The Ninth Street Center
by Bill Boushka
"You have an excellent opportunity to use your homosexuality," Dean Hannotte counseled me one weekday evening in April 1973 as we talked in a cozy East Village apartment, which looked more like a library than a residence. It even sported a table chess set with playable, Staunton pieces. Dean then reassured me that getting older was nothing to worry about; after all, his own lover, psychotherapist Paul Rosenfels, was 35 years his senior. I remember asking him about diseases, whether the lifestyle was "unhealthy," and he said no, because to "grow," I would eventually want to stay with one partner for life. That half-hour session with Dean provided me with my first credible, encouraging information about my recently discovered community, beyond the world of fern and leather bars, and tacky GAA dances at the Wooster Street "Firehouse."
I had seen the right ad in the Village Voice, something like, "homosexuality is more than sex." I could go to a new social center on East 9th Street, seven nights a week, and meet intact young men in a somewhat sheltered, non-competitive setting with Dean, Paul, and several other of Paul's "students."
Soon, I would take a new job in New York City and move in, to a modest but modern apartment a ten-minute walk from the Center. As I was leaving the old job (Univac), a manager asked, most inappropriately, "Bill, I'm curious about your personal motive for moving right into New York City."
Many nights I would step down into the basement "loft," cheerfully carpeted and painted in oranges and yellows, with chairs arranged in a circle for talk sessions and a kitchenette in the back. A "secret" passageway led to a second room for simultaneous counseling sessions. Several nights a week, various Center students facilitated Open Talk Groups. The Center sponsored a male nude drawing class, an acting class, and, for a while, a creative writing class. Saturday nights, each week reached a climax with the pot-luck supper, an incredible spread containing many of Paul's unusual dishes, like chicken aspic, which he and his pupils spent entire Saturdays preparing. "Homosexual," as opposed to "gay" or "lesbian," was the Center's way of describing a deviant aspiring to personal growth.
Paul had been self-publishing his ideas in a number of didactic books, the most important of which is Homosexuality, The Psychology of the Creative Process . (3) Paul organized his material into a highly structured message, with sections called "The Nature of Polarity," (4) "The Psychological Defenses," and "The Creative Process." His writing style consisted of alternating paragraphs precisely stating and expanding his principles from "feminine" (roughly speaking, introverted) and "masculine" (extroverted) viewpoints. His prose balances itself as if it were verse. He speaks of "men" generically, without the political correctness of inclusive language. He superimposes over his notions about the cultural and psychological significance of homosexuality a determination to use the scientific method to fully explore human nature and to develop, in a grassroots, communal setting, a more human world. He gives no references or footnotes; he writes naked truth developed using his own inner resources over a lifetime. He would speak in talk groups of a definitive science of human nature, with his own relatively sheltered community as a kind of lab. Philosophers had, however, often alluded to this polarity concept. For example, Plato spoke of personality "splits" and "double sort." (5) Goethe, in Faust, had referred to "the eternal feminine," in a passage which Liszt used in the triumphant male chorus ending his Faust Symphony, and Mahler, likewise, when ending his Symphony of a Thousand.
The polarity theory, in fact, quickly attracted underground notoriety among many New York City gay men, as a "heavy" head-trip of "so much shit," even if it never quite got the attention of the mainstream media. Polarity obviously originates in basic biology, where organisms develop both sensory and motor capacities. (6) Polarity surfaces in the animal world with intriguing sights, such as the possession of bright colors by many male birds to stake out territory and divert predators away from nests. Its precepts sound neat enough. Human beings are psychologically masculine or feminine, regardless of biological gender. Masculines like verbs and feminines prefer nouns. Feminines wonder "what" and masculines wonder "how." A son usually has the opposite polarity of his father. Polarity expands purely biological meiosis into a universal human touchstone. Some men would refer to themselves as having both masculine and feminine components, rather than to one or the other as an "identity."
