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LAVENDER SONS OF ZION: A HISTORY OF GAY MEN

IN SALT LAKE CITY, 1950-79

by
Douglas A. Winkler

A dissertation submitted to the faculty of


The University of Utah
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of History
The University of Utah
May 2008

UMI Number: 3302801


Copyright 2008 by
Winkler, Douglas A.

All rights reserved.

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THE U N I V E R S I T Y OF UTAH G R A D U A T E

SCHOOL

SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE APPROVAL


of a dissertation submitted by

Douglas A. Winkler

This dissertation has been read by each member of the following supervisory committee
and by majority vote has been found to be satisfactory.

ifl/of
Chair: Elizabeth Clement

W-08
Eric Hinderaker

VoV

3- H-$T
Emma Gross

3 -?~c<5
Maryann Villarreal

THE U N I V E R S I T Y OF UTAH G R A D U A T E

SCHOOL

FINAL READING APPROVAL


To the Graduate Council of the University of Utah:
I have read the dissertation of
Douglas A. Winkler
m its f m a l
form and have found that (1) its format, citations, and bibliographic style are consistent
and acceptable; (2) its illustrative materials including figures, tables, and charts are in
place; and (3) the final manuscript is satisfactory to the supervisory committee and is
ready for submission to The Graduate School.

*/i<f/o?
Date

Elizabeth Clement
Chair: Supervisory Committee

Approved for the Major Department

Eric Hinderaker
Chair/Dean

Approved for the Graduate Council

3)c-JU c , Q I 2 A
David S. Chapman ^
Dean of The Graduate School

ABSTRACT

Historians consider World War II a watershed for gay men and lesbians. The
mobilization transplanted millions of young people from rural areas and natal families to
the sex-segregated worlds of barracks and factories, permitting unprecedented
opportunities for homosexual desire. Wartime conditions also spawned a postwar
expansion of gay and lesbian subcultures in major cities. While large cities gave gays
from America's hinterlands a taste of metropolitan life and undreamt of sexual freedom,
smaller towns like Salt Lake City contained both urban and provincial elements. Dubbed
a "small metropolis" by one author, Salt Lake was large enough to attract gays from
adjacent rural areas, yet small enough to compel many Salt Lake natives to seek better
lives elsewhere. Both singular and unremarkable, gay life in Salt Lake resembled gay
subcultures in comparably-sized cities, but also bore the distinctive imprint of Mormon
culture.
This dissertation uses oral history, court records, newspaper articles, essays, and
public speeches by Mormon Church leaders to document the lives of gay men in Salt
Lake City from 1950 to 1979. The dissertation begins with the childhood and adolescent
experiences of gay men raised in Utah or the Mormon Church during the 1940s and
1950s. Aside from a general concern about "moral cleanliness," Mormon Church
officials made few explicit references to homosexuality, and interviews revealed that the
subject was seldom raised in narrators' families. Consequently, boys freely engaged in

homosexual activity with friends, oblivious to its social significance. However, reticence
gave way to vigilance and repression as the antigay ideology of the Cold War penetrated
Utah. Like a gathering storm, tightening law enforcement in the 1950s foreshadowed the
Mormon Church's more aggressive, forthright approach to homosexuality in the 1960s.
The church employed secular means to ensure spiritual purity, selectively embracing
psychiatry and law enforcement methods to root out homosexuality among church
members. Despite such putatively hostile conditions, however, gays in Salt Lake City
enjoyed opportunities for social and sexual interaction. Gay territory in Salt Lake
involved resourceful adaptation of space shared with heterosexuals, and local gays forged
a close-knit community from a handful of public gathering spots. By the early 1970s, a
more assertive gay community made savvy use of print and broadcast media to redefine
homosexuality as a political issue. Consequently, activists exposed the Mormon
Church's treatment of gays and confounded its efforts to regulate homosexuality as a
private, ecclesiastical matter.

This dissertation is dedicated in memory of


Joseph Timpson and Kathy Worthington

CONTENTS

ABSTRACT
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
INTRODUCTION

iv
viii
1

Chapter
1. "NOT IN OUR DECENT NEIGHBORHOOD"

14

2. "RARE, PATHOLOGICAL TYPES" AND PROMINENT CITIZENS:


PSYCHIATRY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT IN THE 1950S

49

3. "EVERY OPPORTUNITY IS GIVEN HIM TO CHANGE":


MORMON RESPONSE TO HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE 1960S

87

4. "WE LOOKED OUT FOR EACH OTHER": GAY PUBLIC


SPACE AND THE START OF A COMMUNITY

142

5. "REBELLIOUS AND UNYIELDING": DISCOURSE


AND ACTIVISM IN THE 1970S

195

CONCLUSION

248

APPENDDC: SELECTED DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS


OF INTERVIEWEES
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

252
254

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I received encouragement and practical assistance from many sources. I wish to


thank the members of my supervisory committee, Professors Elizabeth Clement, Robert
Goldberg, Emma Gross, Eric Hinderaker, and Maryann Villarreal for their insights and
continued faith in this project. I am also indebted to the late Jay Bell for his extensive
research on LDS Church policy. Ben Williams deserves appreciation for sharing several
years' research and his unstinting efforts to raise historical awareness among Utah's
GLBTQ community. Kevin Alvey, Brian Benington, Marlin Criddle, Dan Fandrach, Val
Holley, Duane Jensen, John Johnson, John Lyman, Connell O 'Donovan, Steve Sorensen,
Richard Tierlink, Paul Trane, David Turner, and Peter Verschoor provided invaluable
support in making interview contacts. I also received substantial assistance from staff at
the J. Quinney Marriott Library, the Utah State Archives, the Salt Lake City Public
Library, and the Salt Lake City Police Records Division. Above all, I wish to thank the
narrators who welcomed me into their homes and entrusted me with their recollections.

INTRODUCTION

In 1937, Grant Rasmussen completed a master's degree in Social Hygiene at the


University of Utah. His thesis, "The Invert Personality," began with some unsettling
news:
Of the thousands of people who daily enter the Salt Lake City Public
Library perhaps only a few know that its corridors and rest room serve as a
meeting place and rendezvous for the homosexual and his assailant.
Almost any hour of the day one can see an invert loitering about the place
in quest of his next amoure (sic)....There are in Salt Lake City many of the
common type of overt homosexual who frequent various hotel lobbies, bus
terminals, railroad stations, certain pool rooms, the City and County
Building park and rest rooms, Liberty Park, and even the lavatories of
many public buildings.1
Rasmussen's use of the term "invert" reflects a nineteenth century convention
linking homosexual behavior to gender confusion; only "effeminate" men who preferred
passive sexual behavior were deemed "homosexuals."2 Rasmussen took a rare glimpse at
the ritual of "cruising," or loitering in search of sexual partners, before the era of gay bars
and community centers, when only social scientists dared to discuss it.3 Unmentionable,

'Grant Weston Rasmussen, "The Invert Personality" (Master's Thesis, University of


Utah, 1937), Introduction, unpaged.
2

For an analysis of the gender inversion theory, see George Chauncey, Jr., "From
Sexual Inversion to Homosexuality: The Changing Medical Conceptualization of Female
'Deviance'" in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, ed. Kathy Peiss, et al.
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989), 96-103.

Jennifer Terry, An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in


Modern Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 76-77.

2
if not unfathomable, among the city's respectable citizens, cruising in Salt Lake City
provided proof of a homosexual subculture that ultimately evolved into social and
political networks. Rasmussen was no casual observer; despite his lurid preface, he
compiled ten years of fieldwork into surprisingly sympathetic case studies of several
homosexual men. Documenting their early efforts to find each other and claim public
space, "The Invert Personality" is a fitting introduction to a history of gay men in Salt
Lake City during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
According to Rasmussen, "If the average individual were asked to describe the
social life of the sexual invert in say, Salt Lake City, he would undoubtedly register
surprise and say that to his knowledge no such thing existed."4 Ignorance, or
unwillingness to see, reflected social taboos that banished cruising to the shadows, where
it thrived like a stout weed in the city's landscape. Despite sporadic efforts by police and
business owners to "clean things up," cruising persisted and Salt Lake's homosexual
geography was remarkably unchanged twenty years after Rasmussen's account. Although
"sexual inversion" reflects a historical construction of homosexuality unfamiliar to
contemporary gays, men in the current study knew of the cruising spots described in "The
Invert Personality."
Public homosexuality in Salt Lake was both typical and exceptional. Although
Rasmussen considered it less "concentrated and obvious" than in larger cities, he found it
similar to the "homosexual life...abundant in most cities of any size." He perceived it as a
fainter echo of "the life" in places which later earned reputations as "gay meccas." This
4

Rasmussen.

3
is not surprising, since regional studies reveal that gay subcultures evolved similarly in
different cities, with local cultures adding texture to widely shared experiences.
However, in a city renowned for Mormon sexual conservatism, public homosexuality was
remarkable for having occurred at all.5
Given its predominant political, economic, and cultural influence, the Mormon
Church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), factors heavily into any
regional history involving Utah. The most definitive historical treatment of Mormonism
and homosexuality remains D. Michael Quinn's Same Sex Dynamics in NineteenthCentury America: A Mormon Example. Quinn highlights a Mormon tradition of
tolerance for strong same-sex affectional ties and even forbearance toward
homoeroticism. Quinn places the church's transition to homophobia in the 1950s, when
the federal government defined homosexuality as a matter of national security.
Thereafter, the church's strident policies toward homosexuality departed sharply from the
moderate stance of earlier times.6 Most of the narrators in this study described the
church as a formative influence, and for many a continuing source of identity after
coming out. Even gays who distanced themselves from the church had to reckon with its
formidable weight in local politics and culture. Indeed, Utahns sorted themselves out
principally on the basis of membership or nonmembership in the church, with "nonMormon" denoting a positive form of identity for many outside the fold. Thus, much of

Rasmussen.

D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A


Mormon Example (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 375-383.

4
this study involves gays from a Mormon background and the church's official policies
toward homosexuality. Because LDS missions and LDS Church-owned Brigham Young
University (BYU) played crucial roles in several narrators' developing gay selfawareness, I included such material although definitive treatment of those topics would
merit separate studies. In general, however, this study considers the experiences of any
gay men who spent significant portions of their lives in the Salt Lake area.
Apart from its Mormon-influenced culture, Salt Lake City was significant for its
size and its relation to outlying rural areas. Most gay and lesbian historical scholarship
focuses on the gay diaspora in "meccas" such as San Francisco, New York, or Los
Angeles. It also commonly employs a gay liberation paradigm mandating one-way
migration to those cities and their pluralistic, gay identity-based communities. Under the
gay liberation model, isolation, invisibility, and repression in the countryside compares
poorly with the openness, sophistication, and sexual freedom of the metropolis.
However, historian John Howard's regional approach rejects the urban-rural paradigm as
a false dichotomy. Instead of gay identity-based communities, Howard examines
homoeroticism as something intrinsic to rural and small-town life.7 Whereas urban gay
studies emphasize sexuality as a principal bond among otherwise diverse people,
Howard's work treats homoeroticism as a common, if unacknowledged, facet of
homogeneous, "traditional" cultures.
As a comparatively small city, Salt Lake inhabited a cultural space somewhere

John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1999), xiii-xiv.

5
between the metropolis and small town, combining cosmopolitan and provincial
sensibilities, isolation and worldliness. Salt Lake was sufficiently urban to support an
identity-based gay subculture, but the pervasive Mormon influence also fostered a degree
of homogeneity uncommon to cities its size. Furthermore, the concentration of Utah's
midcentury population made for more fluid boundaries between Salt Lake and outlying
rural areas. The 1950 census recorded Salt Lake's population as 182,121, but 66 percent
of the state's residents lived within comfortable commuting distance to the city, giving
the area an effective population of over 485,000 in 1953.8 Although Grant Rasmussen
introduced his study with images of homosexual life in Salt Lake, his case studies drew
almost exclusively from smaller towns and rural areas, with place names omitted to
ensure his subjects' anonymity. However, occasional references to a "nearby city" and
descriptive clues suggest that at least some of the men lived near Salt Lake. Consistent
with his characterization of Salt Lake as a "small metropolis," Rasmussen presented it at
times as a place gay men yearned to escape from, at other times a place they could escape
to, especially if they lived with parents in nearby rural areas. One man's prison and
another's refuge, Salt Lake never seemed large enough for some, while others appreciated
its anonymity.9
This study encompasses what scholars describe as the postwar period. Historians
generally consider World War II a watershed for gay men and lesbians. Most notably,
Alan Berube's Coming Out Under Fire documents how wartime transplantation of
8

Polk's Salt Lake City Directory (Salt Lake City: R.L. Polk, 1953).

'Rasmussen.

6
millions of young people from rural to urban areas and from natal families to exclusively
same-sex environments created unprecedented opportunities for homosexual desire.
Mobilization also spawned thriving gay and lesbian subcultures and a profusion of
commercial establishments serving gays in cities across the nation.10 In major cities, the
war introduced gays from the nation's hinterlands to big-city mores and opportunities to
live openly, but in smaller cities like Salt Lake, wartime conditions imported alien mores
into local settings, disrupting traditional sources of authority.11 Agricultural decline
further accelerated the migration of rural men, gay and straight, into Salt Lake City.
However, attributing homosexuality to outsiders obscured the extent of homosexual
behavior among locals.12
Chapter 1 considers the childhood and adolescent experiences of gay men raised
in Utah or the Mormon Church during the 1940s and 1950s, most of whom recalled little
to no discussion of homosexuality. Innocent of its social significance, friends commonly
engaged in homosexual activity while the "queer" stigma applied to nonconforming
gender behavior. However, public silence and complacence ultimately gave way to
repression. Through the cultural lens of the Cold War, Americans perceived subtle issues
in terms of good and evil, and homosexuality became the focus of displaced anxieties. At

10

AUan Berube, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World
Warll (New York: The Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, 1990), 1-6.

Beth Bailey, Sex in the Heartland (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999),
6-7.

12

According to Polk's Salt Lake City Directory. World War II transformed Utah from an
agricultural and extractive state to an "out and out industrial area," and the
manufacturing workforce increased from 16, 314 in 1940 to over 31,000 in 1954.

7
the national level, homosexuality was the target of executive orders, congressional
investigations, and a presidential task force. State and municipal governments followed
suit, aided by the FBI's dissemination of data on "morals arrests" culled from local law
enforcement agencies.13 Chapter 2 examines the legal status of homosexual acts in Utah,
with a focus on the state's sodomy law, sexual psychopath law, and various Salt Lake
City ordinances applicable to homosexual behavior, especially during the tenure of Police
Chief Cleon Skousen. Skousen's policies foreshadowed the LDS Church's stance toward
homosexuality in the 1960s, which combined frank moral condemnation with tactics
honed in the federal government's purge of gays.
During the 1960s, LDS Church leaders attempted to reimpose orthodoxy and
order on a far-flung membership.14 Their efforts included more actively exposing and
curtailing homosexuality among church members. LDS leaders selectively borrowed
from psychiatry and law enforcement, with illness and therapy used, metaphorically and
practically, alongside concepts of sin and redemption. Chapter 3 examines the church's
use of therapy as a disciplinary tool, its implications for moral responsibility, and its
outcomes in "therapeutic" marriage.
The LDS Church's reactions attested to gays' increased visibility and
organization, for the postwar years brought American gays expanding opportunities as
13

David K. Johnson, Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in
the Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), chap. 1-7
passim.

14

Armand Mauss, Angel and the Beehive (Urbana, 111.: University of Illinois Press,
1994), chap. 2-6 passim; Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, America's Saints: The Rise
of Mormon Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1986), 59-61.

8
well as tremendous adversity. The first gay civil rights organizations since Henry
Gerber's ill-fated Chicago Society of Human Rights emerged in California. Known as
"homophile" organizations, the Mattachine Society and its lesbian counterpart, the
Daughters of Bilitus, launched educational campaigns to create positive images of
homosexuals and, contrary to Mattachine's radical roots, favored accommodation over
militant demands for change.15 Although the homophile organizations attracted a modest
following in major cities, their reach did not extend to most smaller cities and rural areas.
Instead, Salt Lake's gays fit historians Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky
Kennedy's conception of "prepolitical" communities. In their groundbreaking Boots of
Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community, Davis and Kennedy
describe gays' appropriation of public space such as bars as inherently political and
highly subversive. Public gathering places represented nothing less than the right to exist
as a group, providing geographic reification of communities based on sexual identity.16
Given the risks involved, visiting a gay bar during this period required as much courage
as the overt political activities of the 1970s. Chapter 4 discusses Salt Lake's gay social
and sexual scene during the 1950s and 1960s, when a relatively small gay population
turned a handful of gathering spots into a close-knit community that many preferred to the
larger, diffuse community of more "liberated" times.

l5

John D' Emilio, "Dreams Deferred: The Birth and Betrayal of America's First Gay
Liberation Movement" in Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the
University (New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 1992), 45-52.

l6

Madeline D. Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, Boots of Leather. Slippers of


Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (New York: Penguin Books, 1994), 1-2.

9
By the late 1960s, the black civil rights movement and second-wave feminism
inspired heightened visibility and militance among younger gays and lesbians. The
decade culminated with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, in which the gay, lesbian, and
transgendered patrons of a Greenwich Village bar violently resisted a police raid. The
Stonewall Riots have since assumed mythical status in the gay collective conscience,
nationally and internationally, bringing in their wake an explosion of organizing under the
banner of gay liberation.17 Chapter 5 describes the mutual politicizing of a more
confident gay community and a more steadfastly antigay Mormon Church in the 1970s.
In particular, I show how both sides made savvy use of public media to air their views,
and homosexuality became a decidedly political issue, no longer reducible to LDS
notions of personal morality or gay understandings of sexual privacy. Throughout the
chapter, I discuss the dynamic between choice and constraint in the LDS Church and its
strategic implications for local gays.
Researching sexuality for this period is always difficult, let alone homosexuality
in a comparatively small city steeped in religious ideology. Particularly for the 1950s, I
relied on legal records and fieldwork to determine whether social and legal prescriptions
accurately reflected gay men's lives.18 The need to counteract legal and religious

17

Neil Miller, Out of the Past: Gav and Lesbian History From 1869 to the Present (New
York: Vintage Books, 1995), 363-384.

18

The largest document collections supporting this research were the Criminal Register of
Actions and corresponding case files for the Utah Third District Court, which
encompassed Salt Lake, Summit, and Tooele Counties. The Register of Actions
includes chronologically sequenced entries from docket books containing the date, case
number, charges, defendants' names, and summary of actions for each case. I extracted
all of the sodomy cases and reviewed the corresponding criminal case files for the years

10
discourse with gay perspectives made oral history compelling. My objectives were
twofold: representing Salt Lake's postwar gay life with the authenticity of first-person
accounts and organizing a queer oral history archive. I advertised the project on e-mail
lists serving the local gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communities. I also ran
ads in two local gay periodicals and discussed the project at the 2003 Affirmation
International Conference.19 All but one of the respondents were white men from middleor working-class backgrounds, and their ages ranged from 53 to 83 years.20 Most
interviewees also came from LDS families, but reported varying levels of observance.
The twenty-five subjects included twenty-two who currently self-identify as gay, one who
participated in the gay subculture during the 1950s but claims no sexual identity, one who
renounced his gay identity, and a heterosexual woman who socialized with gays in the
1960s. Men who experienced gay life in the 1950s and 1960s are often guarded, yet
several narrators felt they had reached an age where disclosure brought fewer risks such

1948-1972. Records usually included copies of the complaint, arrest warrant, jury
instructions, psychiatric evaluations, and signed verdict. Obtaining evidence for
misdemeanor charges was more challenging. While newspaper accounts of such arrests
occurred periodically, police usually charged gays with disorderly conduct or "lewdness"
which, in theory, had broader applications. However, annual reports available at the Salt
Lake City Police Records Division contained aggregate data on homosexual arrests in the
1960s.
l9

E-mail lists included Kathy's List, the Utah Stonewall Historical Society, Wasatch
Affirmation, Gamofites (an organization serving gay fathers from Mormon
backgrounds), and Family Fellowship (a support network of parents and friends of gays
and lesbians from Mormon backgrounds). The periodicals were The Pillar and the Salt
Lake Metro.

20

I recruited five subjects by e-mail, two through print ads, four by referral from other
interviewees, and fourteen by referral from personal contacts not involved in the study.
Two were born in the 1920s, eight in the 1930s, fourteen in the 1940s, and one in 1951.

11
as job loss or family rejection. However, despite historian Esther Newton's argument that
anonymity reinforces gays' invisibility in contemporary scholarship, I used fictitious
names to facilitate project approval and promote candor.21
Because the interviews occurred locally, most informants shared a perspective
based on long-term residence in Salt Lake, having spent their lives there or returned after
intervals living elsewhere. Although I addressed similar topics in all the interviews, they
were not tightly structured; informality remained the rule. The tone of the conversations
ranged from sorrowful to mirthful. The consent form advised interviewees that they were
not obliged to answer questions that made them uncomfortable. When discussing issues
such as violence and ostracism, some narrators experienced tension between recalling
painful memories and suppressing them; one gentleman became too choked up to finish
his account of a "gay bashing" incident. Their time was well spent, however, since
documentary sources and interviews offered starkly contrasting perspectives. Positive
assessments of same-sex desire never appeared in legal records and written references to
homosexuality seldom occurred in any context but law enforcement, psychology, or
religion. While the documentary record presented homosexuality as stigmatized, legally
punishable, and pathological, oral sources revealed an often painful and difficult
existence, but also one of pleasure, creativity, and community.
Throughout this study I use the word "gay" to describe men whose primary sexual
and emotional attachments involved other men and who, to varying degrees, embraced

'Esther Newton, Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America's First Gay and
Lesbian Town (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), 303-304.

12
homosexuality as a source of personal identity. Most of my narrators reported using
"gay" to describe themselves during the postwar period, while "homosexual" and "queer"
had pejorative connotations. Although several narrators married women earlier in their
lives and two remained married, none self-identified as bisexual, and all but one
described their marriages as concessions to social pressures. Aside from sexual behavior
or erotic preference, my use of "gay" implies a sense of personhood that formed the basis
of a subculture and a community. When discussing laws criminalizing homosexual acts, I
generally use the term "homosexual" to reflect its use by lawmakers, psychiatrists, and
the media. I also use "homosexual" as an adjective when describing feelings or
experiences that occurred before a narrator possessed a concept of sexual identity, or
awareness of his feelings as a source of social difference.
Although all but three of my informants were self-identified gay men, I
acknowledge that the notion of a homosexual person is problematic. Indeed, Grant
Rasmussen's description of homosexual men as gender "inverts" suggests the concept's
mutability over time. My theoretical sympathies lie with social constructionism, which
treats homosexual identity as a product of specific cultural and historical circumstances.
Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality, Volume 1 thus describes the origin of "the
homosexual" as a noun:
Homosexuality appears as one of the forms of sexuality when it was
transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny,
a hermaphroditism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary
aberration; the homosexual was now a species.22
22

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley
(New York: Pantheon, 1978), 43.

13
However, given the challenge of obtaining information about homoeroticism
among men who did not consider themselves gay, this study examines homosexual desire
primarily in terms of "personhood." Nevertheless, while most of my narrators shared a
strong gay self-awareness, I am mindful that their experiences do not apply to everyone
who practiced same-sex eroticism.

CHAPTER 1

"NOT IN OUR DECENT NEIGHBORHOOD..."

When I turned thirteen it seemed sexuality was everywhere, whether it was


the gym locker room or the bass section of the junior high boys' chorus.
There I was singing next to these earnest budding men with newly changed
bass voices and I was awash in sexual feelings. In my twelfth and
thirteenth years there was a great deal of same-sex activity in our
neighborhood, consisting only of mutual masturbation. It was the same
boys who lived on my street, attended Boy Scouts and priesthood meeting,
and attended my school. I found it enormously satisfying and relished it as
an expression of my newly discovered manhood and sexuality. It
happened constantly in back yard tents, in basement bedrooms, and on
Scout camping trips. Looking back, it astonishes me that we were never
caught or suspected.1

Historians identify World War II and the postwar period as transformative years
for gays. During the war, millions of young gay men and lesbians from small towns and
rural communities converged in the homosocial settings of barracks and factories,
discovering their sexuality and each other beyond the reproachful gaze of family and
neighbors. The war years also spawned thriving gay and lesbian subcultures in major port
cities, and the advantages of urban life fueled a sexually-based mass migration from home
towns to "meccas" such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City.2 Smaller
cities such as Salt Lake served a similar function for surrounding rural areas, but with

'Richard B. Tierlink, "An Autobiography with a Focus on Homosexuality," unpublished


manuscript, 1.
2

Berube.

15
different dynamics. The narrators in this study who spent significant periods of their
adult lives in Salt Lake were not primarily sexual migrants, especially since more
generous offerings could be found elsewhere. Although their childhood circumstances
reflected diverse religious, class, and residential experiences, all but a few of the men
traced their presence in Salt Lake to a Utah or Mormon upbringing, and in most cases
both. Unlike the men comprising the gay diaspora in larger cities, the gay men of Salt
Lake claimed roots in the city. They grew up at a time when Utah's lawmakers and
religious leaders fretted over the war's legacy of promiscuity and sex-related crime, yet
they experienced a parallel universe of same-sex eroticism, secretly and momentarily
beyond the reach of policymakers and parents.
This chapter examines the childhood and adolescent experiences of gay men
raised in Utah or the Mormon Church during the 1940s and 1950s, most of whom
recalled little to no discussion of homosexuality. Within narrators' families, the subject
was never raised, reflecting a general reticence about sexuality and a particular
complacence about Mormon families' immunity to "sexual deviance." The
incompatibility of Mormonism and homosexuality seemed so obvious it went without
saying, yet church leaders' and parents' silence provided a tabula rasa for youthful
experimentation. Innocent of its social significance, friends commonly engaged in
homosexual behavior. At the same time, the "queer" stigma typically applied to
nonconforming gender behavior rather than sexuality, but practical necessity and factors
peculiar to the Mormon culture permitted a surprising degree of gender flexibility.
The war years brought into sharp relief Utah's ambiguous relationship to the

16
American cultural mainstream. Described by many as a nation within a nation, Utah has
a history of recurring tensions between a local culture grounded in the Mormon faith and
"worldly" influences. The World War II mobilization seemed tailor-made to bring those
tensions into play as inexperienced young locals ventured abroad and the defense
industries and military bases brought the outside world in, at least temporarily
transforming the character of local communities. Although historian John Berube has
described the Second World War as a national "coming out" experience for gay men and
lesbians, sexual mores in general went by the board as the ability to police behavior
proved unequal to the pace of events.3 The war brought dramatic economic and social
transformation as Utah's economy shifted from agriculture and mining to manufacturing
with the addition of forty-five defense installations. Between 1940 and 1954, the state's
industrial sector doubled and the arrival of improved highways, railways, and airports
altered the "calmness of quiet community life" for good.4 The influx of people around
cities such as Salt Lake, Ogden, and Provo placed enormous stress on local housing,
schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities. While the state's population increased 24.8
percent from 1940 to 1950, Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah Counties increased by 95, 29.6,
and 41.1 percent, respectively.5

For an overview of the region's general relationship to American culture, see Gottlieb
and Wiley, 12-13, 43-9; Berube.

Polk's Salt Lake City Directory.

Thomas G. Alexander, "Utah War Industry During World War JJ: A Human Impact
Analysis," Utah Historical Quarterly 51 (Winter 1983): 79-81; The Utah Committee of
the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth, Report of the Utah
Committee Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth to the Governor

17
Reflecting on his wartime childhood, Keith Branson described those years as
strange and exciting times. Venturing from his home near Liberty Park, he found the city
transformed by the presence of so many soldiers and strangers: "I don't ever remember
being cautioned. The only thing I remember my mother telling me was not to go into the
restrooms at Liberty Park." During one excursion to the park, he learned about condoms
when friends showed him what the soldiers had discarded in the bushes, and a more
significant discovery occurred at his junior high school, when he first heard the word
"queer": "I overheard this conversation about the queers because there was a very 'out'
kind of guy there, a student. I remember my next door neighbor pointing out this guy,
and he said this guy 'goes up to the fort and lets the soldiers fuck him in the ass.'"6
In a culture which traditionally relied more on religious-based standards than law
enforcement to preserve the "calmness of quiet community life," people were especially
unprepared for the social and sexual consequences of the mobilization. Although Marvin
Ashton's advice columns in the LDS magazine The Improvement Era urged parents to be
patient about habits acquired by children and servicemen during the war, once the dust
settled and people took stock of the war's social consequences, forbearance gave way to
demands for order.7 However, the public reaction to wartime permissiveness shrouded
homosexuality in a generalized concern over nonmarital sex and oblique references to

of the State of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Archives, 1950), 6-7.
6

Keith Branson [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 16 February
2004.

Marvin Ashton, "Put Your Arms Around Him," The Improvement Era 48 (April 1945):
189.

18
"sexual delinquency." According to Michel Foucault, regulating "perverse" sexuality
requires public discourse that acknowledges, and possibly incites, perverse behavior.8
Thus, public policymakers, LDS Church leaders, educators, and parents faced a dilemma.
Preventing homosexuality among locals required acknowledging their propensity for it,
which contradicted their self-image. On the other hand, projecting homosexuality on
"outsiders" left homosexuality within local families unchecked and denied the possibility
that children would discover it on their own.
In 1949, Governor J. Bracken Lee appointed a task force to examine the problem
of sex offenders, with an emphasis on detecting potential "deviance" during childhood.
The committee called for a prophylactic approach, advising parents to "better understand
normal behavior in children" and warning that "a deviate from the normal often seeks
satisfaction in socially unacceptable ways." In language reminiscent of the screening
process employed to weed out homosexuals and other "undesirables" from the armed
services, the final report recommended that schools provide programs for identifying and
assisting "children who deviate from the normal pattern of behavior" and that all
teachers receive training "to recognize the symptoms of sexual deviation and facilities
available to meet the need (Italics mine)."9 The committee's seemingly unproblematic
use of the terms "normal" and "deviant" begged the question of who had authority to
define normality. Statutory definitions offered few predictive clues for keeping children
from becoming sex offenders. The task of educating people about early signs of "sexual
8

Foucault, passim,

^ t a h Committee, 1,4-9.

19
deviance" suggested the novelty of the idea and a need for consensus on matters
traditionally left unspoken.
The Lee committee acknowledged differences of opinion as to what constituted a
sex offense, citing the recently published Kinsey study's emphasis on "wide variations in
sexual attitudes between one social group and another, and in some cases of claimed
sexual aberration the accusing group, rather than the accused person, may need
orientation and even treatment."10 Just as Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human
Male lifted the veil on American sexuality, a 1949 survey of male college students
provided a barometer of local attitudes toward sex. John Pennock examined the sexual
histories and attitudes of 200 single men attending the University of Utah, 90.5 percent of
whom considered homosexuality wrong. To place their disapproval in perspective,
Pennock asked the students which of three behaviors they considered most "harmful" and
most "wrong," homosexuality, heterosexual intercourse, or masturbation. Even though
54 percent of their heterosexual experiences involved adulterous liaisons, prostitutes, or
casual "pickups," 71.5 percent of the men considered homosexuality the most wrong.11
Pennock's research design and interpretations reflected a preoccupation with
sexual object choice that denied homosexuality the same moral complexity as
heterosexuality. Pennock asked respondents to evaluate the "wrongfulness" of
nonmarital heterosexual intercourse only, while treating homosexuality monolithically.

10

Utah Committee, 1, 4-9.

"John Albert Pennock, "A Study of the Sexual Attitudes and Behavior of Two Hundred
Single College Men" (Master's Diss., University of Utah, 1949), 50-4, 59.

The questions yielded nuanced information about the circumstances in which nonmantal
intercourse occurred and its frequency, but no similar information about homosexual
activities, which may have been frequent or rare, casual or committed. The study thus
provided a single measure of homosexuality's moral worth, and with most respondents
agreeing it was wrong, Pennock confidently described them as "definitely set in their
minds that homosexuality of any kind is both morally wrong and physically harmful
(Italics mine)."12
Although Pennock did not correlate the responses with students' religious
affiliations, the 71.5 percent figure for those who considered homosexuality "most
wrong" is noteworthy since the number of Mormons in the sample approximated their
percentage in the student body, 68.75 percent. Governor Lee's task force on sex
offenders envisioned a dominant role for the Mormon Church in creating consensus on
"sexual deviance" and implementing the panel's objectives. Committee members felt
their task would be facilitated by Utah's "distinct religio-social type of community
organization" and considerable overlap among religious, political, and social institutions.
The state's population remained predominantly Mormon, with those engaged in
government often identical to those officiating in religion, especially in rural areas, and
the LDS Church's parish, or ward, boundaries typically coincided with election districts.
Coupled with the church's emphasis on obedience to authority, such conditions ensured
"homogeneity of purpose and common ideals."13

12

Pennock, 50-4.

"Ibid., 23-4, 50-6; Utah Committee, 5.

21
In 1947, LDS Apostle Spencer W. Kimball received a "special assignment" to
counsel Mormon men dealing with "homosexual problems."14 Although his assignment
and the Pennock study suggested that Mormons viewed homosexuality as a distinct form
of sexual immorality warranting "special" handling, the church's homophobia was not
distinctive in the emerging Cold War culture. During the early 1950s, as homosexuality
became a national concern, LDS President David O. McKay actually presented a
moderate face to the world in matters of sexual morality. According to authors Robert
Gottlieb and Peter Wiley,
Though chastity was brought up numerous times, it was never singled out
as the most critical issue involving Mormon self-control. Themes of
"deviation" that became so prominent in the later 1960s and 1970s, such
as masturbation, homosexuality, necking and petting, pornography, and
abortion were hardly touched on.15
With Mormons appointed to prominent leadership positions in the Eisenhower
administrations, the LDS Church secured a foothold in a national culture that exalted the
heterosexual nuclear family as a matter of national security. The church's sexual
conservatism was comparatively unremarkable for a denomination traditionally viewed as
sexually extreme, and church leaders were not especially strident about homosexuality.16
Hence, the church's public stance subsumed homosexuality within general
prohibitions against nonmarital sex. Church leaders' official statements usually made
broad references to "immorality," directing most of their attention to the perils of the

14

Quinn, 434.

15

Gottlieb and Wiley, 219-21.

