmly assure her that she had done nothing wrong. A school psychologist had previously blamed her for my effeminate behavior in the third grade.
The final chapter, "The Dread of Being Alone," wraps up with the advice that "it is easy to confuse one's special condition with the deep sense of aloneness felt by every human who reflects on his life, and about which nothing can be done. Homosexuals must not err in paying sizeable fractions of their incomes to experts in the hope of getting rid of this aloneness."
Before I wrap up, I would like to share three of the many tributes to George Weinberg that I stumbled across while reviewing thirty years of homophobia literature:
L. Page "Deacon" Maccubbin, who recently purchased the legendary "Oscar Wilde Bookshop" in New York City, told The Washington Post about how he opened his first gay bookstore in 1974. He specifically mentioned George Weinberg's book as being pivotal in his success. He added that gay bookstores were important because regular bookshops didn't carry them and people didn't check out library books - - they stole them. (The Washington Post, "Bookseller's Success Speaks Volumes: Lambda Rising Owner Helped Bring Gay Literature Out of the Closet," April 2, 2003, Nation, page C01)
The second one, a history of the pioneering lesbian group Daughters of Bilitis, credited, among other things, George Weinberg's speech on the dangers of psychoanalysis at the 1965 ECHO (East Coast Homophile Organizations) convention for causing their publication The Ladder to question the illness model of homosexuality and to refocus on "homophobia" as being the primary problem. (Kristin Gay Esterberg, "From Illness to Action: Conceptions of Homosexuality in The Ladder, 1956-1965," The Journal of Sex Research, Feb. 1990, 27:1, pp. 65-80)
The third one, Arthur Evans, who helped start the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969, credited "George Weinberg, a straight psychologist," for regularly attending GAA meetings and for coining the word "homophobia" after watching with fascination the group's "zaps" and "media responses." Evans said this was an "example of how theory can be rooted in practice." (Arthur Evans, "The Logic of Homophobia," Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Summer 2000, 7:3)
It may be hard to find an original copy of Society and the Healthy Homosexual, but it is not hard to find the homophobia research that was inspired by George Weinberg. The benefits of this research have been tremendous even though many of the problems of homophobia remain to be solved.