Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America's Debate by F. Fejes

By F. Fejes

Utilizing the 1977 campaign opposed to the Dade County Florida homosexual rights ordinance as a focus, this publication presents an exam of the emergence of the fashionable lesbian and homosexual American movement, the demanding situations it posed to the authorized American notions of sexuality, and the way American society reacted in flip.

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Within the psychological community, efforts were made to distinguish between true pedophiles and perpetrators of sexually violent crimes against children and persons who engaged in only seemingly minor or casual sexual infractions with children. The term child molester, as opposed to sexual criminal, was increasingly used to describe the latter person, and his or her crime was seen as far less serious. The child molester was seen as one more deserving of pity and treatment than punishment. Regarding the child, some psychologists questioned whether or not there were predisposing factors such as seductive behavior that made children prone to participate in sexual acts with adults.

31 In a January 1966 editorial essay entitled “The Homosexual in America,” Time magazine concluded that homosexuality was “a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such it deserves fairness, compassion, understanding, and when possible, treatment. ’” It emphasized that parents’ “neglect, rejection, overprotection, [and]over indulgence” was most often the cause of a young child becoming a homosexual. Parents’ anxiety over their children becoming homosexual was further amplified the following August when the New York Times Sunday Magazine published an article by psychiatrist Irving Bieber that explored the parents’ role in making their children homosexual.

He argued that the equation of homosexuality with disease was typical of the practice of psychiatry to use labels to repress and exploit people. Within the mental health profession, his ideas had very limited credence. However in the climate of radical politics of the 1960s, they were given wide public reception, reflecting the questioning of established sources of authority that was the hallmark of 1960s cultural politics. Articles by and about him appeared in magazines like the Nation, Atlantic Monthly, and the National Review.

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