A secret world grows open and bolder. Society is forced to
look at it — and try to understand it
These brawny young men in their leather caps, shirts, jackets and pants
are practicing homosexuals, men who turn to other men for affection and
satisfaction. They are part of what they call the “gay world,” which is
actually a sad and often sordid world. On these pages, LIFE reports on
homosexuality in America, on its locale and habits and sums up what
science knows and seeks to know about it.”
LIFE Magazine, July 27, 1964
The 1964 LIFE Magazine article titled “Homosexuality in America” set off
a tidal wave of oppression against gay people in the Bay Area. The San
Francisco Police Department was particularly irrate that the City had
been singled out as a haven for homosexuals: “In the city of San
Francisco, which rates as the ‘gay capital,’ there are more than 30 bars
which cater exclusively to a homosexual clientele.” Mayor George
Christopher and Police Chief Thomas Cahill were determined to clean up
the City’s nightlife. Gay bars were raided, and patrons were arrested.
The Berkeley campus police joined in the effort to suppress public
homosexual activity. In a panel discussion titled “Gay On Campus Before
Stonewall” held in 1988 in Pauley Ballroom, alumnus Martin Stowe
recalled his 1964 arrest in a men’s room in the Student Union:
STOWE: I was apprehended, accused of — charged with lewd and
lascivious behavior. They had me — of course, you know, after all,
we’re very intellectual compared to others — so they had me write up my
own charge sheet. I thought that was sort of interesting. I claimed
that I was doing research. [Audience laughs] Well, you know the
funny part about it: I was. I’ll tell you about that later.
But I was, anyway, I was charged, convicted, and that sort of thing.
But before hand the Chief of Police said to me, “Now,” he said, “I hope
that you will co-operate with us.” And I said, “Oh, gee, I certainly
will if I can.” So he said, “Would you mind naming all of the people
that you know on the faculty, the administration and students?” Well, I
think at that particular time I probably knew more faculty, more
administration and more students who were gay than anybody else. They
couldn’t have picked a better person. So I said, “What do you need
those names for?” They said, “We’re going to try to help them.” And I
said, “Well, Chief, I have to admit to you that I am a student here, and
I am in Forensic Psychology, and I know the limits of any help you would
be able to provide anyone who is gay, so I’m afraid that I have to
refrain from giving you that information.” So we went on with the whole
thing, and that was it.
Now, in the old days, you would have been dragged before the Dean and
probably kicked out of school. Nothing happened. I mean, there was no
official response to that whatsoever.
QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: What year was that?
STOWE: This was in — Sixty-four. No response. It was just as well.
I’ll tell you why. Because the guy who arrested me, the policeman who
arrested me was an old closet queen, who I had remembered from my
undergraduate days. He ran a private gymnasium, and everybody
knew he was as gay as a pink lizard. [Audience laughs] And
somehow between that time and the time I had gotten back for graduate
studies, he had gotten on the police force and they had used him for
this particular kind of enticement — we won’t call it
“entrapment,” just enticement. And so I said nothing about it, and went
on from there. But anyway, it led me to — it sharpened your
understanding of what was happening at that particular time, your
sensitivity to everything that was going on within the
Only six years later the atmosphere among gay people on campus was
very different. In the wake of the Gay Liberation Movement, some students became more open — even confrontational — about
their sexuality, and insisted that they be accorded the same rights
taken for granted by straight students. A flier distributed in Sproul
Plaza on 23 March 1970 describes one incident:
On the afternoon of Friday, March 20, Dunbar Aitkens and Dannel
Worrell were on the grass by Sproul Plaza, University of California,
doing what men-women couples are freely allowed to do there — sometimes
holding hands and sometimes embracing while lying beside each other.
About 3:00 P.M. several police arrested them, claiming there had been
numerous complaints of Aitkens and Worrell “engaged in homosexual play
with each other.” They were booked, and escorted off-campus with a
written order not [to] re-enter the campus for two weeks.
There will be a homosexual play-in at Queen’s lawn, S.W. corner of
Sproul Hall, March 24 where the crime will doubtless be re-enacted by
many, while a press conference will be in progress on the spot to talk
about the “homosexual” and “heterosexual” play and our rights.
Links On This Page
Read More About It
Gay on Campus Before Stonewall,” UC/GALA Gay Awareness Week,
March 16, 1988 [ tape recording and transcript], The University
Archives, University of California, Berkeley
Social Protest Collection, Container 8: Gay Movement (BANC MSS
86/157c), The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley