From the Crap Archives: Someone You May Know (1965)
(Each week, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.)
Someone You May Know: A Heterosexual Looks at Homosexuality
Author: William Konraad
The Cover Promises: "This book makes no judgments. This book does not deal with perversions leading to a world of fantasy. This book brings you a complete view of a major situation today."
Representative Quote: Page 184: "Q: Jim, the other day I was reading a magazine published by and for homosexuals and in it there was an article urging homosexuals to get behind a certain socialist candidate and the socialist movement in general. How do you feel about that?"
With a tone of empathetic condescension, author Konraad presents the results of what the back cover insists was "three years of interviews with psychiatrists, M.D.'s, lawyers, religious leaders, District Attorney's, Police officers and hundreds of homosexuals." That he considers homosexuals an entirely separate category from "psychiatrists, M.D.s," and the like indicates that he could probably stand to do a few more interviews.
When not badgering readers with promises that he himself is straight, Konraad runs lengthy, mostly sympathetic interviews with homosexuals with names like "Tony," "Eddie," and "Danny Rivas." He quizzes them about their families, their faith and the nuts-and-bolts of man-on-man. Still, as the first lines of the first page make clear, Konraad isn't above sensationalizing:
"When I worked at the cafe, the truck drivers used to pull in and ask especially for me. They thought I was sexy and knew how to do it better than any woman they ever laid." The boy who uttered these words was a nineteen year old homosexual who had been reared as a girl.
Which does Konraad's choice of "reared" reveal -- a tin-ear or a sarcastic streak? Fortunately, he mostly allows his subjects to tell their own stories. They're occasionally heartbreaking. Later, "Danny Rivas" says:
I hope God will try to understand how hard it has been down here. I guess I would go to hell if I died tonight. I used to go to confession every Saturday, but I haven't been now in quite some time. It seems bad to be going back all the time and asking God to forgive me when I keep doing the same thing over and over again.
Konraad was forward-thinking for his time, but he was limited by it, too. "The fact seems well established that homosexuality is a mental disorder," he writes, "but there is also the undeniable fact that there is a psychosis that preys on innocent victims through homosexuals."
Shocking Detail: Psychiatrist John Raberskal says, "I could not begin to estimate the total percentage of our population in this country that is homosexual." Still, he immediately does just that: "It may be as high as sixty percent or as low as twenty percent but I am certain that at least twenty percent of all Americans are, or have been, homosexual during their adult life."
Highlight: Konraad's book on homosexuals only appeared in paperback, but, judging by the curious inscription found on this thrift-store copy, his spine stiffens when women are involved:
To a lovely lady, Jane Staudley, about whose charms I'd have to write a hardbound book. Always Bill March 18, 1965 Los Angeles, California
Gay Teen Ideas For Knitting and Crocheting
The Cover Promises: You can knit a cocker spaniel!
Representative Quote: Page 13: "We're smitten with these mittens 'cause they give you such pretty paws."
Before Konraad, "gay" meant "carefree." Even in his time, the Flintstones' promise of a "gay old time" had more to do with silly fun than it did Fred and Barney's easygoing pantslessness. Since then, what exactly that word signifies has varied wildly: first "homosexual" with disdain. Then, "homosexual" with pride. Finally, among today's suburban youth, it's come to hold the same dismissive meaning as "lame" or "retarded," as in "That fisher's net shawl-looking thing on page 11 is totally gay."
At last, in these outfits, we have all of those definitions working together at once.