Polarity, for Rosenfels, became a vehicle to develop and define inner identity, that which makes you "who you are." Psychologist James Hillman achieved a comparable body of science with his notion of a germinal personality "acorn," (7) the underlying will to express oneself with some singular purpose and avoid activities which contradict that purpose. Sometimes identity has a collective components, as when scientists like Carl Sagan note that our search for extraterrestrial life is part of our search for who "we" are, considered together.
The notion of "femininity," or of a "yielding" personality, seemed like a godsend to me. Love between men could be more than just the "mutual respect" my Army buddies had once mentioned. Men did not have to stop at shaking hands. [Masculinity could outgrow collective loyalties and the recklessness of ignorance without selling itself out.] I had already found the prospect of submitting to a great man (almost as if I were a "woman") incredibly titillating. I scoffed at religious prohibitions against "yielding to temptation." Another Center student would relate that he had experienced sex, and that this had been the most liberating event in his life, except. . . then what? In "yielding," I sensed an indirect, if perverse, source of personal "power," the absolute right to choose the person to whom I would "submit," and to hold him accountable to living up to my "ideals" of him. I wanted my ideals to look like men; I took after my father, who used to scream in revulsion when seeing young men (ungrateful hippies, he thought) sporting "long hair," like women's. Carried too far, however, I could soon resent my feeling of living in another man's shadow. I would just be draining another person as if I were a vampire, and ought to feel ashamed.
Paul Rosenfels soon developed his polarity paradigm by adding a second linearly independent component, "subjectivity" versus "objectivity." These concepts describe how the personality operates and approaches achieving its inner goals in a practical world. "Subjectivity" refers to intuitive and sensory facilities, the ability to "sense" the importance of things or undiscovered connections between them; "objectivity" refers to manipulative capabilities, actually motivating or managing other people. Center students now tell me that this second duality of character confused a lot of people over the years, but I think this second basis component helps to give a perspective on what makes actual, "live" people tick. The masculine-feminine and subjective-objective axes formed a system of coordinates appealing to a mathematician like me; the intellectual precept could quickly get in the way of deeper understanding through personal experience. Other concepts of personal character, expressed as analogues, were: love (or "charity") v. power, faith v hope, thought v. action, insight v. mastery, truth v. right, teacher v. leader, honesty (or honor) v. courage (integrity). (8)
Much more important, though, is what Paul means by "creativity," which in our culture now closely correlates to self-motivated deviancy. To get at this, Paul talks about psychological surplus as a benefit from civilization; surplus is a unique attribute of human beings. People use their capacities first to meet adaptive needs, such as providing food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their families. In an advanced society, there is more cooperation and more "efficiency" in meeting survival needs, and in providing political stability and security from outside threats. Surplus even allows people the luxury of emphasizing the processes they are best at performing. This is called character specialization. Technology does not have to be an evil that destroys the planet or magnifies inequities in wealth. It frees people to live their own lives as they see fit. Rosenfels has structured his "moral psychology" as a kind of Jeffersonianism, even if Rosenfels (unlike today's political libertarians) would have favored sensible use of the political process to deliver essential services such as clean water and safe bridges. Telecommunications and self-publishing technology, perhaps facilitated by corporate restructuring, now facilitate the expression and debate of daring ideas and the search for truth, to the discomfort of many people who don't like seeing old notions of men and women challenged. (Well, male homosexuals like me like the old notions of what men should look like!) Technology, though, if not accompanied by spiritual and character growth, can lead to a society's incineration, or slow, almost Mayan death through desecration of the planet.
