Jason Tseng

Holy Retro-homophobes, Batman!: A trip down memory lane

Filed By Jason Tseng | August 25, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: 1960s, Batman, LGBT, queer, representation, sissy

The 1960s have clearly seen a renaissance of late. sondaughter.jpgIt seems everyone is going mad over Mad Men along with a whole cornucopia of 60's themed media (A Single Man, Pride, A Cloud Over England, Howl).

And with this retrospection on the radical age with its sexual revolutions et al., it serves as a good reminder to remember the state of queer rights in the 60s. Mad Men's Sal got the boot last season after coming up against his homosexuality. While painful to watch as a fan of the character, it is certainly a wake up call to consider just how closeted a society America was and in some ways continues to be.

Cartoonist and blogger Sam Henderson digs up this pretty in pink treasure titled My Son, the Daughter. He writes:

This was a book published in 1966, back when the idea of someone being gay was funny in and of itself. I don't know for sure, but Mort Drucker's probably embarrassed by it now. The same publisher also did a couple books of "Fannie Hillman" illustrated by Sergio Aragones to cash in on the Jewish mother schtick of the time. It's weird how the people behind Jewish jokebooks were most likely Jewish while the gay jokebooks were written by people who probably never even met a homosexual.

On one hand My Son, the Daughter is steeped in the running homophobic joke of reviling the sissy. But at the same time, it is in some ways a relief to see the ways in which gay men's lives were open enough to receive this level of layered satire. I'm ambivalent as to hating on the author because in some strange way, I find the book liberating in a strange sense. Check out the full scans at Henderson's blog, The Magic Whistle.

Crossposted from Scarlet Betch

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1966 - I remember that. I was 5 years old, and enjoying my mother's closet tremendously. My son the daughter is a pretty accurate description for me.

It is interesting from a cultural perspective. It shows that in the minds of the readers the closet included lots of people, his boss and business clients. It shows that enough people were familiar with the other side of many people being hidden just beneath the surface to make this be seen as funny. It also depicts many of his love interests as classic good looking masculine men. It also shows that there was an awareness of a movement toward equality and rights and that some people were coming out and living as themselves.
Being a communication instructor another detail that is of interest to me is the double language approach that LGBT people have always had to use where there is a lot of sub-verbal communication going on. This book is full of double layered communication where something is said to sound one way when it reflects an entirely different reality to those in the know. The pictures place the audience in the know.
It was most likely made to poke fun at mothers as much as homosexually identified and closeted men.

I have heard many younger GLBTQ persons scowl at the idea of people actually staying in the closet in those days. It is important to remember why folks did this. For example, in Washington, DC where I grew up, the largest employer, the US federal government, had a policy of firing people simply for being gay. No sexual harassment or sex acts or any improprieties needed to be shown, simply the status of being gay. There were periodically "witch hunts" in different federal agencies, especially the State Department. As a kid growing up and reading the newspaper about these regular firings of individuals, or "a homosexual ring", one quickly got the message that society does not consider someone being gay to be an asset in life. Gays who were out were referred to as "avowed homosexuals". We used to joke about where you go to take your vows. Throw in McCarthyism, the Cold War, etc., it was really a tough era for gays.
Gay icon Frank Kameny was fired from his job in the federal government as an astronomer. He organized with his friends and contacts and become the first open and constant gay presence in the Nation's Capital with his Mattachine Society group. I was just about to enter high school, and touring the sites with my out of town cousins when we came upon Kameny and the Mattachine Society demonstrating in front of the White House. I remember feeling a sense of hope and fear at this. In my mind it was only those 8 people with the whole world against them (us). I wondered/worried what the future would have for me.
I never dreamed that in my lifetime, I not only would see something like same sex marriage exist, but that I would be married myself. Likewise, as harsh as the old federal government policy seems to us, this is the reality for many in our community TODAY, and why ENDA is of vital importance.

Bless you, Drake, for telling about Frank Kameny! I was born in 1954, and in high school in the late 60's, reading about Frank Kameny and Barbara Gettings (lesbian librarian activist, who past away in recent years) were the only supportive threads I could find in all the press of the day. Remember, the Stonewall riot did not take place until July 1969 --- we regard that as the beginning of the openly gay movement, but it wasn't.

Someday, I hope an epic movie gets made telling how courageous Frank Kameny and a handful of others among his generation were, similar to the one that got made about Harvey Milk.

What a great find, Jason. I want to own a copy of it now. I'm gonna look on Amazon and see if I can round up one.

OMG -- I remember that book! I think I saw a copy of it when I was in college. I had much the same reaction as Jillian: I thought parts of it were really offensive, but at the same time others were pretty cool (I wanted a merman like that...).

Wow, talk about a rush down Memory Lane.

I had a copy of "My Son the Daughter" in the mid 60s. My mother and I enjoyed it tremendously and that was 44 years ago for me (I turned 73 on the 18th). I thought it was very funny and one could recognize so many things in one's self or friends.

Unfortunately somewhere along the way I lost it. I wish I had a copy for my archives.

Jason,what a joyful memory you bring with this article.

The question the blockquote poses is easy to answer: religion isn't a natural state that wouldn't exist if people didn't invent it, but sodomy is. Even people who've never tried it get what it is, while a religion has to be learned about.