16

Ibid., 57, 75-8, 221; Johnson, 36-8.

postwar youth culture. At a time when "the love that dare not speak its name' remained
taboo, church disapproval of homosexuality went without saying, while the phenomenal
expansion of automobile culture ensured that heterosexual teenage dating commanded
church leaders' attention. In a 1950 speech, Spencer W. Kimball described sin and evil
as "more prevalent today than ever before among young people." Despite his "special
assignment" counseling LDS men with homosexual desires, however, Kimball only cited
late hours, automobiles, and "necking" as the chief temptations of the young.17
However, local educators showed less reserve. In 1948, a University of Utah
master's thesis surveyed attitudes toward sex education among 174 primary and
secondary school principals, who represented 40 percent of the state's public schools.
The study's author, La Mar Holmes, cited the prevalence of "sexual perversion," often a
byword for homosexuality, and the abundance of sex in popular culture as reasons for
providing better public sex education. He warned that "faulty" sex education resulted in
distorted personalities, while adequate sex education benefitted "the unperverted as well
as...the perverted." Discussing homosexuality in terms of "sex perversion" left little
ambiguity over its nature, and educators valued its inclusion in a sex education
curriculum as a deterrent to unacceptable behavior.18
The school principals overwhelmingly agreed that parents and teachers lacked

For general statements by LDS leaders against immorality, see "Grave Danger Faces
Home, Apostle Avers," Salt Lake Tribune. 4 April 1949, and "LDS Seminary Aids
Advised to Combat Immorality," Salt Lake Tribune, 20 August 1950.
3

LaMar L. Holmes, "The Status of Sex Education in the Schools of Utah" (Master's
Diss., University of Utah, 1948), 4-10.

23
adequate training to provide sex education and that the strongest opposition to sex
education came from parents and church leaders.19 As the Kinsey studies challenged the
consensus that homosexuality was wrong and addressed the issue from a position of
moral complexity, some LDS leaders feared educators would not toe a reliably
conservative line and that sex education would be a Trojan horse for more permissive
views. In 1952, J. Reuben Clark of the LDS Church's First Presidency voiced Mormon
opposition to formal sex education at the Annual General Relief Society Conference. A
former undersecretary of state, Clark gave one of the church's rare public statements
about homosexuality at a time when the State Department systematically purged
homosexuals as security risks. While the Holmes survey saw cautionary value in
teaching about "sexual perversion," Clark cited homosexuality as a reason to oppose
formal sex education. In his speech "Home and the Building of Home Life" Clark
condemned "the person who teaches or condones the crimes for which Sodom and
Gomorrah were destroyed. We have coined a softer name for them than came from old:
we now speak of homosexuality which, it is tragic to say, is found among both sexes."20
Airing such delicate matters before an audience of women suggested a governing
role for mothers in their children's sex education. However, both the Holmes and
Pennock surveys found parents remiss: only 28.5 percent of the men in John Pennock's
study identified parents as their first source of sexual information, while 10.5 percent

'Ibid., 50.
'Gottlieb, 55; President J. Reuben Clark, "Home, and the Building of Home Life," Relief
Society Magazine (December 1952): 793-4.

24
received sex education at school and 25.5 percent learned about sex "on the street."21
Narrator Edward Perry's family never discussed sex during his childhood: "If it
depended on sex education from my parents, I would still think at 72 years old that the
stork brought babies because there was absolutely no talk. I was raised in a family where
my whole life I never saw my mother naked, I never saw my brothers naked or my
sister...it was just that modest."22
Several narrators described their parents' approach to sex education as silence
punctuated by anger if they caught their children engaged in sexual behavior. In such
cases, punishment provided an early lesson in what constituted "normal" sexual behavior.
According to Bill Cloward, who grew up in a devout Mormon family,
I would simply say that I was very much aware as a child that I was
attracted to boys, and then later on, male teens and male adults. It was not
something we spoke of in my family, although I discovered early on that
engaging in any sexual contact, any touching, anything of that sort, was
something that I would be punished for. My earliest memories are of
when I was three years old, engaged in some behavior that my father found
objectionable, some exploration of a friend's body, and I was caught by
my father and punished for it.23
However, in postwar Utah inadequate sex education and taboos about
homosexuality left most boys with little to no information about sexuality in general, let
alone homosexuality. Parents' reticence and the LDS Church's public emphasis on

Pennock, 33.
2

Edward Perry [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Davis County, Utah, 8
December 2003.

'Bill Cloward [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 12 April
2004.

25
heterosexual immorality left young gays in a state of moral limbo, especially those who
felt a keen sense of difference from "normal" youth. According to Evan Thompson, "the
LDS Church was not teaching you very much except to be clean and to not have sex and
to not make out...It was so easy for me to say, 'But that's well and good for heterosexual
kids,' it seemed like I was different, I felt like I had to find my own rules and find my
own way."24 In the absence of knowledge, experimentation was rife although John
Pennock's survey showed that by adulthood, most young men considered homosexuality
wrong, including many who had engaged in homoerotic play during childhood.
Pennock's study revealed homosexual behavior as a fairly common, spontaneous
activity among young men, despite their overwhelming disapproval of it. When asked
whether they had ever engaged in homosexual activity, defined as "sex play to an orgasm
with another male," 16.5 percent of the men in Pennock's study answered affirmatively.
The figure seems low compared to the 47 percent reported for single college men in
Kinsey's study, but so was the local rate of heterosexual intercourse. Only 42 percent of
Pennock's respondents reported past heterosexual intercourse, compared to 67 percent of
the single college men in Kinsey's study. Thus, homosexual behavior comprised 28.2
percent of the total sexual activity in Pennock's sample, versus 41.2 percent in the Kinsey
data. Given the disproportionate Mormon presence in Pennock's sample and
respondents' overwhelming disapproval of homosexuality, the amount of homosexual
activity reported is actually surprising. The figure would probably have been higher still

24

Evan Thompson [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Davis County, Utah, 26
December 2005.

26
if the study had not occurred in a marriage preparation course, an unlikely source of selfidentified gay men.25
Pennock's study showed disparity between behavior and beliefs, for the majority
of men who disapproved of homosexuality included at least some who had engaged in
past homosexual activity. As late as 1972, after a decade of intensive efforts by the LDS
Church to suppress homosexuality, a similar survey of Mormon college men revealed that
even though only 1.3 percent reported present participation in homosexual activity (down
from 2.7 percent in 1950), 10 percent admitted to past homosexual experiences.26 The
prevalence of homosexual behavior in samples of putatively heterosexual men revealed
the same complexity as the Kinsey studies, which challenged the notion of a distinct
homosexual personality type and the stability of sexual categories. Pennock dismissed
the significance of the reported homosexual activity, distinguishing casual homosexual
contact based on "erogenous stimulation" from exclusive same-sex attraction. Although
his survey did not ask participants whether they considered themselves homosexuals, he
concluded that their homosexual activity was "mere child's play" rather than an exclusive
orientation since most of it occurred early in life.27

25

Pennock, 23-4, 50-6, 64. The homosexual experiences were reported to have occurred
as early as age five and as late as age twenty-four; figures for total sexual activity
excluded masturbation; the percentage of Mormons in the study approximated their
percentage in the entire student body (68.75 percent), and 87 percent of the group
reported active attendance at some church, significantly higher than national estimates of
50 percent at the time.

26

Wilford E. Smith, "Mormon Sex Standards on College Campuses, or Deal Us Out of the
Sexual Revolution!," Dialogue 10, no. 2 (Autumn 1976): 77, 80.

Pennock, 53, 76.

In the absence of specific information or parental admonitions against


homosexuality, "erogenous stimulation" was indeed a common adolescent pastime.
Many men from the current study indulged in sexual play with boys their age, most of
whom would spend their adult lives as heterosexuals. Whether or not Governor Lee's
task force on sex offenders considered such play "normal childhood sexual behavior,"
those interviewed typically had no awareness at the time that it was anything but
innocent, given the lack of information condemning it. In most cases, experimentation
occurred in advance of any education, formal or otherwise, about prevailing sexual
mores. Like the men in Pennock's survey, narrators in the current study would at some
point learn that homosexuality was "wrong," but belatedly.
Parents avoided discussion of homosexuality out of fear, but also complacence.
As the public response to sex offenders moved toward a more coercive legal environment
for adult homosexuals, denial persisted within families. Mormons' conservative sexual
standards bred a certain assurance that deviant sexuality could not occur among their
people, notwithstanding Kimball's "special assignment." In typical Mormon households,
homosexuality was not only unmentionable, but inconceivable. Denial exemplified a
process described by scholar Dennis Airman of projecting "the homosexuality in
everyone onto a defined minority as a way of externalizing forbidden desires and
reassuring the majority that homosexuality is something that happens to other people."28
According to Richard Tierlink,

28

Dennis Altaian, The Homosexualization of America, the Americanization of the


Homosexual (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982), 72.

28

People thought homosexual behavior was uncommon, or occurred


somewhere other than in our decent neighborhood. I doubt that boys
nowadays, in our gay-aware age, and with constant interviews by the
bishop, would get away with it. I am astonished now how I participated in
this activity in a childlike, innocent, and guilt-free way, although I admit
that I was careful not to get caught.29
To acknowledge homosexual behavior among one's children was tantamount to
admitting failure as parents or as Mormons. Although Governor Lee's task force
suggested early signs of "sexual deviance" could be detected in schoolchildren, it did not
fit Mormons' self-image. Parents certainly did not condone homosexual experimentation
among their children, but they were not particularly vigilant about it either, and their
inattention created a permissive environment for boys who were "careful not to get
caught."
During World War II, long-time residents had feared the influx of oversexed
young servicemen and the consequences of their children mingling with outsiders who
did not share their LDS standards. Similarly, state officials expressed concern that as the
state's youth migrated from rural to urban communities or left the state altogether, most
Utah communities would "never be the placid, homogeneous rural areas that they were...a
few decades ago."30 However, contrary to such fears and J. Reuben Clark's belief that
sex education in the schools would incite homosexuality, this study reveals that
homosexual experiences occurred spontaneously in the most "home grown"
circumstances, such as rural communities and institutions identified with the LDS

Tierlink.
'Alexander; Utah Committee, 6-7.

Church. For example, Wayne Hewitt recalled an episode from his Mormon upbringing in
Louisiana. After visiting some local families, Wayne's home teaching companion "took
me to a drive-in and had me give him a blow job, which I'd never done before in my life.
But there was something about it that I liked, the bonding and...the affection, so it was
affiliated with the church when I had my first gay experience."31 Similarly, Bill Cloward
described his sexual coming of age in Provo, Utah:
I was a very open sexual boy when I was growing up and my friends and I
engaged in sexual play. I had various kinds of sexual encounters with teen
boys when I was a teen myself through high school regularly, and I don't
remember feeling very guilty about any of that, I mean it just felt so
natural to me. I didn't really feel much guilt until I approached mission
age, when I knew I was supposed to be somehow spiritually pure,
whatever that means, in that definition of the Mormon Church.32
Such experiences undermined the simple distinction between an uncorrupted community
life and infiltration by alien values during the war or in sex education classes. Projecting
"sexual deviance" onto "others," i.e., those outside the dominant Mormon culture,
obscured the sexual activities of Utah's native sons and daughters, permitting a
significant degree of unacknowledged sexual behavior. Left to their own devices, boys
proved adept at creating alternative worlds in which, for a time at least, eroticism flowed
freely and seemed a "natural" component of friendship.
Erotic play with other boys was especially common in rural communities,
although the urban gay cultural model is premised on repressive images of rural life. In

31

Wayne Hewitt [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Utah County, 23 May
2004.

32

Cloward interview.

30
busy rural households, parents conferred significant degrees of trust, responsibility, and
independence on children and often favored versatility in performing household tasks
over a strict separation of gender roles. In addition, the abundance of secluded spaces and
relative scarcity of sexual outlets resulted in less preoccupation with sexual object choice
and more opportunities for homoerotic activity. In contrast to urban settings, homosexual
activity in rural areas usually occurred in the context of everyday tasks and social
relations rather than specialized spaces.
For example, Neil Madsen's older cousin introduced him to sex while growing up
on a farm in Utah County. Although neighboring farm boys taunted him for being an
artistic, well-spoken "pretty boy," he was also approached by some who "wanted to mess
around."33 Similarly, Gene Topham described growing up in Star Valley, Wyoming, a
predominantly Mormon ranching community: "There weren't many kids in my little
home town, and the two main (boys) that were in my area, they were good friends and we
started fooling around....The other two kids were from Mormon families."34
In the absence of such direct experience, voyeuristic activities provided safe
opportunities to explore same-sex desire. For several years, David Simms indulged his
burgeoning attraction to men vicariously in the shower facilities at Brigham Young
University and the LDS Church-owned Deseret Gym. At age twelve, he and a friend
bicycled to BYU and entered the men's athletic facility under pretext of using the
33

Neil Madsen [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 14 June
2004.

34

Gene Topham [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 2 May
2005.

31
restroom:
We never used the public bathroom, we would always use the shower
room bathrooms, and there was always this strange fascination that I had
with the male naked body, and to me it was just interesting to go in and
see these mature, nineteen to twenty-plus year-olds in the showers.35
Similarly, Keith Branson's first homoerotic experience involved watching a
lifeguard showering at Liberty Park: "I stood there and watched him and it was really
exciting, and that turned into a masturbatory fantasy that I used for years when I was
young. That was one brief summer episode, but I knew that minute that I felt this way
about men."36
Gazing also figures prominently in accounts of childhood "swimming holes." A
case study from Grant Rasmussen's 1937 thesis conveys the gay subject's ambiguous
position in a swimming hole setting. Surrounded by naked peers and an adult scout
leader, "Claude" experienced both arousal and vulnerability:
Claude was morbidly conscious of his own body. He hated to have the
other boys look upon his nakedness. He made every effort to cover
himself, and as he paused on the diving board, he unconsciously covered
his genitals with his hand, and one of the boys vulgarly and loudly
commented on the fact....In spite of all the embarrassment, Claude
examined secretly the bodies of the boys very closely. The body of the
scout master, however, held the most interest because of its muscular
build, the pubic hair, and the large sexual organ. Even during subsequent
periods of daydreaming and his flight from reality, Claude would think of
the scout master. He imagined he was indulging in all manner of secret
sexual practices, things of which he knew nothing, and wanted so much to
learn.37

'David Simms [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Utah County, 5 April 2004.
'Branson interview.
'Rasmussen, Part Three, "A Detailed Case Study," unpaged.

32
Although Claude's self-consciousness precluded camaraderie with the other boys, his
arousal ultimately led to reflection, self-awareness, and a more intentional exploration of
his sexuality.
Narrator Ben Holbrook, who grew up in Salt Lake City, also experienced selfconsciousness among peers and arousal at the sight of adult males, but in separate
settings. In the first instance, he deplored high school gym classes which required
participation and, quite literally, measuring up to other young men:
I was not a sports person, I was not into the athletic end of it. I transferred
from gym several times, but they always put me right back into that, and I
hated it, the showering and being ridiculed. I didn't like to show myself
nude, I just couldn't deal with it. No one's happy with their body, and
then when you look at the other guys, I mean some of them were very
well-endowed for young people, and there you were with what you had,
and so you just felt very insecure, and you knew that they were all looking
and poking fun at you.38
At the Deseret Gym, however, Ben's presence was voluntary and the age difference
between him and the other patrons allowed the pleasure of observing without being
observed. Ben described nude same-sex use of the Deseret Gym's pool as "an innocent
type of thing they didn't care about" in the 1950s.
Complacence about homosexuality that permitted nude swimming on scouting
trips and at the Deseret Gym did not extend to heterosexual interaction. Lacking formal
sex education, several narrators from this study reported awareness of premarital
pregnancy as the most serious possible consequence of sexual experimentation. Parents
found homosexual behavior abhorrent but unthinkable in their children, while
38

Ben Holbrook [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 6
December 2004.

33
heterosexual intercourse posed a more probable and potentially difficult situation.
Impressed with the dangers of premarital intercourse, many gay adolescents considered
homosexual activity less risky when nobody taught them otherwise. When Wayne
Hewitt's mother told him not to have sex with women until marriage, "I had no problem
going by that because I had strong feelings the other way. I don't remember there being
any addresses in church about sexuality among men, but I felt this was much better than
having sex with a woman because I wasn't getting anyone pregnant."39
Whereas J. Reuben Clark feared discussion of homosexuality in sex education
classes would provoke experimentation, the Holmes survey of Utah school principals
reflected greater concern with premarital heterosexual behavior. While all but 28 of the
174 principals saw cautionary value in discussing "sexual perversion," 54 opposed
discussing contraception. Despite widespread concerns about teen pregnancy,
contraception garnered the strongest negative response of all the topics in the survey. By
reducing the risk of premarital sex, contraception posed a greater temptation to young
people than "sexual perversion."40
In addition to concerns over pregnancy, the most common parental admonitions
involved masturbation. In his plea against sex education in the schools, J. Reuben Clark
assailed "the person who teaches the nonsinfulness of self-pollution," who belonged "in
the same class with the teachers who prostitute the sex urge."41 However, the men in

39

Hewitt interview.

40

Holmes, 4-10.

41

Clark.

34
John Pennock's study expressed more benign attitudes towards masturbation than
homosexuality and premarital intercourse, with 92.5 percent having engaged in the
practice at some time and only 29 percent considering it wrong. Pennock concluded that
"college men have apparently come to the realization that...masturbation is a fairly
universal type of outlet among men, and do not, therefore, acquire the guilt feeling which,
in the past, has characterized those who have participated in this activity."42
The prevalence of masturbation and relaxed attitudes toward it among a group of
predominantly LDS men is significant, because Spencer W. Kimball implicated
masturbation as a cause of homosexuality in later years. The LDS Church Presidency
eventually instructed local leaders to screen prospective missionaries for homosexuality
using direct questions because a newly assigned missionary had "admitted to having
masturbated in groups with other college students at BYU which implies possible
homosexual activities."43 After serving as Salt Lake City Police Chief in the late 1950s,
former BYU professor W. Cleon Skousen also published a child-rearing volume that
cautioned, "Every boy should know that masturbation may be the first step toward
homosexuality. Frequently it starts out with masturbation, and then the individual seeks a
partner for mutual sex play."44 However, the lenient attitudes toward masturbation
among John Pennock's students, compared to their overwhelming disapproval of

Pennock, 40, 49, 54.


'Quinn, 434, 440.
l

W. Cleon Skousen, So You Want to Raise a Boy? (Garden City, N.Y.:


Doubleday, 1962), 285-86.

35
homosexuality, suggests they saw no causal relation between masturbation and
homosexuality.45
Narrators from this study were sometimes warned about masturbation on the basis
of mental harm, without reference to homosexuality. When no affliction occurred and
opportunities for homoerotic play abounded, they engaged in mutual masturbation in an
"innocent and guilt-free way," unburdened by concerns over homosexuality. Since sexual
experimentation with other boys was commonplace, it did not distinguish those who
became gay from those who did not. The narrators did not necessarily define such
experimentation as "gay" or "homosexual," especially when contrasting it with their "first
real gay sexual experiences," which usually occurred during adulthood. None of the men
in this study claimed that their childhood sexual behavior "caused" their homosexuality.
Instead, their experiences revealed same-sex erotic behavior among boys as a fairly
common, unremarkable aspect of boyhood having no bearing on adult sexual orientation.
Nevertheless, nearly all of the narrators also reported a sense of difference from
other boys, apart from sexual behavior, which presaged their adult roles as gay men.
Retrospectively defining certain childhood differences as "gay" is common in gay and
lesbian recollections. In doing so, narrators "reclaim" experiences not originally
acknowledged as "gay" due to social pressures or lack of a conceptual vocabulary for
homosexuality. It also legitimates gayness as something deep-seated and stable.
Whereas Governor Lee's task force considered childhood difference a potential source of
"deviance," gays value childhood difference as part of a coherent self-image based on gay
45

Pennock, 50.

36
identity.46
Expression and management of childhood difference fell into two basic patterns,
"passing" versus "queer." "Passing" characterized those whose interests and bearing
conformed to gender expectations for boys their age. They generally felt accepted among
their peers, and the camaraderie extended to the sexual experimentation described earlier.
Thus, Edward Perry unselfconsciously participated in school banter about wearing purple
on Thursdays, or "fairy days," which had no apparent relation to the sexual play he
enjoyed with friends. Far from being a sign of effeminacy or weakness, boys such as
Richard Tierlink even relished such experimentation as "an expression of my newly
discovered manhood and sexuality." However, a sense of difference eventually did
emerge in the context of those activities.47
While many young men engaged in same-sex erotic play without applying the
term "homosexual" to themselves or their behavior, gay men invested those same

Most sociological models of gay identity development agree on a process where one's
socialization as heterosexual becomes incongruent with feelings and desires, after which
one progresses through stages of denial and acceptance, culminating for some in
commitment to a gay identity. However, even after someone identifies his or her sexual
behavior as "homosexual," the social stigma attached to homosexuality necessitates
cognitive redefinition of the category "homosexuality" before the leap from
homosexual behavior to homosexual identity can take place. Usually the transition from
"doing" to "being" is achieved through exposure to other gay people and more
positive role models. For those growing up during the 1940s and '50s, social hostility
and silence inhibited gay identity formation, although homosexual behavior could
persist as long as the cultural stigma referred to a stereotypical "other," in most cases
those who did not conform to conventional gender standards. See Richard Troiden, "A
Model of Homosexual Identity Formation" in Social Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay
Studies: A Reader, ed. Peter M. Nardi and Beth E. Schneider (London: Routledge,
1998), 265-76.
Perry interview; Tierlink, 1.

experiences with different meanings. Most of the men in this study reported feeling that
the experimentation meant more to them than their partners, and they valued those
encounters as expressions of same-sex desire rather than mere "erogenous stimulation."
Consequently, they experienced alienation when other boys "paired off' with girls and
expected them to do the same. According to Bill Cloward,
Somehow I felt like what we were doing meant more to me than it did to
the person I was with....I didn't have words to describe it, but I was very
much aware that I was attracted to boys, even through that time when
society said I should now be attracted to girls. When I reached the point
where the opposite genders begin to attract, it didn't work for me.48
Others described enduring friendships which included sex but also strong
elements of mutual affection. Thus, while Gene Topham had sexual relations with two
friends in the Mormon community where he was raised, he described one as "sadistic,"
but the other as "my first boyfriend, he was very gentle and very loving, and we often
spent the nights together if his family left."49 In the Mormon culture, gendered
socialization assumed institutional form at an early age, with children segregated by sex
and channeled into highly circumscribed roles. According to anthropologist David
Knowlton, Mormon culture "values a limited kind of male bonding. Such male bonding
is positively sanctioned to build, and express with emotion, love for one another at
appropriate times." For young men with homosexual feelings, close association with
other males could fuel incipient desires, while Mormon sanctions against premarital sex
freed them from the pressures of heterosexual performance essential to American
48

Cloward interview.

49

Topham interview.

38
masculinity.50
While homosexually-inclined boys engaged in homoerotic activity with friends as
part of a "normal" childhood, they remained aware of the stigma and penalties attached to
being overtly "queer." The "queer" label generally applied to boys whose appearance or
manners did not conform to conventional, peer-based gender expectations or who
engaged in passive sexual relations with adult men. Because gender presentation
assumed greater significance in labeling someone as queer, homosexually-inclined boys
who otherwise fit in among peers usually did not associate queerness with their own
desires. If they did, they kept their feelings to themselves because the price of disclosure
was too high. Keith Branson first heard the word "queer" used as an antigay epithet
against a school classmate rumored to be having sex with adult men, which his peers
considered in an altogether different light than casual erotic play among friends. Upon
hearing the epithet, he realized, "Oh, that's what I am." Long aware of his attraction to
men, Keith's discovery of someone thus stigmatized evoked fear as well as empathy. The
threat of ostracism ultimately kept him from engaging the other fellow: "He was in my art
class, and he directly asked me if I was queer, and I denied it. But he always intrigued
me, I wanted to know him, I wanted to be with him, but I never did, I felt I couldn't."51
Unlike boys who passed, "queer" boys experienced difference as a status imposed
by others, and the stigma was all-encompassing. Being labeled queer based on external
appearances often preceded any self-awareness of homosexual desire, and the resulting
50

David Knowlton, "On Mormon Masculinity," Sunstone (August 1992): 23-4, 27.

'Branson interview.

39
alienation from other boys actually precluded opportunities for the sexual play available
to those who passed. In any case, those mocked as "queer" could ill-afford to engage in
overt sexual behavior with boys their age, and in some instances they overcompensated
by rushing into sexual relations with girls. Ben Holbrook grew up in a Salt Lake
working-class household and experienced two short-lived marriages during his late teens
before accepting his homosexuality. He described his initial confusion at being called a
queer and having to ask his older sister, '"What's that? Why are they calling me that?',
and then she told me and I thought, 'Oh, so that's what I am'....I didn't realize that they
could pick up on that, because I didn't feel like I was acting any different than anyone
else."52
However, just as Mormonism sanctioned male bonding that sometimes led to
eroticism, it also accommodated unconventional gender behavior. Although Mormon
culture sacralized gender difference as part of its divine plan for salvation, it also offered
standards of masculinity that softened the difference. Young men ostracized by peers for
being "queer" sometimes found acceptance in church settings as long as they remained
discreet about their homosexual desires. For example, one of Grant Rasmussen's case
studies from the 1930s involved a young man rejected by other boys because of his
"effeminate" manners. He eventually found fellowship in a local church congregation
(denomination not identified), where softness in men was no liability. He especially
preferred the company of older church members because "they never embarrassed him by
referring to his effeminacy; in fact they seemed to admire him all the more, especially
52

Holbrook interview.

40
when they interpreted the effeminacy as spirituality, devotion, innocence, and virtue."53
While LDS Church authorities cited homosexuality as a possible outcome of
"inappropriate" gender roles in the marriage relationship, the Mormon conception of
masculinity actually embraced qualities typically considered feminine. For example, the
Mormon emphasis on spirituality among men stood in sharp contrast to the Western
tradition defining religious devotion as feminine. As Knowlton explains, "Mormons
value a man who is spiritual. In fact, church position, a measure of spirituality, also
becomes a gauge of manhood. Mormonism praises the man who is able to shed tears as a
manifestation of spirituality."54 For boys shunned at school for being "queer," a church
environment that rewarded softness while frowning on the quintessentially masculine
pastimes of drinking, smoking, profanity, and premarital sex could provide a more level
playing field.
The gentle habits of Mormon men also fascinated non-Mormon men who did not
fit conventional standards of masculinity. Such was the case for Rick Pace, who grew up
in California and had been sexually active with men since junior high school, but "not
really having much guilt about it." Although his sexuality eventually became an issue in
the Mormon culture, he enrolled at Brigham Young University because LDS standards of
masculinity accorded with his own. During his childhood, the Episcopal Church
provided a similar niche for someone feeling out of sorts with other boys, and Rick felt
religion gave him "an excuse" for being different: "I thought I should be religious

53

Rasmussen, Part Three, "A Detailed Case Study," unpaged.

54

Knowlton, 23-4.

41
because I didn't like smoking and drinking. I felt like guys were really cruel, and I
wasn't. The way they mistreated each other in athletics and all the other stuff was just
very uncomfortable for me."55 Mormonism seemed the perfect antidote since, as David
Knowlton explains, "Instead of independence and aggression, it values the collegial man
who operates within the domain of the Church in a non-contentious, cooperative
fashion."56
Official Mormonism also departed from traditional conceptions of masculinity in
its expectation that men become deeply involved in family life, even as nurturers.57
However, economic circumstances sometimes prevented either parent from consistently
fulfilling that role, and nurturing devolved on older children of either sex. For example,
Edward Perry described a Depression-era childhood spent caring for four younger
siblings:
I had to take responsibility at a very early age and tend my siblings. When
I was in third and fourth grades, both my parents worked...so I was home
all alone in the summertime with kids. We couldn't even afford a phone,
so if you had problems, you just had to deal with it. I remember
sometimes when I was tending the babies, they would keep crying, I didn't
know what to do, so I would just hold them to my breast to shut them up,
and I thought "well, I guess that's okay."58
Edward also recalled his mother's pleasure at coming home from work to find the floors

Rick Pace [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 29 March
2004.

Knowlton, 23-4.

Ibid.

Perry interview.

mopped and the beds made. His experience suggests some families tolerated or even
valued flexible gender standards for pragmatic reasons, especially during the Depression
and in farm households where both parents spent significant time away from home.
Thus, Gene Topham described how "several times I remember my mother saying that I
was supposed to have been a girl and I learned to cook as soon as I could reach the oven
door. I always had to be there to prepare when mother wasn't there."59 Assumption of
"feminine" roles encompassed attitudes as well as activities, and Edward Perry's parents
"thought I was a great child because I didn't complain."60
Childhood versatility and complaisance typified the "best little boy in the world"
complex by which gay men overcame feelings of inadequacy or difference. Author Will
Fellows explains that the phenomenon involves
exceptionally obedient and mature relations with parents and other elders,
an earnest commitment to farm and household work responsibilities,
above average performance in school...and a devotion to religious belief
and church involvement that often exceeded that of the parents.61
Performing essential tasks traditionally defined as "women's work" could also
purchase tolerance for cross-gendered activities less likely to win approval, such as
Edward Perry having a doll on his bed. Similarly, Ben Holbrook described how he
played paper dolls, hated sports, and generally did the things his sister enjoyed, but also
learned to cook, wash, and iron at an early age. Gene Topham found cooking and

59

Topham interview.

60

Perry interview.

Will Fellows, Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest (Madison,
Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996), 14.

43
substituting for his mother compatible with his leisure-time activities, which involved
putting on a discarded dress, placing his young nephew or niece in a baby stroller, and
playing "house" with the neighborhood kids: "I'd dress up and put the baby in the stroller
and away we'd go down the gravel road, pushing the baby buggy. I was never really
bothered by anybody in town as far as me doing that...but that was probably my first step
in dressing up as a female."62
Mormons also accepted gender nonconformity in young men who excelled in
prestigious artistic fields, and they encouraged artistic achievement as an alternative to
the youth culture that offended their standards. For example, Stan Lambert grew up in a
Salt Lake family where "all of the men were football players but one." Raised by a
divorced mother who indulged his interests in music, art, and the Utah Civic Ballet, his
initial feelings of difference arose from artistic sensibility rather than sexual desire:
"When I say 'different,' without it being a sexual thing at all, it was that I had a different
agenda for myself. For the sexual side of it, it really was yet to be dealt with, but the
social side and the constitution of the being were very much in place."63 Similarly, while
Evan Thompson always felt different and "was not a particularly masculine boy," his
musical talent gave him "a niche and a hook for people to hang my personality on, so that
it was more acceptable to them." Church leaders sometimes encouraged artistic
expression in young men struggling with homosexuality as a means to "discipline" their

Holbrook, Topham interviews.


'Stan Lambert [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 26 April
2004.

desires or engage them in a "legitimate" form. Thus, when Thompson consulted LDS
Apostle Mark E. Petersen about his homosexuality, the latter advised him to "distract"
himself with his music and other interests.64
However, distractions only went so far, and "queer" young men eventually
discerned a connection between the stigma of homosexuality and homosexual desire.
When they sought sexual experience or simply wished to end their isolation, they usually
ventured out to find others like themselves since the "queer" stigma often kept them from
seeking sexual experience among their peers. Unlike boys who passed, their sexual
initiation did not arise spontaneously in the course of play, but usually involved a
conscious decision to "come out" sexually in an obvious rite of passage. Consequently,
their initial sexual encounters typically involved adult men who could introduce them to
the gay subculture and usually occurred in places renowned for homosexual activity,
away from the daily rhythms of school and home. Whereas friends who engaged in
routine sexual play did not perceive it as "homosexual," "queer" boys who ventured out
for homosexual activity perceived it as singular and gay, and connecting socially with
other gays was at least as important as making sexual contacts. Not surprisingly, the men
they encountered usually had no connections to their family or peers.65
Interacting with gays outside of one's peer group and neighborhood had the
advantage of anonymity, but required precocity given the risks involved. Gene Topham
simply left Starr Valley at the age of thirteen, setting out for California to immerse

^Thompson interview.
65

Topham, Holbrook, Cloward interviews.

45
himself in the gay subculture there. Young gay men in Salt Lake did not have to venture
as far. Whereas Richard Tierlink encountered sexuality in "backyard tents, basement
bedrooms, and on Scout camping trips," Ben Holbrook's initiation into Salt Lake's gay
subculture involved a deliberate act of discovery. At age fifteen, he rode his bicycle to
Liberty Park in order to find other gays where they were rumored to congregate:
"Seventh East was where most of the people hung, and then I started meeting people that
would approach me. Most of them was older gentlemen, well to me I thought thirty was
old back then, and I thought, 'Oh boy, someone who knows what they want.'"66 Jeff
Ramos, on the other hand, reconnoitered the gay clientele entering and exiting the Radio
City Lounge in the late '50s: "When I went to junior high...everybody knew where the
gay bar was, we'd always go down there and watch them."67 However, while Salt Lake
offered an urban gay subculture, the proximity of parents, school, and church
distinguished Ben Holbrook's experience from Gene Topham's "sexual migration" to
California. Although Ben's parents knew of his homosexuality, he kept it under wraps as
the price of peace and stability: "You didn't want to do anything against your parents'
wishes, so you just went along and pretended that you were one of the guys in the
neighborhood."68
As men in John Pennock's survey and the current study have shown, being "one
of the guys in the neighborhood" often included homoerotic behavior. The Kinsey

66

Topham, Holbrook interviews.

67

Jeff Ramos [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 28 June 2004.

68

Holbrook interview.

46
reports revealed similar activity among a significant number of heterosexually-identified
American men. The distinguishing aspect of homosexual experimentation among Utahns
and Mormons was its occurrence in a faith-based culture renowned for sexual
conservatism. However, most young men eventually formed an understanding that
homosexuality was wrong; "maturity" required directing free-ranging desires toward
exclusive heterosexuality. The prevalence of homosexual behavior among religiously
devout men and as a common adolescent pastime ran counter to prevailing cultural
images of homosexuality. One year before Pennock completed his University of Utah
study, a Salt Lake Tribune article described a "homosexual ring" at the University of
Missouri. The case involved a fifty-year-old professor and four other men arrested for
involvement in a homosexual "network" that included "a score of University of Missouri
students and other residents of this university town."69 The scandal cemented popular
stereotypes of homosexuality as an organized conspiracy to seduce the young. In this
instance the seduction seemed especially insidious for being initiated by a respected role
model. The Missouri case anticipated McCarthy-era purges of "subversive" influences,
presenting "sexual perversion" as a conspiracy of a minority to corrupt the majority,
rather than a harmless anomaly experienced by much of the population.70
In 1952, J. Reuben Clark made similar allegations in his remarks about the
cultural influence of homosexuals. Despite Mark E. Petersen's encouragement of music
or the arts as a way for homosexual men to "distract" themselves, homosexuals'

69

"Teacher Queried on Morals Count," Salt Lake Tribune. 28 May 1948, p. 2.