Paul viewed as creative the development of psychological surplus (one's own feminine or masculine inner identity) in mated relationships, motivated by a need for intimate romantic fulfillment, whatever the social support of others. "Inner identity," means, to me, what makes me tick, how I communicate what in other people turns me on. Later, during the military ban debates (Chapter 4), the writings of Steffan and an interview given by Meinhold (among others) would reinforce this idea of identity achieved through emotional attachments, to ripen as "self-image." Creativity and personal growth give one importance to other people. But one becomes significant to other people by actually caring about them or motivating them. One does this with close personal friends and with the achievement of a mild level of earthy, erotic feeling or action. The ultimate expression of creativity is to be found in a lifelong mated monogamous relationship with another loved one, with the full expression of sexuality. There is tension between the ideal of lifelong fidelity and the practical likelihood that two self-actualizing individuals will, in time, "outgrow" a particular courting relationship. Beyond a single mated partnership (whether same-sex or not), there are other friends in a close-knitted community with whom one interacts out of inner identity. For the creative process to be fulfilled, one must be open to homosexual feelings and drives, even if they are not directly acted out. In Paul's world, any person capable of growth will eventually face homosexual needs; homosexuality is in some sense "chosen" through a greater personal need for romantic attachment and peak experience (a term popularized by Maslow), rather than a biological inevitability. Although personal growth implies eventual self-expression in homosexual intimacy along the way, it is much, much more; so a "gay identity" (if we look ahead to the military ban problem) need not, clinically speaking, suggest a propensity for frequent expansion into sexuality. But there is a continuum between affection and eroticism.
Surplus is a uniquely human capability. A stray, self-adopted cat drops a bird at my apartment door in gratitude, or a mockingbird repeatedly circles around me after chasing starlings out of his territory, seems to want to tap into our world where there are real problems beyond surviving. Creativity is enhanced when intimacy is openly recognized as possible, but kept in restraint. Boswell relates that the ancient Greeks recognized a continuity between friendship and love and sometimes valued homosexual "relationships" precisely because they were experienced for their own sakes, beyond procreation and even beyond physical sex. (9)
Since becoming more intimate with other people is indeed a scary experience, people develop psychological defenses, short circuits to temporary satisfaction through pseudo or surrogate dominance and submission mechanisms. These came up in talk groups, when some men would claim a kind of psychological, perhaps sequential hemaphroditism, with vacillation between yielding and power ("yang" and "yin", selfhood v. unity) impulse. I, for example, can gain a certain power over others by my developing secret insights through my talent for relating various problems and then sharing my "intelligence" with others in a selective way knowing that they will behave in certain ways because of their limiting predispositions combined with incomplete, and therefore misleading, knowledge. This is called sadism. Politicians indulge in it all the time. (10) Defenses are invoked because growth really does cause one to change, to molt and to cast away an "old sense of self," to give up a lot of baby play and childish things, in order to blossom out as reborn individual. Other important defensive patterns are (for feminines) compulsiveness, associated with easy intimidation and a sensation of being "driven," and (for masculines) obsessiveness. My own NIH psychiatric records, on one page, suggested a diagnosis of "compulsive personality," but elsewhere rather inaccurately described my "obsessive thought patterns."
Activities that conventional society regards as "creative" -- writing books, plays, and music, or acting, or hairdressing -- may in this "human world" be seen as adaptive. These private pursuits or "hobbies" may be good, because people need to be alone sometimes, but they fall short of real, direct interaction with others. Likewise, conventional family responsibilities -- baby-making and parenting -- may also be seen as adaptive; and this is a shocking (and perhaps offensive) notion. Don't people grow by taking care of their children? I thought parenting was something "everybody" did; how could it be special?
By now, I saw how the language of our social interactions, with family (not person) as its atomic unit, affected the way most adults saw themselves. Referral to marital spouse and kids in everyday society, especially the workplace, gave conforming adults an innocent way to refer to their sexuality. Society, through both the government and church recognition of marriage and the corporate policies built upon this recognition, conferred a permission for sex which most heterosexual adults no longer recognized as such. Moreover, society conferred a legitimacy to the totality of a whole adult life, as factored by the obligations of family. The comforts conferred to conformity claimed their price. People were so used to familial identification that they never questioned it. They held opinions about political or psychological issues according to what immediate benefit followed the issues for them and their families, not for what would be true or right in the long run. They would surrender some of their capacities to think for themselves, and let their politicians, their labor unions, or employers' political action committees tell them how to vote (when they voted at all). A certain measure of mandatory, immoral ignorance and hypocrisy was required to get along and take care of your own "kind."
