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Randolfe Wicker talks gay rights in 1972
August 9, 2013 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Ask a Homosexual
posted by latkes (16 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The second caller, at around 29:00, reminds me of this Onion article.
posted by John Cohen at 4:55 PM on August 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Amazing how the host changes his mind about gays in the military on the spot, from about 35:30 to 37:30.
posted by John Cohen at 5:05 PM on August 9, 2013


Can I get one of these with a spring so long it can slingshot around the sun, go back in time, and punch that obnoxious host in the kisser?

The man advertising the Gardena hose ar 2:20 sounded so much like Paul Frees I couldn't believe it wasn't Paul Frees. Now I'll have to start eating I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on my Pillsbury poppin' fresh rolls.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:25 PM on August 9, 2013


I AMA homosexualist.

Ask away, y'all.
posted by jph at 6:01 PM on August 9, 2013


Absolutely fascinating!

Despite the ignorance of the host and some of the callers, there seemed to be an earnest "I'm trying to understand; help me understand something I know nothing about" quality to the questions that surprised me quite a bit. The host tried to do a bit or moralizing here and there, but it never really got off the ground and he seemed to visibly rethink his own positions several times. There was none of the shrill Bible-thumping or outright hatred that I expected -- I guess that sort of thing is, ironically, more a part of the contemporary zeitgeist.

As a bit of an aside, that phone call with the woman who preferred gay bars because the men were nicer, less threatening, and treated her like a human being was just excruciating. The host's seemingly unconscious but shockingly blatant, condescending, and overbearing sexism was just jaw-droppingly atrocious -- and while Wicker states that he thinks the host is being "too harsh", it's clear that the host's behavior doesn't register to anyone as anything all that unexpected or out of the ordinary.

(And as a second aside: those commercials! One of them with Bill Cosby!)
posted by treepour at 6:11 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


what's with the theme music everytime they go to commercial? sounds like a couple drunk tuba players battling. (37:30 for a sample)
posted by mannequito at 6:18 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is an extremely interesting bit of history, thanks for posting it. I'm aware that circa 1972 homophobia was more or less the norm, but does anyone have a sense of how widely the specific "seduction into homosexuality" narrative the host and callers are pushing was accepted at the time? Did it actually approach conventional wisdom?
posted by passerby at 6:23 PM on August 9, 2013


The host's seemingly unconscious but shockingly blatant, condescending, and overbearing sexism was just jaw-droppingly atrocious

Yeah, that was the part where I really lost my patience with the host. I was fully expecting him to move right on to "Why are broads like you interested in assholes who lie and cheat on them instead of honest, nice, and caring guys like me?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:41 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm aware that circa 1972 homophobia was more or less the norm, but does anyone have a sense of how widely the specific "seduction into homosexuality" narrative the host and callers are pushing was accepted at the time? Did it actually approach conventional wisdom?

I did this post linking and quoting various Time magazine articles on "the homosexual"* from the '50s to '70s (with a different username) — you might be interested in reading what was written back then. Time magazine seems to be a pretty reliable barometer of conventional wisdom in the US. The article from 1975 says: "Another concern is that homosexuality will spread, especially among the young, if social sanctions are removed. No one knows whether this is in fact happening in the U.S. Homosexuals point out that the countries that have relaxed strictures against homosexuals—such as England and Denmark—do not report any upsurge in the number of gays. Yet serious analysts are confused and divided on the question."

* It's interesting how people used to refer to him in the singular, as if he were just one individual. And I'm not using male pronouns gender-neutrally! It's clear that the fascination is with the gay man; any reference to lesbians seems to be an afterthought. I'm thinking: back then, the whole idea of homosexuality was so dauntingly foreign to most people that the average person's mind could accommodate a maximum of one "homosexual" — it would be simply overwhelming to think that there were millions of different gays, each with his or her own distinctive personality and goals.
posted by John Cohen at 6:51 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "seduction" narrative was commonplace much later than 1972--consider that Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children" campaign against civil rights protections based on sexual orientation was wildly successful in 1977, with Bryant claiming, "As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children, therefore, they must recruit our children." I know that as a young, queer-identified person in the later 1970s, I often encountered questions about "who had made me gay," with an adult "instigator" being presumed by those querying.
posted by DrMew at 7:05 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the link John Cohen. It's interesting to me that out of that sampling of Time articles, while homosexuality as a sickness is a constant, the idea of it being contagious doesn't seem to pop up until the 1975 entry you quoted. It does make me wonder if the spread of that idea was fermented, even organically*, as a fear-mongering response to the ever-so-marginal gains the LGBT rights movement was making at the time.

