"My thought today is one that I have not discussed with you before and to do it justice, I cannot broach it sparingly.
'If I had my life to live over again, the next time I would find you sooner and I could love you longer.' These were words I heard spoken by a homosexual friend of mine to his partner over thirty years ago. The time was during the mid 80's when Aids became the greatest scourge of the homosexual world and many heterosexuals thought that this killer disease could be transferred simply by shaking hands or drinking out of the same cup as an infected person.
All of my earlier life, I had been reared in a Catholic household believing that intimate relationships between people of the same sex were 'abominable.' At that time, the church, the state and society at large outlawed such practices and until 1967, homosexuality was a criminal offence under any set of circumstances. Although I wasn't aware at the time in which I grew up, but there had always been discrimination against homosexuals deeply entrenched in the minds of the majority. Even many years after it had become legally acceptable between consenting adults, it still remained socially and religiously unacceptable. Many who are older and of my generation, may probably never be able to get their head around homosexual behaviour or see it as being normal/natural to be sexually intimate with a person of the same sex, and will knowingly or unknowingly, silently or vociferously discriminate against such practices until the end of their days.
I recall during the 1970's, the moment when my view towards homosexuals started to change and become more rationally based. At the time, I was one of the few Probation Officers in Great Britain practising 'Behaviour Modification' as a method of work in seeking to change illegal and deviant behaviour. This method of working was born in America and during its earlier years, it had acquired a bad name for having used Electroconvulsive Therapy (shock treatment) to change certain behaviours that were thought to be deviant. While this 'treatment' had many successes in changing some deviant behaviour during the 70s and 80s, the mere fact that it was never once demonstrated to have changed the long term sexual thoughts and feelings of a homosexual towards a person of the same sex was enough to convince me that for the homosexual, it was perfectly natural to be homosexual!
As a practising behaviourist, it mattered not to me whether homosexual behaviour had been brought about by human defect or design. Physiological body evidence of the time seemed to suggest in medical surveys, the existence of a malfunctioning created by an electro-chemical imbalance in the mind/body of the homosexual. This effectively told me that the gay person had been genetically programmed that way and therefore, for him or her, it was perfectly natural to think, feel and behave that way! Later, research by numerous eminent others globally suggested that if society wishes to see a homosexual as being influenced by deviant behaviour, then such a deviancy can be shown to be one of an electro/chemical imbalance that they are born with and not responsible for, anymore than you or I for having been born with brown or blue eyes, dark or fair hair.
Being an avid reader and the lover of words, in the 80's I frequently read over six books a week. I became intrigued by the word, 'gay,' when used as either an adjective or noun. I was curious as to why this term had changed over the centuries and had become more acceptable both by society at large and homosexuals in particular as their preferred description of usage. I was also eager to learn more about gays, especially as so many favourite authors of mine were said to be of this nature such, as Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf to name but two.
The word “gay” seems to have its origins as early as the 12th century in England and was derived from the old French word ‘gai.’ The word’s original meaning meant something to the effect of 'joyful', 'carefree', and 'bright and showy'. Around the early parts of the 17th century, the word became associated with immorality. By the mid 17th century, the word came to mean 'of loose and immoral living'.
Fast-forward to the 19th century and the word 'gay' referred to a woman who was a prostitute and a 'gay man' was someone who slept with a lot of women (ironically enough), often prostitutes. Also at this time, the phrase “gay it” meant to have sex.
Around the 1920's and 1930's, the word was given a new interpretation. In terms of the sexual meaning, a “gay man” no longer just meant a man who had sex with a lot of women, but also referred to men who had sex with other men. There was also another word, “gey cat” at this time, which meant a homosexual boy.
By 1955, the word 'gay' had officially acquired new definition; now meaning 'homosexual males.' Gay men themselves seem to have been behind the driving thrust for this new label as they felt (and many still do), that 'homosexual' is much too clinical sounding and suggests a disorder. At this time, homosexual women were referred to as lesbians, not 'gay.'
Since then, 'gay', meaning 'homosexual' has steadily driven out all the other definitions that have floated about through time and the term now refers to both men and women who are of homosexual nature.
It is not for me to moralise about the sexual practices between gays any more than it would be appropriate to moralise about any of the sexual practices between heterosexuals. What I can attest to is the experience that knowing some gay friends has greatly enriched me as a person. Although having been an expressive person all my life, there was a 'female side' of me that I'd been unable to get in touch with and which my gay friends helped me to 'out.' This side dealt with what many males considered as traditional 'female' emotions; those types of feelings that men believe they should not express in public and frequently feel uncomfortable having: especially those of us who, like me, were reared by 'manly' fathers of the John Wayne ilk who believed that 'a man's got to do what a man's got to do', along with the belief that 'big boys don't cry.'
The most important gay influence on me was to give myself permission to cry if either the occasion or the extent of my emotions determined it. The next important thing my gay friends taught me was to place the importance of my 'feelings' above that of my 'reasoning' wherever movement of the heart was concerned.
On a less serious side, I must end with one female practice that has always puzzled me. It is a piece of behaviour that only women seem to engage in that no man does, whether gay or heterosexual, and which no terminology or common phrase has yet managed to describe. I refer to the practice of women preferring to go to the toilets in a posse as opposed to on their own. I don't know where that practice stems from as I cannot find reference to it in any of my historical books, but I must say that it seems highly 'unnatural' to me, and given the opportunity, I'd criminalise it tomorrow!" William Forde: June 25th, 2016.