At least, by this time of the 1970's, discrete homosexuals like me were generally left alone and usually allowed privacy. They still didn't want us to "talk about it." You didn't interrupt a business conversation with the announcement, "I'm gay"; nor did anyone say "I'm heterosexual" when she had spouses and kids she could mention. I liked it that way; my otherness and aloofness, almost like that of an alien fallen to a reasonably hospitable earth, made me feel special. I knew "them" better than they knew me. The "privacy" that enveloped my life (the mystery of my anonymity as viewed by others, and my total control of my personal life) became itself a public expression of a certain indifference and antipathy to the self-suspension of "normal" family life. Perhaps this autonomy was a bit of an illusion, abetted by government programs that often relieved me of having to deal so much with difficult or impoverished people myself. Homosexuality would sit at the center of this new independence; it would become, as one 1973 Ninth Street Center monograph (11) put it, "civilization's secret," a psychological Rosetta Stone for what really made things work, but a knowledge "of good and evil" too dangerous for the ordinary world dependent on fidelity to gender roles. Officialdom, the Nixon-Kissinger world, simply never got around to mentioning it, as if to derail the credibility of homosexuality with benign (if intentional) neglect. The "outside world," including most youth, would simply not be let in on it. During this time, I cherished my own separatist attitude, that this secret world open to peak-experiences of romantic fulfillment through sexual intimacy with an "ideal man," was the only universe that really mattered. I rather liked the idea of homosexuality being elite -- even effete -- rather than spoon-fed to all on the theory that we could so easily stop "discrimination" by mass coming-outs.
"Masculinity" -- as mediated by family adaptation -- indeed experiences a double twist in our culture. We used to expect young men to risk their lives out of ignorance of the consequences of their own recklessness. Then, in the workplace, we want them to use their "masculinity" to peddle other people's products and ideas. They are supposed to experience a sense of "power" in their salesmanship or superficial supervision. They often don't see how their power gets channeled into false submissiveness.
I became very jealous in my choices of my own goals. I would resent exercises like teamwork pep-sessions in the workplace, with group singing and fun that I saw as false excitement over goals chosen by others. I could never be a salesman (like my father), because I hate the idea of using my own "publicity" to peddle other peoples' ideas (true or not). Likewise, I would come to see workplace promotions, while financially rewarding, as hardly fulfilling in personal terms since conventional "career advancement" wasn't (for me) related to providing for a family. I eschewed participating in organizing workplace social life, or even "daughters' days" where fathers would ask their colleagues to show their daughters their corners of the work-world. On the other hand, my own private goals, to somehow make my own upward-looking sexuality more real to others, might be completely inappropriate and unwelcome. This dilemma grew out of my subjectivity and the unbalanced (12) nature of my personality. I sensed my visionary potential but lacked the focus to achieve the little things. The unbalanced person is particularly aware of the opportunity to select his own goals without the approval of others and he may see enforcing his own choices as a key component of his identity or acorn. The balanced person may be more in tune with actually reaching others. I would return to material possessions, private special things that had always provided "highs" -- my record collection, for example -- to exercise my "feeling" capacities. This backsliding away from attention to others, in the eyes of some at the Center, brought into question whether I "could" grow -- that is, outgrow this fundamental inertness of my own private world of feeling. I think my churlish behavior reminded the others of their own discomfort with the paradox of their "creative world": they could not develop greater wisdom and freedom without simultaneously dealing with the humility of really serving others. Yet, the easy shelter provided by periodic withdrawal into my private world gave me a certain toughness. Feminines do not have to be marshmallows.
In later years, I have become more in touch with my own desire to build a complete intellectual model of my world, to explain everything, and leave nothing out, the way I would write a final exam. It doesn't matter so much how many people listen; it may matter who listens. An unbalanced leader might want to specify the rules for everything, regardless of whether people could follow them. A balanced person would be much more concerned about what idea-segments and presentations could work in a practical way, get things done, so such a person would probably feed people what he thinks they can absorb where they are. A balanced person might make more money!