70

Miller, 259-62, 271-72.

involvement in the arts deepened other church leaders' suspicions of "artistic types and
intellectuals, whose nonconforming ways challenged church standards of community and
obedience to authority. Clark observed that "homosexuals are today exercising great
influence in shaping our art, literature, music, and drama." His views echoed a growing
Cold War mentality that viewed homosexuals as having power to corrupt Americans (or
Mormons) through their culture.71 In a church which equated masculine creativity with
procreation, some officials associated homosexuality with potentially subversive cultural
forms and a sexuality that valued pleasure for its own sake.
Furthermore, while Pennock's study and the narratives in this chapter revealed
homoerotic play among heterosexual boys, the Cold War culture tied such practices more
closely to adult homosexuality and serious forms of social deviance. Cleon Skousen's
discussion of homosexuality in So You Want to Raise a Boy drew an explicit connection
between childhood mutual masturbation and adult degeneracy: "These practices are
destructive to the personality, and frequently this type of individual disintegrates to the
point where he becomes involved in various types of sex crimes. In fact, the moral
degenerate is responsible for some of the most vicious and sadistic sex crimes on
record."72 By the late 1950s, Utah found common cause with other states in passing new
laws stigmatizing and punishing homosexuals alongside violent criminals. Throughout
the nation homosexuality became the target of displaced social anxieties in what scholars
have described as a moral panic. Upon reaching adulthood, men with exclusive
71

Clark.

72

Skousen.

48
predilections for other men felt the full weight of institutional pressures from family,
church, society, and laws which offered few alternatives to "respectable" behavior.
However, by exposing homosexuality among locals, increased legal and religious
sanctions ultimately upset the notion of homosexual "outsiders" infiltrating a pristine
community, just as adolescent experimentation challenged boundaries between a
"normal" and "abnormal" childhood.

CHAPTER 2

"RARE, PATHOLOGICAL TYPES" AND PROMINENT CITIZENS:


PSYCHIATRY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT IN THE 1950S

In 1957 Salt Lake City police arrested Samuel England, a 42-year old California
native employed in the logging industry, and Clair Watson, a 23-year old office worker,
for sodomy at the Denver and Rio Grande railroad passenger depot. The arrest occurred
as local law enforcement authorities launched a concerted drive to rid the city of "sex
deviates." Like rail and bus terminals elsewhere, the Denver and Rio Grande station was
renowned for homosexual cruising, and with some of the railroad's employees serving as
prosecution witnesses, a conviction seemed certain. The defendants therefore pleaded
guilty to the lesser offense of attempted sodomy, which carried a possible prison sentence
of eighteen months to ten years. Since the Utah Third District Court construed
homosexual acts as "abnormal or subnormal" behavior as defined by Utah's 1951 Sexual
Criminals Act, both defendants underwent mental examinations to determine whether
their actions warranted treatment at the state mental hospital.1
The mental evaluation reports for this and similar cases in the Third District
Court's criminal case files reveal psychiatrists' roles as gatekeepers under the new law.
With decisions typically rendered after a single one-hour session, doctors completed
'Criminal Case Files for the Utah Third District Court, Series 1471, case no. 15645, Utah
State Archives, Salt Lake City.

50
standardized forms in which a "yes" or "no" response on a line recommending
hospitalization meant the difference between a criminal sentence and commitment to the
state hospital. Psychiatric institutionalization for homosexuality was nothing new, and as
in other states, Utah's mental commitment laws allowed for hospitalization in cases of
"sexual deviance." However, the postwar era also witnessed unprecedented use of
psychiatry as a law-enforcement mechanism, and as homosexuality became the focus of
displaced social anxieties, state lawmakers proved eager to appropriate psychiatry as a
means to address them.
During the war years, cultural authority over the status of homosexuality had
shifted decisively to the realm of psychiatry. In Sex in the Heartland. Beth Bailey
describes how World War II transformed regional cultures, integrating them into a
pluralistic, national culture which challenged local and traditional sources of moral
authority, including authority to define sexual norms. The ascendance of psychiatry since
its wartime role in screening military recruits signaled a more progressive and humane
approach to homosexuality than the traditional focus on sin and criminality. In theory,
the postwar psychiatric credo that homosexuality could have harmful outcomes but was
not intrinsically wrong introduced moral ambiguity to a matter traditionally conceived in
black and white terms. Defining homosexuality as a condition rather than a willful act of
perversion, the therapeutic ethos promised to lift the onus of blame from homosexuals,
while in matters of public policy, psychiatry would substitute treatment for punishment.2
In actuality, the discourse of mental illness did not bring about decriminalization
2

Bailey, 49.

51
of homosexuality, and "sickness" was hardly less stigmatizing than criminality. During
the moral panic of the 1950s, not only did homosexual behavior remain a criminal
offense throughout the nation, but a spate of new laws requiring psychiatric
institutionalization of sex offenders combined the status of illness with criminality.
Given their inclusive nature, such laws condemned homosexuals by association with
violent criminals, and their provisions for indefinite detention undermined the distinction
between treatment and punishment.3
At the same time, psychiatrists, judges, and LDS Church authorities pivoted
between two conceptions of homosexuality. The first emphasized difference and deviant
personalities, with homosexuals defined archetypally as "others" and treated as "special
cases" under the laws. Such views typified the Cold War culture, Cleon Skousen's
approach to law enforcement, and the childhood perceptions of "queers" among the men
in this study. The second perspective acknowledged homosexuality as a more diffuse
phenomenon, occurring in the context of families and communities and less a matter of
"us" versus "them." This was evident in the Kinsey studies, the results of John
Pennock's study, and the childhood experimentation reported by several narrators.
During the 1950s, psychiatrists and law enforcement officials shared the task of
reconciling the two positions, resulting in compromises as well as contradictions.
When vice officers arrested men for homosexual encounters in public parks,
restrooms, and bus terminals, they confronted an institution with a long history. In a

Neil Miller, Sex-Crime Panic: A Journey to the Paranoid Heart of the 1950s (Los
Angeles: Alyson Publications, 2002), 77-82.

52
culture which offered few alternatives for homosexual men to connect, parks and public
latrines, or "tearooms," provided an outlet for men who were often too young or too
closeted to patronize a gay bar, while others participated out of sheer adventure.
Proscriptions against homosexuality at home or in "legitimate" public spaces effectively
drove it into such "semiprivate" spaces. While the expansion of automobile culture
enhanced opportunities for young people to evade parental constraints on sexuality,
homosexuals of all ages needed clandestine spaces of their own, safely removed from a
hostile society. While the risk of arrest seems obvious, it was outweighed in the minds of
those participating by the risk of being seen entering a gay bar or discovered by a family
member at home. According to Laud Humphreys, "public restrooms are chosen by those
who want homoerotic activity...for a number of reasons. They are accessible, easily
recognized by the initiate, and provide little public visibility. Tearooms thus offer the
advantages of both public and private settings."4 In addition, exposure of such activity in
local newspaper accounts, while mobilizing public sentiment against homosexuality in
the short run, inadvertently raised awareness about other gays for those who remained
closeted. Even such limited visibility, however distorted, could extend a lifeline to those
who lacked clues about the existence of others with similar feelings.5
Public restrooms also provided alternatives to hotels, which came under increased

Laud Humphreys, Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places (New York:
Aldine de Gruyter, 1975), 2-3.

John Howard, "The Library, the Park, and the Pervert: Public Space and Homosexual
Encounters in Post-World War II Atlanta," Radical History Review 62 (Spring 1995):
168-9.

53
surveillance during this period. The wartime fear of roving, unattached men revived
depression-era anxieties concerning vagrants. Fear of the sexual predators and
homosexuals assumed to be prevalent among such men led to redoubled enforcement of
vagrancy ordinances and passage of sexual psychopath laws.6 In 1948, when the Salt
Lake City Police Department implemented a "hotel and motel beat" in which local hotel
operators offered up their daily registers for inspection, Chief of Police L.C. Crowther
explained,
Salt Lake City is on the crossroads of the nation. It catches all the riffraff
that roves along the central transcontinental lines. They aren't all known
criminals, but every vagrant is a potential criminal, and we have enough
here without permitting the wandering type to settle in Salt Lake.7
Although Crowther did not describe the "undesirables" he sought to eliminate, the
increased surveillance would have given people pause before checking into hotels for the
purpose of illicit sex.
The concern about vagrancy was part of a general public outcry against a
perceived increase in lawlessness. A reflection of both local conditions and the national
Zeitgeist, the rising clamor concerning juvenile crime and sex offenses challenged public
officials to offer effective solutions without succumbing to popular hysteria. In a 1947
speech reprinted in the Salt Lake Tribune, F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover ignited what
6

Nan Alamilla Boyd, Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 216-18; Estelle Freedman,
'"Uncontrolled Desires': The response to the Sexual Psychopath, 1920-1960" in Passion
and Power: Sexuality in History, ed. Kathy Peiss, et al. (Philadelphia; Temple
University Press, 1989), 203-11.

"Police Stiffen Checks of Salt Lake Vagrants," Salt Lake Tribune. 1 February 1948,
p. C8.

54
some scholars have described as a national "sex crime panic," calling for heightened
vigilance against the sex criminal who had "replaced the kidnapper as a threat to the
peace of mind of the parents of America."8 The relationship between the emerging Cold
War national security state and a domestic ideology stressing the nuclear family and
sexual conservatism is well documented. Historian John D'Emilio describes how
wartime disruption of family life and traditional gender roles, expansion of urban gay and
lesbian subcultures, and Alfred Kinsey's data showing disparity between professed sexual
standards and private behavior all contributed to national angst over sexuality.9
A national discussion of homosexuality followed Deputy Undersecretary of State
John Peurifoy's revelation to a U.S. Senate Committee that the majority of State
Department dismissals from 1947 to 1949 involved homosexuality. Coming on the heels
of Communist victory in China, the Soviet Union developing an atomic bomb, and the
Alger Hiss espionage scandal which also involved homosexual allegations, Peurifoy's
testimony provoked what historian David Johnson describes as a "lavender scare" that
outlived the McCarthy Era. During this period, the federal government tagged gay men
and lesbians as security risks and portrayed them as disloyal and dangerous.
Homosexuality became the target of U.S. Senate inquiries, a presidential executive order,
and specialized federal security task forces charged with weeding out suspected
homosexuals from all branches of the federal government and its agencies overseas.

"Parents Can Help Control Sex Crimes By Warning and Instructing Children," Salt Lake
Tribune. 21 December 1949, p. 8.

John D'Emilio, "The Homosexual Menace: The Politics of Sexuality in Cold War
America," in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History. 233-235.

55
These policies had a ripple effect as states, municipalities, and private employers purged
their organizations of perceived sex deviates, with the F.B.I, and local law enforcement
agencies supplying information on those arrested for homosexual offenses.10
In December 1949, citizens' groups in Murray, a Salt Lake suburb, reacted to
media coverage of sex crimes by demanding that more "teeth" be put into sex offense
laws. Initiated by the local Parent Teachers Association and joined by most of the city's
civic groups, the letter-writing campaign urged state lawmakers to take decisive action
and recommended federal legislation because the "punishment given sex offenders is not
severe enough." A committee representing the civic groups pointed out the need for
special treatment of sex offenders and complained that the state was not prepared to meet
the problem with psychiatric treatment.11
At issue was whether Utah should follow the lead of other states in passing a
sexual psychopath law. By 1955, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia had
adopted such laws. While their definitions varied, sexual psychopath laws shared the
premise that certain types of sex offenses were motivated by mental illness and should be
dealt with through institutionalization and treatment rather than imprisonment. The
statutes required sex offenders to undergo psychiatric evaluations, and if doctors certified
someone as mentally ill, he or she was committed to a state mental hospital for an
indefinite period, usually until the superintendent or mental examiners declared the

,0

Miller, Out of the Past. 262.

""Murray Augments Move for Sex Crime Laws," Salt Lake Tribune. 21 December 1949,
p. 17.

56
person "cured" and unlikely to repeat the offense.12
In keeping with British common law tradition, Utah's sodomy laws explicitly
defined certain homosexual behavior as illegal. Interpreted in various ways by individual
states, the original common law definition of sodomy prohibited acts of anal penetration
and required evidence of emission. Because this definition punished specific acts rather
than a type of person, it theoretically applied to both heterosexual and homosexual acts.
As the laws evolved within the states, however, lawmakers typically expanded them to
include any form of oral sex and eliminated the emission provision. Under those
circumstances, sodomy statutes were a greater onus for homosexuals since they
encompassed every penetrative sexual act in which two persons of the same sex could
engage.13
When Donald Webster Cory's paperback edition of The Homosexual in America
appeared in 1963, all but three states-Vermont, New Hampshire, and Illinois-had laws
criminalizing sodomy. Although sporadically enforced, the laws were not
inconsequential to gays, hence the decades-long efforts of gay activists to have them
overturned. As Cory pointed out, not only did the laws have devastating personal
consequences for those prosecuted, but they also imposed the stigma of lawlessness on
otherwise law-abiding citizens. By prosecuting consensual acts of pleasure as well as
cases involving force or violence, sodomy statutes led to conflation in the public

Miller, Sex-Crime Panic.

'Donald Webster Cory, The Homosexual in America (New York: Paperback Library
Inc., 1963), 57-64.

57
imagination of homosexuals and violent sex offenders. Furthermore, given the statutes'
disproportionate application to homosexual behavior, the public perceived them as laws
criminalizing homosexual status rather than specific acts. In subsequent years, this
association of homosexuality with criminality became a rationale for discrimination
against gay men and lesbians in such areas as employment, housing, and child custody.
In addition, the threat of a sodomy conviction could be used to coerce gays into pleading
guilty to lesser offences.14
The early history of Utah's sodomy law is thoroughly documented in D. Michael
Ouinn's Same Sex Dynamics in Nineteenth Century America: A Mormon Example. The
Utah legislature's adoption of the statute "against every person who is guilty of the
infamous crime against nature" resulted from the wholesale adoption of California's
Penal Code in 1876, rather than a particular concern over homosexual acts. Quinn
demonstrates that during the remainder of the territorial period and first years of
statehood, Utah judges showed uncommon restraint when applying the law to consensual
homosexual acts. The first sodomy trial in the territory did not occur until 1880, and
when judges handed down the first conviction in 1882, the three- to four- month jail
sentence was comparable to one for fornication. This leniency persisted in cases
involving Mormons after Utah achieved statehood in 1896 and Mormon judges returned
to the bench, although penalties became increasingly severe for non-Mormon
defendants.15 In 1923, state lawmakers revised the sodomy statute to include oral sex,
14

Ibid.

15

Quirm, 314-31,415-17,431.

58
characterizing fellatio and cunnilingus as "the lowest and most debasing forms of sexual
perversion." The published code cited concern over homosexual acts as justification for
the revision, prior to which "copulation by one male person in the mouth of another did
not constitute a crime...because sodomy could only be accomplished by copulating in
anum."16 In addition, a 1933 revision provided that "any penetration, however slight, is
sufficient to complete the crime against nature." In Utah, sodomy could result in three to
twenty years' imprisonment, compared to thirty years in Connecticut and a possible life
sentence in Georgia.17 However, sentencing varied widely according to the
circumstances of each case, prevailing social attitudes, and judges' predilections.
In a 1951 study commissioned by the Governor's Committee on Children and
Youth, Herbert Gustafson provided a snapshot of Utah sex offense trends at the beginning
of the postwar period. As with John Pennock's study of male college students,
Gustafson's approach to his subject was as illuminating as the data. During the 1940s,
11.1 percent of the sex offense cases which led to imprisonment involved crimes where
men or boys were the objects, including sodomy, homosexual assault, and incest. The
statistics on sodomy prosecutions in Utah presented a mixed picture. On the one hand,

These provisions were only partially liberalized in 1973, when all of the Title 76 (sex
offense) laws were repealed and reenacted as part of a general revision of the state
criminal code. Under the new code, which lacked the vilifying rhetoric of its
predecessor, any consensual sex with a person fourteen or older involving the genitals of
one person with the mouth or anus of another, regardless of the participants' gender, was
punishable as a class "B" misdemeanor; forcible sodomy remained a first degree felony.
See Laws of the State of Utah (Salt Lake City: Lorraine Press, 1973), 610-11.
Cory, 60; Utah Code Annotated, vol. 8 (Indianapolis: The Allen Smith Company, 1953),
466-67.

59
the average time served for sodomy/homosexual acts was twenty-five months and
eighteen days, exceeded only by rape and adult sexual assault cases. However, 46 percent
of the total convictions for homosexual acts resulted in probation, compared to 4.1
percent of the rape convictions.18
As in John Pennock's study, Gustafson's category for "homosexual acts" treated
homosexuality monolithically, encompassing cases involving minors, forcible sodomy,
and consensual acts. His classification mirrored the inclusive nature of the sodomy law,
but the absence of more nuanced data, especially for cases involving children, is
significant in a study commissioned by a task force concerned with child welfare. In
1951 Donald Webster Cory argued that criminalization of adult consensual acts, even
when seldom enforced, detracted from the gravity of violent or nonconsensual acts
prosecuted under the same codes.19 Thus, the relatively high probation rates for sodomy
may have reflected ambivalence toward imposing harsh sentences for consensual
behavior. However, Gustafson's omission of specific data on nonconsensual sodomy not
only prevented an accurate measure of its prevalence, but reinforced cultural assumptions
conflating homosexuality, forcible sodomy, and child molestation. In addition, the
perception of sodomy as an exclusively homosexual offense reflected a preoccupation
with sexual object choice rather than specific sexual acts. Hence, Gustafson grouped his
data on homosexual sodomy with other homosexual offenses while dismissing the

18

Herbert Wayne Gustafson, "A Statistical Summary of the Social Characteristics of Sex
Offenders in Utah During the Decade 1940-1950" (Master's Thesis: University of Utah,
1951), 39-40, 45, 47.

'Cory, 61-62.

60
significance of heterosexual sodomy on account of its infrequent prosecution. The
resulting identification of homosexuality, rather than the specific acts covered by the law,
as a special category of deviance continued to dominate public perceptions for decades,
and the association of homosexuality with criminality effectively exiled gay men and
lesbians to the fringes of society.20
In 1949, Governor J. Bracken Lee organized the Utah Committee on the Sex
Offender and the Community to consider new sex offense legislation, since "there has
been considerable concern expressed by the people of this state as well as others to more
adequately meet this problem."21 Lee appointed Arthur Beeley, a noted criminologist
and Dean of the University of Utah School of Social Work, to chair the committee. In
1947, Beeley had published counseling guidelines for the University's Bureau of Student
Counsel which classified "the invert (homosexual)" along with "the potential suicide,"
"the psychoneurotic student," and "the psychotic case" as a rare, pathological type and
recommended referral of such cases to psychiatrists.22 Similar views dominated the social
sciences and national culture for years, even after the 1948 publication of Kinsey's
empirical studies challenging the notion of a homosexual personality type and the
stability of sexual categories.
Representing the fields of psychiatry, medicine, law, prison administration, adult

20

Ibid., 57-64; Gustafson, 14, 18, 25.

'Utah Committee, 3.

22

Arthur L. Beeley, Mental Hygiene and Counselling at the University of Utah: Policies
and Procedures of the Bureau of Student Counsel (Salt Lake City: University of Utah
School of Social Work and Bureau of Student Counsel, 1947), 5.

61
probation and parole, and the courts, the governor's committee attempted to address
community concerns over the perceived increase in sex offenses without inflaming fears.
However, their efforts to pursue a moderate course while placating an agitated public
yielded ambiguous and sometimes contradictory recommendations. On the one hand,
instead of treating sex offenses as special cases, the committee advocated screening
individuals apprehended for any offense who showed evidence of mental illness or antisocial activity. In its final recommendations, the Committee argued against changing the
laws, calling instead for strengthened administration of existing laws and a shift in
emphasis from punishment to treatment, with treatment provided as an adjunct to
incarceration for any type of offense.23
On the other hand, their recommendations left unchallenged traditional and
statutory understandings of "normality" and "deviance," and nowhere did the committee
recommend decriminalization of consensual behavior. In addition, the Committee's
report echoed provisions of sexual psychopath statutes in treating the rare "psychopathic
personalities" as exceptional cases. The Committee's panel of experts believed
confinement was appropriate for such persons until they "mellowed" with age, and length
of confinement should be based on "the estimated danger of recurrence."24 Contrary to
the committee's overall position against rushing toward new legislation, their
recommendations presaged the adoption of a law requiring commitment of certain sex
offenders. With the criminal status of homosexual behavior unchanged and Arthur
23

Utah Committee, 4-9, 12-13.

24

Ibid., 10-13.

62
Beeley's categorization of homosexuals as "rare, pathological types" in his Student
Counsel Guidelines, the committee's proposals raised the possibility of indefinite
hospitalization for gays.
Although the gathering momentum for new sex crimes legislation had its
detractors, national trends and the agitation of local citizens' groups proved irresistible,
and in 1951 the Utah State Legislature unanimously passed a sex crimes statute modeled
after the sexual psychopath laws of other states.25 The law gave judges discretion to
require a mental examination prior to sentencing anyone for rape, sodomy, incest,
lewdness, indecent exposure, carnal knowledge, or any attempt to commit such offenses.
If it appeared that the person suffered from "any form of abnormal or subnormal mental
illness which caused the commission of the sex offense...then the judge shall order the
commitment of such person to the Utah State Hospital, to be confined therein for life."
Furthermore, the law permitted no possibility of probation, parole, or pardon until the
hospital Superintendent certified "that repetition of the sex offense...is unlikely."26

'Introduced by Weber County Representative Elizabeth Vance, the law passed 51-0 in
the house and 19-0 in the state senate. See Laws of the State of Utah (Kaysville,
Utah: Inland Printing, 1951), 52-53.
5

Ibid.; in 1953, the sexual criminal law was amended to include "the taking of indecent
liberties with the body of a minor child," correcting an oversight in the original
legislation that seems surprising given its sponsors' professed concern for protecting
children. The law was further revised to give greater discretion to courts for ordering
mental examinations, based on the court's observations or a physician's testimony. In
April of that year, Utah Attorney General E.R. Callister advised the Utah Board of
Pardons that it had no authority to impose a prison sentence on a person committed to
the State Hospital because of a sex offense, nor did the courts of original jurisdiction
have any right to resentence such a person to the State Prison for the same offense.
Callister issued his ruling after doctors at the State Hospital advised the Board of
Pardons that one of their charges had "overcome his abnormality." See "Ruling Covers

63
As one of sixteen states requiring a criminal conviction before a mental
examination could occur, Utah avoided some of the due process flaws of earlier sexual
psychopath laws. However, Utah was one of eight states that did not require a hearing
before a jury to determine whether defendants met the legal definition of a sexual
psychopath. Instead, the law simply allowed judges to decide based on the psychiatric
report. Under those circumstances, the decision for or against hospitalization depended
entirely on the subjective views of psychiatrists and judges.27
While homosexual defendants had little recourse when ordered to undergo mental
evaluations, their deportment during the evaluations carried enormous weight in the
court's final decision. Defendants entered the examinations weighing bleak alternatives,
indefinite hospitalization versus a criminal sentence of unknown duration, and they
tailored their brief performances before the doctors to ensure the most favorable
outcomes possible. Some defendants undoubtedly preferred hospitalization in hope that
they would certify as "cured" in the shortest possible time. The situation hinged on
whether the doctors considered them psychotic or dangerous, and whether the presiding
judge concurred with the doctors' recommendations.
Evidence suggests at least some homosexual men considered hospitalization less
onerous than jail, for men arrested on misdemeanor charges occasionally requested
evaluations. For example, in June 1959 police arrested Benjamin Greenwald, a thirtySex Violators," Salt Lake Tribune. 29 April 1953, p. 19.
27

Alan H. Swanson, "Sexual Psychopath Statutes: Summary and Analysis," Journal of


Criminal Law. Criminology, and Police Science 51 (July-August 1960): 223-24, 22835.

64
three-year old surveyor from Brooklyn, under Salt Lake's obscene conduct ordinance for
soliciting homosexual acts from a young man. After pleading guilty and receiving a sixmonth jail sentence, he filed an appeal with the Third District Court on grounds that for
several months prior to the alleged offense, he was "under great mental distress and
...therefore would not have known the full significance...of his actions." During his
mental evaluation, Greenwald denied any interest in homosexual behavior, insisting he
had acted out of curiosity as to whether men could be "propositioned." Because the
doctors considered his behavior chronic but agreed he did not understand the nature of his
"illness," they recommended his commitment to the State Hospital, which discharged him
a month later.28
In other cases, however, hospitalization led to prolonged detention far out of
proportion to the original offense. For example, when John Iverson completed fieldwork
at the Utah State Mental Hospital in 1967 for his master's program in Social Work, he
took interest in a patient committed several years previously after an arrest for
homosexual acts in a public park. Iverson described the man's condition as "purely
functional": "There was no expression in his face....No one had been to see him for years
and years, and I could just see, reading the records, this young man that had been caught
committing a lewd act in a public place, his life had been completely wiped out, he was
institutionalized, he was just a robot."29

Criminal Case Files for the Utah Third District Court, case no. 16510.
^John Iverson [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 19 July
2004.

65
Outcomes depended on how court-appointed psychiatrists differentiated
"psychopathic" from merely "abnormal" behavior, which required a subtlety that was
lacking in popular understandings of the "sexual psychopath." Estelle Freedman
describes how the popular conception of the sexual psychopath emerged during the
Depression in response to large numbers of unemployed single men set adrift by
economic conditions. Unrestrained by conventional family life, the men conjured up
images of uncontrolled sexual aggression. While most convicted sex offenders served
time for heterosexual acts, the association in the public mind between sexual aggression
and single men dovetailed with stereotypes about male homosexuality. Popular
conceptions of the sexual psychopath included sexual predators who victimized children
and effeminate homosexual men. Both images reflected societal fears of unbounded male
sexuality, while rape and other sexual crimes against women were seldom seen as
psychopathic, but rather as excessive manifestations of "normal" sexual relations between
women and men.30
The profile of the sexual psychopath and demonization of homosexuals
complicated the lives of all gay men, even those who did not cruise in public places, and
made them especially distrustful of law enforcement. When John Iverson returned to Salt
Lake in the early 1950s after living in California, he encountered a chilling environment,
especially when he and his partner, Robert, went out in public. The manager of a small
restaurant informed them, "I don't want you to come back, I don't want people to think
this is any kind of queer hangout." By John's account, men could usually go to breakfast
30

Freedman, 202-04, 211-12.

66
or lunch together, but dining together invited suspicion. When he and Robert took the
risk of sharing a small home in South Salt Lake, they became the target of vicious attacks:
Within a very short time we were getting garbage on the lawn, we were
getting notes on the door saying, "We don't want queers, this is an area
that is for young families, we don't want your kind, get out." We had
trash, manure thrown on the lawn. I came home one evening and Robert
had been beaten, his eye was puffed up. I said, "What happened?" and he
said, "Oh, I fell." I said, "No you didn't, somebody hit you, I can tell. I'm
going to call the police," but he said "Don't."31
Resistance to John and Robert taking up residence in a "decent" neighborhood reflected
and reinforced the notion of homosexuals as "outsiders" detached from normal family
obligations.
In addition to ill treatment of male couples, the concept of the sexual psychopath
and fear of homosexuals cast suspicion on all single men above a certain age. In 1953,
David De Young completed a master's thesis at the University of Utah that defined single
men collectively as a deviant personality type. Drawing on the work of eugenicists, he
projected an assortment of character defects and social behaviors onto single men in
much the same way earlier generations of sexologists deduced a homosexual personality
type from homosexual acts:
Single males of thirty-five and up comprise a preponderance of mental and
physical defectives, of homosexuals, of incompetents and derelicts, of men
who have been prevented from marriage by venereal disease or other
serious diseases, or of men whose outlook is so warped, infantile, or
egocentric that even the most optimistic maiden, willing to marry a man to
reform him, would recognize the particular job as hopeless.32

Iverson interview.
2

David Henry DeYoung, "The Failure to Marry: A Study of Marriage and Nonmarriage
in Utah" (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, 1953), 6.

However, singling out such individuals under the Sexual Criminals Law raised
serious equal protection concerns. If psychiatric treatment was necessary to prevent
certain people from becoming a further danger, the question remained as to why the
illness model and rehabilitation did not apply to all criminals, or in other words, why sex
offenders comprised a "special" class of criminals. In addition, the law's failure to
distinguish between types or degrees of "mentally abnormal sex offenders" left
psychiatrists in the position of identifying an ill-defined category of people for special
treatment under the criminal code.33 In most cases, the psychiatrists considered
homosexual men ill but not necessarily dangerous, and while homosexual sodomy
convictions always resulted in court-ordered mental evaluations, the evaluations did not
always lead to the psychotic diagnosis required for hospitalization.
During this period, some of the more pioneering work within the psychiatric
profession challenged not only the possibility of treating homosexuality, but also its
classification as an illness. Dr. Evelyn Hooker debunked the idea of a homosexual
personality type through comparative studies of homosexual and heterosexual men, and
while it would be years before her findings became the majority position in the
profession, her research offered a dissenting view of homosexuality during the
conservative 1950s.34 Although the illness model of homosexuality prevailed among
most psychiatrists and even among some gays, the doctors appointed by the Third District

'Swanson, 220-2.
'Ronald Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis
(New York: Basic Books, 1981) 49-53.

68
Court proved reluctant to recommend hospitalization for men who, but for their choice of
male sexual partners, seemed perfectly normal. In the parlance of the American
Psychiatric Association, the doctors typically diagnosed homosexual men with a
"sociopathic personality disorder," but not a psychosis requiring hospitalization. Indeed,
the doctors seemed hard-pressed to find homosexual defendants capable of the "most
vicious and sadistic sex crimes on record" predicted by Cleon Skousen. The Sexual
Criminals Act required doctors to make quick judgments in cases which did not portend
future harm or warrant hospitalization, yet not recommending hospitalization would bring
criminal penalties. Splitting the difference, psychiatrists and judges often settled on a
middle ground which fell short of hospitalization or lengthy prison sentences, but still
combined outpatient psychiatric care with time in jail or on probation.
For example, the examiners diagnosed Samuel England as a "sexual deviant" with
a sociopathic personality who may continue to engage in homosexual activity, but also
found him rational, cooperative, and cognizant of the nature of his "illness."
Consequently, they did not certify England as psychopathic and the court sentenced him
to ninety days in jail followed by probation. Similarly, in a 1953 sodomy case involving
Donald Hansen, a twenty-six-year old soldier at Fort Douglas, the court-appointed
physicians found him "evasive and defensive" during the mental evaluation and
diagnosed him with the "sociopathic personality disorder of sexual deviance." However,
they otherwise considered Hansen rational and "not afflicted with delusions" and ruled
against hospitalization, instead recommending his return to the custody of the armed
services for treatment in their "mental hygiene" program. The decision against extended

69
hospitalization reflected the psychiatrists' assessment that aside from Hansen's choice of
a male sexual partner, there was nothing abnormal or pathological in his personality, a
conclusion which supported Hooker's and Kinsey's studies challenging the idea of a
homosexual personality type. In Benjamin Greenwald's case, the Utah State Hospital
discharged him one month after the court ordered hospitalization because they found his
condition "unimproved, (but) not psychotic."35
In one respect, men like Samuel England and Donald Hansen fit the stereotypical
profile of the sexual psychopath: they were single drifters with few ties to the local
community. Samuel England was a California native employed in an itinerant trade, and
Donald Hansen, an Iowa native, had been stationed at Fort Douglas for only eighteen
months prior to his arrest on sodomy charges. Similarly, Benjamin Greenwald was not a
Utah native, although he had lived in Salt Lake for ten years. Substituting geographic
marginalization for prolonged detention at the state's expense, the court exiled Donald
Hansen under the auspices of the military, and following his discharge from the state
mental hospital, suspended Greenwald's sentence when he returned to his native
Brooklyn. In these cases, geographic removal reinforced the defendants' status as
outsiders and the image of homosexuals as transients and strangers. Such stigmatization
compounded the humiliation of a public trial, being grilled about their sexuality in
psychiatric evaluations, and in some cases having their names and charges published in
local newspapers.36

35

Criminal Case Files for the Utah Third District Court, Case no. 14341,15645, 16510.

36

Ibid.

When a defendant did not fit the profile of the "other," the situation was more
complicated. In a 1955 sodomy case, Ephraim Yeates confounded the psychiatrists with
"the lack of affect he shows in discussing his problem," for he otherwise did not fit the
stereotype of the sexual psychopath. A fifty-six-year old television engineer, LDS
Church member, and married father of seven, Yeates was prototypically "normal" by
local standards, a normality which seemed jarringly at odds with his reported history of
homosexual activity. He admitted to a sixteen-year history of homosexual behavior
including mutual masturbation and oral sex, which in the current case involved two
teenaged boys whom he insisted "sought him out and asked for homosexual activity."37
The rules of evidence for sodomy required a corroborating witness in cases involving
adults, where both partners were accomplices under the law. Given the privacy
surrounding most sexual acts, cases of adult consensual sodomy appeared in the courts
less frequently than those involving minors. Regardless of the circumstances, the courts
presumed an absence of consent in such cases and accepted the testimony of underaged
partners.38 While a few of the cases clearly involved victimization of children, cases
involving teenagers were less obvious, especially where defendants alleged that the boys
initiated the activity. The national debate over juvenile delinquency during the 1950s
suggested previous understandings of sexual innocence were under strain, and several of
the narrators in this study recounted homoerotic play as a common adolescent pastime or

Ibid., Case no. 14907.


!

Cory, 59-60; Criminal Case Files, Utah Third District Court.

