There was no relevant discussion in schools, churches, or colleges. Psychology books taught that gays were afflicted with a self-destructive sickness for which there was no known cure, except perhaps psychotherapy designed to turn gays straight. This mental disorder carried with it a social stigma that would bar us from jobs. It was inconceivable that we could ever lead a “normal” life, much less settle down with a permanent same sex partner. Many of us just forcibly shut down that side of our lives.
In college I enrolled in ROTC, whose stipends in the final two years I needed for tuition. I was acceptable enough to become a “Distinguished Military Graduate” with a lieutenant’s commission in addition to my bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude. I ranked fourth in my Officer’s Basic course (out of 80), and served out my term in New York, undetected, with increasing responsibilities and top security clearance.
After I had landed a job teaching, one of my promising freshman students didn’t return for a second semester. He had been arrested in a police raid on a gay bar. The police notified his parents and also the college’s president, who had told him not to return to school.
– William Koelsch
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Although the terms gay, lesbian, transgender, and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) have been used throughout the text, these were not terms people predominantly used in 1950s and 1960s. Homosexual was the term most often used for lesbian and gay people in the era. Many gay and lesbian activists of the 1950s and 1960s preferred the term homophile to homosexual and referred to their fight for equal rights as the homophile movement. Queer was considered a derogatory term, unlike the positive all-inclusive meaning it has today. In the 1950s and 1960s, transsexual became the most widely used term for transgender. Today the term transsexual is used more as a subset of transgender if it is used at all.