To understand the development of trans culture in the West, you need to understand the development of the contemporary face of male homosexuality, The New Gay Man. He’s not as old as you think.
We have become used, in the West, to a particular type of homosexual men: outwardly masculine, good-looking, well-dressed, often cultured. It has become such a commonplace that today it would be easy to think that this representation of male homosexuality, the New Gay Man, has always existed and is, indeed, the only such presentation. In fact, the aim of many gay activists is to persuade the public that the New Gay Man is all homosexual men have ever been. But this is nonsense.
The truth is that the New Gay Man only came into existence in the late 1960s. Prior to that, in every piece of scientific and historical literature, homosexual men are presented as overtly feminine or effeminate, about as non-masculine as can be imagined.
Effeminacy goes back a long way
This image — of gay males being effeminate — goes back to the earliest known texts, the Hymns to Inanna, first written down in the Goddess city of Uruk in Sumer (the Biblical Erech) sometime before 3000 BCE. It persists through Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. Alexander the Great was famous for it.
All Roman Emperors, by repute, with the exception of Claudius, took boy lovers. In these cultures — which forbade intercourse between adult men — sex with a boy or a slave carried no opprobrium, as long as the man penetrated. This remains the case — to the horror of westerners, we are sure — across much of the world today.
It was the act of being penetrated that carried the shame and the sanctions.
Dr Michael Bailey, of NorthWestern University in Chicago described what was happening as ‘transgender homosexuality’. In this, one partner only penetrates, playing the male role, and the other only receives, playing the female one.(1)
This, then, was the face of male homosexuality — in Italy in the Renaissance, where rent-boys hung around street-corners, some to be immortalised by their artist lovers; or in the fetid sexuality of the molly-houses of the 17th and 18th centuries, where effeminate homosexual males would dress as women to have sex with men. It is the homosexuality that Quentin Crisp so eloquently described in pre-1960s London.(2)
Research in the 19th Century
When researchers like Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Havelock Ellis and Magnus Hirschfeld began to try to analyse what male homosexuality was about, in the 19th century, they universally described their subjects as highly effeminate. Ulrichs, who was himself homosexual, called them Urnings, and others ‘inverts’ — born males with feminine personalities and sexual desires.
In other words, until only around 50 years ago, a male homosexual was defined as effeminate and youthful (or at least youthful-looking); but mainly, as receptive in the act of anal sex.
So where did today’s butch buff ‘gay’; with his locker-room faux masculinity, replete with the odour of socks and liniment, come from? When did his aspiration towards masculinity appear? Because it simply does not exist before the 1960s, anywhere.
A little history
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States mobilised over 16 million men to serve in the World War. Most of these were boys from backwoods America, the land of cosy safe towns, mom and pop stores and church on Sundays; most definitely not the sort of place where an effeminate young homosexual male could easily survive.
If we apply the standard estimates of the prevalence of male homosexuality in the West, at between 1-5%,(3) we arrive at a lower bound of 160,000, and an upper bound of 800,000 full-blown homosexual males serving in the armed forces. Even if we take the lower, that is a significant total; and remember, we are talking here only about sexually receptive males, not their lovers.
At the end of WW2, the US’ armed forces were demobilised at two major centres: San Francisco on the west coast and New York on the east.
Not surprisingly, many of the homosexual males thus liberated decided that they were not going back to Hicksville, Wyoming, to marry Suzie Creamcheese and live the conventional American dream. After all, these were sexually receptive effeminate males who had been serving in the testosterone-heavy milieu of the armed forces. It is certain that many, if not all of them had had, as the delightful Quentin Crisp put it, ‘their minds broadened — as well as their anuses.’
The result of the demobilisation of such numbers of homosexual males was that large and obvious populations were established in New York and on the West Coast, where their descendants, at least figuratively, remain today.
The presence, and visibility, of these populations had two consequences. The first was that the broader society took notice — and reacted; the second was that the homosexual males began to group together to resist this social rejection.
The Mattachine Society
The first well-known homosexual male activist group in the US was called the Mattachine Society. This was formed in 1950 around a Marxist called Harry Hay, who was overtly effeminate and often cross-dressed. Despite this, he was actually married. It appears he did this in order to follow the Communist Party line, which was hostile to homosexuality.(4)
By 1961 the Mattachine had splintered into disparate regional groups with no central organisation. During that decade, these and other similar groups were taken over by a movement that later became known as the ‘accommodationists’. The best known voice for this movement is probably Jim Fouratt, who appeared during the Vietnam era. Fouratt was a regular feature of activism over the next four decades, becoming notorious for his anti-feminine stance — despite his own effeminacy.(5)
In essence, the accommodationist argument is that the best way to protect homosexual males — who would soon adopt the name ‘gay’ — from social rejection, was to hide in plain sight. No more girly mannerisms, effeminate voices, flouncing around or, heaven forefend, wearing dresses. At the same time advocates of open effeminacy were silenced.