71
seeking the "experience" of older men during their teens.39
However, such arguments could not dissuade the courts or examining psychiatrists
in the Yeates case. The doctors dismissed Yeates' apparent cooperation as a facade, and
diagnosed him with sexual deviation and a paranoid personality, without considering
whether his paranoia stemmed from the pending criminal proceedings. Believing him
"increasingly capable of aggressive activity in connection with his homosexual interests,"
the psychiatrists recommended his commitment to the State Mental Hospital for an
indefinite period, and the court concurred; no further activity appeared in Yeates' file
until January 1958, when the court received notification from the State Hospital that he
had died.40
Ironically, while fear of child molestation usually provided the animus behind
sexual psychopath laws and the prevailing social consensus defined child molesters as
sick people, the courts and state hospital did not apply the sexual psychopath law
consistently in cases involving minors.41 In a 1958 sodomy case involving the molestation
of an eight-year old girl, although mental examiners diagnosed the defendant with
schizophrenic and dissociative reactions, the Utah State Hospital staff described him as
"not psychotic or insane" and returned him to the custody of the court, which handed

For an overview of postwar adolescent behavior, see Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg,
Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life (New York: The Free
Press, 1988), 199-201.
"Criminal Case Files for the Utah Third District Court, Case no. 14907.
Freedman, 212-13.

72
down a long prison sentence instead.42 While the case seemed to epitomize what
lawmakers had in mind when they passed the sexual psychopath law, when confronted
with the reality of a truly heinous crime, the courts and psychiatrists proved hesitant to
substitute treatment for prolonged incarceration. Although indefinite hospitalization had
a punitive element, it did not seem punishment enough in this case, and the authorities
therefore ruled against defining the defendant's behavior as psychopathic.
In addition, Utah's Sexual Criminals Law was superfluous in terms of preventive
detention. In most states experiencing heightened anxiety over homosexuality, such laws
promised a middle ground between sodomy charges, which resulted in few convictions
due to strict rules of evidence, and misdemeanors which ended with a fine or brief jail
sentence.43 In Utah, however, the law only applied to felony sex offenses and required a
criminal conviction, raising the question of why it was necessary if the end result was
another form of detention for those convicted under existing statutes. Given the lack of
effective treatment and objective standards for assessing the likelihood of recurrence,
indefinite hospitalization could also be construed as cruel and unusual punishment.44
Furthermore, when the courts did rule in favor of hospitalization, state hospital
authorities accepted the cases grudgingly since lawmakers' zeal in passing the sexual
psychopath law did not translate into appropriations. When Clair Watson underwent a
mental evaluation after his sodomy conviction, doctors attributed his "distorted sexual

42

Criminal Case Files for the Utah Third District Court, Case no. 16202.

43

Johnson, 56-57; Miller, Sex Crime Panic. 80.

^Swanson, 224-5.

73
values" to previous treatment for schizophrenia. At age eighteen, Watson had received a
transorbital lobotomy, a medical intervention commonly used to "treat" homosexuality as
well as schizophrenia. Although the doctors diagnosed him with "sexual deviation" and
brain damage from the previous surgery, they did not find him dangerous or in need of
hospitalization. However, the court ruled otherwise and committed him to the State
Hospital. Subsequently, Superintendent Owen Heninger sent an inquiry to District Court
Judge Joseph Jeppson regarding the case:
Mr. Watson has been studied by the staff of this Hospital since his arrival.
We have seen no evidence of a psychosis or insanity to be present. We do
note that he is charged with sodomy, but it is our opinion that this behavior
is not the result of an illness, but a character disorder for which we have no
satisfactory treatment. If he were committed to the Utah State Hospital, it
would be merely a matter of keeping him in custody and as far as possible,
from further such offenses (Italics mine).45
"Merely" detaining somebody for an untreatable condition was not a strong argument for
further hospitalization. While Heninger acknowledged Jeppson's ultimate authority, his
assessment seemed calculated to dissuade the judge from ordering Watson's
commitment.
The State Hospital's position that homosexuality was untreatable concurred with
progressives in the profession, but preventive detention also raised the constitutional and
pragmatic concerns mentioned above. Significantly, the court placed Watson on
probation on condition he receive outpatient psychiatric care at his own expense.46 Given
the facility's limited resources and lack of effective treatment for homosexuality, the
45

Criminal Case Files for the Utah Third District Court, Case no. 15648.

46

Ibid.

State Hospital's administration showed little enthusiasm over new laws providing for
commitment of sex offenders. In the hospital's 1952 annual report, Superintendent
Heninger described overcrowding so acute as to present "a serious block to proper
segregation and treatment," and in 1954 the facility lost its accreditation due to
overcrowded conditions and insufficient personnel.47 Without additional appropriations
for facilities and staff, the new law amounted to an unfunded mandate with few practical
benefits. This situation was not unique to Utah, but reflected the experience of
underfunded state facilities wherever such laws existed. According to New York judge
Morris Ploscowe, sexual psychopath laws "were most often used to punish and isolate
minor offenders rather than dangerous predators," and the treatment for sexual
psychopaths "usually involved little more than warehousing them....State hospital
administrations were unhappy about taking on sexual psychopaths as patients...(as) they
often didn't have adequate facilities to deal with the patients they already had."48 In its
1956 Annual Report, the Utah State Hospital's administration stated, "So far as it affects
the Hospital, the present sex crimes law contains many unrealistic and unjust provisions,
without adding significantly to the safety and welfare of society or the offenders."49
In short, the 1951 Sexual Criminals Act represented a well-intentioned but flawed
policy that at least potentially created another layer of legal persecution against

"Utah State Hospital Annual Report," 1952, p. 8, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City;
"State Hospital Denied Recognition," Salt Lake Tribune. 8 April 1954, p. 21.
'Miller, Sex Crime Panic. 82.
"'Utah State Hospital Annual Report," 1956, p. 5, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City.

75
homosexuals. Too encompassing in its scope and inadequately funded to have much
practical impact, the law as defined did little to differentiate consensual homosexual acts
from violent offenses. While psychiatric examiners proved reluctant to base
commitments on homosexuality alone and in some respects mental commitment was
more negotiable than a prison sentence, the results could be devastating given the law's
open-endedness, the resulting stigma, and the alternative of being exiled from the
community. In the end, the law may only have succeeded in placating an agitated public,
offering symbolic action for problems which defied simple solutions.
However, while District Court judges, psychiatrists, and State Hospital authorities
grappled with the contradictions of the sexual psychopath law, psychiatry assumed greater
importance in law enforcement at the municipal level. Although sodomy statutes and
sexual psychopath laws gave legal sanction to societal condemnation of homosexuality,
for most gay men during this period such laws were an indirect threat, more damaging at
a symbolic level. In terms of their daily lives, especially for men who cruised in public
places or patronized gay-oriented bars, city ordinances regulating "obscene" or
"disorderly" conduct posed a more immediate concern. The ordinances had been on the
books for decades, and their vague language permitted considerable versatility in their
application, with disorderly conduct defined as any behavior that was "indecent, insulting,
or immoral."50
After a period of relaxed law enforcement, Salt Lake officials geared up against
"morals offenses" during the late 1950s. In October 1957, the year Samuel England and
5Q

Salt Lake City Published Ordinances (1955), sec. 32-1-17.

76
Clair Watson were arrested at the Denver and Rio Grande depot, Salt Lake City Judge
Marcellus Snow declared his intention to deal more harshly with homosexuals arrested on
morals charges due to "an alarming increase in such cases."51 The previous year, assistant
police chief L.D. Greeson had warned,
Because Salt Lake City has a sex deviate problem of some consequence,
attempts must be made to place the city's youth on guard...many people
seem to think there is no problem of the sex deviate in Salt Lake. Frankly,
I have run into more of a problem here than in any other city I have
worked in.52
With public fears stoked by media and police accounts of child molestation, the
Salt Lake Police Department launched a crusade against homosexuals under the
administration of its new chief, Cleon Skousen. The Salt Lake City Commission hired
Skousen in 1956 to reform a police department plagued with inefficiency and low morale.
A Brigham Young University speech professor and former assistant to F.B.I. Director J.
Edgar Hoover, Skousen made a name for himself as an ardent Cold War polemicist,
spreading his ideas through the lecture circuit and numerous publications.53 His speaking
engagements became bully pulpits for a crusade linking personal morality to national
character and the fight against communism. In a typical speech before the Salt Lake
Advertising Club, Skousen pontificated, "If every American understood and practiced the

"Stiffer Sentence in Prospect for S.L. Morals Offenders," Salt Lake Tribune, 14 October
1957, p. 20.
!

"Chief Accents Danger to City's Youth," Salt Lake Tribune. 8 November 1956, p. 14.

'"City Announces Skousen Choice as Chief of Police Department," Salt Lake Tribune,
9 June 1956, p. 21.

Ten Commandments it would lock the door against Communist propaganda."


Lamenting the "breakdown in many of the fundamental American concepts which are
based on spiritual values," Skousen introduced a policy of opening staff meetings of
command-level officers with prayer.55
Skousen felt a particular contempt for homosexuals and other "moral perverts,"
undoubtedly inculcated during his sixteen years as an F.B.I, investigator and his tutelage
under Hoover, whose strident attacks against "sexual perverts" fed speculation about his
own homosexuality.56 Skousen expressed "shock and disbelief at recommendations
made during a convention of the American Society of Criminology that laws prohibiting
private, consensual homosexuality be abolished.57 His child-rearing volume, So You
Want to Raise a Boy, blamed overattentive mothers for male homosexuality, echoing
similar themes in Phillip Wylie's more renowned Generation of Vipers.58 In a section
discussing questions typically raised during a boy's adolescence, he outlined ideas about
homosexuality that were consistent with his religious background and career in law
enforcement. Four of the ten questions he claimed boys typically asked during
adolescence involved homosexuality, and in addition to castigating overattentive mothers,

54

"Alum Chief Talks to S.L. Ad Club," Salt Lake Tribune. 12 February 1953, p. 18.

55

"S.L. Police Command Opens Staff Meetings With Prayer," Salt Lake Tribune.
15 December 1958, p. 18; "Skousen Assails Materialist Teaching," Salt Lake Tribune.
20 July 1959, p. 29.

56

Johnson, 11-12.

""Crime Parley Viewpoints Irk Skousen," Salt Lake Tribune. 22 January 1959, p. 22.
58

Johnson, 95.

78
he blamed such childhood behavior as mutual masturbation for causing adult
homosexuality:
Aren't some people born homosexuals? This is so rare that whenever a
case occurs it is considered a medical phenomenon. In practically all
cases, homosexuality is cultivated. Individuals who get into abnormal sex
habits during early youth can develop them into such a fixed pattern that
they soon think these deviations are perfectly normal. When homosexuals
are arrested, they try to excuse their conduct by saying, "I guess I'm just
made this way."59
Skousen remained committed to strict enforcement of the written laws, and he
responded to criticism of heavy-handedness with the rejoinder, "If people want our law
enforcement to be less strict, let them change the law."60 During the month following his
appointment, Skousen demonstrated his commitment to strict enforcement of liquor laws
by stepping up police surveillance of the city's taverns and private clubs. He
recommended license revocation in several cases, including a sixty-day suspension of the
beer license of the Radio City Lounge, which had become a gathering place for gay
men.61
Meanwhile, stymied by their failure to prevent sexual assaults on children,
Skousen's officers stepped up efforts to purge Salt Lake City of homosexual men, whom
they entrapped and scapegoated for such crimes. David Johnson's Lavender Scare
describes how similar sweeps against gay men often occurred in response to widely

'Skousen, 285-86.
"'Skousen Says He'll Aid Mayor Citizens Elect," Salt Lake Tribune. 23 October 1959,
p.B2.
"Board Suspends Two Beer Permits," Salt Lake Tribune. 17 October 1956, p. 35.

publicized sex crimes involving children during this period, reinforcing stereotypes
conflating male homosexuality and child molestation while attacks on girls did not reflect
adversely on heterosexuality.62 In larger cities, where gay rights organizations had
secured a foothold, a concerted legal challenge against police harassment of gay men
gained momentum, although the American Civil Liberties Union issued a policy
statement in 1957 declaring "it is not within the province of the Union to evaluate the
social validity of the laws aimed at the suppression or elimination of homosexuals."63 In
smaller cities such as Salt Lake where gay rights organizations remained in the distant
future, the legal persecution of gays typically went unchallenged.
The same year the ACLU issued its statement, Justice Marcellus Snow
complained that certain places in Salt Lake were "widely known as meccas for sexually
maladjusted persons," and the following spring police launched a concerted drive to
"expose and curtail homosexual and sexually deviate activity in the city's public places."
According to Sergeant L.W. Southworth of the antivice bureau, many of those arrested
admitted "carrying on homosexual activity while parked in their vehicles along public
roads or in public restrooms," and the arrests that month nearly equaled the total number
of similar arrests for the preceding four months.64 At the same time, psychiatry assumed
greater importance in the handling of such cases. Although Skousen would later publish
an article assailing psychiatric solutions to crime and the psychiatric profession for

62

Johnson, 55-59.

63

Miller, Out of the Past. 273.

""Police Nab 23 in 27-Day Morals Drive," Salt Lake Tribune. 29 May 1958, p. 10.

promoting "freedom from morality," he expediently supported an expanded role for


psychiatry during his tenure as police chief.
In response to the alleged increase in child molestation, Skousen issued orders in
1956 to charge suspects accused of morals offenses under state laws rather than with
violations of city ordinances. As a result, persons arrested for misdemeanor sex offenses,
including homosexual conduct, could be brought within the jurisdiction of the state's
sexual psychopath law. In contrast to the cautious approach of court-appointed
psychiatrists in the sodomy cases, Skousen wanted to exploit the law's full potential for
preventive detention: "In this way, a conviction would enable authorities to commit
offenders to the Utah State Hospital for life if medical examination showed them to be
mentally ill." The policy was consistent with sexual psychopath laws in other states and
would remedy the restriction of Utah's law to felony sex offenses, which already allowed
possible prison sentences of several years. Although records for the Utah Third District
Court do not indicate that his policy was enforced, the measure reflected Skousen's faith
in preventive detention and belief that even minor acts of "moral degeneracy" such as
homosexuality would evolve into "vicious and sadistic sex crimes."65

Skousen's enthusiasm for psychiatric institutionalization of minor offenders was


motivated more by expedience than faith in psychiatric interventions. Ironically,
Skousen would later publish an article entitled "Law Enforcement Looks at Mental
Health" in which he assailed the psychiatric profession and psychiatric solutions to
crime and delinquency. Complaining that the custodial powers of police officials were
"continually restricted by the highest courts," he pointed out the due process flaws of
recent involuntary hospitalization laws and cited the psychiatrists' opinions discrediting
their own ability to treat criminal offenders. He further condemned state funding for
mental health programs on the basis that psychiatry was "still in its theoretical and
experimental stage" and thus had not developed into a true science. See W. Cleon
Skousen, "Law Enforcement Looks at Mental Health," Law and Order: An Independent

81
Meanwhile, when handling misdemeanor cases of homosexual conduct, the city
courts offered two alternatives to a jail sentence, outpatient psychiatric treatment and
"floater" sentences requiring defendants to leave town for a specified period. For
example, in October 1956 the Salt Lake Tribune reported the case of a thirty-one-year
old man from New York arrested for disorderly conduct at the Greyhound Bus Depot; the
$299 fine and sixty-day jail sentence were suspended on condition that he leave the city
within twenty-four hours.66 The choice between treatment and a floater sentence
involved, in the first instance, reintegration into the community and in the second,
expulsion. Men who opted for floater sentences were often visitors or short-term
residents who had little to lose by leaving. This was especially true of men arrested at
railroad stations and bus terminals. Their transience reinforced the stereotypical profile
of homosexuals as vagrants, lacking apparent connections to family or community. It
also fueled the popular conviction that homosexuality was not native to the local culture,
but a sign of the corrupting influence of outsiders and alien values. Thus, in 1957
Marcellus Snow vowed to prevent "sexually maladjusted persons from proselytizing our
youth., .the court is attempting more use of the jail sentence to curb continuing practices
already in the city and keep others from coming here." His crackdown imposed sixmonth jail sentences for homosexuals arrested on misdemeanor charges, with the
sentence suspended if they agreed to leave the city for six months; if they returned within

Magazine for the Police Profession (1961): 5-8; Laws of the State of Utah, 1951;
Skousen, So You Want to Raise a Boy?. 285-6.
'Visitor Sentenced as Disorderly," Salt Lake Tribune, 17 October 1956, p. 35.

82
that time, they were subject to arrest on sight.67
By contrast, psychiatric treatment offered "rehabilitation" to those with longstanding community ties for whom leaving was impractical. In 1958, Sergeant L. W.
Southworth expressed hope that the city courts would impose stiff jail sentences to deter
homosexual activity, but also recommended suspending three months of the usual sixmonth sentence for good behavior and the defendant's submission to outpatient
psychiatric care. Southworth believed such a course "would enable the police department
to investigate the subject's past activities and subsequently aid in the correction and
treatment of the person."68 Investigation of a defendant's past activities would also yield
information about other gay men who could be monitored and arrested.
Describing the city court's handling of homosexual cases in the wake of
increased enforcement efforts, Justice Arthur Mays explained that the "special nature" of
homosexual crimes called for special sentencing policies. If a defendant opted for
treatment, the court periodically reviewed the case, and if psychiatrists certified that he
was cooperative and they could "expect no further trouble" from him, the court
suspended the sentence if it was a first offense. For those who had sentences postponed
pending psychiatric care, Mays reported that treatment sometimes continued for a year or
longer before doctors certified the defendant as "cured." "Cooperation" required
acknowledging homosexuality as a treatable condition and forsaking homosexual identity

"Stiffer Sentences in Prospect for S.L. Morals Offenders," Salt Lake Tribune,
14 October 1957, p. 20.
!

Ibid.

83
as the price of reintegration into the community. According to Justice Mays, "There is a
wide difference of opinion among psychiatric experts as to whether homosexuals can be
'rehabilitated'...I spoke to every man arrested in such cases, and with one or two
exceptions they all thought they could be rehabilitated." Such optimism should not have
been surprising when the alternatives were a jail sentence or leaving town. However,
while many defendants undoubtedly went through the motions of treatment to avoid
incarceration or exile, others internalized society's portrayal of them as diseased people
and embraced treatment as a means to overcome their condition.69
Furthermore, although "illness" reinforced existing social prejudices, the
psychiatric alternative to some extent humanized the defendants. In contrast to the
archetype of homosexuals as shadowy figures who should be expelled from the
community, Judge Mays described the typical homosexual defendant as having above
average intelligence, and some were "very prominent in the community., .most of them
had long histories of homosexual practices spanning many years."70 Recognizing
homosexuality among prominent citizens who could not simply leave town disrupted the
stereotype of otherness. Long histories of furtive homosexual activity suggested
something hidden and insidious, but also revealed the previously unthinkable reality of
homosexuality occurring among ordinary people in the context of everyday life. The
psychiatric option was thus an acknowledgment by public officials of the complexity of

Mays Postpones Thirteen Morals Cases," Salt Lake Tribune, 9 September 1958, p. 7;
Terry, 69-70.
}

"Mays Postpones Thirteen Morals Cases."

84
such cases, providing a counterpoint to Arthur Beeley's and Cleon Skousen's portrayals
of homosexuals as "pathological types" and vicious criminals.
Perhaps fittingly, Skousen's measures against homosexuality factored into his
removal. In 1960, his tenure came to a dramatic end with the election of former
governor J. Bracken Lee as mayor. A non-Mormon Republican from Price, Utah, Lee
prided himself on trimming budgets and taxes, but his drive for economy would leave
many public agencies, including the police department, underfunded.71 Skousen accused
Lee of seeking lax law enforcement and envisioning Salt Lake as a "wide open city," but
another source of tension involved Skousen's use of polygraph tests when hiring police
officers. Most of the questions allegedly involved sex, and when Lee criticized it as an
unfair intrusion into private lives and asked that the practice be discontinued, Skousen
ignored the suggestion. He defended the tests as necessary to weed out applicants
"involved in promiscuous immorality or homosexuality" because they would be
"vulnerable to blackmail." He was undoubtedly accurate in describing the questions as
"routine" and similar to those asked throughout the country for that purpose.72 However,
after several acrimonious exchanges, Lee persuaded the city commission to remove
Skousen in a controversial 3-2 vote.73 The dispute highlighted cultural tensions between

"'Mayor Hopes to Whittle Budget by One Fourth," Salt Lake Tribune. 2 February 1960,
p. 13.
2

Dennis Lythgoe, "Political Feud in Salt Lake City: J. Bracken Lee and the Firing of W.
Cleon Skousen," Utah Historical Quarterly 42 (Fall 1974): 340.

'Jerry Voros, "Board Votes to Dismiss Skousen, 3-2," Salt Lake Tribune. 22 March
1960, p. 15.

85
those who favored Skousen's uncompromising approach to law and order, and those who
found his grandstanding and efforts to regulate public morals excessive.
While the 1950s legal environment could be characterized as a marriage of law
enforcement and psychiatry, for Cleon Skousen it was a marriage of convenience, with
"illness" used to prop up old proscriptions against homosexuality. The ascendance of
psychiatry and the illness model of homosexuality allowed states and municipalities to
appropriate some of the new authority and prestige enjoyed by the psychiatric profession.
However, the application of the Sexual Criminals Law brought into play contentious
social issues surrounding the role of psychiatry in criminal jurisprudence, and
contradictory views about the effectiveness of such laws for protecting society. While
psychiatry represented a more humane, enlightened approach to a problem traditionally
defined in terms of sin and criminality, persuading the public that homosexuals deserved
"humane" treatment while they were demonized as a threat to the Cold War social order
was a tall order. At the same time, however, recognition of otherwise respected local
citizens among those arrested for homosexual conduct put a human face on the issue and
forced officials to devise ways of reintegrating them into the community, albeit at the cost
of renouncing homosexual identity. Skousen was a pivotal figure, embodying both the
national security state and an uncompromising, conservative brand of Mormonism. His
administration was a harbinger of the LDS Church's hardening stance toward
homosexuality, which reached a fever pitch during the 1960s. However, like the
municipal judges, LDS leaders grudgingly acknowledged homosexuality among their own
people and as something endemic to their culture. The discovery of otherwise respected

86
citizens among those arrested challenged Mormons' complacency about their sexual
mores and revealed homosexuality as an undeniably local phenomenon. As in law
enforcement, church authorities drew distinctions between insiders and outsiders, which
translated into redemption versus condemnation. In the process, psychiatry and other
"therapeutic" means for domesticating homosexuality would play a significant role.

CHAPTER 3

"EVERY OPPORTUNITY IS GIVEN HIM TO CHANGE": MORMON


RESPONSE TO HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE 1960S

I went in and talked to Spencer W. Kimball. He sat down and asked me


for every intimate detail of every sexual experience I had ever had...He
would ask me what positions we were in, what kind of lubrication did we
use, and that kind of stuffjust amazing questions, he wanted to know
every single detail.
Then I told him I had decided to join the church...and so we kind of
negotiated and he said he would think about letting me back in on
probation to BYU. Then he knelt down with me at this little chair to say a
prayer. I remember I wasn't real comfortable with who he was because the
whole church thing was kind of new to me, and the idea that he was an
apostle was something that was still kind of bizarre...
He said this little prayer, and we stood up and he walked me to the
door, this had to be two and a half hours later, and he said, "There are two
other pieces of advice I want to give you: One, when you find a woman
who you want to marry, don't ever tell her that this happened, and two,
talk in a deeper voice."
Rick Pace

The 1958 publication of Allen Drury's political thriller Advise and Consent
caused consternation among LDS Church leaders. Drury used a Mormon character with a
homosexual past to critique the Cold War absurdity of treating homosexuality on a par
with political subversion. His novel presented cultural archetypes of moral rectitude and
moral turpitude, Mormonism and homosexuality, in the doomed character of Utah
Senator Brigham Anderson. Anderson's career was ruined when political opponents

88
exposed a homosexual affair from his days in the military; realizing his constituents back
home would never forgive him, Anderson committed suicide and his former lover did the
same.1 In the 1950s, however, revelations of homosexuality destroyed many public
careers. It is thus unclear whether Advise and Consent achieved dramatic tension because
Mormons were considered especially homophobic, or because they generally observed
strict moral standards in a national culture that viewed homosexuality as especially
immoral.
In 1959, however, after a period of relative silence toward homosexuality and
vague admonitions against "immorality," Spencer W. Kimball issued a statement
claiming that LDS President David O. McKay viewed homosexuality "as worse than
(heterosexual) immorality, that it is a filthy and unnatural habit."2 Cleon Skousen's
administration provided Utahns a model of both the federal government's vilification of
homosexuality and the FBI's methods of dealing with it, helping set the tone adopted by
the LDS Church in the 1960s. By then, LDS leaders had fully absorbed the homophobia
of the McCarthy era and went further, adopting methods proven under the national
security state for weeding out homosexuals. At the same time, awareness of homosexuals
in their midst, in "their own decent neighborhoods," required church authorities to finally
"own" the issue. Judge Arthur Mays' acknowledgment that those arrested for
homosexual conduct included high caliber citizens foreshadowed the LDS Church's

'Quinn, 377-8; Allen Drury, Advise and Consent (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday
and Co., 1959), 275-448.
2

Quinn, 437.

89
recognition of the issue in the 1960s.
This chapter discusses how the church's opposition to homosexuality grew and
became more elaborate as gays gained greater visibility in the 1960s. In contrast to
church leaders' infrequent references to homosexuality in the 1950s, which relied heavily
on Biblical verse, the exhortations of the '60s assumed an urgent tone and described
homosexuality in its modern context to convey a clear and present danger. In addition,
church pronouncements of the 1960s selectively employed social science literature to
pathologize homosexuality as a treatable illness and document its deleterious
consequences for family life. Consistent with Judge Mays' belief that homosexuals were
special cases warranting special treatment and David O. McKay's purported view of
homosexuality as exceptionally immoral, LDS authorities used extraordinary means to
suppress it. The church's lay priesthood conferred ecclesiastical authority on "worthy"
men from all walks of life, including psychiatry and law enforcement. Consequently,
Mormons were well-positioned to use secular means for spiritual ends. The church's
bureaucratic structure and immense material resources allowed church officials to
implement those means efficiently. As in law enforcement, the church offered
homosexuals "opportunities" to change as the price of reintegration into the community,
while the unrepentant received the equivalent of "floater" sentences, disfellowship and
excommunication.
In an April 1957 address at the Church's 127th Annual General Conference,
President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. condemned sexual transgressions by quoting the Old
Testament Book of Leviticus. The scriptures were equally contemptuous of adultery,

90
male homosexuality, bestiality, and "certain kinds of fornication," all of which merited
the death penalty. Clark explained that he mentioned these things "merely to show that
Israel lived under a code that would not tolerate any such doctrine as that the sex-urge
was a natural one and to be gratified just as the urge of thirst and hunger."1 His
disapproval of the sexual "urge" reflected the church's position justifying sex for
procreation rather than erotic expression. Traditionally, however, Mormon theology
rejected a metaphysical dualism elevating spirit over flesh and the notion that sexuality
derived from sin. Instead, Mormonism was based on a spirit-matter continuum and the
principle of men and God as coetemal, allowing for divine sexuality and belief that
human spirits were begotten "upon the same principle that we reproduce one another."
Clark's objection to the idea of sexuality as natural contravened the spirit-matter
continuum in Mormon theology, although even in the context of polygamy, early church
doctrine promised the greatest rewards to those who controlled their urges.2 In addition,
the idea of spirits in the preexistence procreating like humans conferred divine status on
reproductive sex to the exclusion of other forms of desire.
By the early 1960s, LDS leaders treated homosexuality less as an abstraction
addressed through scripture and more as a modern, real-life phenomenon requiring
vigilance and intervention. In general, Mormons girded themselves against the

'One Hundred Twenty Seventh Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5-7 April 1957, archives, historical department, Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City.
2

Klaus Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of


Chicago Press, 1981), 168-9.

91
unraveling of traditional authority threatened by the counterculture, second-wave
feminism, and the sexual revolution. After decades of pluralism and assimilation to the
American cultural mainstream, the church reversed course and strengthened distinctively
Mormon institutions. Reorientation toward separatism brought a new era of doctrinal
orthodoxy, standardized religious practice, and external constraints on individual
behavior.2 Proliferating church assignments, seminary courses for school children, and
family home evening filled a larger proportion of people's lives, allowing the church to
function as a "totalizing institution." Even as Salt Lake City entered a period of relaxed
law enforcement in matters such as homosexuality, LDS authorities deployed
surveillance, interrogation, and discipline against "unwholesome" influences.3
At the same time, gay activists in larger cities challenged legal persecution and
negative stereotypes of homosexuals. Spencer W. Kimball took notice in a 1964 BYU
devotional speech citing a report from the New York Academy of Medicine:
These deviates "are at least more open and obtrusive" than they were in
the past. [The report] states that these people are formally organized with a
central office and a magazine of their own and that "they are determined to
be accepted not as lawbreakers, sinners, or even as sick people, but as a
different kind of people leading an acceptable kind of life."4

Mauss, 163-67.

This was especially true at Brigham Young University, as discussed in Rocky


O'Donovan's "The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature: A Brief History
of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980" in Multiply and Replenish: Mormon
Essays in Sex and Family, ed. Brent Corcoran (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994),
152-60.

Spencer W. Kimball, "A Counseling Problem in the Church," 10 July 1964, archives,
historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City.

92
His concern stemmed less from the reality of homosexuality than gays' newfound
assertiveness. Most disturbing for church leaders was homosexuality's transformation
from a private vice to a social phenomenon. In particular, they feared homosexuality
becoming less susceptible to the private counsels of bishops and others entrusted to
handle it case by case.
In a 1962 speech at the BYU Institute of Religion, Elder Harold B. Lee illustrated
sin and redemption through the case of a young woman who was "headed along the
homosexual trail." In his opinion, "as much as we deplore the ugliness of that word
(homosexual), it is among us, both among boys and girls, perhaps to a greater extent than
we hardly realize." Although the young woman reluctantly sought his counsel at the
urging of her parents, Lee claimed victory in dissuading her from committing "the
unpardonable sin." As evidence of this, he described her humility in beseeching God,
"Please Heavenly Father, you know that I want to be a wife, and I want to be a mother,
help me to be a normal, natural woman." Lee considered it his duty to "fan the flame that
was flickering into a full burning desire to be a true woman."5
Lee used a device common to Victorian theories of gender inversion,
characterizing lesbians as unwomanly. A similar rhetorical "desexing" of women who
rejected conservative gender roles, defined as "natural" and predetermined, became a
potent weapon in the ensuing backlash against feminism, as would labeling all feminists
as lesbians. Although Lee's account ended on a "redemptive" note, his cautionary

Elder Harold B. Lee, "The Light of Christ," speech before the Brigham Young
University Institute of Religion, 3 February 1962.

93
remarks raised the specter of an unknown number of homosexuals, "to a greater extent
than we hardly realize," among the Mormon faithful. Previously, invisibility made
homosexuals easy to ignore; in the changed atmosphere of the 1960s, invisibility made
homosexuality more insidious, and exposing the threat called for extraordinary measures.6
Following a relative silence about homosexuality during the 1940s and '50s, the
church's representation of homosexuality as a special type of sin in the 1960s stunned gay
men who grew up feeling no remorse over it. By comparison, a recent study of gay
identity development among men from an LDS background, most of whom grew up in
the 1980s and '90s, revealed intense psychological conflicts over the disparity between
gay and religious identities. The conflicts usually began during adolescence or before,
reflecting an early internalization of the church's well-publicized homophobia.7 By
contrast, Wayne Hewitt grew up in the 1950s believing there was nothing wrong with
homosexual activity since he "wasn't getting someone pregnant" and Bill Cloward
"didn't really feel any guilt about it until mission age." For them, the shift from
perceiving premarital intercourse as worse than homosexuality to the church's view of
homosexuality as "worse than heterosexual immorality...a filthy and unnatural habit"
seemed especially jarring. Coupled with pointed condemnations of adolescent sexual
behavior, church leaders' explicit prohibitions of homosexuality spotlighted activities

Chauncey, 89-91; Alice Echols, Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America.


1967-1975 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 210-20.

Lynda Gail Brzezinski, "Dealing with Disparity: Identity Development of Same-Sex


Attracted/Gay Men Raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" (Ph.D.
Diss.,University of Utah, 2000), 45-174.

which the men in this study had long considered natural and innocent.
When breaking their silence about homosexuality, however, LDS leaders faced
the same dilemma as educators and parents who raised awareness about "deviant" sexual
behavior at the risk of inciting it. Consequently, church leaders were of two minds on the
matter and employed an approach that both acknowledged and discouraged homosexual
identity. LDS officials condemned unrepentant homosexuals who saw themselves as "a
different kind of people leading an acceptable kind of life," but also treated
homosexuality as something temporary and amenable to change. While church
prohibitions employed "homosexual" as a noun, ascribing "otherness" and deviant
identity to unregenerate gays, "otherness" became problematic when applied to family
members, friends, and neighbors. Thus, when bishops and others entrusted with pastoral
care encountered homosexual behavior "in its early stages" among young people, they
treated it as a temporary condition that they could control. Such an approach
foreshadowed the LDS Church's tactic in recent years of describing homosexual
Mormons as "same-sex attracted" rather than "gay" or "homosexual," suggesting a
passing phase rather than a way of being. Thus, when Richard Tierlink confessed his
homosexuality to an LDS mission president, the latter described it as one of Satan's
various ways of tempting him and advised him to avoid telling anyone or seeking the
company of "homosexuals" who had crossed the line from "doing" to "being."9
The boundary between "doing" and "being" divided those in good standing from

Hewitt and Cloward interviews.

Brzezinski, 12-15; Tierlink, 6.

95
recalcitrant "others," and church leaders made every effort to nip homosexual behavior in
the bud before it became entrenched or, as one narrator's bishop explained, reached the
point where he "sold his soul to the devil."10 If someone went astray, the probationary
status of "disfellowship" could be imposed short of official excommunication. Unlike the
cathartic public confessions of evangelicals, disfellowship involved a quiet restriction on
sacrament and priesthood participation appropriate to an image-conscious
denomination.11 For those who embraced a commitment to change and heterosexual
identity, reintegration into the community remained possible.
Focusing on behavior rather than a stable identity implied choice and moral
responsibility for one's actions, but also the church's ability to control homosexuality and
rehabilitate those who faltered. As Tierlink's example reveals, church officials also
discouraged gay identity by isolating Mormon homosexuals from other gays.12 Such
"divide and conquer" tactics deprived homosexual Mormons of positive gay role models
and gave the church control over how homosexuality was portrayed. By treating
homosexuality as a manageable behavior rather than a deep-seated identity and
excommunicating the unrepentant, the church reinforced the invisibility of homosexual
Mormons and the incompatibility of Mormon and gay identities.
However, efforts to prevent homosexual identity from taking root inadvertently
raised the possibility of homosexuality as a permanent condition, albeit one penalized by

10

Lambert interview.