Center devotees developed the notion that "adaptive" needs should be made as minimal as possible. Their view of survival focus stands as a curious antithesis to Luddism: while Center students welcomed the discipline of simple life, Luddites (as well as our pioneers in the nineteenth century) regard primitive survival mechanisms as an actual experience of personal freedom and human identity (as clumsily stated in the "Unabomber's" notorious "manifesto"). (13) Many Center students lived in the immediate East Village (more "human" than Hell's Kitchen and not so "upper-class fag" as the West Village) and did simple jobs, like cleaning apartments or bookbinding. Asking somebody "What do you do?" to find out who he is, was a no-no. People would brag that they had not traveled north of 14th Street in perhaps the last year. Learn to live on very little, they lectured. "Give up!" Liberation was, for the indefinite future, to be a "grass-roots," local neighborhood exercise, where you stayed around people who cared about you. Liberation was also a "selfish" thing from your immediate community; there was no reason to sell it to the "outside" world yet. The outside world already provided a reasonable measure of stability; admission that national politics really matters was taken as a sign of powerlessness and intimidation. There was no need to be politically "radical" -- that is, openly gay on the job or even with original family members. It was more important to help others in one's own immediate environment than to volunteer in socially approved projects that met needs (for example, feeding impoverished children) recognized as socially or morally important but less immediately relevant. An unstable, or at least neutral, equilibrium between psychological self-interest and giving to others (a bit different from service to others) was developing in our discussions.
I was put off by this and wanted to grow a foothold in the "real" world, to assimilate. Paul would say, OK, but I didn't need to become president of a company (other than my own). I should help others discern the difference between creative action and adaptation.
I had first felt relieved to find Center students as "normal" guys I could identify with; now, some of them came across as men who really couldn't adapt to the "outside" even if they had to. If I mentioned their heavy smoking (the air at the Center sometimes got unbreatheable), they would call me a "health nut."
In my earliest days, I had felt relieved by the easier things I heard, like "the sex was great, but the head was nowhere." I had expected a soft approach to sexual intimacy, but quickly found my overtures and prattle a bit unwelcome. I felt constantly compelled to "make progress" towards a "first experience"; yet, even as I "knew" I was less "attractive" than the men whose looks aroused me, I was often unaware of my own personal appearance and thought very little about my own body.
Paul had reassured me that he was very "fond" of me. So I went to Paul for a single therapy session, a "diagnostic interview," to determine whether, as he put it, "you can take the pressure I would put on you." He challenged me with, "what do you do?" His prescription was to get out and do things for other people, like wash the dishes after the Saturday night potlucks. Well, I volunteered to do that -- Dean even hugged me once I started to "help"; but I did it when I felt like it, not every Saturday. Later, Dean would admit, "yes, Bill, we were trying to feminize you." Today, he says that, despite my gawkiness, I have a lot of "warmth" and commends my independent (rather than "passive") femininity. I knew intellectually what this meant: I would get in touch with what made me tick and come alive, which would not stop with a conditioned visceral and visual response to sexually attractive young men, or even with "platonic" crushes on them, but evolve into the real experience of surrender. Paul had, after all, characterized himself as "earthy"; otherwise, his mental preparations would level off into defenses.
