A Lesbian Activist's
by Joseph Berger, M.D.
Comments on Homosexuality
Camille Paglia identifies herself as a lesbian and a
pagan. She must be one of the most attention-craving, histrionic activists
to burst upon the public in recent years. But she also writes brilliantly,
scorching those of whom she disapproves with a rare wit, literacy, and use
One would think it surprising that there might be any similarity between
Ms. Paglia's perspectives, and those of many NARTH members on such a bitterly
contentious issue as homosexuality.
But an essay on homosexuality by Ms. Paglia in her latest book, Vamps
and Tramps* provides remarkable support from a most unexpected quarter
for many of the views that some of us have held, and often expressed, for
I would like to note a few of the many comments made by Ms. Paglia, with
which I believe serious students of homosexuality will agree. Readers will
also pick up a small flavor of Ms. Paglia's colorful use of language.
(The comments that follow the quotations, in italics, are
"For the past decade, the situation has been out of control: responsible
scholarship is impossible when rational discourse is being policed by storm
troopers, in this case gay activists, who have the absolutism of all fanatics
in claiming sole access to the truth."
(Most of us who have written or spoken publicly will have
had this experience.)
"In the Eighties and early Nineties, displaced anxiety over the horror
of AIDS turned gay activists into rampaging nihilists and monomaniacs, who
dishonestly blamed the disease on the government...AIDS did not appear out
of nowhere. It was a direct result of the sexual revolution, which my generation
unleashed with the best of intentions, but whose worst effects were to be
suffered primarily by gay men. In the West, despite much propaganda to
the contrary. AIDS is a gay disease and will remain one for the foreseeable
(Ms. Paglia is scientifically correct.)
"I believe that the shocking toll of AIDS on gay men in the West was
partly due to their Seventies delusions that a world without women was
possible. All-male energies, unbalanced and ravenous, literally tore the
"No eroticism can be complete that denies the power of the female principle..."
(This is an interpretation, not a scientific statement, but
it is one that makes sense.)
"The gay activist establishment has been stupid and narrow in the way
it has conducted its civil rights campaign... There is no gay leader remotely
near the stature of Martin Luther King, because black activism has drawn
on the profound spiritual traditions of the church, to which gay political
rhetoric is childishly hostile. Shrilly self-interested and doctrinaire,
gay activism is completely lacking in philosophical perspective. Its sorrow
became the only sorrow, its disease the only disease."
(Let me offer a local example. The morning after a major
piece of legislation that would have accepted same-sex adoption and same-sex
marriages in Ontario in 1994 was rejected - despite a bitter public and
political fight - a gay activist publicly demanded that the legislature
suspend all other activity until it passed this legislation which a large
majority had just rejected.)
"Homosexuality is not 'normal.' On the contrary, it is a challenge
to the norm; therein rests its eternally revolutionary character Queer
theorists - that wizened crew of flimflamming free-loaders - have tried
to take the post structuralist tack of claiming that there is no norm, since
everything is relative and contingent. This is the kind of silly bind that
word-obsessed people get into when they are deaf, dumb, and blind to the
outside world. Nature exists, whether academics like it or not. And in nature,
procreation is the single, relentless rule. That is the norm. Our sexual
bodies were designed for reproduction. Penis fits vagina; no fancy linguistic
game-playing can change that biologic fact."
(Prominent examples of "post structuralists" who
do try to deny reality, would include the pro-life psychiatric writer Terry
Stein, and English professor Jonathan Goldberg.)
"Given the intense hormonal surge of puberty, the total absence
of adult heterosexual desire is neither normal nor natural. "
(How true, and again Ms. Paglia confirms what we as therapists
have been noting for some time. But it must be realized that there is no
doubt that the propaganda has had an effect on the general public, who seem
to be increasingly accepting of these notions.)
"I was the only openly gay person at the Yale Graduate School (1968-1972),
a candor that was professionally costly. That anyone with my aggressive
and scandalous history could be called 'homophobic,' as has repeatedly been
done, shows just how insanely Stalinist gay activism has become."
(Ms. Paglia can say things that we physicians, psychologists
and scientists cannot say without coming under attack for offending our
colleagues, or being accused of demonstrating bias and prejudice.)
"The 10 percent figure, servilely repeated by the media, was pure propaganda,
and it made me, as a scholar, despise gay activists for their unscrupulous
disregard for the truth. Their fibs and fabrications continue, now about
the still-fragmentary evidence for a genetic link to homosexuality and for
homosexual behavior among animals."
(Again, Ms. Paglia echoes what we have known scientifically
for some years, but none of us have dared express our views publicly in
"I used to feel that the old psychoanalytic model was inadequate
in describing the origins of homosexuality as, essentially, arrested development.