"Cloward interview.
12

Tierlink, 6.

96
the church and society. By emphasizing homosexuality's incompatibility with
heterosexual monogamy and the Mormon plan of salvation, the church raised awareness
of homosexuality as an exclusive orientation and an alternative to conventional family
life. Although Rick Pace and Wayne Hewitt engaged in homosexual activity during their
youth, they did not conceive of homosexual identity until they moved to Utah in the
1960s, when the LDS Church singled out homosexuality as a special type of immorality
warranting special treatment and a separate chapter in Spencer W. Kimball's Miracle of
Forgiveness.13 For example, prior to moving to Utah and converting to the Mormon
faith, Rick Pace knew nothing about the church's position on homosexuality and never
expected it to become an issue. Having engaged in homosexual activity since junior high
school, he also assumed he would marry and could reconcile his homosexual experiences
to heterosexual family life:
I totally thought that even loving another man or having sex with him was
apart from what people do, which is get married and so forth. And
interestingly enough, I don't think I ever thought I would have to stop
doing that either. I just thought I would get married because that's what
you do....So this was 1964, and I'm already very acquainted with the fact
that I want to have sex with men, but not very acquainted with how the
LDS Church felt about that, because it had always been a very private
thing that you didn't talk about.14
However, Rick's previous understanding of homosexuality as strictly private did
not square with gays' increased visibility and the LDS Church's response, which was
unfettered by conventional understandings of sexual privacy. When BYU expelled him

13
14

0'Donovan, 149.

Pace interview.

97
for homosexuality, Rick appealed to Spencer W. Kimball for reinstatement. In their
private sessions, Kimball grilled him about the particulars of his sex life. At the time,
however, Rick did not consider Kimball's probing intrusive, but instructive, an
opportunity to speak freely about something nobody discussed during his childhood:
"This was the first time that an adult had really sat me down and talked about it. I know
that part of what happened to me was, I was thinking 'I can finally let all of this out.'"
However, the church's efforts to suppress homosexuality caught him off balance, since
his upbringing offered little information about homosexuality as a sin or an identity.15
Similarly, Wayne Hewitt recalled "the LDS teachings growing up that you don't
have sex with a woman 'till you're married," but "nothing was ever said about having sex
with a man." His earliest homosexual experiences were inseparable from his LDS
upbringing since some of them occurred in the context of church-related activities.
Raised as a Mormon in Louisiana, he also absorbed the standards of a regional culture in
which the LDS Church had little influence. Like LDS officials, however, Wayne
remained confident that he would outgrow his desires, date women, and marry: "I didn't
consider myself gay, I had gay activity, but my church upbringing was, I was going to be
married in the temple. I was having gay sex, but I really didn't consider it gay."16 Unlike
Rick, Wayne had always felt accepted by childhood peers and nothing in his deportment
suggested difference. Wayne did not link his homosexual experiences to a proscribed
identity until he experienced the defining rites of Mormon manhood: a mission, BYU
15

Ibid.

16

Hewitt interview.

98
education, and marriage.
When Evan Thompson experienced anxiety over his homosexual feelings in the
1950s, he sought advice from LDS Apostle Mark E. Petersen, who shared Spencer W.
Kimball's special assignment to provide counsel in such matters.17 Evan asked if his
homosexuality resulted from something he did in the "preexistence" and Petersen replied
no, that it was "a thing of this world, it's like being born with a club foot." He advised
Evan to distract himself with other interests and discouraged consideration of marriage,
which Evan thought wise since "I had no interest in women whatsoever and I couldn't
imagine myself ever getting married." Although Petersen advised him against acting on
his desires, Evan construed the club foot analogy as acknowledgment of an underlying,
fixed orientation that he was not obliged to change.18 During the 1960s, however,
Spencer W. Kimball became the church's public face in matters of "moral cleanliness,"
including homosexuality. With increased evidence of gay men and lesbians embracing
homosexuality as "an acceptable way of life" Kimball refused to conceive of
homosexuality as a permanent status among Mormons. Instead, his speeches and
publications defined homosexuality as eminently changeable not only through faith and
repentance, but also psychiatry, missionary service, and marriage.
LDS Church founder Joseph Smith honored individual choice and moral selfdetermination in his famous phrase, "Teach them correct principles and let them govern

Quinn, 377.
'Thompson interview.

themselves."

The narrators in this study grew up during the 1940s and '50s under

circumstances allowing significant degrees of autonomy and self-governance, but little


knowledge of "correct" principles regarding homosexuality. As they came of age in the
1960s, however, the reverse held true: Church leaders clarified their position on
homosexuality and other transgressions, but curtailed members' autonomy to make
choices. While the LDS concept of "free agency" implied a self-directed morality, the
external policing of behavior embodied in the nineteenth-century Mormon village
reasserted itself in reaction to the convulsive social changes of the 1960s. Mormon
culture had come full circle, from nineteenth-century self-sufficiency and separatism,
through mid-twentieth-century assimilation, to renewed separatism in the 1960s in which
sexuality once again played a pivotal role.20
Spencer W. Kimball maintained that men had free agency, but insofar as "men
must repent or perish" and bishops were empowered to discipline the unrepentant, the
church's interpretation of free agency rewarded those who made "correct choices" and
punished those who did not: "Our Program, the Lord's program, is one of persuasion, not
force, but if the vicious one refuses to repent, then he may be disciplined by
excommunication or handled for his fellowship." While unrepentant gays faced
disfellowship or excommunication, Kimball described them as men who were "rebellious
and unyielding, and practically asked for and demanded such action....Everyone who
suffers this humiliation and deprivation must blame it on himself for every opportunity is

19

Gottlieb and Wiley, 250.

20

Hansen, 177.

100
given him to change and mold his life in an acceptable manner.21 Although church
authorities continued to invoke free agency, sexual "transgressors" were under severe
pressure to conform, and it was difficult to reconcile free agency and personal
responsibility with biologically-determined gender roles or coercive interventions such as
aversion therapy. Application of behaviorist treatment methods by church-sanctioned
doctors suggested sexual orientation was not a conscious choice, but those who refused
"opportunities to change" were deemed culpable and disciplined accordingly.22
While studies in gay and lesbian history typically treat religion, psychiatry, and the
laws as separate influences on gays' status that sometimes worked in concert, sometimes
at cross-purposes, the LDS Church's expedient use of psychiatry provides a case study of
religious leaders selectively fusing antigay religious and scientific discourse. It also
shows how church leaders' adversarial stance toward psychiatry changed as psychiatrists
divided over the issue of homosexuality. When only the illness model of homosexuality
prevailed among psychiatrists, who considered it a "progressive" position compared to
sin and criminality, homosexuality was contested between psychiatrists and conservative
religious leaders. However, when a more "progressive" generation of psychiatrists
defended homosexuality as a normal human sexual variation, LDS leaders embraced the
illness model and aligned themselves with orthodox psychiatrists.
In a 1961 article on law enforcement and mental health, former Salt Lake City

Kimball, "Speech Before a Group of Psychiatrists..."


2

For a discussion of the LDS Church's involvement with aversion therapy, see Quinn,
P. 379; 438-9; O'Donovan, 155.

101
police chief Cleon Skousen argued that many psychiatrists used "freedom from morality"
as their basic therapy for removing feelings of inferiority, guilt, and fear in patients.
Consequently, psychiatry turned out "individuals, no matter how sophisticated or well
educated, who are a law unto themselves and who become detached from the cultural
complex of an orderly society."23 Skousen expressed common fears that a "therapeutic
ethos" would displace Judeo-Christian moral codes that assumed "black and white"
approaches to issues such as homosexuality. By defining homosexuality in the morally
neutral language of pathology, psychiatrists planted seeds of ambiguity that ultimately
subverted claims to absolute authority, including their own. Although "illness" was small
improvement over criminality and sin, competing claims for authority ultimately
destabilized the cultural forces oppressing gays.24
Mormon psychiatrists had to reconcile the often conflicting standards of their
profession and faith. As Skousen's opinions made clear, Mormons and other religious
conservatives distrusted psychiatry because of its alleged permissiveness in sexual
matters and moral relativism. In an article on Mormons and psychiatry, Robert Hunt and
K.H. Blacker explained the relation between psychiatry and faith as follows: "Psychiatry
is not concerned with whether or not an individual's religious belief is true in an ultimate
sense, but it is concerned with what belief means to the individual and how it can affect

'Skousen, "Law Enforcement Looks at Mental Health," 5-8.


'Bailey, 49.

102
his thoughts and actions."22 However, debate over classification of homosexuality as an
illness positioned psychiatrists of the old school as defenders of an orthodox view more
compatible with Judeo-Christian morality.
The psychiatric debate over homosexuality pitted progressives, who felt the illness
model disguised social prejudice as science, against traditionalists who defended the
profession's claims to objectivity and immunity to social or political pressures. Lack of
consensus resulted in a spectrum of views, including some that concurred with
conservative religious beliefs.23 Religious conservatives initially took umbrage at the
substitution of "illness" for "sin," with its implication that homosexuality was not a
conscious moral choice. However, as conservative psychoanalysts hardened their
ideological stance on homosexuality in response to liberalizing trends, religious leaders
viewed some psychiatrists as potential allies. Far from absolving homosexuals of moral
responsibility for their condition, orthodox psychiatrists' faith in treatment shifted the
relevant moral choice from the condition of homosexuality, which may not have involved
choice, to seeking treatment, which did.
In a significant departure from the LDS Church's earlier mistrust of psychiatry,
Spencer W. Kimball not only advocated psychiatric means for treating homosexuality,
but applied therapeutic metaphors to the process of repentance. The spirit-matter
continuum in Mormon theology allowed an elision between "spiritual sickness" and

'Robert D. Hunt and K.H. Blacker, "Mormons and Psychiatry," Dialogue 3, no. 4
(Winter 1968): 13-14, 22.
'Bayer, 9-11, 148-9.

103
pathology, or as Susan Sontag has observed, illness served as a metaphor conferring
moral stigma on activities or people society disapproved of.24 Kimball also promoted
missionary work and marriage as "remedies" for homosexuality, hi his public statements,
Kimball employed the concepts of sin and sickness with equal facility, and his
"treatment" for "mental and physical sin" included constructive activity "so full of good
works there is no time nor thought for evil." In 1963, Kimball addressed an assembly of
LDS psychiatrists on how the church handled transgressions among its members,
especially sexual transgressions. He focused on the role of Mormon bishops because so
much "personality work" depended on them, and he described their divine source of
inspiration as "the Master Physician, the Master Psychiatrist, the Master Psychologist."25
In particular, Kimball discussed the church's responsibility for helping "deviates,"
whom he defined as "peeping Toms, exhibitionists, homosexuals, and perverts." It was a
matter of some urgency since "quite a number of men were being arrested in these ugly
practices." The cases were handled by an unnamed LDS bishop and former mission
president known to local police and judges, who referred many cases to him directly
through a probation program. Kimball defended the bishop's credentials thus: "His
methods of helping in the cures might not pass a state board of examiners, but they seem
to pass well with the offenders and with the Lord for there have been numerous cures

Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (New York: Fairer, Strauss, and Giroux, 1978),
passim.
5

Spencer W. Kimball, "Speech Before A Group of Psychiatrists, Members of the Church


of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," 1963, archives, historical department, Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City.

104
(italics mine)."26
Kimball insisted on homosexuality's treatability despite a lack of consensus
among psychiatrists, and his concern with "manliness" echoed Harold B. Lee's formula
for "true womanhood," conflating homosexuality and gender inversion:
We have heard many times that homosexuality was an incurable disease
but now we read that at least some authorities agree that one is
recoverable from its clutches. Men have come dejected, discouraged,
embarrassed, near terrified and have gone out later full of
confidence... with self-respect again, the respect of their families, their
home ties strengthened, and ready to manfully take their part in society and
even in the Church on an approved basis (italics mine).27
Extending hope to abject men, Kimball failed to consider whether church policies
condemning homosexuality contributed to feelings of discouragement, terror, and loss of
self-respect.
Kimball described the process of "recovery and cure" as an individual matter, but
"self-help" in such cases increasingly required the services of psychiatrists as well as
bishops, signifying diminished confidence in repentance and faith alone.28 Previously, the
illness model seemed progressive because psychiatrists defined gays as victims of
unfortunate circumstances rather than willful sinners and criminals. However, sin and
sickness dovetailed under the Mormon conception of personal responsibility, which
required "sick" individuals to seek treatment or face condemnation as sinners. The
dynamic between penalties and cures resembled arguments made by early twentieth-

26

Ibid.

27

Ibid.

28

Kimball, "A Counseling Problem in the Church."

105
century psychiatrists that laws criminalizing homosexuality should remain on the books
as an inducement for gays to seek treatment.29
For evidence that homosexuality was treatable, Kimball turned to a recent piece in
the Medical World News. "Therapeutic Hope for Homosexuals." The article described a
study by Dr. Irving Bieber which unequivocally defined homosexuality as a disease and
claimed 27 percent of a group of 106 homosexuals achieved heterosexual orientation
through psychoanalysis. The report also defined homosexuals as emotionally immature
individuals who had not acquired "a normal capacity to develop satisfying heterosexual
relationships." Kimball repeated the article's claim that "effectiveness of therapy
depends on the depth of entrenchment of the perversion, as well as the strength of the
patient's desire to modify it," but he ignored its qualification that "therapy is difficult
and...the prognosis must be guarded." Nor did he address situations where homosexuality
was indeed deeply entrenched and, according to his stated logic, incurable. In such cases,
free agency seemed irrelevant and disciplinary sanctions unjust.30
When Richard Tierlink discussed his homosexuality with his LDS mission
president in the early 1960s, the latter advised him to avoid psychological literature on the
subject because it contained ideas that were "the philosophy of men and not the Lord,"
and he should never seek psychological counsel "from anyone but the Brethren."31

John Loughery, The Other Side of Silence-Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A
Twentieth-Century History (New York: Henry Hold and Co., 1998), 122-3.
^"Therapeutic Hope for Homosexuals," Medical World News, 5 June 1964, p. 49.
31

Tierlink, 7.

106
Similarly, Rick Pace's bishop advised him against majoring in Psychology because it was
"like the devil's tool" and warned him about the evils of Sigmund Freud.32 Church
leaders' refusal to leave such matters to chance was not groundless, as more psychiatrists
held the view that suppressing homosexuality was more damaging than accepting it. For
example, Ben Holbrook's high school counselor referred him to a psychiatrist who
explained that "Yes, I would be looked on as being very different, but I had to find out
who I was. I could not live my life for someone else."33 Wayne Hewitt's BYU therapist
advised him that "all I needed to do was have sex with a woman and then everything
would switch." After Wayne transferred to the University of Utah, however, a counselor
there told him that "what the BYU therapist was doing, having me go with women and go
to the point of petting with them was useless, that I was of a gay nature and I should
accept that I was gay."34
However, as gays added their voices to public discourse on homosexuality and
increasingly defined themselves as "a different kind of people leading an acceptable kind
of life," LDS leaders made selective use of medical and psychiatric theories to buttress
their position on the "naturalness" of heterosexuality and prescribed gender roles.
Richard Tierlink's mission president dismissed psychological literature as "the
philosophy of men," but in a faith where God and men were coeternal and lay religious
leaders had secular careers, worldly methods were acceptable if they achieved orthodox

32

Pace interview.

33

Holbrook interview.

34

Hewitt interview.

107
results. Lack of psychiatric consensus on homosexuality made it easier for LDS
psychiatrists to accommodate the church's position; in this regard, Kimball's address to
the Mormon psychiatrists is noteworthy because the doctors sought his advice on the
issue rather than vice versa.35 Describing his BYU psychology courses as "all behavioral
stuff," Rick Pace was dismayed that "psychology had to be different for an LDS person
than for the rest of the world."
In the hands of "the brethren," "successful" psychiatric outcomes became a matter
of faith. When Evan Thompson continued to struggle with homosexual desire after
opting for heterosexual marriage and social standing in the LDS Church, he enrolled in
electroshock aversion therapy at BYU. Although BYU officials privately agreed to
discontinue such practices in 1969, they persisted well into the 1970s; a 1976 study
conducted by a BYU doctoral student optimistically reported "change toward
heterosexual adjustment" in fourteen homosexual Mormon men. However, the author
based his conclusions on a single follow-up evaluation conducted two weeks after the last
treatment session. When Evan Thompson found similar therapy ineffective, his BYU
psychiatrist dismissed his case as exceptional: "Oh, well not with you because you're so
bright, it wouldn't work with you."36
LDS leaders' faith in psychiatry and behavioral change as alternatives to
disciplinary action paralleled law enforcement officials' use of psychiatry in lieu of jail or

'Kimball, "Speech Before a Group of Psychiatrists..."


5

Max Ford McBride, "Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy" (Ph.D.
Diss., Brigham Young University, 1976), 79; Thompson interview.

108
floater sentences. In a state where church and state frequently converged, institutional
overlap between the LDS Church and law enforcement had always existed. However,
that relationship expanded as the church responded to 1960s social unrest. Church and
law enforcement became two sides of the same coin as local police referred men arrested
on morals charges to LDS bishops for counseling, and the church employed methods
perfected by the U.S. military and civil service for weeding out homosexuals, including
use of unnamed informants, confessions obtained under duress, and blacklisting.37
Historian George Chauncey describes how gays held an "unofficial and
unacknowledged moral accord" with their families and authorities during the postwar
period. Under that accord, which Chauncey compares to the U.S. military's current
"don't ask, don't tell" policy, gays were relatively safe if they kept a low profile, but law
enforcement authorities ultimately violated the accord through surveillance and
harassment.38 A similar process occurred in the LDS Church during the 1960s, as
personal privacy became a casualty of the church's efforts to force homosexuality into the
open and eradicate it.
Although church leaders did not revise the LDS General Handbook of Instructions
to specify "homosexual acts" as a basis for excommunication until 1968, Spencer W.

At the same time, Mormons increasingly joined the ranks of the CIA and FBI, which
valued their international experience and loyalty to authority. See Gottlieb and Wiley,
223-5; O'Donovan, 152-6.
'George Chauncey, Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay
Equality (Cambridge, Mass.: Basic Books, 2004), 25-6.

109
Kimball set the standard.39 Bishops entrusted as gatekeepers for issuing temple
recommends and ordaining men to higher office played a role similar to psychiatrists who
screened World War II military personnel. Prior to issuing temple recommends, bishops
were to assure themselves "by searching inquiry that the recipients are free from immoral
or unchristianlike practices," and candidates for priesthood ordination had to be "morally
clean."40 Given the vagueness of those prescriptions, much depended on the disposition
of individual bishops. Unlike psychiatrists charged with military screening, LDS bishops
generally knew the candidates as neighbors and kin, and some continued to uphold the
"don't ask, don't tell" accord unless something untoward came to their attention. Others
demonstrated less reserve when they suspected someone of homosexuality. Before Lee
Paulsen left Tucson to attend BYU, his bishop imputed guilt by association when he
warned, "You've been spending a lot of time with Larry, and he's been seen in the
company of known homosexuals."41 Stan Lambert came under similar suspicion,
although he did not engage in homosexual behavior during his youth:
[My bishop] would say things like, "I want to share a scripture with you
about homosexuality and about how degrading and terrible it is," and I was
incensed at the presumption. They would insinuate that I was and would
choose to read me their scriptures that they felt cinched this up when I
didn't bring it up. It just infuriated me because the church would say,
"Love the sinner, hate the sin," but back then it was more like digging and

'Quinn, 439; O'Donovan, 147-8.


}

General Handbook of Instructions (Salt Lake City: First Presidency of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1968), 78-91.

'Lee Paulsen [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 24 May
2004.

110
prodding and trying to find out exactly what you were doing.42
Procedures at BYU were even less subtle. By the late 1950s, anxieties over
juvenile delinquency and a more permissive youth culture prompted more vigorous
enforcement of BYU's honor code. This occurred as other universities across the country
liberalized their policies on student sexual conduct in order to promote "personal
responsibility."43 Spencer W. Kimball also spoke of personal responsibility, but the
heavy hand of authority and disciplinary sanctions lurked in the background, effectively
constraining choice. While other institutions abandoned the tradition of "parietals,"
which only regulated female students' conduct, no sexual double standard existed at
BYU, where strict policies for both men and women remained in place. BYU warned
incoming students that "immorality of any kind is against the principles and standards of
Christians, and as a Christian body, we cannot permit immoral conduct."44 A 1949 ruling
by the Honor System's governing board extended the code beyond the BYU campus to
anywhere a student may go. The code not only obligated students to observe the rules
themselves, but also to report the improper conduct of others. Newly enrolled students,
Mormon and non-Mormon alike, pledged to live by the rules and "aid those who may
stumble by pointing the right way with a kind hand." At the same time, however, the
Student Honor Council functioned as "the watchdog of student morals and student

Lambert interview.
'Bailey, 78-104.
'William F. Smiley, "Y's Honor System Binds Students to Rules, Ideals," Salt Lake
Tribune, 9 December 1957, p. 35.

Ill
behavior."45
In cases of homosexuality, "aiding those who may stumble" included revealing
the names of one's sexual partners and other gays. In his speech before the LDS
psychiatrists, Spencer W. Kimball extended the concept of "personal responsibility" to
include the conduct of one's associates:
Frequently, in their confessions, these men, relieved from some tension
and happy in their prospects of a new life, are eager that their former
temptors and associates be also helped. They have encouraged them to
seek our help. The approach is kindly and not accusing. The person is
permitted to tell his own story in his own way and then he is helped in a
confidential way to transform himself.46
In this and similar presentations, Kimball emphasized confessions, love, and concern for
others rather than ultimatums, fear, and self-preservation. However, in another case he
suggested investigations could be based on accusations from anonymous informants:
"One young man I called in persistently continued to lie. He kept insisting to know who
had told me of him. I answered, that was not the important thing, but his placing himself
in the way of spiritual medication was the vital point."47 With so many people enlisted in
the effort to expose homosexuals, Kimball's expressed regard for confidentiality went by
the board, and the process of "recovery and cure" became much less "an individual
matter."
By the time Rick Pace and Lee Paulsen attended BYU, the university had become

Ibid.
'Kimball, "Speech Before a Group of Psychiatrists...
'Ibid.

112
the centerpiece in the church's crusade against homosexuality. In 1965, the fall semester
welcoming address included BYU President Ernest Wilkinson's request that all
homosexuals leave the university voluntarily in exchange for a tuition refund.48 During
that same year, Lee Paulsen had an involuntary brush with BYU's security apparatus.
After his boyfriend's mother tipped them off, security officers "came to my dorm, took
me in and interviewed me in a really gestapo-like fashion. They told me they had
information that I belonged to a "gay sorority" in Tucson." When Lee appealed the
university's decision to expel him, Spencer W. Kimball refused reinstatement because
Lee refused to provide names.49
By contrast, Rick Pace never discovered who reported him to BYU Standards
officials. After flatly accusing Rick of having sex with another male student in his dorm,
Standards personnel interrogated him about "exactly what had happened, where it had
happened, how often it had happened, and did I know of any other people having sex."
Rick hoped he could cut his losses by confessing to the experience, but to no avail: "I
knew I was in big trouble. They said 'You are expelled' and I panicked. I mean, what
would I tell my parents?"50
Disciplining homosexual men put the church in a conundrum. On the one hand,
reintegrating gay men into the church-based community risked further lapses and, in
keeping with beliefs about the etiology of homosexuality, corruption of others. On the

48

0'Donovan, 154.

49

Paulsen interview.

50

Pace interview.

113
other hand, excommunicating or expelling gay men set them adrift, free to adopt a gay
identity and explore the gay subculture beyond the church's grasp.51 Gay men expelled
from BYU shared the plight of gays drummed out of the armed services as "undesirable
discharges" during World War H Alan Berube describes how men discharged for
homosexuality had to report back to local draft boards in their home towns; with no
provision for confidentiality, their homosexuality often became known to family
members and neighbors. Gay men forced to come out under such circumstances often
had no option but to leave their home towns for the safety and anonymity of larger
cities.52 In a similar fashion, Salt Lake City absorbed homosexual men expelled from
BYU or excommunicated from the LDS Church, with BYU inadvertently serving as a
magnet for gay Mormons from abroad. Unable to return to their former homes after
being outed and expelled, they found refuge among other gays in Salt Lake.
Lee Paulsen described his BYU expulsion as "a terrible experience...they put all
this crap on my transcript, so I couldn't go back to school for a number of years. It was
really awful, I had no one to turn to, I couldn't really turn to my family."53 He eventually
found work in Salt Lake and settled into the gay community there, but for men like Rick
Pace who lacked awareness of the gay subculture, expulsion meant the loss of a
community. Ironically, the culture at BYU, especially the BYU Folk Dancers, provided

51

Theories of "seduction" were a basis for the federal government's purges of


homosexuals from the military and civil service, as well as Cleon Skousen's philosophy
regarding gays. See Johnson, 116; Skousen, So You Want to Raise a Boy. 285-6.

52

Berube, 228-9.

'Paulsen interview.

114
someone of Rick's sensitivities congenial surroundings and a surrogate for the gay
community. A self-acknowledged "sissy" since childhood, Rick found the Mormon men
at BYU more sympathetic and less scornful than the men he grew up with: "BYU made
me much more comfortable than being out in the world, it was very protective." After
Rick's parents moved to a new town, the Mormon culture provided him "the opportunity
to have a built-in, accepting group of people, a social network, and I got to be one of the
projects because I wasn't a member of the church, so it made me feel special."54
In a similar vein, Stan Lambert described the BYU Folk Dancers as a gay enclave:
"It tended to create a community where we all bonded because we had so much in
common, but it was not sex, not at the time....But to glean out of a very large population
people with something in common and throw us all together and for the most part, not act
on it!"55 However, Rick Pace's experience suggests that sex did occur. He saw other folk
dancers lined up for questioning outside the BYU Standards Office and at Kimball's
home, and he knew of several male dancers purged in a "witch hunt."56 Homosexuality in
the BYU Dance Department was something of a tradition. Ken Mattingly came out while
attending BYU in the late 1940s, after an affair with a male dance student. It began
when Ken needed information about a class he had missed and the dancer invited him
into his apartment: "He said, 'Well, if you're not in a hurry, I've got some new records if
you'd like to relax and listen to them'. So fine, and after a while he said, 'Excuse me a

54

Pace interview.

55

Lambert interview.

56

Pace interview.

115
minute,' he got up and went into the other room and when he came back he was naked.
That took care of that."57
Spencer W. Kimball approved Rick Pace's reinstatement at BYU, but prohibited
his involvement with the folk dancers, band, or any activity where he would be seen
publicly. The restrictions demonstrated concern for the church's image, but also tacit
recognition that the men attracted to those activities were a source of further temptation.
Rick found reinstatement on those terms bittersweet: "I was able to avoid telling my
parents...but I couldn't do any of the things that made me so happy to be at BYU, I was
just a student again and it wasn't enough. It was very scary and demeaning." He also had
to submit his private life to Kimball's continued scrutiny, which included biweekly letters
asking pointed questions about masturbation and whether he had abstained from sex with
men.58
However, Kimball unwittingly created an expanding grapevine, soliciting
information on gay sexual practices and meeting places from men he advised, then
relaying it to others. During their sessions, Kimball provided clues about "cruising" that
Rick explored at BYU:
He asked me if I ever noticed the guy peeing next to me in a bathroom, in
other words, did I cruise public restrooms, and I remember thinking, "No,
but what a good idea!" I hadn't thought of that before, my sexual
experiences had always been because we were in a situation where it was

Ken Mattingly [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 15 March
2004.
B

Pace interview.

116
already private and we could play around with each other.59
Ironically, Rick's brush with expulsion deepened his involvement in the LDS
Church. He attributed Kimball's forbearance to his status as a "coveted convert" and
willingness to be baptized. Before finishing his BYU studies, Rick also volunteered to
serve an LDS mission because it was the next step on the "checklist" observed by
Mormon men. Several men in this study used the metaphor of a checklist or script to
describe how the church patterned their lives from an early age. For those born into the
faith, baptism and progression through the ranks of the lay priesthood followed a precise
timetable, culminating in a call to missionary service at the age of nineteen. As a convert,
Rick Pace perceived the mission as part of "going with the flow," essential to becoming
an esteemed member of the LDS community: "I felt special, it made me feel important
and it's what everybody wanted, and it made people like me."60
The military analogy is especially relevant to Mormon missionary service, which
permitted intimate homosocial bonding long after such friendships became exceptional in
American culture.61 The "tracking" of Mormon boys and girls into separate roles paved
the way for the same-sex milieu of the mission. As in the military, however, missionary
service raised homosocial bonds to a level where young men depended on each other for
emotional support, spiritual succor, and survival in unfamiliar circumstances far from

Tbid.
'For a discussion of the historical decline of intense same-sex friendships, see Kath
Weston, Families We Choose (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 118-19.

117
home. By uprooting young men from childhood homes and plunging them into an
exclusive same-sex environment, the LDS mission presented homosexually-inclined men
with similar opportunities and risks as their counterparts in the military.
For homosexual men who felt a strong sense of difference from other men, the
mission environment could be extremely intimidating. Evan Thompson's missionary
experience followed the same course as his stint in the Navy, which was harrowing
because he was "far too effeminate." The navy discharged him after three months
because of his sexuality, but not before subjecting him to demeaning sessions with a
military psychologist. When he accepted Mark E. Petersen's advice to serve a mission,
Evan felt similarly out of place: "I couldn't relate at all to the other missionaries, I was
just too different and I didn't like any of them. I didn't want to be around any of them,
and so again I was encapsulated and isolated socially." When Evan explained that he was
gay and could not complete his mission, the mission president seemed dismayed that
Petersen had sent him in the first place. As with the Navy, Evan ended his mission after a
few months and had to explain his premature return to family members.62
However, despite LDS strictures about prospective missionaries' "moral
cleanliness," authorities sometimes accepted homosexual men who had refrained from
sexual activity during a one-year probationary period. As Evan Thompson's and Rick
Pace's experiences suggest, Mark E. Petersen and Spencer W. Kimball believed that the
redemptive value of missionary service outweighed the risk of further sin. Within the
mission field, local authorities determined whether homosexual activity was deeply
62

Thompson interview.

118
entrenched and cause for dismissal, or a temporary test of character. For example,
Richard Tierlink's mission president considered temptation endemic to missionary
service; in Richard's case, homosexuality was Satan's weapon of choice. Confident that
temptations could be overcome, the president advised Richard to complete his mission.63
Other mission presidents followed a pragmatic course based on "manpower
needs" during a period of unprecedented expansion. Phenomenal international growth
during the postwar era created an insatiable demand for missionaries, but also threatened
to attenuate the church's core beliefs. Mission presidents served "in loco parentis" with a
duty to safeguard the church's standards abroad but like their military counterparts,
sometimes hesitated to discharge otherwise productive homosexual men. Wayne Hewitt
completed his mission despite lapses such as having sex with one companion and
"snuggling up against the ones he really liked" in their shared beds. His mission
president responded with forbearance on account of Wayne's success in winning
converts: "You're one of the best missionaries we have, you produce no matter where I
send you, but Elder White is very uncomfortable sleeping with you, so I want you to sleep
on the sofa. I could send you home and medically discharge you, but you're too
invaluable for me to do that."64
By most accounts, local authorities soft-pedaled the issue during the screening
process. Most of the men in this study reported being asked about "moral cleanliness" or
masturbation only, perhaps because homosexuality seemed so obviously immoral it went
63

Tierlink, 6-7.

^Hewitt interview.

119
without saying, or because bishops felt squeamish addressing the subject. The
homosocial mission setting in which men shared beds and were enjoined to love their
companions was a sexual minefield for men struggling with homosexual feelings. As
with military service, Mormon missionaries left the protective culture of their youth to be
among people who lived by different standards, while the missionaries' youth and
physical vigor radiated concupiscence. Rick Pace recalled sexual offers from several
local men, including the mission president, during his Central American mission. Stan
Lambert discovered what he was up against when he and his companion visited two
attractive young men while trading in New Zealand:
We apparently interrupted their sexual foray. I don't think my companion
was aware, and I was missing nothing. This guy was back putting shorts
on and that's all either one of them had on was just white shorts, and he
was tucking a very hard erection up underneath these very short shorts and
then he came out and sat next to me. My companion was still talking
about the Book of Mormon and how important this was, and I'm sitting
there with beads of perspiration forming on the side of my temples with
these guys in very short shorts and one of them as hard as hard can be
sitting right there next to me, smiling into my face, obviously aware that
I'm obviously aware...but nothing happened, other than I was just totally
sensitized.65
Allen Corley, on the other hand, considered his mission a training ground for the
intense relationships he desired with other men, and he recalled sexual experiences with
four missionary companions: "One of the things that convinced me to go was the
opportunity of being one on one with another male." While missionary service often fell
short of church leaders' redemptive and "therapeutic" objectives, missions provided some
homosexual Mormon men enduring friendships, if not erotic experience, that formed the

Lambert interview.

120
basis of gay social and support networks after they came out.66
After missionary service, successful "readjustment" required marriage. Marriage
signified a return to normalcy, reward for sacrifice, and an antidote to the cramped
homosocial environment of the mission field. Indeed, marriage preparations were often
in the works prior to the mission, with family and community members assiduously
planning the event during a missionary's absence. According to Bill Cloward, "The
tradition then was, and maybe it still is, the missionaries should be married within six
months of the time they get home. It's like the script was written before I was born, and I
was just following the script."67
Even without family and peer pressure, gay LDS men often married for lack of
alternatives or to compensate for feelings of inadequacy. Rick Pace and Stan Lambert did
not fit "masculine" ideals in most respects, but they felt marriage would put them on an
equal footing with other men. Rick married because he "wanted to be mainstream" and
Stan explained that "my motivation for both going on a mission and eventually getting
married were to prove that I was as normal as anybody else. It was my way of being
equal. I didn't play football, but I could get married."68
With marriage and the nuclear family vaunted as patriotic duties and a first line of
defense on the Cold War domestic front, being single past a certain age aroused

Allen Corley [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Davis County, Utah, 8
December 2003.
7

Cloward interview.