* i.e. as the most obvious shock tactic to fall back on, rather than a coordinated effort to make it a talking point
posted by passerby at 7:20 PM on August 9, 2013


...that phone call with the woman who preferred gay bars because the men were nicer, less threatening, and treated her like a human being was just excruciating. The host's seemingly unconscious but shockingly blatant, condescending, and overbearing sexism was just jaw-droppingly atrocious.

Yeah that part is definitely worth checking out, for all those reasons. It comes at around 38:50, or not too long after the drunk tuba players.
posted by mcmile at 7:48 PM on August 9, 2013


Randy is a friend of a friend of mine and I stayed at his place a few years back... he's definitely a character and his place was filled with bits of the gay rights movement, of which he was at the forefront. Glad to see he's getting a bit of web fame (e.g. wikipedia entry), he's certainly earned it.
posted by kevinsp8 at 8:45 PM on August 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah - I was most put off by the host towards to woman. I can see why he would say "come on, you're at a gay bar, of course the guys aren't going to hit on you." Which is what I thought he was saying, but then, dear god, the amount of privilege that fucker has.

What's interesting is that when Randy had said that the guy should be flattered, I was put off by that, because of, what eventually DID happen when the girl brought the topic up.

It's interesting to see how at least some of the conversation has shifted. I could hear what sounded a little like disdain from Randy when he mentioned some of the lesbians being frustrated with the patriarchy still playing a role in the early movement, and he was like "well *some* women" or something of that nature. But then later on during that part, he sounded much more genial towards women's lib, so who knows.

Also - yes, I was struck by the less rabid tone of discourse in this. Yes, there was the backwards, conservative stances or fears brought up, but at the same time, there did seem to be an honest attempt at understanding in some ways, especially from that first caller.

And it really depresses me to see how far we have fallen, but I suppose part of it is due to the fact that the white male power structure is being threatened along multiple lines, so they had to start barking because they're so afraid of "losing power" (whatever the fuck that means).

Speaking of - that point he had about how easy it was for him to build a reputation for himself when it wasn't known he was gay... that almost sounded like a libertarian/conservative "don't ask/don't tell" position. Meritocracy and all that. Color/orientation-blind. And I can understand his point - he wasn't necessarily praising that, obviously, as his whole point was that we shouldn't fire people just for being gay, but yet the way he framed that issue was definitely felt to me like more than an observation of the situation. I dunno.
posted by symbioid at 9:32 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wicker's articulate, reasoned common-sense approach in this interview is really amazing and moving. His practicality and sense of history-in-the-making is also funny:
I used the first money I made in the hippie-oriented anti-war slogan-button business to buy the first portable Sony CV video system. Using that equipment saved this one Pittsburgh appearance from the trash-bin of history. ... virtually none of the early appearances by LGBT activists even after Stonewall and into the 1970s have survived.

A few minutes in I decided (based on Slackers) his accent sounded like an Austin one , so it was fun to read in Wikipedia that's where he went to college.
posted by Twang at 10:53 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And it really depresses me to see how far we have fallen,

No, the more heated discourse today indicates how much progress we're making. Back then one of the main issues about gays in America seemed to be whether they should be allowed to have jobs at all! Today, no one questions that, and gays are allowed in the most controversial workplace for them to be in: the military. Back then, same-sex marriage was unthinkable; today, more than a quarter of the US population has same-sex marriage. It's not possible to have this much fundamental change in such a short period of time without some people getting angry. If you want all discourse to be "civil," you're in favor of no debate or progress.
posted by John Cohen at 4:58 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


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