But it was true that all my gay male friends had powerful, dominating mothers
in the prototypical style."
"ACT-UP won substantial practical victories in its mobilizations against
the political and medical establishment, but its most crazed extremists
also did enormous damage to the public image of gay men that will take a
generation to undo. Flashed across the nation's television screens were
contorted male faces, raging, ranting, bawling like infants - 'Me, me, me!'"
Total attention and an instant cure were demanded, even though science had
failed to find a cure for any virus, even the common cold.. .Meanwhile,
more women were dying yearly from breast cancer than had succumbed to AIDS
in America over a decade. In April 1991, a monsoon hit Bangladesh and killed
125,000 people over one weekend - exactly the number of American AIDS casualties
to that point. I angrily asked a friend, 'Where is the quilt for those who
died in Bangladesh?' ACT-UP was selfishly selective in what it got angry
"...ACT-UP's hysteria made me reconsider those vilified therapists
and ministers who think change of homosexual orientation is possible and
whose meetings are constantly disrupted by gay agitators. Is gay identity
so fragile that it cannot bear the thought that some people may not wish
to be gay. Sexuality is highly fluid, and reversals are theoretically possible.
However, habit is refractory...a phenomenon obvious in the struggle with
obesity, smoking, alcoholism, or drug addiction... Helping gays learn how
to function heterosexually, if they so wish, is a perfectly worthy aim.
We should be honest enough to consider whether homosexuality may not indeed
be a pausing at the prepubescent stage when children anxiously band together
(A very reasonable and sober view of both the extremist attacks
that are made on those of us who believe that therapy has something to offer
some patients who may wish it, and of the difficulties and resistances,
conscious and unconscious, of many homosexuals.)
"Heterosexual love,. is in sync with cosmic forces. Not everyone
has the stomach for daily war with nature."
(Again Ms. Paglia expresses truths that therapists have known
for many years, but that have been denied by the extremists.)
"Men who shrink from penetration of the female body are paralyzed by
justifiable apprehension, since they are returning to our uncanny site of
origin It is not male hatred of women but male fear of women that is the
(Correct, Ms. Paglia.)
"The sexual segregation of gay bars following Stonewall was bad
for everyone. The men slid into orgiastic narcissism, and the women entombed
themselves in a gigantic burrow, the clogged honeypot of lesbian feminism...
Now that twenty-five years have passed, it's time to admit that lesbian
feminism has produced only the ghettoization and miniaturization of women...Women
never grow from the moment they enter the lesbian world. Hence one is deafened
in bars by the juvenile whooping and hollering of packs of lesbians greeting
each other like screeching teens arriving at a slumber party...When women
withdraw from men, as has been done on a massive scale in lesbian feminism,
we have a cultural disaster on our hands. In such a situation, men are divided
from themselves and women simply fail to mature. Lesbian feminists, for
all their ideals of sisterhood and solidarity, can treat each other with
a fickleness, parasitic exploitativeness, and vicious spite that have to
be seen to be believed."
"Lesbians are mournful sentimentalists, dragging around ancient family
baggage... A once-lesbian friend, now married, declared to me that lesbians
suffer from 'buried rage, with a desperate need for consolation.' I see
a persistent pattern among white middle-class lesbians: they often have
a decorous, passive-aggressive mother, who uses her daughter as a proxy
to act out her secret ambivalence toward men, in the person of the never
directly confronted husband."
"Today, when a freshman has an affair with another girl all the campus
social-welfare machinery pushes her toward declaring herself gay and accepting
and 'celebrating' it. This is a serious mistake... It is absurd to say that
one, two, or more homosexual liaisons make you 'gay' - as if lavender ink
ran in your veins. Young women are often attracted to each other during
a transitional period when they are breaking away from their parents, expanding
their world-views, and developing their personalities. To identify these
fruitful Sapphic idylls with a permanent condition of homosexuality is madness,
and the campus counselors who encourage such premature conclusions should
be condemned and banished. They are preying, for their own ideological purposes,
on young people at their most vulnerable."
(For many years some of us have been preaching precisely
this message, which also applies virtually identically to what happens with
"If a gay man wants to marry and sire children, why should he be harassed
by gay activists accusing him of 'self-hatred'? He is more mature than they
are, for he knows that woman's power cannot be ignored. If counseling can
allow a gay man to respond sexually to women, it should be encouraged and
applauded, not strafed by gay artillery fire of reverse moralism.
"I want to cry out to these girls: Stop! Think! Continue to love women,
but resolve your problems with men. If you expect achieve, learn how to
live in the real world. Men must be confronted, fairly and honestly. And
for heaven's sake, don't fall down the rabbit hole of the lesbian scene."