Lambert interview.

121
suspicion. In addition, Utah's predominantly Mormon culture associated nonmarriage
with eternal repercussions and forsaken obligations. A 1958 article in the church's Relief
Society Magazine by El Ray Christensen described single children as a reproach to
parents, who "will receive condemnation on their heads if their children do not learn the
correct...principle of eternal marriage."69 With the price of remaining single so high and
"failure to marry" a source of shame to the entire family, parents and other family
members zealously promoted their children's marriages. In such an environment,
remaining single raised speculation about homosexuality regardless of one's sexual
orientation, putting both unmarried heterosexuals and homosexuals on the defensive.
In his 1953 master's thesis "Failure to Marry: A Study of Marriage and
Nonmarriage in Utah" David De Young took for granted that singleness was a problem.
In his opinion, as the single person became "increasingly dissatisfied with his single role"
he was "forced to play it hypocritically," leading to "much popular opinion that people
are single because they prefer it that way."70 Remaining single also brought accusations
of narcissism. While suspicion toward the unmarried became a staple of Cold War
homophobia, similar attitudes in the LDS Church continued a long-standing tradition
conferring the highest degree of salvation on those who married. In a historical survey of
official LDS statements about "single cursedness" Marybeth Raynes and Erin Parsons
found that such views had changed remarkably little between 1831 and 1982. Because of

El Ray Christensen, "Whom and Where Will You Marry?" Relief Society Magazine 45
(October 1958): 144-8.
70

Deyoung, viii, 9, 35.

122
their priesthood authority, Mormon men were disproportionately responsible for initiating
marriage and disproportionately blamed for remaining single, while single women were
pitied.71
Although single and married men were sexually entitled in American culture, LDS
culture ascribed selfish motives to men who remained single and expected them to enter
marriage in a spirit of self-sacrifice. A man's decision not to marry was an abuse of "free
agency" in a society that offered men economic and sexual privileges unavailable to
women. The single male's potential for wrongdoing also conjured up the stereotype of
free-floating sexual predators described above. In addition, Mormon men who remained
single were suspected of mental and physical abnormalities that precluded marriage. Just
as nineteenth-century conceptions of homosexuality changed from describing behavior to
defining a person, staying single in the LDS culture subsumed one's identity and
suggested a host of discrediting characteristics.72
During the 1960s, the feminist critique of marriage raised the stakes further, and
the LDS Church's accommodation with psychiatry allowed psychoanalytic defenses of
the status quo. In "Psychosexual Identities and the Marriage Relationship" psychiatrist
Jess Groesbeck employed psychoanalytic theory in support of Mormon doctrines of sex
and gender. Groesbeck drew explicit connections between homosexuality and gender

'Marybeth Raynes and Erin Parsons, "Single Cursedness: An Overview of LDS


Authorities' Statements About Unmarried People" in Multiply and Replenish: Mormon
Essays on Sex and Family, 217-20.
;

Ibid., 218-19, 224.

123
equality as the rising current of feminism challenged the patriarchal underpinnings of
Mormon culture. Historian Jeffrey Weeks has documented a long-standing association
between homosexuality and gender nonconformity, with homosexuals labeled "inverts"
well into the twentieth century. In the late 1960s, some gay activists rejected the negative
connotations of gender nonconformity and vaunted homosexuality's liberating potential
as an alternative to restrictive roles and patriarchy.73 In response, Groesbeck not only
condemned homosexuality as a challenge to prescribed roles, but blamed departures from
those roles in the marriage relationship for causing homosexuality.
According to Mormon theology, the highest goal of man is "partaking of
exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, wherein man becomes as God." As
individuals, men and women could not achieve such glory, but must "partake of Celestial
marriage for time and eternity" to become as "one flesh" and beget "spiritual offspring."
According to Groesbeck, "achieving the optimum implies fulfilling one's masculine or
feminine role in every sense of the word," and he cited scriptures comparing the
relationship of husband and wife with that of Christ and His Church: "Just as Christ is
Head of the Church, so the husband is head of the wife; it may be said that this is how
men and women express their masculinity and femininity in the marriage relation...the
man leading and the woman following."74
However, in the shifting cultural climate of the 1960s, gender boundaries

'Jeffrey Weeks, Sexuality and Its Discontents (New York: Routledge, 1985), 190,198.
*C. Jess Groesbeck, M.D., "Psychosexual Identity and the Marriage Relationship,"
Dialogue 2. no. 1 (Spring 1967): 131, 132.

124
suddenly appeared fragile and as with homosexuality, LDS scholars resorted to
psychoanalytic constructs of normality and pathology. Groesbeck adapted Erich Fromm's
biologically and psychologically-grounded theories of gender difference to the Mormon
concept of men and women as spiritually sexed and destined for separate roles. Although
Fromm argued that all men and women possessed "masculine" and "feminine"
characteristics, the predominant masculine traits were "penetration, guidance, activity,
discipline, and adventurousness" while "normal" feminine traits included "productive
receptivity, protection, realism, endurance, and motherliness." Maturity required men
and women to resolve their interior androgyny in favor of prescribed masculine and
feminine roles, after which love compelled them to seek their opposites through
heterosexual union.75
However, in a culture which also valued "softness" in its brand of masculinity,
Mormon men may have seemed especially susceptible to homosexuality or fluid gender
roles, which in Groesbeck's scheme violated the natural and eternal order of things.
Blending sacrilege and arrested development, Groesbeck linked parents' failure to
observe "appropriate" psychosexual roles as husbands and wives to the Great Apostasy
from Christ's church and development of homosexuality in their children. Echoing
psychoanalyst Irving Bieber, who spearheaded opposition to declassifying homosexuality
as a mental illness, Groesbeck blamed "domineering, castrating mothers" and "weak,
ineffectual fathers" for homosexuality in their children and imbued homosexuals with "an

75

Ibid.

125
incapacitating fear of the opposite sex."76 His conflation of homosexuality and gender
inversion supported J. Reuben Clark's and Spencer W. Kimball's inferences that gay men
and lesbians were not "true" men and women. In addition, both Groesbeck and Fromm
erased homosexual love from the cosmology of ancient Greece by selectively quoting a
myth from Plato's Symposium: "Originally man and woman were one. They were cut in
half, and from then on each has been seeking for the lost female part of himself in order
to reunite with her."77 Significantly, Groesbeck and Fromm omitted Aristophanes' use of
the same symbolism to explain same-sex love. In the complete version of the myth Zeus
cleaved the bodies of paired men and paired women, who thereafter sought reunion with
their missing halves through acts of homosexual love.78
In the LDS culture, marriage required not only giving oneself to a spouse, but also
fulfilling obligations to parents, church, and community. Status and respectability in the
Mormon community remained paramount, with romantic love playing an important, but
secondary role. According to Bill Cloward, "Meeting the expectations of others was a
value I was taught by my parents and others in the church. They taught subjugating my
own interests for the interests of others, and so I knew I was expected to date girls to be
acceptable in the community."79 Ben Holbrook's working-class upbringing taught similar
lessons. Consistent with the "best little boy in the world" syndrome and Mormon

76

Bayer, 135,142, 164; Groesbeck, 134.

77

Groesbeck, 131.

78

Richard Hunter, Plato's Symposium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 62-4.

79

Cloward interview.

126
indoctrination, Ben learned from an early age that "we had to have family and had to do
the right thing to keep the family name going. You didn't want to do anything against
your parents' wishes, so you just went along."80
The LDS Church was decidedly image-conscious about marriage given its history
of connubial radicalism, for which it paid dearly. According to historian Nancy Cott,
Mormons' experience with polygamy brought persecution at a time when marriage in the
United States was firmly established as a consensual bond between freely contracting
individuals. Despite testimonials by Mormon women to the contrary, most Americans
compared polygamy with slavery as a coercive institution that reduced women to a state
of concubinage.81 Long after Mormons officially renounced plural marriage, memory of
persecution for their peculiar institution fueled a sexual conservatism and reverence for
heterosexual monogamy that became a defining feature of Mormon identity. The
church's prohibition of "sexual immorality" reached a fever pitch in response to the
1960s sexual revolution, and Spencer W. Kimball was the church's most vocal emissary
in such matters.82
However, LDS priorities of suppressing homosexuality and heterosexual
"immorality" were sometimes at cross-purposes, for the church's insistence on premarital
chastity provided homosexually-oriented young men a socially-sanctioned excuse to

!0

Holbrook interview.

!1

Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 2000), 72-3.
Hansen, 177; Gottlieb and Wiley, 221.

127
avoid sex with women. Although Jess Groesbeck emphasized "fulfilling one's masculine
role in every sense of the word," a significant part of the American masculine ideal was
sexual competitiveness, which ran squarely against the Mormon doctrine of chastity.
This divergence became especially pronounced during the postwar period and the 1960s,
when the burgeoning youth culture, proliferating sexual images in the mass media, and
the "sexual revolution" touted the liberating potential of (heterosexual) sex. By contrast,
Mormon culture dispensed with the sexual double standard, demanding premarital
chastity of both men and women. However, the church rewarded Mormon men who
sacrificed their sexual prerogatives with priesthood authority and leadership positions that
excluded women.83
Nevertheless, relations between young Mormon men and women were fraught
with sexual tension. As anthropologist David Knowlton explains, "Women are not only
appropriated by masculine ideology as a base from which to construct manhood, they also
form a proving ground on which manhood can be demonstrated but which can also
thereby challenge or threaten it."84 On the one hand, Mormon men felt pressure from the
larger society (and the promptings of their bodies) to demonstrate sexual prowess with
women, but on the other hand, doing so brought the church's sanctions against sexual
immorality, including loss of "fellowship" and the perquisites of Mormon manhood.
In a 1964 speech, Spencer W. Kimball expressed equal disdain for "ugly petting
and allied sexual irregularities" and homosexuality. He recommended heavily
83

Knowlton, 26; Smith, 76-81.

84

Knowlton, 27.

chaperoned group activities for young teenagers, postponement of any dating until "at
least the later years of high school," and no steady dating until college.85 His formula
permitted no passion among young people, and LDS men and women who observed the
church's single sexual standard entered marriage with no sexual experience at all. When
gay men married women, they entered a level playing field of sexual neophytes. With no
expectations of prior experience, many homosexually-inclined men and women entered
marriage and fumbled their way through the initial encounters like any heterosexual
virgin; some persisted at that stage for years. In cases where men had homosexual pasts,
they invariably began marriage with more sexual experience than their wives. Thus,
when Rick Pace began dating his future wife, "she always resented the fact that she had
never even kissed another man, and I'd been having sex with them all my life."86
The sexual single standard denied both men and women sexual entitlement,
within and without marriage. Mormon theology justified conjugal sex solely for
providing mortal bodies to spirit children; sex for pleasure's sake connoted selfishness.
According to Bill Cloward, "My wife had been raised by a very orthodox Mormon
woman who didn't enjoy sex with her husband and in fact taught my wife that sex was
painful, dirty, hurtful, and should only be engaged in for having children."87 With erotic
fulfillment devalued and marriage defined in terms of sacrifice and community standing,
encouraging homosexuals to enter "therapeutic marriages" did not seem extraordinary.

85

Kimball, "A Counseling Problem in the Church."

86

Pace interview.

87

Cloward interview.

Contracted under conditions of family pressure, lack of alternatives, community


sanctions, and Spencer W. Kimball's admonition that homosexuals "force themselves to
marry," the marriages' consensual basis was questionable, perhaps as much as plural
marriages in the past. According to Stan Lambert, "Every step of the way somebody was
always trying to coerce me back into doing this, and so I did."88
Under the circumstances, marriage became a site where all the contradictions of
Mormon positions on sex and gender reached a boiling point. The church encouraged
intense emotional ties between young men while condemning same-sex eroticism. The
church also considered relations between young men and women so risky that emotional
and physical distance was necessary, yet when men and women married, church leaders
assumed the biological drive would properly assert itself in heterosexual form. If not,
emotional and spiritual bonds remained paramount although each partner's prior
socialization emphasized same-sex emotional attachments. Church leaders'
shortsightedness was twofold: They failed to comprehend the importance of sexual
fulfillment within marriage, especially for women, and they refused to acknowledge the
possibility of strong emotional and sexual bonds between men. Instead, the emotional
bonding encouraged in Mormon men was to remain chaste, with homosexual acts
attributed to lust and assumed to lack the emotional depth of heterosexual marriage.
For gay men lacking sexual experience with women, plunging headlong into
marriage shortly after leaving the intensely homosocial world of their missions required
tremendous faith. In contrast to Mark E. Petersen's reservations about Evan Thompson
88

Lambert interview.

130
marrying, Spencer W. Kimball had confidence in the success and redemptive value of
such marriages, a faith shared by many local authorities and LDS psychologists. For Bill
Cloward, however, "Going home from my mission was probably the hardest thing I've
ever had to do because I knew I was going home to this girl who had waited two years for
me, though I asked her not to." When Bill confided in his bishop about his
homosexuality and misgivings over the impending nuptials, the bishop assured him that
the feelings would pass and urged him to proceed with the marriage.89 Similarly, Wayne
Hewitt's BYU therapist persuaded him that "everything would switch" if he married and
had sex with his wife. In the meantime, the therapist prescribed a crash course in
heterosexuality, advising Wayne to date a woman from his mission and engage in petting,
which would transfer his feelings from male to female:
Now in my mind, coming up from my mission, I thought, "I can't believe
what I'm hearing!" I had never had sex with a woman, but I thought,
"Well sure, let's give it a try" and I would take her out and get her all hot
and bothered, but I couldn't go any further. It was my fault, she would
have gone all the way, but I was gay.90
Wayne's situation presented a conflict between the LDS Church's positions on premarital
purity and homosexuality. The same year Wayne's therapist recommended petting,
Spencer W. Kimball unequivocally condemned it. In his February 1964 address "A
Counseling Problem in the Church" Kimball explained that "young people need to know
positively that petting is a sin. We need not tell you for you know well that fornication
has its inception in the intimacies of the steady date and especially in the frequent and
89

Cloward interview.

90

Hewitt interview.

131
unchaperoned intimate dates of the very young."91 In a BYU devotional the following
year, Kimball explicitly condemned using someone for mere sexual gratification, which
rendered the person "a thing to be used, a thing to be exploited, and make him or her
exchangeable, exploitable, expendable, and throwawayable."92
Although Wayne Hewitt's BYU therapist justified petting as a remedy for the
more serious sin of homosexuality, an ambivalence remained within the church over
using women as therapeutic objects for "curing" male homosexuality when premarital
sex or pornography were involved. This was apparent in Max Ford McBride's BYU
doctoral dissertation on electroshock aversion therapy. Significantly, his study did not
question the ethics of electroshock therapy or its effectiveness for treating homosexuality.
Instead, McBride examined the moral and ethical issue of using nude photographs,
particularly pictures of nude women, as visual cue stimuli (v.c.s.): "Such considerations
should be particularly important at religious and privately endowed institutions where the
use of nude v.c.s. has been challenged on the grounds that it is offensive and not
therapeutically warranted." The ensuing trial divided fourteen college-age Mormon men
showing "clinical evidence" of homosexuality into two groups for aversive conditioning.
The study used photos of nude men and women for one group, photos of nude men and
fully clothed female models for the other. Based on a single follow-up evaluation,
McBride concluded that a combination of nude male and clothedfemale visual cue

"Kimball, "A Counseling Problem in the Church."


92

Spencer W. Kimball, "Love Versus Lust," Speech at Brigham Young University


Devotional, 5 January 1965, archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City.

132
stimuli appeared "to promote more complete and effective decrease in homosexual
arousal."93
Moral and ethical reservations about using women explicitly as erotic objects did
not extend to their redemptive roles as wives to homosexual men. LDS Church leaders'
encouragement of such unions stood in sharp contrast to their attitudes about interracial
marriage. For example, as the church came under fire for its policies of racial exclusion,
Elder Harold B. Lee reportedly warned BYU president Ernest Wilkinson, "If a
granddaughter of mine should ever go to BYU and become engaged to a colored boy
there, I would hold you responsible."94 However, high-ranking leaders such as Spencer
W. Kimball had no qualms about homosexual men marrying LDS women, suggesting
confidence that sexual difference, unlike racial difference, could be neutralized through
marriage. Whereas Lee viewed the church's denial of priesthood authority to black men
as a deterrent to miscegenation, Kimball encouraged gay men to marry as a means to
fulfill priesthood responsibilities and remain in good standing. However, prodding gay
men into marriage without their wives' full knowledge of the circumstances made the
latter's consent questionable. More obviously, marriage on such terms contravened the
church's deeply-held values of honesty and trust within the marriage relationship, as well

'Although BYU officials privately agreed to discontinue such procedures in 1969, they
continued for another decade although in the 1976 study, the researcher informed his
subjects that BYU was not "in any direct way" endorsing the methods used. See Quinn,
439; McBride, 43, 79-80.
'Gottlieb and Wiley, 180.

as Kimball's admonition against "rendering the individual a thing to be used."


For their part, LDS women who discovered their husbands' homosexuality often
remained married for various reasons. In a culture that socialized women into dependent
roles with no sense of sexual entitlement, economic security and community status
carried greater weight than romantic love or sexual fulfillment. According to Bill
Cloward,
I could not perform sexually with my wife, though we tried many times.
After a few months of attempting to make it work, we just didn't talk
about it anymore and we never tried anymore. I provided for her security
and respectability and that seemed to be important to her. I did encourage
her over a period of years that she should leave me and find a man who
could provide for her that kind of intimacy, and she always declined, she
said no, she loved me and we had what was important in life.96
Other women embraced the redemptive role encouraged by LDS leaders. When
Rick Pace became engaged, he ignored Kimball's advice and discussed his homosexual
past with his fiancee, who nonetheless married him in a spirit of "sacrificing herself to
save me from a fate worse than death." Mormon women marrying gay men to reform
them echoed Victorian gender prescriptions that assumed "virtuous" women lacked
capacity for sexual pleasure. In Victorian culture self-sacrificing, "passionless" wives
played a civilizing role, setting a moral example for their husbands and taming the
boundless sexual energy attributed to men. Within Mormon culture, which set high
standards of marital fidelity for both men and women, the constraining influence of
marriage may have seemed especially suitable for gay men stereotyped by the dominant
95

Kimball, "Love Versus Lust."

96

Cloward interview.

culture as hypersexual.
With gay men approaching marriage grudgingly, fiancees were often more
aggressive in bringing the marriages about. For example, Wayne Hewitt married a
Brazilian woman who converted to the LDS faith following an "infatuation with a
missionary." When she moved to Salt Lake in order to marry him, the missionary jilted
her and she became impetuous. After her first date with Wayne she declared, "I've just
met the man I'm going to marry!" and they married in the LDS temple after dating for
five weeks.98 When Stan Lambert expressed misgivings to his fiancee, she insisted that
she had "prayed to God and God has given me an answer and you're the right one, I know
this is absolutely correct." Stan consented in part from a sense of spiritual inferiority,
since his fiancee came from a prominent Mormon family "where they know how to do
those things...and I obviously am not getting the right message."99
The resulting marriages can be assessed in terms of kinship using concepts from
cultural anthropology, hi Families We Choose, Kath Weston describes how
anthropologists have traditionally differentiated biologically-based kinship from "fictive"
or chosen relations. Within the profession, biological ties typically connoted nature,
stability, and permanence while fictive bonds were considered substitutes or "artificial"
approximations of more authentic biological relations. Weston's research on gay and

97

Pace interview; Kevin White, The First Sexual Revolution: The Emergence of Male
Heterosexualitv in Modern America (New York: New York University Press, 1993),
3-5.

98

Hewitt interview.

"Lambert interview.

lesbian kinship networks not only demonstrates the authenticity of fictive families, which
derives from their self-determined or chosen nature, but also debunks the preeminence
and permanence ascribed to biological families using examples of children disowned by
parents for being gay.100
The superior status traditionally accorded biological relations in Western culture
supported compulsory heterosexuality and the LDS Church's position. The LDS Church
did not construe homosexual behavior as a stable or natural condition, but enshrined
heterosexual marriage as natural, authentic, and eternal, even in cases of "therapeutic
marriage." However, gay men who entered such marriages often found their
circumstances more "fictive" than real, and persisting homosexual desires caused psychic
strain and broken families. When Rick Pace met Jerry, who had six children of his own,
the deception he and his wife had lived began to crumble and he finally confronted her:
I told her that I was in love with him. I went beyond that, and told her
what I felt like when he kissed me, and what I felt like making love with
him, and I wanted it to be real, I mean everything we were doing was in
denial, and I wanted it to not be in denial anymore...so she asked me if I
would ever leave her if Jerry invited me to go off with him, and I said I
would have to follow my heart, and that's when she decided that we
needed to get divorced.101
In many cases, therapeutic marriages did not meet the procreative criterion
underlying the "naturalness" of heterosexuality and seen by the LDS Church as central to
marriage and sex within marriage. Instead, gay men in unconsummated marriages
honored the standard and appearance of conventional family life by adopting children.
100
101

Weston,61-4.

Pace interview.

136
Moreover, the fragility of "eternal" families became too apparent when
excommunication, divorce, and estrangement of children resulted after married
homosexual men acted on their desires. The sanctions against gay men living honestly
were especially potent in a hermetic culture where the church subsumed much of their
lives.
Both John Iverson and Rick Pace reached critical turning points in their lives in
terms of choosing between respectability and gay identity. Although their trajectories
took them in opposite directions, both experienced identity crises and punishment for
living unconventionally, albeit in different ways. When John Iverson returned to Utah in
the 1950s to care for his ailing mother, he began a relationship with another young man
which lasted ten years, during which time he and his partner, Robert, remained active in
the LDS Church. Given the church's official silence about homosexuality in the 1950s
and John's discretion, he never felt compelled to renounce his faith and always believed
his relationship with Robert met Mormon precepts for living morally: "We felt very
comfortable that God loved us and being homosexual was not a sin....We said, 'We are
God's children and we're not promiscuous, we respect each other'....Robert and I both
honored our bodies, honored our religion, honored our beliefs." Their relationship also
enjoyed the support of Robert's mother, whom John described as very intellectual,
compassionate, and understanding, but also a devout Mormon. John's troubles did not
arise from the LDS Church, but from the pervasive hostility toward homosexuals in the
1950s and the negative influence of his own mother, for whom having a gay son "was just
the most disgraceful, disgusting thing." After ten years of violent attacks on themselves

137
and their property, gossiping neighbors and relatives, and the strain offending off
marriage proposals, John and Robert ended their relationship and opted for heterosexual
marriage as the price of survival. They married women who were sisters in order to
preserve a bond, but the relationship attenuated over the years from the pressures of
married family life and passing.102
By contrast, Rick Pace married in the midst of the LDS Church's 1960s antigay
crusade. Unlike John Iverson, Rick entered marriage with no prior experience living as a
gay man in a committed fashion. While Rick remained deeply conflicted over his
sexuality, marriage promised social acceptance and good standing in the LDS community.
However, after years of resisting his feelings and relieving them through furtive contacts,
Rick found something genuine in his relationship with Jerry that emboldened him to
confront his wife. When he told her about Jerry, the honesty which had served him well
at BYU became his undoing, at least with regard to the church. Whereas Kimball had
exonerated him as an unmarried, prospective convert raised under different standards, the
church showed less forbearance toward a married member previously disciplined for the
same offense. At a time when the LDS Church ranked both homosexuality and adultery
as "unpardonable" sins topping the list of sexual transgressions, Rick was guilty of both
and thus brought down the full weight of the church's disciplinary apparatus. When Rick
confessed to his bishop at his wife's insistence, he did so in a spirit of cooperation: As an
employee at the church's headquarters and father of four, his livelihood and status as
provider were at stake. Sensing the vulnerability of his situation, church officials
102

Iverson interview.

employed the military tactic of stringing him along on the possibility of keeping his job
and retaining his church membership in exchange for information about other
homosexuals:
They were on a witch hunt and they wanted to purge the Church Office
Building of homosexuals, so they called me into a church court, and spent
six hours interrogating me with the purpose of gathering names. My first
question when they started doing that was, "What do you want them for?"
and the stake president said, "So that we can get in touch with their
bishops and get them help if they need it." So I started off giving them
names of people where I knew the bishop already knew...and it seemed
like it wouldn't stop until I had given them every name, or they were after
one name and it was Jerry, the person I was in love with, I wouldn't give it
to them. I went hoping to keep my job, I had four sons and a family to
support and I was scared shitless about whether I could keep my job or
not.103
The process continued when he reported for work, with security guards at the church
offices escorting him to every department for the purpose of identifying other
homosexuals from employee photographs. Rick later discovered that the employees he
named were promptly fired, and church officials rewarded his cooperation with
excommunication and loss of his own job:
I no longer have any guilt about having sex with guys, but having ruined
all those lives because I got caught up in trying to save my own ass! I just
could not find a decent job. My wife helped me find an apartment, our
divorce was finalized, and the reason that it was finalized was because of
the "extreme mental anguish of her having been married to a
homosexual."104
The circumstances of Rick's divorce and excommunication dramatized themes of
living honestly versus keeping up appearances, with love and inclusion the rewards for

'Pace interview.
104

Ibid.

139
following precepts, disfellowship and humiliation the wages of transgressing them. The
church's power as a "totalizing" institution was nowhere more apparent than in cases
such as his, where the repercussions of excommunication extended far beyond loss of
church fellowship to affect one's income, family, home, and community standing; all
could be lost after an adverse ruling by a church court.
It is useful to conclude this chapter by returning to Allen Drury's Advise and
Consent and LDS reaction to it, which sheds light on the church's mixed message of
rejection and redemption. In the novel, Senator Brigham Anderson had married, started a
family, and otherwise led an unblemished life redounding to his political success.
However, his homosexual past remained indelible, a tragic failing for which his
constituents would never forgive him. His enemies ultimately dredged it up and used it to
lethal effect.105 LDS officials' defensive reaction to the book and efforts to prevent its
screen adaptation focused on Anderson's homosexuality to the exclusion of his
overriding strengths, a case of life imitating art.106 More typically, however, the LDS
Church reserved unforgiving attitudes for unrepentant gays. Brigham Anderson actually
followed the course church leaders prescribed for gay men, an emphasis on form over
substance in intimate relations that paralleled church leaders' preoccupation with image.
While public servants fired for homosexuality had little hope for reinstatement, the
Mormon Church offered gays conditional reintegration, usually involving heterosexual
marriage and all too often, ethically questionable psychiatric interventions. Like the
105

Johnson, The Lavender Scare. 141-2.

106

Quinn, 377-8.

enrollment of John Pennock's students in a marriage preparation course, therapeutic


marriages could erase past sins if there was no backsliding. Otherwise, Brigham
Anderson's suicide had its counterparts in disfellowship and excommunication.
Furthermore, Anderson's suicide was more than a fictional cliche: it presaged suicides
among Mormon gay men, especially in the 1960s and '70s when the church's position
against homosexuality was unequivocal and well publicized.
The LDS Church also prohibited homosexuality to the detriment of homosocial
bonding and, in therapeutic marriages, heterosexual intimacy. In Advise and Consent
Brigham Anderson felt no regret for his homosexual past despite its role in his downfall;
by contrast, men in the current study regretted their decisions to abide by church leaders'
advice about marriage, given the suffering it caused themselves and their families.107 The
issue remains relevant in public policy debates over gay marriage, in which the church
favors restricting legal sanction to heterosexual relationships, privileging form over
substance. Metaphorically speaking, the LDS Church's alliance with orthodox
psychiatrists and, in more recent years, the religious right have also been marriages of
convenience. The LDS Church's uneasy alliance with other religious conservatives
reveals the extent to which Mormons are still shadowed by their history of polygamy.
Purging homosexuality within the church reflects a process that ethnic studies scholars
term secondary marginalization, where historically oppressed groups achieve mainstream
status and power by suppressing other stigmatized groups, such as sexual minorities,

,07

Ibid.

141
among their people.108 In so doing, however, Mormons have not escaped their sexual past
any more than Brigham Anderson escaped his. Shared aversion to homosexuality has not
shielded the LDS Church from its own history of sexual radicalism, and Mormons remain
a "peculiar people" in the eyes of others.
The gay men in this study who married or underwent therapy did so largely to
maintain the esteem of immediate families and church-based communities. The
church's overwhelming influence in the local culture and institutions governing its
members' daily lives made the price of living unconventionally especially high, but many
men did so after leaving the fold. Those who continued to feel bound to the area by
familial or cultural ties were absorbed by Salt Lake's gay subculture to varying degrees.
The local gay community offered refuge to those cast out of the church or their families,
just as gay communities everywhere received those discharged from the military for
homosexuality. Some ventured into the gay scene tentatively while still married,
anticipating a time when they could fully embrace a gay identity and live that reality
openly. For others such as Rick Pace, entering the gay community began the process of
healing wounds and rebuilding shattered lives.

Cathy J. Cohen, Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 70-6.

CHAPTER 4

"WE LOOKED OUT FOR EACH OTHER": BARS, COMMUNITY LIFE,


AND THE RITES OF WASATCH SPRINGS

It was just hard in some areas and in other areas I just find, as I think back,
we were closer together. We knew just about everyone, and we watched
out for one another's backs....I wish we had some of that tight-knittedness
back. We had to make our own fun, it wasn't like it was handed to us like
it is today. Everybody attended back then for support, and now it's like
it's just expected to be there whenever they want it. Back then we didn't
take too much for granted, we took what we could find and we had to love
it and embrace it, and I wish some of those times were back.
Ben Holbrook
Gay men converged on Salt Lake City during the postwar period for a variety of
reasons, but in contrast to the primarily sexual migrations to major cities, gays in Salt
Lake typically had roots in the region or the Mormon faith. Most of the accounts in this
study revealed the LDS Church to have had some influence in the decision to settle or
remain there, with BYU frequently serving as a magnet for men from other places.
While an untold number of gay men, perhaps a majority of them, chose to leave Salt Lake
following confrontations with the church or its culture, many stayed for lack of
alternatives or to continue struggles over sexual and religious identity. Salt Lake offered
those who remained emotionally or spiritually tethered to the Mormon faith institutional
support and a built-in sense of community as long as they could "pass," while at the same
time providing an urban gay subculture typical of any city its size.

143
In addition, the continuing process of agricultural decline inevitably drew gay men
from surrounding rural areas in search of work or a college education, although some
moved to Salt Lake specifically to escape the isolation they experienced in smaller towns.
Grant Rasmussen's 1937 thesis on "sexual inverts" alternately depicted Salt Lake as
oppressive and liberating, parochial and worldly, consistent with its dual nature as both
small town and big city. For example, Rasmussen described a gay adolescent who fled to
New York after officials at his Salt Lake high school treated him as a delinquent.
However, another case involved a young man commuting from a rural town to attend
school in Salt Lake, where he found abundant opportunities to explore his
homosexuality.1
According to Evan Thompson, many of the gay men he encountered during the
1950s had grown up in rural Utah and considered Salt Lake "the big city" where they
might find other gays.2 Rural to urban migrants enjoyed sufficient breathing space in Salt
Lake to pursue a gay lifestyle while remaining connected to the culture of their
upbringing and biological families, albeit at a safe remove. On the other hand, for men
who grew up in the city and still had relatives there, Salt Lake was more small town than
metropolis. The nearness of relatives therefore made "passing" more critical in Salt Lake
than in larger cities, and participating in its gay subculture called for greater discretion
and skill at managing conflicting identities. While many men eventually relocated to
larger cities renowned for tolerance and more sophisticated offerings, Salt Lake served as

Rasmussen, Part Three, "A Detailed Case Study," unpaged.


2

Thompson interview.

144
a transition between two largely unreconcilable worlds.
In general, men experienced Salt Lake's gay subculture during the 1950s and '60s
as both dangerous and exhilarating. Possible arrest, exposure, and physical violence were
persistent fears, but also fostered shared identity and a sense of community in the interest
of mutual protection. Salt Lake contained elements of both postwar American culture
and the emerging gay subcultures, inflected by a religious tradition which inhibited sexual
expression but also incited sexual rebelliousness.3 As befits a small city, gay life in Salt
Lake fell somewhere between the "rural/traditional" and "urban/industrial" models of
homosexuality. Under the rural/traditional paradigm, homosexual behavior, but not
identity, occurred secretly in the context of everyday relations and activities, while
circumstances under the urban/industrial or "gay liberation" model permitted homosexual
identity and specialized gay public space.4 In Salt Lake, a gay subculture sprouted on turf
shared with heterosexuals, and given the proximity of blood relatives and work
associates, gay men with reputations to protect looked over their shoulders more often
than would be the case in major cities. Consistent with the gay liberation model, Salt
Lake offered places which, with certain qualifications, gay-identified men could call their
own. As with the rural paradigm, however, gay life occurred as a secret undercurrent to
the city's daily affairs, deeply enmeshed in "life as usual" and all but invisible to the

Various authors have described how the LDS Church's "black or white" approach to
nonmarital sexuality induces those who "cross the line" and "sin a little" to see
themselves as "evil," and so go on to "sin a lot." See Brzezinski, 122; Harold T.
Christensen, "Stress Points in Mormon Family Culture," Dialogue 7, no. 4 (Winter
1972): 27.