Therapy-giving was supposed to be an experience at giving tough love, not just in cool, distant, professional "competence." The distrust that Center devotees held for "credentials" carried far beyond the mental health profession (which, after all, had just reversed its stand on homosexuality in 1973). It was commonly held that statements about psychological truths from the position of academic or otherwise recognized authority, loyalty and accomplishment, were inevitably tainted. Human science behaved like quantum mechanics; the observer tended to get in the way with his psychological defenses. The "establishment" came to be seen as part of an "evil" and "immoral" world. Truth and right could only be found among one's immediate community of true students; the Center came to be seen as a refuge for social Ludditism. The conventional "mental health" world that had captured me, however, seemed only capable of focusing on pathology. Even other gay psychologists of that period had fallen for it. (14)
I interviewed to join a "closed" talk group sponsored by a gay couple. I snowed the "masculine" guy by reporting my process of feeling (for imaginary icons) and the inner intensity this process generated. The "feminine" partner, who, like me, had emphasized in the open talk groups that he had never experienced sex with a woman, scolded me for hiding my feelings behind abstract, inquisitive banter. My compulsiveness had driven me back into sheltered conventionality and "automaticity." I needed to think about whether I really could grow at all, and get outside of myself. People who can't grow are much better off straight! "Look, Bill, you fool a lot of people, and I'm not going to let you get away with it!. . . Would you support another person so that he could compose a piano sonata?" No, I want to do that myself! "Don't you understand what the guy washing the dishes is doing; you think he's dull, but really he is very disciplined. So, Bill, where are you going with this? Have you cried about it yet? Why not?. . . You need to be sponged off of, and have somebody to make a home for besides yourself." (OK, I needed to learn to give and not worry about what I would get.) I remember walking home shaking in the chill October evening to my sheltering loft in the Cast Iron Building after that one. I had been as shocked by the chewing out as I had been by the nurse after that gym class incident in ninth grade. I had always sensed my own tremendous potential, and it seemed to grow out of my deviance, my need to find not just romantic fulfillment but a kind of musical cadence in a "lover." I liked the idea of being on my own, and that my homosexuality forced me to absorb the world on my own; in personal life, difficult problems and ambiguous goals created the opportunity to have a space to cover my grandiose intentions that one day would seduce the outside public. Conversely, the need to achieve something special had practically forced me into homosexuality; the NIH psychiatrists had already figured that out. There was an expanse to all of this, from the beatnik, crowded Village where an adolescent, virile excitement loomed everywhere, to the manicured, proper but sheltering and isolating suburbs where real grownups pretended to live. It could all fit together in one whole, some day. But it wasn't working! I just wouldn't focus. One horrible Sunday afternoon, a millstone who had collared me at the Center took me to the Ninth Circle Tavern for dinner and confronted me with, "the way you look, how do you think you will find a lover? The people who find somebody for life are all straight." But I had already noticed that some people seemed really "alive" and others, who sometimes created confrontations resulting in their being asked to leave the Center, came across as pedantic, repetitious, and inert. In a couple of years, the Center had a reputation "on the Outside" (such as at a larger counseling center, Identity House) as a cult with Paul the guru. The Center had turned itself into a non-residential, evening-only commune; perhaps the whole group constituted a virtual ashram.
January 1975, almost two years after my "second coming," I finally experienced sex for the first time at the Club Baths. So what if I were a fallen male!
Living six blocks from the popular West Village bars, I had looked forward to the ritual of going out into the night and looking for intimacy and vicarious perfection, in men whose looks excited me. I would stop into Julius's and one man would take a whole night play-acting Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama. Another would lecture on why he thought Asian men always preferred Mediterranean Caucasians like himself. It was almost another year, a New Years night, until I brought home a "trick." Again, I got another lecture, this time about the "abuse of the media," but I enjoyed the tenderness; the young man tried to contact me again and turned out to be quite unstable. In the next seven years I would sometimes have another man in my bed for the night. A few of the "experiences" were really good. One man, after sex, excused himself to the bathroom to freebase heroin; but most of the men I met seemed to be stable and productive. One would go on to become a Broadway actor. Still another friend, and capable chess player, related to me a story of sexual abuse against him as a juvenile in a New York State welfare facility, not unlike the events depicted in the recent film Sleepers. In Dallas, the saloons and discos were much grander, sometimes guarded by men riding shotgun next to flamboyant signs warning the public: "GAY BAR."
There is an even more disturbing moral lesson to all of this. You won't have a meaningful life and matter to other people unless you can meet their real needs. You should be selective, but objective, too. In the Center talk groups, caring about other people was put as a foundation of creativity. But this isn't just the cheap talk of caring; it is the work that follows the initial feelings or drives. People get turned on -- infatuated -- by the superficial trappings and swagger of others (the projections of their own imagined ideals), as if these external things are really what matter and "make a man" (or woman) after all. Real love, say the clinical psychologists, comes with being able to give the other person's best interest top priority. (15) How facile! Even so, it matters whether one can maintain a sense of real passion (16) for another person as the visual or other sensual and imaginary fascination, however naughty, fades. It takes a real "man" to keep an intimate relationship together for a lifetime and really care about it. A recent radio ad claims, "it takes a real man to be a dad." The hidden phobia attracting the pundits of Kulturkampf is the possibility of not being able to get it up if your "beloved" rings your intercom after falling from grace. I know the feeling. After one brief relationship in New York ended, an acquaintance at Julius's cynically told me, "when you fall in love, it's because the person fulfills a fantasy. Love is in you, never your lover." (17) My stares of admiration create even more uneasiness in others if they realize that I'm mentally placing them in some imaginary hierarchy.