(Same applies to young men.)
"The hypocrisy of lesbian feminist politics is clear in the increasing
use among lesbians. .of sex toys and esoteric sex practices...what bothers
me is that the lesbian dildo craze stub-bornly avoids acknowledging its
anatomy-as-destiny implications. Why stop at dildos? If penetration excites,
and if receptive female genitalia are so suited to friction by penis-shaped
objects, why not go on to real penises? Dildos, used for thousands of years
around the world, have always been understood as temporary stop-gap measures,
in the absence of men... Any woman, gay or straight, who cannot respond
to penises or who finds them hideous or laughable has been traumatized by
some early experience. She is neither complete as a woman nor healthy as
a person. We can no longer allow, without protest, obsessives and neurotics
to preach a mutilated brand of feminism to trusting young women...Lesbians
who use dildos but shun penises must start admitting that they operate sexually
not just for women but against men."
(Once again it is refreshing to read Ms. Paglia use words
that we professionals have been virtually forbidden to use.)
"Visiting the elite schools on my lecture jaunts I am struck by
how the most militantly gay, Foucault-addled male students look like orphans,
with 12-year-old Huck Finn clothing styles and haunted, starved eyes. My
friend Robert Caserio says, 'Queer theory isolates them from reality.' This
is one reason why gay studies in its current separatist form, must be opposed."
"It is ridiculous to assert that gay men are interested only in other
gay men and would never ogle straight men in barracks showers. When I heard
this on TV I burst out laughing. Anyone who belongs to a health club knows
better. Sexual tension and appraisal are constants, above all among gay
men, who never stop cruising everything in sight. Seduction of straight
studs is a highly erotic motif in gay porn."
"Is homosexuality a permanent solution to the problem of the nuclear
family? Do we want the sexes forever divorced, in a state of permanent alienation?
Lesbianism is increasing, since anxious unmasculine men have little to offer.
Male homosexuality is increasing, because masculinity is in crisis... Current
gay cant insists that homosexuality is 'not a choice,' ... but there is
an element of choice in all behavior, sexual or otherwise. It takes an effort
to deal with the opposite sex; it's safer with your own kind. The issue
is one of challenge versus comfort."
(I think most NARTH members would agree with every word.)
"We should be aware of the potentially pernicious intermingling
of gay activism with science, which produces more propaganda than truth.
Gay scientists must be scientists first, gays second."
(See the criticisms that I and many others have made of such
events as the publication of on article by Bailey and Pillard on the Op-
Ed page of the New York Times on the same day that their research paper
was published, or the similarly grotesquely disproportionate publicity sought
by, and given to, LeVay and Hamer.)
"Midway through the AIDS epidemic, the media, having ignored homosexuality
or treated it in a lurid manner, did a quick flip-flop under activist pressure
and now continues its policy of unthinking cant by parroting the gay establishment
party line on every occasion. Gay activists have earned a reputation as
conspirators and casuists, because of their amoral tactics of deceit, defamation,
intimidation, and extortion...The gay activist obsession with condom distribution
(as if condoms were 100 percent effective) is a displacement of anxiety
from the real horror of AIDS."
(Considering that Ms. Paglia herself could be called a gay
activist because of her fervent espousal of homosexuality as being good
and desirable, this is a remarkable, very forceful criticism of some of
the serious problems created by gay activism.)
The above were some of Ms. Paglia's own words. They form a devastating
critique of the writings, pronouncements, and behavior of many who identify
themselves as homosexual and gay activist. They accurately reflect many
of the observations and conclusions of serious scientists and mental-health
professionals who question much of the inaccurate and untruthful propaganda
that has been distributed by gay activists and the media in recent years.
Only too often such propaganda has found its way into academic journals,
suggesting that the processes of evaluation and safe-guards that are applied
toward most scholarly submissions do not seem to be applied in the same
way to contributions from gay activists. Often the impression has been given
that poor quality work that happens to be pro-homosexual is accepted for
publication by journals whose usual standards would have led to the rejection
of the piece - had it not propagated a pro-homosexual position.
Ms. Paglia reminds us that within homosexual circles there still exist some
critics with clear minds, capable of rational thought, and the ability to
express such critical thought clearly, coherently, and entertainingly.
* Camille Paglia. Vamps and Tramps. Vintage Books, New York, 1994.
Joseph Berger, M.D., is fellow of the Canadian Royal College of Physicians
and Surgeons, a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology,
and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has served as an
Examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry for twenty years.
August 26, 1996.
From the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)
Bulletin, Vol. IV, Number Two, August 1996. 16542 Ventura Blvd., Suite
416, Encino, CA 91436.