At a stroke, the historic link between effeminacy and male homosexuality was, if not broken, disguised from public view. The accommodationists’ mantra has always been, ‘We’re just like other men, but we love men’. Masculinism, to coin a term, became the order of the day.
A problem that became obvious in the 1970s
In parallel with this new style came a change in the definition of male homosexuality: from now on, men who penetrated receptive males would also be considered homosexual.
These men had inhabited a somewhat vague Twilight Zone. As we have seen, myriad cultures either ignored, condoned or actively promoted the penetration of boys by men. Even in the West, such proclivities were generally swept under the carpet; a notable exception was Oscar Wilde’s conviction for sodomising boys in 1895.(6)
Now, however, ‘transgender homosexuality’ was to be replaced by ‘egalitarian homosexuality’. In this, the partners switch sexual roles and were both expected to appear to be masculine, since for at least part of the time they would penetrate.
This caused a problem. If gay men are invisible — appearing to be like other men — how do they find sexual partners?
Transgender to Egalitarian
The heterosexual men involved in ‘transgender homosexualism’ were not attracted to masculine males at all; often they were happily married. Indeed, Fouratt described the Stonewall Inn in New York, seat of the eponymous protests, as a haunt of ‘white boys and their married johns.’
These married men — who paid to penetrate rent-boys — did not consider themselves homosexual; this was because they were simply carrying on a tradition that has existed since long before Rome, largely without social repercussions. They persist today and as a result of concerns about the spread of HIV, have even been recognised with a new label — men who have sex with men, or ‘MSM’.(7)
It was their sexual partners’ effeminacy that attracted these men: with this gone, so were they. They were not interested in sex, and certainly not in relationships, with other men at all; they regarded boys — or very boyish young men — as a sexual delicacy. Perhaps more to the point, they were aficionados of anal sex.
Such men refused to join the ‘gay’ movement, because they were not attracted to masculinity and it is this — rather than the act of penetration — that the New Gay Man has defined himself in terms of.
In order to fly under the radar, the ‘married johns’ did one of the following: they went underground and carried on in secret; they gave up boys and went only with women, possibly seeking to penetrate them anally; or they sought out receptive transsexuals. These last, however, were and remain extremely rare in the West. Hello, Pattaya.
Clone Gay: the first New Gay Man
Their former lovers — and sources of income — having made other arrangements, homosexual men had to become each other’s lovers. For the New Gay Man lifestyle to work at all, both parties had to appear masculine and be prepared to penetrate. Thus was born the 70s ‘Clone Gay’ with his moustache, white tee-shirt and skinny jeans, the first widely-recognised incarnation of the New Gay Man.
The rigorous policing of gender behaviour that goes on within the New Gay
Man community, in order to reinforce this veneer of masculinity, leads to wider intolerance, most notably of transsexuals. This is why New Gay Man apologists today are so quick to erase the historical roles of transsexuals, ‘trannies,’ ‘queens’ and other feminine expressions of male homosexuality. After all, they are doing exactly what almost every New Gay Man would like to do but is forbidden to.
But there is an alternative.
Last month, in Manila, I watched, mesmerised, as a ladyboy made her way through a crowd outside the terminal at NAIA. It was broad daylight. With every step her buttocks twitched from side to side, her exaggerated sashay attracting the attention of everyone there.
‘Look,’ she was saying. ‘Look at my ass. Isn’t it taught and rounded? Isn’t it delightful to observe? Don’t think you can kid me, I know how sexy I am.’ To the men she said, ‘I know you want it; so be a man and come get it,’ and to the women, ‘Well, you may have boobs and a pussy, but I have this — and it’s all I’ll ever need.’
Nothing further from the affected faux masculinity of the New Gay Man could be imagined. That girl was sex on legs and she had the measure of her audience. You could see the men leering and the hostile glares of their wives.
Paradoxically, but for the intolerance of effeminacy that led to the appearance of the New Gay Man, she might have been the face of male homosexuality in the West.
Part Three next week!
1 The Man Who Would Be Queen (2003)
2 The Naked Civil Servant
5 In the row over the film Stonewall, Fouratt claimed that there had been no trans or black people at the eponymous riots. (http://bitterqueen.typepad.com/friends_of_ours/2017/04/nightlife-legend-jim-fouratt-on-drag-queens-and-people-of-color-at-stonewall-riots-the-problem-i-hav.html) This is in direct contradiction of Marsha P Johnson, who also claims to have been there. However, we note that in a 2015 letter to Mark Segal et al, available here (http://www.tangentgroup.org/foratt-on-stonewall/ ) Fouratt says that Johnson was indeed there. We suspect Fouratt is somewhat less than rigorous in his recollections.
6 It is likely even this would not have happened had Wilde not been so careless as to be intimate with the son of Sir John Sholto Douglas, an outspoken critic of homosexuality.
7 Not all MSM conform to the description above. Amongst them are many who seek to be penetrated, but they have been lumped in together as a catch-all. This derives from the term’s invention by HIV awareness campaigners who realised that these men simply would not respond to being called ‘gay’ or homosexual. I’ll discuss the variations in a future piece.
Also published on Medium.