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Gay Is Good: The Letters of Franklin Kameny

Gay Is Good: The Letters of Franklin Kameny

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Kameny to Ann Landers

Kameny attempts to persuade the famous advice columnist Ann Landers that her beliefs about homosexuality are based on faulty data.

January 6, 1966

Dear Miss Landers:

... You say that “I have heard from thousands of homosexuals these past ten years and most of them are unhappy, frightened and lonely. They long to lead normal lives —.” You are making the same error that innumerable psychiatrists, clergymen, and others do who consider themselves knowledgeable about homosexuals but who really are not so — you are seeing a biased, slanted, grossly atypical sample, and are generalizing from it — falsely so.

With a few exceptions, ONLY the unhappy, frightened and lonely homosexuals write to you for advice. Why would the others do so? Why would the very many happy, confident, socially active and gregarious homosexuals have occasion to write to you? Most homosexuals are not as you describe them, and have NO desire to change to heterosexuality.

Similarly, only the disturbed or otherwise maladjusted homosexuals go to psychiatrists and clergymen, etc. As a result, entire books have been written about these maladjusted people as if they were typical of all homosexuals. They are not.

This can well be illustrated by the apocryphal story ... about two psychiatrists: First Psychiatrist — “But all my homosexual patients are seriously disturbed.” Second Psychiatrist — “Yes, but then all my heterosexual patients are seriously disturbed, too.”

Naturally so, or they wouldn’t be patients.

What percentage of the total number of people writing to you are unhappy, frightened, and lonely? — rather high, I should think. Do you really think that this is a representative sampling of everybody? Hardly.

Finally, have you considered that the reasons for the unhappiness, fright, and loneliness of many of these people lies, in major measure, with the prejudiced and discriminatory attitudes of the society around them, in which they live?

Suggesting that the cure for their unhappiness, fright and loneliness might be change to heterosexuality is like suggesting that the cure for the misfortunes that beset the Negro and the Jew, as a result of segregation, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism would best be cured by bleaching the Negro and converting the Jew to Christianity.

There are organizations working hard to solve the problems of the homosexual from the viewpoint from which those problems would be approached — as problems (basically, and primarily) in civil liberties, social rights, prejudice and discrimination; and (secondarily) as you correctly indicate, in adjustment of the individual homosexual to himself and to acceptance of himself and his homosexuality. These organizations deserve your support. I enclose a brochure of the more important of them. ...

Sincerely yours, Franklin E. Kameny

Landers replied to Kameny on January 13, referring to his letter as “extremely interesting and certainly one of the most realistic and intelligent I have ever read on the subject of homosexuality.” She added that she had “passed your letter around to every member of my staff since I felt that the points you make will certainly add to their understanding.”

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Kameny to Rae Kameny

In early 1966, not long after Kameny had come out to his mother, the two of them corresponded about his homosexuality. Initially, Rae Kameny did not react positively to news about her son’s sexuality. “Now that I can no longer hope that my guesses are wrong,”she wrote, “I am weighed down with anawful sense of guilt — guilt as being in some way responsible in the first place and guilt for not having had the courage to bring it up long ago, when perhaps something could have been done.” But she also added that had the two of them talked about his homosexuality earlier, she could have offered practical help on ways to cope in an  unwelcoming world. “When you took that job in Ireland,” she wrote, “you did not discuss it ... and I know you were terribly disappointed when it didn’t work out. When you took the job in Georgetown U. it was the same. I might have pointed out that the climate in Washington was much worse than in N.Y., that you would be better off in a non-religious institution, or, if in one, to at least be careful about airing your views. Then, knowing your situation, someone might have pointed out the risks of taking a job with the Government.” Clearly, Kameny’s mother was pained by his lack of openness about his personal life. “You say that in your field virtually all jobs require a security clearance,” she penned. “How did you lose it in the first place?”

March 2, 1966

Dear Mother,

... Yes, I DO actually believe that the direction of my life is NOT a problem — not one whit more than your religion is a problem, or a Negro’s skin color is a problem.

I did NOT say that it’s something that I do not wish to discuss with you ... and I suggest you cease drawing such conclusions.

I think that if we are going to attempt dialog on these matters, you had better understand — CLEARLY — what my position is.

I do NOT look upon homosexuality as a sickness, disorder, disturbance, affliction, ailment, or something which, in ANY sense at all, is wrong or awry. It is simply a minority state, FULLY on par with the majority heterosexuality.

You say that you wish that I had discussed this with you earlier, when something might have been done. This overlooks two important facts.

1. Nothing could have been done at ANY time — regardless of the misguided information which might have been given to you by some psychiatrist.

2. You completely omit consideration of whether I would have wanted “something to be done.” I assure you that in company with the vast majority of the 15 million fellow homosexuals in this country, I would NOT have wanted “something to be done” and would not have allowed it, or cooperated with you — at ANY age.

I will continue to draw analogies with various minority groups—I consider them to be FULLY valid analogies. You would not have cooperated in any attempts to “do something” about your Judaism at any age — and you would have been quite correct. The same applies to me. ...

Now this is NOT the tragedy which folklore makes of it, and which folklore you have accepted, hook, line, and sinker. My life, through this, has been fascinating, exciting, varied, stimulating, interesting, full (in every good sense) in a way that it would and could never otherwise have been. It is a life right in human and personal values. It has been termed, by heterosexuals who know me, as one of the most colorful lives, and I as one of the most colorful persons they know.

I have good and close friends everywhere, in greater number than I think you can imagine. I would not change for all the money in the world. You need have no sense of guilt. I don’t think that you made me as I am in this context. I see nothing to blame you about if you did—you also made me a human and sensitive person; one with a brilliant and trained mind; one with an extraordinary personality (in every good sense), and many other things. ...

If some of these characterizations of myself seem to you not to be the Franklin you know—remember, also, that I have been telling you, for almost 30 years, that you have never seen the real me.

Again, you need feel neither guilt nor grief. If you DID make me as I am — I thank you for it. ...

With much love, Franklin


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