There are all kinds of gays in the world, and we’re not just talking about Grindr categories. Since the dawn of time, the gays have been trying to create a working typography that encompasses every possible type of homosexual, from otters to bears to butch queens to Sondheim lovers to farty muscle bros. It’s just what we do!
Therefore it should come as no surprise that these attempts at categorization have been taking place even as early as the 1950s, before gay sex was decriminalized in the states and abroad. Recently, a Reddit user uploaded a page from British author Richard Hauser’s 1962 book “The Homosexual Society,” and it gave the readers of r/gaybros quite a bit to chew on.
As the chapter of contents clearly shows, there is many a type of homosexual to be seen strolling along any urban boulevard. The question is…how do we find out which kind we are?
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Even though this UK publication—commissioned by the UK Home Office—was written by straight people for the purposes of research, it’s kind of great to glance through. Some categories—such as “the paedophile” are a sign of the backwards thinking around gender and sexuality that we’ve come to expect from 60s media. But others are incredibly spot-on. As one poster commented, “These classifications we know are obsolete but, deep inside, we know they are not completely wrong.”
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For instance, it’s hard not to glance at “the pub type” and “the club type” without having a few friends instantly come to mind. Many commenters identified with “the poor homosexual” and “the War queer,” while others felt the descriptor of “the tired homosexual” put it perfectly.
But how did this report come about in the first place? It’s an interesting story. As you may already know, the Criminal Amendment Act of 1885 made all sexual activity between men illegal in the UK, punishable by years of imprisonment and hard labor. By the 1950s, however, attitudes were changing in England, and a man named Sir John Wolfenden, serving as the chairman of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, was about to change history forever. His 1957 guidance—known as The Wolfenden Report—recommended that sex acts between men no longer be subject to persecution under the law, and although the report came out too late to help Wolfenden’s own gay son—the fascinating Cold War spy and man-about-town Jeremy Wolfenden—it did do the work of shifting public attitudes about gay men from a place of horror and opprobrium to one of curiosity and understanding.
Obviously, not all at once, and not overwhelmingly—but it was a start. When Hauser’s “The Homosexual Society” came out in 1962, it was at the dawn of that era. “Before we started work,” Hauser writes in the introduction, “we decided that this was a department of life which in recent years had been brought more in the light of day but that, nevertheless, much misery and unhappiness was still being endured by many people through misunderstanding and prejudice.”
Hauser’s book, then, was an attempt to set the record straight, if an imperfect one. And it’s something of a minor miracle that we can still get something out of it today, even if it’s just laughs.
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