In time, I found myself talking circles in the groups at the Center, and decided to stop going. Indeed, I had clung to the place as a shelter from the brutal, competitive and sometimes untidy world of sucking and fucking. Yet, I made several good friends there, some of whom I would stay in contact with for years, even today. For example, only a few weeks after moving into New York I met a sculptor who had his own studio on the Upper West Side. He reported an adventurous life, of having been wounded as a civilian combat photographer in Vietnam, and then having traveled alone through Nepal and India. "I needed to be alone," he said more than once. We did a barter deal: I gave him an old Miracord turntable and speakers in exchange for a sculpture of a Siamese-twin hive-owned extraterrestrial, which still hangs in my living room today. In time, I learned that a certain tension between me and any friend I really cared about gave me more sense of life than would any sexual release; often, sex would just spoil things. Another friend would move with his lover to San Francisco; when he picked me up at the airport during an October 1987 visit he melodramatically pulled his car over to the interstate highway shoulder to tell me the stock market had crashed!
I would revisit the Center sporadically over the ensuing years. Going back for an evening would seem like a psychological homecoming from my Star Trek lifestyle. It would lose its own space in 1991, although it still sponsors occasional discussion and study groups in rented spaces and members' apartments in Manhattan.
"Outside" the Ninth Street Center, gay organizations in the 1970's seemed juvenile. (18) I would hear speakers boast things like, "let's list the ways gays are oppressed," or "I didn't choose to be the way I am."
During the same time period, conservative writer George Gilder was publishing his own counter psychological theory of "polarity" in Sexual Suicide (1973) (19) and Men and Marriage (1986). (20) His proposition is that women are biologically superior to men because childbearing and nurturing provide natural satisfaction without the help of men (after insemination). But men do need women, who tie them to their own progeny. Marriage tames men, after they have been brought up to protect society as hunter-gatherers or warrior-barbarians. (An accurate restatement of Gilder's idea would be, "love tames men.") In Gilder's world, men don't become "individuals" -- and break away from collective hunting and warrior activities -- until they marry and father. A married average Joe, because he has real people (his own family) who need him as he ages, lives longer than a singleton. The importance of marriage for raising healthy children is almost secondary. The breakdown of gender roles -- through the expansion of workplace and even military opportunities for women and perhaps the decline of male requirements such as the draft -- and particularly of the importance of connecting sex to procreation in marriage, all make marginal or "average" men feel expendable. Furthermore, the breakdown of monogamy -- the inclination of a "sexual princess" to steal away a successful "older man" as a rich, proven husband with the ease of divorce -- means that it is harder for less talented men to find wives. Gilder even believes that the breakdown of marital monogamy causes homosexuality through the same mechanism that works in prisons. Other, less polished writers, would contribute cheap refrains moaning the erosion of "masculinity." (21)
Much later, in 1993, Warren Farrell would combine the ideas like those of Gilder and Rosenfels in The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex. (22) (Actually, one of the students at the Ninth Street Center, Jack Nichols, had written on a similar theme in 1972 with Men's Liberation). Farrell travels the country and gives seminars in the dynamics on expanding psychological roles (such as nurturing in men) in heterosexually married couples. He describes a progression between "Stage I" and "Stage II" societies (23) where individual fulfillment (balanced against responsibility) gradually replaces survival, where the technology that facilitates fulfillment actually requires changing male warrior conditioning, and where new notions of individuality can be taught to couples.