Howard, Men Like That.... xiii, xiv.

uninitiated.
The public spaces comprising the gay male social and sexual geography of Salt
Lake during this period could be best described as "semipublic," or conversely,
"semiprivate." Although the bars, baths, and cruising spots seemed daringly visible and
very much a part of the public space utilized by heterosexuals, consciousness of
homosexual activity depended on an ability and willingness to discern subtle and not so
subtle clues to its existence. Some spaces, such as bars, featured clearly recognizable
temporal or spatial boundaries demarcating straight and gay use while others, such as
parks, bus terminals, and public baths required a mastery of gestures, vernacular, and
other protocols intelligible only to gays in order to create gay territory in otherwise
heterosexual milieus. In Salt Lake's predominantly Mormon culture, a collective denial
also tended to safeguard a degree of privacy at the margins that might otherwise have
required more specialized physical spaces. Nonetheless, the continuing vigilance of law
enforcement against homosexual conduct and the repercussions of being caught,
especially for married, middle-class men, required that they tread softly while pursuing
pleasure and companionship.
Various types of space offered comparative advantages in terms of privacy, safety,
and accessibility. Whereas the bars' atmosphere fostered sociability and group identity
but constrained overtly sexual behavior, the parks, bus terminals, "Bare-Ass Beach," and
the Wasatch Springs mineral baths favored sexual interaction between individuals and
relied to a greater extent on nonverbal communication. However, although the bars and
parks generally catered to different needs, boundaries tended to be flexible given the

146
relative smallness of Salt Lake's community. For example, some narrators characterized
cruising in parks and public latrines as primarily a pastime of underaged and closeted
men, especially married men, while those comfortable with their sexuality patronized the
bars. While this distinction may have applied in most cases, the number of narrators who
reported dividing their time between the bar and the parks also suggested fluidity between
the two forms of interaction.5
The terminology used above to describe narrators' childhood experiences, "fitting
in" versus "standing out," can be similarly applied to Salt Lake's first gay institutions. A
conscious policy of "blending in" governed gay life to greater or lesser degrees in the
bars, parks, and public baths, and a combination of demographic changes and cultural
attitudes also allowed those spaces to remain spatially, temporally, and psychologically
unobtrusive. However, inconspicuousness did not diminish the uniqueness gay men
ascribed to "their" public space, and in their perceptions, if not in actuality, Salt Lake's
gay institutions were both a part of and removed from the city's cultural geography.
Salt Lake's first bars catering to a predominantly gay clientele, the Crystal Lounge
and Radio City Lounge, emerged during the postwar era in the city's downtown business
district. Although Radio City opened in 1948 and the Crystal Lounge in 1951, it is
difficult to determine precisely when either establishment attracted gays in sufficient
numbers to qualify as a gay bar. By most accounts, the process evolved gradually as
increasing gay patronage transformed straight bars into mixed or exclusively gay

Hewitt, Ramos interviews.

147
settings.6 The Crystal and Radio City did not function as gay bars contemporaneously.
Rather, each in turn bore the distinction of being "the only gay bar in town"~the Crystal
did so for most of the 1950s, while Radio City enjoyed its heyday in the 1960s.
Situated on opposite sides of State Street, the bars shared territory with a
smattering of clothing merchants, barber shops, furniture stores, deteriorating theaters
and, until 1960, the Public Safety Building housing the police department.7 The presence
of gay bars in the heart of the financial district and within three blocks of the LDS
Church's sacred bastion, Temple Square, seems anomalous today, when most of the city's
gay establishments are more peripherally located. However, suburbanization and cultural
blinders allowed the Crystal and Radio City to remain inconspicuous, and "blending in"
governed the bars' physical appearance and the deportment of their patrons.
In his study of gay bars in Denver, Thomas Noel describes how a desire for
anonymity governed the bars' location and design:
Within the urban ecology, gay bars are almost invisible to
nonhomosexuals. As a rule they are nondescript, diminutive structures
hidden in the inner city, where they are secreted in alleys, buried in
basements, tucked into corners, or stored in upstairs rooms separated from
the street by dark, steep, inconspicuous stairwells.8
Although Salt Lake's gay bars evolved from existing bars on street-level sites that seemed
to favor visibility over anonymity, their narrow, unadorned facades did little to announce

Polk's Salt Lake City Directory; Branson, Thompson interviews; Craig Mitchell [pseud],
interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 9 January 2005.

7
8

Polk's Salt Lake Citv Directory.

Thomas Jacob Noel, "Gay Bars and the Emergence of the Denver Homosexual
Community," Social Science Journal 15, no. 2 (April 1978): 67.

148
their presence on the city's busiest thoroughfare. As Brian Jeffries described Radio City
during the 1960s,
Everyone went in the back door, nobody wanted to go in the front, in fact
to look at that bar you would think that the place was not even open. It
had a tiny little sign in the window that said "Lounge" in orange letters and
they didn't even have the sign on. We always called it "the R.C.," but it
never had a name, I don't know that the name was ever shown anywhere.9
Concealing Radio City's name through darkened signs and coded references created the
aura of a speakeasy, affording secrecy despite the bar's visibility. Analogous to the
phenomenon of "passing," Salt Lake's gay establishments merged seamlessly into the
downtown bar scene, and their otherwise conspicuous location seemed unremarkable
because "that was where all the bars were."10 Thus, Ken Mattingly described the Crystal
as "a bar like any other in town" during the 1950s, and Rita Kelly explained Radio City's
presence on State Street during the 1960s thus: "There wasn't a mall, so when you
shopped you walked the streets...it was the thing where you drove up and down the street
and picked people up, they had coffee-houses in basement-type areas where people would
recite poetry...so Radio City was just another bar."11
Gay appropriation of mixed space also depended on the consequences of
suburbanization. During the 1950s, suburbanization and resistance to urban
redevelopment resulted in the decay of the city's center, and the LDS proportion of the

Brian Jeffries [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 22
November 2004.

10

Branson interview.

"Mattingly interview; Rita Kelly [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake
City, 11 October 2004.

149
urban population dropped as large families relocated to new subdivisions to the south and
east. As the proportion of county residents living in Salt Lake declined, from seven often
in 1950 to three often in 1970, the city became less a place to live and more a place to
work and play. In addition, the census tract encompassing Salt Lake's gay bars shared
with areas near the University of Utah the highest concentrations of single men in the
metropolitan area (between 36 and 56 percent), although women outnumbered men in
the city overall. While this reflected the sex-segregated structure of the labor force in the
central business district, the high prevalence of single men also made it easier for gay
men to pass unnoticed.12 Consequently, the gay bars blended into what was once a
bustling night life, although tensions over vice persisted given the city's image as world
headquarters to the Mormon Church.13 With middle-class employees of the business
district and the LDS Church's headquarters returning to the suburbs in the evening, the
city's night life became decidedly less "family oriented" and less Mormon.14 Under those
circumstances, Radio City Lounge catered to a predominantly heterosexual clientele

12

The census tract was bounded by South Temple, West Temple, Second East, and Fifth
South. See Reed C. Richardson and Sheelwant B. Pawar, "Population Characteristics of
the Salt Lake Metropolitan Area" (Salt Lake City: Bureau of Economic and Business
Research, College of Business, University of Utah, 1964), 4, 75, 77.

13

In 1950, downtown Salt Lake City was a residential center as well as a hub of finance,
education, and culture; by 1960, Salt Lake's population had declined 7 percent even
though the county population had increased 20 percent. See Linda Sillitoe, A
History of Salt Lake County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake
County Commission, 1996), 205-07.

14

During the 1950s and '60s, Mormons left the city at a higher rate than nonMormons, 19,300 versus 12, 200; the city thus became less Mormon than the state as a
whole. See Thomas G. Alexander and James B. Allen, Mormons and Gentiles: A
History of Salt Lake City (Boulder, Co.: Pruett Publishing Co., 1984), 254,261.

150
during the day and an exclusively gay clientele at night, or as Neil Madsen described the
daily transition, "Radio City during the day was a straight pick-up bar, and then it would
turn gay after dark...all the straights went home to their families and it got dark and the
gays came in."15
Of even greater significance than the artful use of space and time were the cultural
blinders regarding drinking and homosexuality.16 Despite Salt Lake's image as
headquarters to a teetotaling religious denomination, the city's population had long
included a significant presence of non-Mormons, or "gentiles." In 1908, a predominantly
non-Mormon city government even implemented a short-lived program of legalized, cityregulated prostitution.17 Unsurprisingly, Mormons and non-Mormons had always
coexisted in a state of tension, and religion remained the most salient basis for identity.
The LDS Church disapproved of bars and occasionally sponsored efforts to have them
more strictly policed, but could not eliminate them entirely. The church's Law
Enforcement Committee sought an ordinance requiring unobstructed views of tavern
interiors from the street during the 1950s, and BYU security personnel recorded the
license numbers of vehicles parked outside Radio City in later years.18 However,
practicing Mormons typically preferred to avert their gaze rather than probe deeply into

'Madsen interview.
'Topham interview.
'Alexander and Allen, 148-9.
!

"Chief to Boost Anti-Vice Unit by Three," Salt Lake Tribune. 5 December 1949, p. 11;
O'Donovan, 156.

151
what most considered an alien environment, and the space inside bars remained terra
incognita.19
According to Edward Perry, "My parents' peer group would never have known
about a bar of any kind. Even at work my peers were not people that went to bars. I was
with all Mormons, so you wouldn't discuss bars." In a culture which frowned upon, but
also avoided, drinking and alcohol-related sociability, gay bar patrons shared a
disreputable status with the rest of Salt Lake's public drinking population. As Keith
Branson explained, gay bars emerged on State Street because "that's where all the bars
were...those people had to be somewhere," with "those" connoting an "otherness" that
locals ascribed both to gays and bar-goers in general.20
Local gays were not immune to such attitudes, which could further complicate the
process of coming out. For men raised in devout families, entering a gay bar involved
coming out in the double sense of publicly acknowledging their homosexuality and being
exposed to a drinking culture for the first time. Given the city's demographics, Radio
City's patrons often came from LDS backgrounds, and most of them weathered the
double culture shock by ordering soft drinks or merely sipping the light beer.21 In
addition, the importance of buying and accepting drinks for expressing interest in
someone provided incentive for overcoming inhibitions over alcohol. However, others
avoided the bar altogether and remained ambivalent about bars as the embodiment of gay

19

Topham interview.

20

Perry, Branson interviews.

21

Cloward, Hewitt, Perry, Ramos interviews.

152
community. In The Homosexual in America, Donald Webster Cory argued that "from the
gay street to the gay bar may be but a few steps, or several miles, but an aura of
respectability is to be found at the latter that is lacking in the former."22 Among Mormon
gay men, however, the bars seemed less likely to confer respectability or provide the
legitimating protection of an alibi when drinking itself was not respectable. According to
Jeff Ramos, "most of the Mormon [gay] people I met were in the park, because Mormons
wouldn't touch liquor, they wouldn't smoke or drink but they would do everything else."
Similarly, although Brian Jeffries found the steam facilities at the public baths foulsmelling and dirty, "that was about the only place...to meet anybody unless you went to
the bars and of course, being a returned missionary, that wasn 't the thing to Jo...(Italics
mine)" For Mormon men not fully committed to a gay identity, the park or baths required
less of a cultural leap than going to a bar.23
Gay life took root amidst such physical and psychological "ghettoization" of
public drinking and night life downtown in an era when, according to Wayne Hewitt,
"sex between men just wasn't talked about." During the 1960s, as LDS Church leaders
and the media began discussing homosexuality more directly, the local gay bar remained
an open secret, prompting a mixture of awareness and denial. Thus, while Radio City
eventually attracted the attention of BYU security personnel, church officials also
refrained from advertising its existence. Suppressed awareness and the temporal division
between day and nighttime activities accounted for such incongruities as the Radio City
22

Cory, 120.

23

Ramos, Jeffries interviews.

Lounge operating half a block south of the Beehive Bank Building, which housed offices
for the LDS Church's Primary Association and Deseret Sunday School Union.24
Although it did not reflect a conscious policy, the containment of gay socializing in a
single establishment during certain hours also had similar ramifications as legalized
prostitution: limited to one or two "legitimate" settings, public homosexuality was more
easily regulated by law enforcement, but more easily overlooked by the general public.
At least during the 1950s, however, the gay bar downtown was also undetectable
to many local gay men, who typically learned of gay institutions through someone more
experienced. Discovering gay territory in Salt Lake required personal contacts, given the
inconspicuousness of gay life and reluctance of local authorities to report the locations of
gay meeting places. Akin to being "let in" on a well kept secret, Ken Mattingly received
an introduction to the Crystal Lounge from a fellow BYU student, and Rita Kelly
described her similar initiation into a world she "never knew existed" at Radio City as a
rite of passage into an underground culture.25
Novices could also learn of other gay territory from a variety of more casual
sources. For example, a restroom contact at the Trailways bus terminal escorted Wayne
Hewitt to the Wasatch Springs mineral baths and helped him get acclimated to the
experience. Brian Jeffries, on the other hand, learned of the baths from graffiti scrawled
on a restroom wall. Jeff Ramos became privy to both the possibilities and dangers of gay
cruising as a police department employee: "I worked in the jail and I met everyone that

24
25

Polk's Salt Lake City Directory. 1967.

Mattingly, Kelly interviews.

154
got arrested for being gay and prostitutes. I knew exactly where to go, they'd tell me, 'If
you want to have fun, this is where you go.'" When a Liberty Park acquaintance told Ben
Holbrook of a secluded stretch of sand along the Great Salt Lake affectionately known as
"Bare-Ass Beach," the wide-eyed youth wasted no time getting there. Too young for the
bar yet old enough to drive, Ben was "...intrigued that something like that was going on in
Salt Lake. I just felt like I started knowing people and I wasn't the only one." Finally,
after completing a "gay education" in San Francisco comprised of bars, bathhouses, and
parks, Neil Madsen returned to Utah and, to his dismay, learned of Radio City from a
"gay-friendly, sophisticated" woman: "I had no idea there was anything like that in Salt
Lake, or anywhere in Utah."26 Although Radio City had been around during his youth, it
required someone savvy to steer Madsen past the culturally-imposed myopia which made
gay bars in Utah inconceivable.
Having discovered the bar, gay men found the imperative of "blending in" did not
necessarily stop at the entrance. Although Salt Lake's bars fit Thomas Noel's description
of a gay bar as "a homosexual market place where courting and sexual contacts
transpire," patrons had to be circumspect.27 With blue laws regulating the hours,
operation, and physical surroundings of taverns, owners wary about license revocation
maintained strict standards of dress and behavior. Bars could only serve light beer under
Utah's state liquor monopoly system, although patrons could "brown bag" bottles
purchased at a state liquor outlet and request "setups" for mixed drinks from the
26

Hewitt, Jeffries, Holbrook, Madsen interviews.

"Noel, 59.

155
bartender. Since license forfeiture could result from "indecent, immoral, lewd, or
boisterous" conduct, men who touched one another, danced together, or engaged in any of
the outward displays of affection taken for granted by heterosexual couples courted
expulsion and possible arrest.28
At first glance, little in their interior appointments set the gay bars off from other
bars. With men required to wear dress shirts and ties and same-sex dancing prohibited,
the Crystal and Radio City on the surface resembled "any bar in town." However, much
was in the eye of the beholder, and surface conformity could not efface the sense of
uniqueness experienced by those who went there. For instance, Ken Mattingly described
the Crystal as "completely gay...and it was rather pleasant because you were surrounded
by people like yourself, where you had no difficulty having to watch what you said."
Similarly, when Rita Kelly's gay friends first introduced her to Radio City Lounge, she
found that despite its outward presentation as "just another bar" on State Street, the
preponderance of men and something off-key about its atmosphere suggested an
altogether different world: "I just didn't know what was going on, it was just a really
strange feeling to be in a place that I knew nothing about and did not know ever existed."
Explaining Radio City's appeal in the 1960s, Jeff Ramos also remarked that "it was very
nice being in a place that was so different," where the gay atmosphere depended heavily
on conversation and patrons' shared understanding of being among their own, and
accepting a pitcher of beer from another man translated as, "I'm interested." According
to Neil Madsen, Radio City was the only bar in town where someone could be "openly
28

Salt Lake City Published Ordinances (1955). sec. 19-1-2,19-1-4, 19-1-5, 19-1-9.

156
gay," in contrast to the mixed atmosphere at bars such as the Twilight Lounge, which
other narrators described as "closeted."29
A 1959 ordinance permitting only two taverns on any commercially-zoned city
block prevented the conspicuous clustering of gay-oriented establishments into "ghettoes"
as in larger cities.30 Nevertheless, the lack of public spaces explicitly devoted to gay
socializing save one or two bars had a concentrating effect, with gays from all walks of
life accommodated under a single roof rather than a variety of places catering to different
strands of the community. Although gay men regretted the lack of alternatives, Evan
Thompson suggested loyalty to a single establishment satisfied an instinct among gays to
band together, which proved essential to maintaining gay territory in a small community:
"It was kind of interesting how gay people would just go to the same bar...[they] wanted a
place to go, and so they kind of took over."31
The concentrating effect was especially evident at Radio City. According to Jeff
Ramos, "Back then our only commonality was [being] gay. Radio City was very mixed
because there was only one bar." More than just a "neighborhood bar," Radio City
attracted people from the city's suburbs, other Utah towns, and other states, especially
those comprising the intermountain area. The parking lot behind the bar accommodated
commuters' needs for anonymity, while the front and rear entrances further ensured
inclusiveness, allowing the more visible and gay-identified customers to enter from the

29

Mattingly, Kelly, Ramos, Madsen, Branson interviews.

30

"Cure at Tavern Corner?" Salt Lake Tribune. 27 May 1963, p. 23-2.

3I

Thompson interview.

157
street and those with status and reputations to protect entering from the back alley.
Whereas Evan Thompson described the Crystal during the 1950s as "just a hole in the
wall" requiring entrance from the street, accounting for its small clientele, the rear
entrance option at Radio City ensured weekend crowds numbering in the hundreds.
However, despite a steady influx of newcomers, Radio City retained a consistent core
clientele, and an evening's revelries often continued after the bar closed at private parties
which some described as "taking the entire bar to somebody's house."32
The scarcity of gay meeting places fostered an almost stubborn loyalty to the bars
despite their limitations, and gay men became adept at making do with what they had.
When frequenting the Crystal Lounge in the 1950s, Ken Mattingly "never saw any kissing
or hand-holding, if there was any hand-holding it was done under the table"the first
place where he encountered same-sex dancing was not a gay bar, but a club catering to
African Americans in a remote gravel pit north of the city. Leaving nothing to chance,
Radio City featured lights underneath the bar which prevented surreptitious touching, and
as Ben Holbrook recalled, "for touching or anything like that, they eighty-sixed you out of
the bar, you couldn't touch anyone, and if you were in the restroom too long, they would
go in and tell you to get out, even if you were waiting to pee." Because dancing at Radio
City required mixed couples, patrons adapted by pairing up with couples of the opposite
sex and dancing in groups of four: "There had to be two guys and two girls, you had to
be really careful...It used to be kind of funny, the girls were probably dancing with each

Ramos, Thompson, Jeffries interviews.

other and the guys were dancing with each other...but no one touched."
Such strategic alliances support the frequent observation that lesbians and gay
men mixed better in Salt Lake than in other cities. However, when Rita Kelly's
hairdresser came out to her in 1964 by taking her to Radio City, the lopsided sex ratio
provided her first clue that it was no ordinary bar:
I really felt kind of strange because I'm looking around thinking, these are
all men. I said, "All right, explain," and Bobby said, "I like men just like
you like men." I said, "Okay, so if I have a boyfriend you're going to take
my boyfriend?," and he said, "No, I like men that like men."34
While the small size of the community fostered closer ties between gay men and lesbians,
men had greater wherewithal to act on their homosexuality than women, which at least
partly accounted for the LDS Church's preoccupation with male homosexuality. For
lesbians who did participate in the subculture, a preference for the Broadway Lounge in
the 1960s demonstrated their need for a space of their own, and separatism became even
more common in the 1970s.35 Thus, while many of the narrators in this study attested to
lesbians and gay men socializing together, they also characterized the Crystal and Radio
City as primarily male preserves with relatively small contingents of women, many of
them straight women who did not mind dress codes requiring dresses and nylons.36
Dress required adaptations from men as well. At the bars and among gay

33

Mattingly, Holbrook, Jeffries interviews.

34

Kelly interview.

35

Madsen; Tim Stratton [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 9
January 2005.

36

Holbrook, Jeffries interviews.

159
institutions generally, dress or lack of it played a significant and sometimes ambiguous
role. Consistent with the shared hetero/homosexual use of public space, sartorial
standards at various times favored individual expression or blending in, depending on the
circumstances. Although some men balked at dress codes as an imposition by bar
owners, others simply attributed them to custom at a time when "nobody would be seen
walking down Main Street in sweats." "Respectable" dress also afforded protective
camouflage on the street since, according to Ben Holbrook, "if you wore color, you was a
fag...I remember getting knocked off the sidewalk on Main Street several times and called
"fag," "queer," because of what I had on. Basic colorsblack, brown, and navy blue
that's all you could be seen in."37
Given their penchant for turning limitations to their advantage, gay men embraced
the dress code and elaborated on it, valuing elegant dress as both self-expression and a
ticket to inclusion in the subculture. According to Ken Mattingly, "At the top of the
social orderand they had put themselves there-were the hairdressers and waiters,
because they were so elegant, they were so cultured." Similarly, Jeff Ramos explained,
"People put on suits and ties and looked nice in the early sixties...it was very, very classy,
you didn't look like you were dressing down because nobody would talk to you..." While
bar policies prohibited more casual dress, bar patrons developed their own rules of
selection favoring the well-dressed, and at a time when gay men "didn't take too much for
granted," dressing up for the bar marked it as a valued institution. According to Brian
Jeffries, "People were all dressed up and their hair was always fixed nice, you'd wash

37

Holbrook interview.

your car to go to the bar, it was an outing and kind of a special occasion." By the late
1960s, standards at Radio City relaxed to the extent that its patrons mistook Wayne
Hewitt for a vice officer when he arrived in a London Fog overcoat. Jackets, ties, and
shined shoes had given way to such countercultural influences as bell-bottomed trousers,
brighter colors, and longer sideburns; however, meticulous hygiene remained the rule and
people seldom wore jeans to the bar.38
According to Lee Paulsen, some men pushed the limits of androgyny at Radio
City in the late 1960s by sporting "silvery hair, eye makeup, and angora sweaters," but
aside from private parties, full drag could only be observed on special occasions such as
Halloween, or as the main attraction for straight audiences at the Tin Angel, which
opened two blocks south of Radio City in 1966 and remained open for two years.39
Inspired by Finocchio's in San Francisco, the Tin Angel played to standing-room only
audiences comprised mostly of the "extremely tolerant" types described by Brian Jeffries.
In Rita Kelly's estimation, the bar appealed primarily to college students and tourists
from other states, providing an antidote to the region's straitlaced culture, and on typical
nights more than one hundred people crammed a space intended for about fifty.40
Adjacent to Auerbachs' Department Store, which reputedly employed some of the
more flamboyant variety of gay men, the Tin Angel pitched female impersonation as a
novelty, and flyers for such acts as "The Misfits" used the performers' male names and

38

Holbrook, Mattingly, Ramos, Jeffries, Paulsen interviews.

39

Paulsen interview; Polk's Salt Lake City Directory.

40

Jeffries, Kelly interviews.

161
billed them as "Salt Lake City's most unusual show." The Tin Angel's success as a
mixed establishment depended on such framing, or "domestication," of homosexuality as
entertainment.41 In her study of gay identity and community based on fieldwork
conducted in the late 1960s, Carol Warren observed that heterosexuals and gays mixed
best in bars featuring drag performances, which focused patrons' attention on the show
rather than one another: "The focus of eye attention is the stage, and interaction is
suspended. In such a situation, two potentially colliding worlds can stay out of collision,
and more or less ignore one another."42
Whereas Radio City accommodated both straight and gay patrons in separate
shifts while projecting a facade of heterosexuality through mixed dancing, the Tin
Angel's straight and gay clientele shared alike in the artifice of impersonation, which
parodied heterosexuality in a nonthreatening way as performers interacted with male
audience members. With successful impersonation rather than purely satirical
representations of women serving as the draw, the shows featured "glamour drag" in
which performers worked within prevailing standards of beauty and sex appeal to create a
convincing similitude of "femininity." According to Ben Holbrook, "the bar was full of
straight more than gay people, they couldn't believe that guys could do this and some of
the guys really looked better than their wives or girlfriends, and that's what was

'Paulsen, Holbrook, Jeffries, Kelly, and Ramos interviews; Allen Metcalf [pseud.],
interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 15 January 2005; flyer for "The
Misfits" in Ben Holbrook's possession.
2

Carol A. B. Warren, Identity and Community in the Gay World (New York: John Wiley
and Sons, 1974), 25.

162
"43

amazing.
Given its predominantly straight clientele, the Tin Angel's status as a gay
institution remained ambiguous and it therefore never challenged Radio City's
preeminence as "the only gay bar in town." From the performers' perspective, however,
the Tin Angel's ambience was indisputable gay. Whereas Radio City offered a unique
experience despite the imperative to blend in, the Tin Angel's unique appeal depended on
"successful" gender inversion. The more performers "blended in" by resembling actual
women rather than caricatures, the more subversive the overall effect. While some gay
men disapproved of drag performed before straight audiences for exploiting homosexual
stereotypes or simply avoided it, others respected the performers for their daring, if not
their virtuosity. Impersonators at the Tin Angel served as a subcultural vanguard bridging
straight and gay worlds, and they savored the opportunity to perform before appreciative
audiences as "legitimate" entertainers, which demanded skill and professionalism,
especially when it came to glamour drag. Ben Holbrook also recalled the psychic rewards
of adopting another persona-after a childhood marred by persecution and self-doubt, "it
felt good to be someone else" and admired as such.44
However, Brian Jeffries saw the Tin Angel's closure after only two years as proof
that mixing gay and straight people in the same environment simply "didn't work." In
particular, he believed the Tin Angel's overt legitimation of gayness as entertainment
came at the expense of more constrained interaction among its gay patrons.
43

Holbrook interview.

^Kelly, Holbrook interviews.

163
Consequently, he felt greater obligation to "pass" in the bar's predominantly heterosexual
environment, which nonetheless generated sufficient gay ambience to incriminate men
unaccompanied by women. The preponderance of heterosexual couples at the Tin Angel
could be more inhibiting than the dress and conduct restrictions at Radio City, and the Tin
Angel's crowd appeal and the prospect of people lining up along State Street to attend
shows may have created an uncomfortable visibility for some. Consequently, most gay
men gravitated to the relative anonymity and stable, reliably gay clientele at Radio City
rather than the Tin Angel's more transient, heterosexual crowd.45
Outside the bars, homosexual activity required certain protocols for evading law
enforcement and for recognizing gays in otherwise heterosexual settings. Whereas Radio
City's division of straight and gay clientele into shifts and the Tin Angel's framing of
homosexuality as entertainment provided well-defined, easily negotiated demarcations
between the two worlds, at the public baths, parks, and bus terminals greater potential
risk called for greater skill. Public cruising involved managing one's self-presentation,
decoding the responses of others, and taking measure of the privacy afforded by the
physical surroundings.
Maintaining gay space in such putatively nongay settings as Liberty Park,
Wasatch Springs, and mixed bars also depended on what sociologist Laud Humphreys
termed "instant alibis," which allowed homosexual activity to occur under cover of
"legitimate" purposes.46 Public restrooms provide the most obvious example of
45

Jeffries, Holbrook, Ramos interviews.

46

Humphreys, 97.

legitimate use, while at Wasatch Springs men probed one another's boundaries and
receptivity to sex through the pretext of massage. Other institutions, such as the LDS
Church-owned Deseret Gym, may not have been conducive to sexual activity but at least
provided opportunities for surreptitious gazing. The shortage of conspicuous, specialized
gay enclaves in Salt Lake required gay men to adapt otherwise heterosexual space to suit
their needs, and through successful "boundary work" they established homosexual
territory, often quite literally under the noses of heterosexuals, while remaining invisible
to them.
For example, in contrast to the temporal separation of Radio City's gay and
straight clientele, the allocation of interior space at the public mineral baths
simultaneously permitted "legitimate use" and homosexual assignation under the same
roof. Credited with the longest history of any municipal enterprise in Salt Lake, Wasatch
Springs' reputation for homosexual activity went back for decades, possibly to the
institution's inception in the 1850s, when a chemist commissioned by Brigham Young
first declared the highly sulphurous water fit for drinking and bathing.47 After assuming
direct control of the property in 1922, the city constructed the mission-revival structure at
840 North 300 West which eventually housed an enormous freshwater pool and four
private mineral pools for customers who believed in the therapeutic benefits of the
water.

47

Max Knudson, "City Reluctant to Take Plunge on Wasatch Springs Repair," Salt Lake
Tribune. 14 December 1969, p. B7.

48

Roy Robinson, "City Pool Boasts 111 -Year History," Salt Lake Tribune. 2 April 1961,
p. 6B.

The spatial and functional boundaries separating Wasatch Springs' large public
pool from the private baths and steam facilities, and additional boundaries within the
steam rooms, effectively segregated public, heterosocial use from quasiprivate,
homosexual use.49 A sexual encounter in a public mineral bath figured prominently in
Grant Rasmussen's 1937 thesis, The Invert Personality, in which "Claude" occasionally
remained in the city late at night to go [without his parents' awareness] to
a large public mineral bath that had recently become one of his favorite
haunts....He spent the greater part of the time not in the water but in and
about the dressing and shower rooms. He never tired of the continual
parade of unclothed men as they walked in and out.50
The steam facilities reeked of sulphur and consisted of two rooms, one brightly lit with
private dressing stalls, the other pitched in total darkness behind a closed door. The
nudity and privacy afforded by the private pools, dressing stalls, and "blackout" steam
room allowed a broad range of sexual experience. Since customers rented the private
baths, which David Simms described as eight-foot square pools in twelve-foot square
rooms, "they didn't care who you took into the pool rooms with you."51 The steam rooms
and group dressing areas facilitated voyeurism and cruising for prospective partners,
culminating in private sexual acts in the dressing stalls. Keith Branson recalled the
almost surreal distinction between use of the public pool area and what occurred in the
steam rooms:
The funny thing is, I remember taking my teachers' quorum there

49

Branson, Hewitt, Jeffries, Simms, Paulsen, Madsen interviews..

50

Rasmussen, "A Detailed Case Study."

51

Branson, Paulsen, Hewitt, Jeffries, Simms interviews.

166
swimming when I was teaching priesthood, but [a gay friend] took me
there one night and that steam room was so crowded! It was packed, and
of course they'd unscrewed the lightbulb....It was just a mess, a lot of dirty
old men!52
Despite such characterizations, underaged men who could not patronize the bars
appreciated Wasatch Springs' accessibility. Lacking the age requirements and the
psychological hurdle of entering an exclusively gay establishment, the baths allowed
younger men to ease gradually into gay sexuality and identity, versus plunging headlong
into the subculture at the bar. For example, the young man in Grant Rasmussen's case
study explored the mineral baths in the 1930s, long before there were gay bars in Salt
Lake, but approached the situation tentatively. Although "many men often wanted to
exchange 'rub-downs' with him," Claude preferred to begin slowly, testing the waters by
spending "long periods of time in the steam room watching the men massage each
other."53
Unlike Radio City, the baths had a gay presence throughout the day and evening,
and married men who needed to be home during the evening could incorporate brief,
furtive sexual encounters into spare moments of the work day. By some accounts, the
baths, parks, and bus terminals also offered more possibilities for sexual contacts than the
bar, where a core group of loyal patrons and the smallness of the community created an
environment where "everybody knew everyone else's business," and sexual involvement

Branson interview.
'Rasmussen, "A Detailed Case Study."

could detract from sociability.

By contrast, Wayne Hewitt described his noontime

excursions to Liberty Park as


just sex between men...Basically you didn't even get the name of who it
was and I was married, I was just wanting a sexual release and then went
back to my normal life. That was just the way it was...sex happening, very
accessible, everywhere.55
However, unlike park restrooms, where the inherent danger of the situation required
dispensing with niceties and achieving sexual release in short order, men at Wasatch
Springs could spend leisurely hours waiting for desirable partners and engaging in erotic
activity. Married men with daytime jobs sometimes divided their time at Wasatch
Springs into "shifts" resembling the temporal allocation of space at Radio City in reverse.
Under such an arrangement, Wayne Hewitt could have brief homosexual encounters in
the steam room during his afternoon lunch hour, and return with his wife for an evening
of swimming.56
In the showers, dressing rooms, and large steam room at Wasatch Springs, men
conveyed their interest in sex most obviously when they appeared visibly aroused. David
Simms recalled men lounging around with their backs against the walls or lying on
benches, reading magazines, "and almost always the man was stroking himself under the
towel." Similarly, Wayne Hewitt described the dressing stalls where "men who were
wanting sex just left the door open and there was a towel on their knee, playing with

'Metcalf interview.
'Hewitt interview
'Ibid.

168
themselves."57 A different ritual prevailed in the "blackout room," where thick, pungent
steam and near-total darkness ruled out visual communication. Since no light penetrated
the closed door and one could barely glimpse new arrivals as they entered, responsiveness
to touching and massage signaled interest in erotic activity. According to Wayne Hewitt,
"the majority of the time the light was off, so you went in with your towel and someone's
knee touched yours or they put the hand on your leg...that began the process of whether
you climaxed in the steam room or went into one of the stalls and shut your door." With
the protection of steam, darkness, and subterfuge, men seeking homosexual experience
generally found Wasatch Springs a safer environment than public restrooms. The baths
also lacked the time, distance, and seasonal limitations of "Bare Ass Beach," while
providing an alternative to the expense and registration requirements of hotels.58
In the 1950s and early '60s, the designation of certain days for men or women
only and the LDS Church's selective awareness of homosexuality also enabled men to
swim nude at the Deseret Gym. During his childhood, Ben Holbrook first became
conscious of his homosexuality while watching the men there, when swimming without
trunks "was an innocent type of thing they didn't care about...everything was there in
front of you, I'd just stand in the low end of the water and get my eyes full." Although he
described his activities there as mostly voyeuristic, for some men the erotically charged,
homosocial environment at Deseret Gym served as a springboard for the more explicitly

Hewitt, Metcalf, Simms interviews.


'Hewitt, Paulsen interviews.

sexual atmosphere at Wasatch Springs.


At Liberty Park, men seeking anonymous sexual encounters favored a particular
restroom, or "tearoom," for its greater seclusion from recreational areas used by
heterosexuals who, in Wayne Hewitt's opinion, seemed aware of its use for homosexual
activity but as with the downtown bars, preferred to avoid rather than confront it. Inside
the restroom, men engaged in tearoom sex safeguarded their "interaction space" by
reflexively interrupting the action whenever someone entered the room, affecting
nonchalance until the newcomer left or could be "legitimated" as another participant:
"There would be five, ten, fifteen men in there and everybody would see someone new
walking in, stop what they were doing, but if you seemed like it didn't bother you,
everybody would resume."60 By nightfall, however, ferreting out male sexual partners at
the park posed less of a challenge because, as narrator Craig Mitchell suggested, "Why
else would anybody go there?" during those hours.
However, despite such protocols, maintaining boundaries in mixed settings often
became a balancing act. In the absence of well-defined temporal accommodations such
as those observed at Radio City, too much of a gay presence could invite reprisals, while
an insufficient presence would fail to ensure the interest and numbers of gays that
qualified a place as reliably gay territory. Furthermore, once gays had established a
foothold, their continuing presence could never be taken for granted, and under changing
circumstances, they struggled to defend the integrity of gay space against heterosexual
59

Holbrook, Simms interviews.