Even more "political" writers would gradually weave psychology into their principals. Jonathan Rauch would characterize the derivation of truth and right through a process he calls "liberal science." Rauch criticizes, first, the authoritarian ("fundamentalist") model where "absolute" truth gives its original owner not just right but might, and then the "humanitarian" threat which suppresses disturbing or "offensive" discussion. Liberal science can go astray when it winds up deciding truth by popularity or financial results. Rauch concludes, "Competitive and consensual public checking of each by each through criticism and questioning is the only legitimate way to decide who is right." (24) That is, everyone should join in the debate and search for truth and right.
Other progressive writers would apply these ideas in practical human relations. Charles Murray would comment on the psychological rewards and benefits that accrue from caring for other people (rather than just supporting them), first with family but also with friends. (25)
|(3)||Published by Libra in 1972; Republished by The Ninth Street Center in 1986.|
|(4)||Psychological polarity theories have been published in Germany, by various psychologists associated with the Humboldt Society of Mannheim. Other writers include Carl Jung, Geoffrey Sainsbury and Alan Watts.|
|(5)||Andrew Sullivan, editor, Same-Sex Marriage, Pro and Con: A Reader (New York: Vintage, 1997), Plato, "The Speech of Aristophanes," p. 5.|
|(6)||Dean Hannotte, Rosenfelsian Semantics, lecture notes for Ninth Street Center Study Group, New York, 1986.|
|(7)||James Hillman, The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling (New York: Random House, 1996).|
|(8)||Dean Hannotte, We Knew Paul, (New York: Ninth Street Center, 1991), Introduction p. 16.|
|(9)||John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 23, p. 46.|
|(10)||Some Center people used to refer to Richard Nixon as a "subjective feminine."|
|(11)||The Ninth Street Center Journal, published from 1973 until 1991.|
|(12)||Feminine-subjective and masculine-objectives are "unbalanced"; other two combinations are "balanced."|
|(13)||"Industrial Society and its Future," The Washington Post, Sept. 19, 1995.|
|(14)||Martin Hoffman, The Gay World: Male Homosexuality and the Social Creation of Evil (New York: Bantam, 1968). Hoffman describes pretty well the old-fashioned ideas of Freud, as exploited later by Bieber and Socarides.|
|(15)||M. Scott Peck MD, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979).|
|(16)||In a critical scene in Making Love (1982), the wife of the gay physician, after he "come out" to her, cries about his thinking he could fake a whole lifetime without "passion."|
|(17)||In the Hitchcock 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo, the whole plot is built around the retired police detective's falling in love with his own female fantasy.|
|(18)||For another account of the Center and other gay groups during this time, see Ian Young, The Stonewall Experiment: A Gay Psychohistory (London: Cassell Wellington, 1995). Rosenfels's work was discussed from time to time by writers such as John Hudson (Gay Magazine, 1974) D. F. Lawden (Psychoenergetics: The Journal of Psychophysical Systems, Vol. 4, #1m 1981), Judy Chicurel (Gay Magazine, 1983), Jay Bolcik (New York Native, June 1, 1987).|
|(19)||Published by Quadrangle in 1973.|
|(20)||Published by Pelican Books (Louisiana) in 1986.|
|(21)||Patricia Cayo Sexton, The Feminized Male: Classrooms, White Collars and the Decline of Manliness (New York, Vintage, 1969). Aybrey P. Andelin, Men of Steel and Velvet (New York: Bantam, 1982).|
|(22)||Published by Simon & Schuster (New York: 1993).|
|(23)||Farrell, op cit., p 355; compare to Reich's levels of Consciousness (subsequent note).|
|(24)||Jonathan Rauch, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attack of Free Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 159.|
|(25)||Charles Murray, What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation (New York, Broadway, 1997, p. 34.|
-- reprinted from "Chapter 3:
My Second Coming: 1973 - 1992" of
Do Ask, Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back:
Individualism, Identity, Personal Rights, Responsibility
and Community in a Libertarian Third Millenium,
High Productivity Publishing, 1997
|Read Walter Godsoe's review of We Knew Paul|
|Read Bill's review of Paul's "Homosexualilty: The Psychology of the Creative Process"|
|Go to Bill's web site, High Productivity Publishing|
|Read Bill's essay on "Narcicism, Affiliation and Polarity"|
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