60

Ramos, Holbrook, Hewitt interviews.

170
incursion. For example, in a reversal of the typical process where gays appropriated
space in heterosexual settings or "took over" mixed bars, heterosexual men and women
wanting to escape the strictures of respectability eventually caught on to Bare-Ass Beach,
prompting a need to defend boundaries: "They started bringing their wives and doing the
swinging thing out there. They tried to push the gays off the beach, but we had our own
little section. It was kind of difficult at the beginning, but if you left them alone they
usually left you alone."61
By contrast, construction of year-round swimming pools at high schools and the
University of Utah reduced Wasatch Springs' appeal for heterosexual families during the
late 1960s, and its manager reported that "Most people don't know that we still have the
private mineral baths...that individuals or families can rent (Italics mine).62 As the facility
fell into disrepair, gay men who cruised the steam rooms and mineral baths claimed an
increased proportion of its patronage, appropriating what had become a derelict facility
having little appeal to the general public. As men seeking homosexual experience lay
claim to the steam rooms, there was less need to differentiate gay from straight patrons
and Lee Paulsen even described the darkened steam room as purely intentional, since
"people were always unscrewing the lightbulb."63 The extent of the transformation can be
gauged through comparison with Grant Rasmussen's 1937 study, which depicted

Holbrook interview.
2

"The End for Wasatch Springs?," Salt Lake Tribune. 18 December 1969, p. 20;
Knudson.

'Paulsen interview.

171
homosexually-inclined men as a minority in the steam room: "Occasionally, a man would
have a slight erection when he was being massaged, and Claude wondered why one man
should be erotically disturbed while most of them remained wholly unmoved (Italics
mine)."64 By the late '60s, however, David Simms doubted "there was anybody who
wasn't there for at least voyeuristic experience," and Neil Madsen concurred, "You didn't
go there unless you were in the market."65
The defection of heterosexuals ultimately sealed the facility's fate, however,
removing the protective cover of "legitimate use" which had ensured its longevity as a
homosexual institution. According to Lee Paulsen, "most people who weren't gay didn't
go there...what would be the point of going there? There was this old filthy steam room
and old lockers about the size of a phone booth with holes drilled in the walls..."56 The
resulting visibility left the Springs vulnerable to pressures which dogged any institution
that crossed the line from mixed to predominantly gay, a lesson 1970s bar owners would
learn repeatedly. In 1969, while city officials and citizens' groups wrangled over the cost
and desirability of its continued operation, Salt Lake Parks Commissioner Conrad Harris
claimed the general public thought of Wasatch Springs as "a rather unsavory place."67 In
1976 the city commission voted to close the facility, citing high maintenance costs, light
public use, and recommendations by county health officials, but several narrators from

^Rasmussen, "A Detailed Case Study."


65

Simms, Madsen interviews.

66

Paulsen interview.

67

Knudsen.

172
this study believed "the real reason they closed it is because of the gay activity, and
everybody knew it was going on."68
Of course, prevailing understandings of "public use" did not encompass
adaptation of public space to quasiprivate use as a gay bathhouse, but the commission's
decision also overrode petitions by many of Wasatch Springs' older devotees, who still
swore by the therapeutic effects of its waters. However, when the Salt Lake Tribune
quoted a former Salt Lake County marriage clerk who described Wasatch Springs as "a
cherished spot," countless men who had reveled in the sexual opportunities there
undoubtedly concurred, but for different reasons.69 Although the 1970s witnessed the
emergence of more specialized gay institutions in Salt Lake, including a bathhouse, which
met the needs of a more visible and assertive community, Wasatch Springs' revered
history serving the general public had provided an "instant alibi" for men wanting sex
with men. Such protective covering benefitted not only married men and others who
needed to "pass," but men too young for the bars who needed a safe venue for exploring
their sexuality.
As the fate of Wasatch Springs illustrates, the general naivete which permitted gay
men to cruise steam rooms, perform in drag, or simply congregate could never be taken
for granted, and when those activities crossed the line to become explicitly transgressive
or authorities simply caught on, the reaction could be swift and decisive. For example,

68

"Closing Looms at Wasatch Plunge," Salt Lake Tribune. 15 February 1976, p. C22;
Paulsen interview.

69

Craig Hansen, "Panel Reaffirms Plunge Closure," Salt Lake Tribune. 18 February 1976,
p. 15.

173
although Brian Jeffries believed the Tin Angel ultimately closed because of waning
popularity, Rita Kelly considered the bar successful, but despite (or because of) its
popularity and "classy" image, it eventually fell victim to antivice crusaders: "I think Salt
Lake decided that it just wasn't what they wanted and they didn't want their children
seeing it and they just closed it down like they do everything they don't like."70 City
ordinances prohibiting entertainers from circulating among patrons or performing in ways
that would "offend against good morals" gave credence to her assumption, and Ben
Holbrook felt the bar's closing exemplified a more general precariousness of gay
institutions in a repressive culture:
They just had to find ways to clean things up. Anything that did
something unusual like the drag performers, they thought that was terrible,
and then you'd get your religious people that would go by and say that
shouldn't be there. They'd say, "You've got to check into this, I don't
want my children to see this." It was just so stupid, everybody wanted to
think they were so pure.71
Although the Crystal and Radio City managed to avoid forced closure, the Crystal did so
at the expense of scuttling its gay clientele, and gay men at Radio City risked being swept
up in police raids. According to Keith Branson, "It was very strange, the Radio City
operated mixed, it was straight in the daytime....It was just down the street from the
police station, and I remember drinking in there when cops were there in the middle of
the afternoon."72 The bars' proximity to police headquarters made them easy targets, and

70

Jeffries, Kelly interviews.

71

Salt Lake City Published Ordinances (1955), sec. 22-2-68, 20-2-69; Holbrook
interview.

72

Branson interview.

while gay men became skilled at discretion and vice police typically did not arrest them
for merely gathering there, frequent police raids colored their interactions with
lawlessness and reminded the most law-abiding gays of their marginal status. In contrast
to postgay liberation bar owners, who lamented the shifting loyalties of gay patrons with
more options, bar owners in the postwar era could be more fickled than their clientele,
especially under pressure from law enforcement.
According to Craig Mitchell, Radio City became home to Salt Lake's gays after
the Crystal's owners withdrew their welcome in 1957, possibly following the publicized
arrest of an Idaho man on morals charges that year.73 The case punctured the silence
about a gay bar existing downtown, since the arrested man reported hearing in Spokane,
Washington of "a downtown Salt Lake theater and tavern used as a rendezvous for
homosexuals." The Salt Lake Tribune also reported vice officers arresting some halfdozen men for "taking indecent liberties with an undercover agent" in the same theater.
The Tribune's omission of more specific information about the bar and theater
safeguarded the innocence of its readers. However, the case juxtaposed a gay
communication network extending into other states against the willed ignorance among
straight locals, and since the arrest involved a non-Utahn, it left unchallenged local
complacency attributing homosexuality to "others." Consequently, local authorities
stressed the need to prevent "sexually maladjusted individuals from proselytizing our

Stratton interview.

youth" and acted accordingly.


Ken Mattingly described the period as "a rather interesting time" for patrons of
the Crystal Lounge:
The police chief we had at that time called his troops together in the
morning for prayer circle. We had a gay fellow who worked at the police
station, and there were two or three times he would call down to the bar
and say, "Clear the bar, Cleon [Skousen] is planning to come in," so
people would leave. We weren't rushing out like we were evacuating the
place, it was just normal leaving.75
The patrons' orderly response stood in sharp contrast to the incendiary rhetoric leveled
against them during Skousen's tenure, and the bar's owners ultimately proved unable to
withstand pressures to rid the city of "deviants." According to Ken Mattingly, gays
gathered at the Crystal until the owner "finally decided it was no longer good for
business. We were told, 'Please, I don't want you here anymore.'"76 Evan Thompson
described how the owners of a "mixed" bar popular among gays, the Twilight Lounge,
subsequently took measures to prevent their bar from becoming the Crystal's successor as
the city's only exclusively gay establishment:
As more and more gay people went there, less and less straight people
went. That went on for a couple of years, and then the management
stopped allowing gay people to go there. I was obviously associated with
the gay crowd, so they simply told me I couldn't go there anymore...and

74

The establishments alluded to were most likely the Crystal Lounge and the Gem
Theater. "Stiffer Sentences in Prospect for S.L. Morals Offenders," Salt Lake Tribune.
14 October 1957, p. 20.

75

Mattingly interview.

76

Ibid.

176
then I started going to the Radio City.77
However, far from ending the trouble, the change of location merely gave it a new
address. With his insider's perspective on law enforcement as a police department
employee, Jeff Ramos experienced first hand the irony of having the precinct located two
doors away from the Radio City Lounge, with some officers stopping off at the bar for
drinks in the afternoon, and others raiding the place at night. The situation symbolized
what he considered a dichotomy in law enforcement, where men with fairly liberal
personal views were responsible for enforcing conservative laws. However, although the
challenges of rampant prostitution, narcotics, and the antics of hippies threatened to
overwhelm law enforcement resources during the 1960s, police officials remained
committed to curtailing "morals offenses," including homosexual conduct.78
In 1962, the Salt Lake Police Department announced the creation of a special
detail in its youth bureau to handle a reported upsurge in sex offenses, although data also
showed increases in nearly every category of crime. Among the 564 sex offenses
reported that year, 69 (12 percent) involved homosexual acts, compared to rape cases
comprising 4.6 percent of the total.79 Arrest rates aside, the versatility of disorderly
conduct and vagrancy laws permitted what some scholars have defined as "psychological

Thompson interview.
3

Ramos interview; Salt Lake Police Department Annual Reports, 1961-69, Salt Lake
City Police Records Division; "Salt Lake City Needs More Police," Salt Lake Tribune.
11 February 1967, p. 18.

'"Police Chart Squad for Sex Crime," Salt Lake Tribune. 19 December 1962, p. C6;
"Major Crimes Increase in '62," Salt Lake Tribune. 15 January 1963, p. 32.

177
intimidation," and gay men resented police using the laws as a pretext for harassment.80
In 1963, the State Attorney General upheld the authority of Salt Lake police to arrest
people on the streets at late hours under "suspicious" circumstances on vagrancy charges,
and Ben Holbrook recalled police accosting bar patrons as they walked to their cars:
"They'd find fault somewhere along the line: 'You were in the restroom for too long and
there was something going on, so we'll take you in for questioning'....Just anything to
harass, we used to hate it."81 When a 1967 public health report ranked Salt Lake in the
top 33 percent of 100 cities on the level of prostitution, including homosexual prostitution
observed in "two downtown bars," Police Chief Dewey Fillis announced the police
department's commitment to eliminating the problems of "prostitution, homosexuality,
and drug addiction," which remained conflated in the public imagination.82
In what narrators described as an atmosphere of "tension and fear," Radio City's
patrons huddled within the bar's narrow confines as plainclothes officers stormed the
facility, entering the front and rear doors simultaneously: "When you saw people
congregating, you knew something was up." Ben Holbrook recognized vice officers by
their physique and bearing, and he described the i.d. checks as "sheer harassment,"
especially on weekends. When police apprehended Ben at Radio City on his twenty-fifth

80

Peter Nardi and Ralph Bolton, "Gay-Bashing: Violence and Aggression Against Gay
Men and Lesbians" in Social Perspectives in Lesbian and Gay Studies, ed. Peter Nardi
and Beth Schneider (New York: Routledge, 1998), 414.

81

'"Suspicious' Key Word: Kesler Backs S.L. Vagrancy Power," Salt Lake Tribune. 20
June 1963, p. Bl; Holbrook interview.

82

Doyle Smith, "S.L. Shows Rise in Incidence of Prostitution," Salt Lake Tribune. 22
June 1967, p. Bl.

178
birthday after accusing him of carrying forged identification, they notified his parents of
his whereabouts during the arrest. Consequently, his father let him spend the night in jail
in the company of drunks because "it would do him good."83
Of course, vice officers were not the only nemesis of gays, and while the city's
respectable element preferred to ignore Radio City, the disreputable element
demonstrated greater awareness and less restraint. In contrast to the handful of customers
who ventured into the Crystal Lounge, which "didn't get Radio City's reputation," the
weekend crowds at Radio City were both cause and consequence of heightened
awareness about homosexuality and gay bars among the general public and gays
themselves. Ken Mattingly doubted the average person knew of the Crystal as a gay bar
in the 1950s, but when Jeff Ramos attended high school in the early '60s, "everyone
knew where the gay bar was." Ramos described joining a group of classmates who
stationed themselves near the entrance to Radio City to "see what would happen...when I
was in the tenth and eleventh grade, we used to go down there to see if anybody would
actually talk to us."
However, the breaking of silence during Radio City's heyday proved doubleedged, drawing more gays into the open, but also drawing undesired attention. The
partial lifting of cultural blinders which protected gays in the past and Radio City's
reputation as a gay establishment created an even greater need for physical space which
allowed discretion. In essence, increased awareness emboldened more gay men to come
out and risk visibility, but required greater protection for those who could not. Radio City
83

Ramos, Madsen, Metcalf, Topham, Holbrook interviews.

179
satisfied that need more effectively than the Crystal Lounge, which "terrified" Keith
Branson because its street entrance invited exposure. While Keith never mustered the
courage to enter the Crystal, but merely staked out its entrance from the safety of his car,
the rear entrance option and larger clientele at Radio City offered a modicum of privacy.84
Nevertheless, Radio City earned sufficient renown for serving gays to warrant
caution about being seen there at night, and whatever refuge it afforded could be violated
at will by vice officers and gay-bashers. The possible dangers awaiting patrons in Radio
City's back alley often made the choice of using the front or rear entrance one of safety
versus anonymity. Brian Jeffries recalled, "You'd always go in the back door, and that
was a real scary place. People would have their cars vandalized because I think most
people knew it was a gay bar. Very seldom were any straight people there, and if they
were, they were extremely tolerant."85 After meeting his partner of more than thirty years,
Edward Perry visited the bar only infrequently given his distaste for its dim, smoke-filled
atmosphere and the danger involved:
It seemed those bars, instead of gay bars they were glum bars, it was just
depressing. If you went in your car, you would park behind the Radio
City...and you would look around for bashers, then you would run and try
to get in, and the same thing when you would come out the door.86
Anticipating official indifference, arrest, or exposure, gay men often refrained from
reporting antigay violence. Ben Holbrook reflected on the police response to gay-

Thompson, Mattingly, Ramos, Branson interviews.


'Jeffries interview.
'Perry interview.

180
bashings behind Radio City Lounge: "If they found out the location of the beating, if it
was by a gay bar or in the park, they would take their time to get there, they really
couldn't have cared less, you had no business being there in the first place." Mark
Eldridge described being attacked by two men he encountered while cruising Liberty Park
in the late '60s: "They started kicking me in my body and face and then they peed on
me...and went through my wallet." When the hospital treating his injuries contacted the
police, he reported the incident as a mugging that occurred after his car broke down: "I
just plain lied about it, I didn't want to say I was picked up because I didn't want to
disclose doing that kind of activity."87
However, antigay violence posed a potential danger for even the most circumspect
gay men, and attacks sometimes occurred in situations far removed from bars and public
spaces frequented by gays. John Iverson recounted a traumatic episode which began as a
dinner engagement with two men at Log Haven Restaurant arranged by an acquaintance.
An insurance salesman, John arrived with the intention of proposing business rather than
sex, but as the meal progressed, his prospective clients adduced his homosexuality from
his "fastidious" handling of utensils. After following John to the parking lot, one of the
men
grabbed me by the back of the neck, the other one held me, and they beat
me in the face, broke my jaw, knocked my glasses off, threw me in a heap
by the side. I was in so much pain, all my front teeth were knocked out. I
was in the LDS Hospital for close to two weeks recovering. [When my
partner's] mother got an attorney and contacted these men, they all signed
a statement that I had propositioned the one man, told him I would give
87

Holbrook; Mark Eldridge [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake
City, 1 September 2004.

181
him oral sex.88
The effectiveness of such allegations attested to stereotypes of gays as predatory and
culpable for their own victimization, and in John Iverson's case, revealed that "blending
in" did not assure one's safety.
Eluding such hostile encounters with police or gay-bashers required self-policing
and vigilance. As a police department employee, Jeff Ramos stayed informed about gays
being beaten or "rolled" at Liberty Park, and he took the precaution of removing his
wristwatch and leaving his i.d. behind when cruising there. Ben Holbrook, on the other
hand, described warning other gays of police encroachment at the park: "We'd give a
hand signal or a flashing of the [car] lights to let them know that something was not right
with someone, like the undercover cops." At Bare-Ass Beach, remoteness ensured a
more permissive setting and less scrutiny from law enforcement. According to Ben
Holbrook, officers making rounds at Bare-Ass Beach would "have a beer and take their
shirts off. They were more concerned about us leaving cans and garbage out in the field.
They knew what was going on, but they never harassed us."89 Nevertheless, gay men kept
watch with binoculars and had precautionary swimsuits at hand, which they instinctively
donned whenever strangers approached.
At Radio City, bargoers demonstrated their commitment to maintaining gay public
space through resilience under fire, while inside contacts at the police department and

Iverson interview.
'Ramos, Madsen, Holbrook interviews.

182
sympathetic bar employees sometimes helped them foil vice patrols.90 Despite the
atmosphere of "tension and fear," Jeff Ramos accepted danger as an inevitable and
exciting aspect of participating in an outlawed subculture: "Being gay now is too easy,
back then it was so fun being subterfuge. It's like anybody doing anything wrong, you
always find that alluring." Nevertheless, a police department employee could not afford
to be seen there at night, and Ramos waited out the raids crouched under the piano or a
table while other patrons gathered around to conceal him. Aided by a "lookout" stationed
at the entrance, bar employees sometimes used signals, which included dimming the bar
lights or playing obscure jukebox selections such as "Happy Trails" to warn of
impending raids. Gene Topham also told of a female bartender who quietly conducted
him and other underaged customers into a side passageway.
Given the difficulties they shared, gay men in Salt Lake pulled together and while
at times gay life could be oppressive and dangerous, for all the gains of recent years many
of the men in this study expressed regret over what has been lost in terms of
"community." While this may partly reflect the alienation many older gay men feel
within the youth-oriented culture of today, it also stemmed from genuine perceptions of
the 1960s gay community in Salt Lake as more "close-knit" than in recent years.
Sociologist Stephen Murray describes the essential features of gay community as follows:
The most important of these in the community literature are a
concentration of interaction among those who identify themselves as gay
into gay primary groups, concentration in space (of residence, but, more
important, of community institutions) in specifiable territory,
learned...norms, institutional completeness, collective action, and a sense
90

Holbrook, Jeffries, Madsen, Ramos interviews.

183
of shared history.91
For Salt Lake City during the 1960s, Murray's definition must be modified given the
dispersed residence patterns of its gay population, the necessity of sharing space with
heterosexuals, and the lack of formal institutions devoted to gay activism. Any attempt to
define the contours of Salt Lake's gay community must also take into account the fluidity
of its boundaries, with some gay men less able or willing to commit themselves to
communal gay activities. Participation in the gay scene, especially at the bars,
represented a willingness, sometimes tentative, to adopt a more public gay persona. The
process depended on how well the subculture fit one's self-concept, with such factors as
class, occupation, marital status, and religion coming into play.
For example, Ken Mattingly stopped frequenting the bars after beginning a career
as a public school teacher since "it would not be very wise to come out of the bar and run
into one of your students." His caution was warranted, since Jeff Ramos recounted
gawking at Radio City's patrons with his high school friends. By contrast, single, wageearning men had less at stake, with the most demonstrably gay men gravitating to "lowstatus" jobs such as those at Auerbachs', which supplied nearby Radio City much of its
clientele.92 Men with reputations to maintain sometimes disdained the more overt gays,
who in turn disapproved of the "closeted type" who avoided the bar but cruised public
restrooms. The "front door" and "back door" clientele at Radio City vividly expressed

Stephen O. Murray, "Components of Gay Community in San Francisco" in Gay Culture


in America, ed. Gilbert Herdt (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 113.
Paulsen interview.

184
the two status systems operating in the community. While the discreet group retained a
class-based status derived from mainstream society, the more flamboyant gays and
trendsetters reflected the group values of the gay subculture. Applying sociologist
Erving Goffman's terminology of stigma, men with status to defend who used Radio
City's rear entrance remained "discreditable," while the more overt types using the street
entrance had typically crossed over to a "discredited" status.93 According to Lee Paulsen,
"nobody decent was out," but given his circumstances, he had little to lose joining the
"outcasts" using Radio City's front entrance: "I'd been kicked out of BYU, and I'd gotten
out of the army because I was gay, so my life was wrecked."
Married men had obvious reasons to avoid Radio City, given its reputation and
the implied commitment to gay identity. Wayne Hewitt did not enter the bar scene until
his wife left the country for eleven months in 1967, after which he still distinguished
between time spent at Radio City and his casual sexual encounters at Liberty Park and
Wasatch Springs: "I went to the Radio City more to socialize and for camaraderie than to
have sex; if I wanted sex, I usually went either to the baths or to the park because if you
went there, you were there for the purpose of sex." By keeping the two types of
interaction separate, he managed to enjoy fast, impersonal sexual contacts and avoid
commitments which could complicate the life of a married man still coming to terms with
his sexuality.94

Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (Englewood,


N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), 41-2.
4

Mattingly, Ramos, Hewitt interviews.

185
While a decision to plunge headlong into the gay community could never be taken
lightly, the experiences of Lee Paulsen and Rick Pace demonstrated how disfellowship or
excommunication from the LDS Church often pushed men into the gay subculture in
search of practical and emotional support. During the 1960s, the Church's unequivocal
stance against homosexuality made it more difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile gay
and Mormon identities. The penalties for LDS men of coming out ensured the smallness
of Salt Lake's openly gay community, which offered fewer institutional supports for a
complete or "totalizing" gay identity than larger cities, while the LDS culture promised a
wealth of institutional rewards.95
With the Church's influence extending into so many areas of their lives, men who
had not parted ways with the church ventured into the gay subculture at considerable risk.
The LDS community fulfilled most of the functions of well-defined ethnic communities,
and gay men from an LDS background needed to measure the potential benefits of
belonging to a comparatively small, marginalized subculture against loss of the "built-in,
accepting community" described by Rick Pace. Reversing the traditional process of
assimilation by which ethnic groups improved their status in the larger society, coming
out courted "disassimilation," potentially resulting in downward mobility and the loss of
status conferred by an LDS identity. However, the converse could also apply: previously
closeted men disfellowshipped and disgraced for individual acts became free to come out

For an analysis of the institutional completeness of gay subcultures in larger cities, see
Martin P. Levine, "Gay Ghetto" in Social Perspectives in Lesbian and Gay Studies, 194204.

186
publicly.96
The efforts of some men to "split their heads in two," as Allen Corley suggested,
and balance a Mormon identity with homosexual behavior assumed graphic and often
humorous proportions at Bare Ass Beach. The more daring sort of married, middle-class
LDS men ventured there during the lunch hour for an opportunity to let their hair down,
or to use Ben Holbrook's phrase regarding drag, "feel good being someone else."
Although nudity generally ensured anonymity and effaced status differences among the
men, many still felt a need to preserve reputations and self-image by parking and
undressing some distance from the beach, mistakenly assuming they were unobserved.
However, with his precautionary set of binoculars, Ben took stock of new arrivals' dress,
the cars they drove, and their antics:
They'd get out of the car, they'd peel off, take their garments off and
everything and then drive around naked and do their thing like they're one
of the gang, and then on their way out they'd have to stop and put it all
back on, put their tie on and fluff up and look like a typical Mormon. It
was just amazing, you would see this wild person out there for an hour at
lunch time.97
While some men contented themselves with shedding their Mormon persona for an hour
every now and then, others could not without feeling compromised. For them, being gay
and LDS presented the "either/or" dichotomy laid out by the Church, and coming out
typically involved trading "discreditable" for "discredited" status. Although Bill Cloward
had engaged in homosexual activity with friends during adolescence he remained

'Paulsen, Pace interviews.


'Ibid.

187
uncommitted to a gay identity, which to his knowledge consisted only of impersonal sex
and frequenting Radio City Lounge. On the eve of his "arranged" marriage, Bill made a
single foray into Salt Lake's gay subculture in order to settle his mind on the matter:
I knew I was attracted to men but I was headed for marriage, so I left my
home one night with the intent of finding out if I could engage in a male
homosexual relationship with somebody that I hadn't known before. I
went to the Radio City bar, it was the only bar I knew of that was a gay
bar. I'd never even had a beer in my life, but I went to the bar and ordered
a beer, learned what drinking beer was all about. It was kind of a sleazy
bar, dark and a little dirty and the people there were not people that
particularly attracted me, but that wasn't important at the time because I
was just out to find another man. I did get picked up by this guy and taken
home. I'm sure it wasn't very satisfying for him, he wanted it to linger and
be a pleasant, evenly paced kind of thing, I was anxious to get it over with
and get out of there. I felt horribly guilty afterwards...this was new to me
because I had not felt guilt over sex before, but this was the first time I had
gone out deliberately to find somebody to pick me up, and it was
anonymous sex and it was all my planning.98
Unlike narrators who first experienced the bar in the company of friends, Bill's solitary
trip to Radio City and expectation of superficial sexual contact assured his alienation.
The experience allowed him to frame his predicament as a simple choice between
security, family, and community and a life among strangers. Since neither the bar nor
anonymous sex resonated with his background and self-image, Bill resigned himself to
the course laid out for him by family and church.
Whether the gay subculture reinforced or destroyed preconceptions therefore
depended on one's point of view. In contrast to Wayne Hewitt's characterization of
Radio City as primarily a place to socialize, Bill Cloward's clear intention of having an
anonymous sexual experience colored his perceptions of the bar and confirmed the LDS
;

Cloward interview.

188
Church's reductive views of gay life." In other cases, the church's adversarial policies
actually backfired, fostering awareness of gayness as a collective identity rather than the
isolation intended by the emphasis on "personal responsibility." The church's position
reflected what sociologist Stephen Murray describes as a "divide and conquer" strategy of
dealing with homosexuality on an individual basis while creating an unappealing, generic
representation of gays as a group.100 In many cases, however, discovering the subculture
and the disparity between stereotypes and actual gay people weakened the dominant
culture's credibility and reinforced gay identification.
ha addition to antigay stereotypes, Rick Pace had to overcome discomfort over
bars when a friend invited him to a gay club following his excommunication. Unlike Bill
Cloward, however, Rick's "discredited" status and need for a welcoming community in
place of the LDS Church made him receptive to the subculture, and his misgivings
quickly melted away:
I remember going, "What is wrong with me? This is where I belong, this
is who I am." I came out with a vengeance and thought, "I'm never going
to apologize for loving other men again. I don't have to believe in a
church I don't believe in, I don't have to justify anything that I'm doing, I
can just be myself." That was just an immediate effect of finally getting to
see two men kissing each other.101
Rick's embracing of the gay subculture was in direct proportion to his need and the
humiliations he had endured. Although he previously had furtive relationships with other

"Hewitt, Cloward interviews.


100

Stephen O. Murray, "The Institutional Elaboration of a Quasi-Ethnic Community" in


Social Perspectives in Lesbian and Gay Studies, 212.

Pace interview.

189
gay men, his excommunication left him in need of a community.
Notwithstanding differences of class, sex, marital status, and religion, many
narrators agreed that the smallness of Salt Lake's gay community and the magnitude of
the risks they faced fostered a sense of connectedness which they did not experience in
larger cities or in Salt Lake during the years since. Given Salt Lake's nature as both
"large town" and "small city," its gay community was multifaceted, yet cohesive. When
asked whether he had considered Salt Lake's gay scene a community during the 1960s,
Lee Paulsen replied emphatically,
Yes, more so than now. Everybody who was out, we all knew each other,
it was a really small town and if you went to the bars you could just expect
people to show up at your door. Anybody gay in town might show up at
your door and you sort of felt obligated to socialize with them. Now you
would never do that, there are too many gays.102
The small size of Salt Lake's gay community in the '60s reflected both the city's
population size and the strong socio-religious sanctions against coming out. Lee's
recollections suggest necessity drew disparate persons together and also encompassed
strangers whose only bond was a shared sexuality. The same necessity impelled Salt
Lake's gay men to "embrace" the few institutions available to them, whatever their
limitations, and even impinged on erotic choices: according to Neil Madsen, although the
patrons at Wasatch Springs "weren't all that much to look at, when you're living in the
desert, you take it where you can get it."103
The sense of a small community also derived from the versatility with which gay
102

Paulsen interview.

103

Branson, Paulsen, Jeffries, Madsen interviews.

190
public space was used, especially at Liberty Park and Bare Ass Beach, where both social
and anonymous encounters were possible. For example, married and unmarried gay men
alike considered the park a dependable source of sexual contacts and a daytime adjunct to
evenings at Radio City. According to Jeff Ramos, "It was really easy, let me tell you.
You could go at lunch, have a nooner, you would go in the bushes, do it in your car...there
were always gay people there." However, he also commented that "a lot of people would
go to the park., just to be with people, it wasn't necessarily sexual." Similarly, the beach
provided opportunities for both casual sex and enduring social interaction, or as Ben
Holbrook remarked, "I met some of my best friends out there..." Wasatch Springs also
embodied both city anonymity and small-town intimacy. While Lee Paulsen described
Wasatch Springs as "very exciting, if you were into older truckers and strangers," he also
avoided it because "it was a small town, so you were bound to meet people that you
knew," and Brian Jeffries formed a seven-year relationship with somebody he met
there.104 Especially for men below the legal drinking age, the park, beach, and baths
served as gathering places fulfilling similar functions of conviviality and community as
the bar. The park also attracted the bar contingent after hours. Ben Holbrook described
how, as though by unspoken agreement, gay men converged on Liberty Park near the
duck pond at night:
We always knew we were going to see everybody at the same place and
almost at the same time. We'd park our cars in a circle and we turned our
radios on the same station and we danced in that parking lot, and we had a
good time until 11 o'clock when they'd come and kick us out...But of

Ramos, Holbrook, Paulsen, Jeffries interviews.

191
course, we was always back there after the bars closed at 2 o'clock.105
Congregating at the park after hours in defiance of curfews and police attested to the
resilience, if not resistance, of gay men in Salt Lake. Although the passing of such
institutions as the Crystal Lounge, the Tin Angel, and Wasatch Springs suggested the
precariousness of gay public space, a longer view reveals a remarkable tenacity over the
years. For example, taking advantage of mixed space allowed gays to "piggyback" on
Wasatch Springs' iconic status among the general public for several decades, and the
cruising spots popular throughout the postwar era corresponded closely to those described
in Grant Rasmussen's 1937 thesis. Such persistence demonstrated the long-term
ineffectiveness of law enforcement efforts to eliminate homosexual public space. In a
sort of low-key guerilla war, authorities cracked down on homosexuality only to have
gays wait out each crisis and resurface later or at a different location. As has been seen,
when the owners of the Crystal Lounge stopped serving them in the late '50s, gay
bargoers simply migrated across the street and "colonized" Radio City. The very decision
to expel gay men from the Crystal, undoubtedly under pressure from Cleon Skousen,
attested to the untamable gay ambience which accompanied any gathering of gay men,
dress and conduct restrictions notwithstanding.106
According to anthropologist Kath Weston, gay men and lesbians have often
described the urban communities they hoped to discover in terms incorporating mythical
notions of rural "America" and the "face-to-face relationships supposed to typify small-

105

Holbrook interview.

106

Rasmussen, Stratton, Thompson interviews.

192
town life."107 In a relatively small city like Salt Lake, such conceptions came closer to
describing reality than in larger cities given the common cultural denominator provided
by the LDS Church, and many gay men who came out during the postwar period could
base their perceptions on personal experiences growing up on farms or in small towns.
Significantly, Ben Holbrook and Allen Metcalf both used the expression, "everyone knew
everybody else's business" in their recollections, in Ben's case to describe the quiet farm
community on the outskirts of Salt Lake where he spent his childhood; in Allen's case, to
describe the clientele at Radio City Lounge. However, although Ben provided a similar
account of the bar, he gave it a more favorable assessment. In contrast to the oppressive
closeness and lack of privacy he associated with his childhood neighborhood, which
echoed other narrators' accounts of life in their LDS wards, Ben valued the "small town"
aspect of Salt Lake's gay community:
We were closer together, a more unique community. We knew just about
everyone, we watched out for one another's backs...if it would be someone
walking out the back door [at Radio City], we'd get in a group and walk
them to their car because of the hoods back there waiting. If someone
didn't show up for a party everyone was really concerned because they
never missed anything. Everyone was included in everything.108
Because of its small size and ability to remain unobtrusive, Salt Lake's gay community
developed an overt political presence more slowly than gays in larger cities, who enjoyed
sufficient numbers to create more highly articulated, geographically and economically
self-contained communities which assumed many of the functions of traditional "ethnic"

107

Kath Weston, "Families We Choose" in Social Perspectives in Lesbian and Gay


Studies, 403.

108

Holbrook, Metcalf interviews.

193
groups.109 Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia also
benefitted from the pioneering activism of homophile organizations such as the
Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis, which advocated legal reform and education
to ameliorate prejudice and promote the integration of lesbians and gays into postwar
American society. In Salt Lake during the 1960s, the gay subculture remained in what
some scholars have defined as the "prepolitical" stage of community development,
although historians Madeline Davis and Elizabeth L. Kennedy consider such "individual
acts of resistance" as staking out space in otherwise hostile territory highly subversive and
inherently political. Jeffrey Weeks has also described the disruptive potential of the
highly personal decision to embrace a stigmatized identity and interact with other gays,
giving the lie to negative stereotypes and demonstrating, as Rita Kelly learned, that "there
are different ways of living."110
To a greater extent than in "wide-open cities" such as San Francisco or New York,
gays in Salt Lake had to "play by the rules of the club" in order to create space for
themselves, rules dictated for the most part by the religious-based culture and its
ancillaries in local law enforcement.111 However, working within the rules also created a
basis for gay community in terms of mentoring and mutual protection, with a stronger
reliance on personal contacts for information about where to go and how to behave. Gay
men in Salt Lake also made the most of the local culture's resistance to seeing

109

Murray, "The Institutional Elaboration of a Quasi-Ethnic Community."

110
11 !

D'Emilio, "Dreams Deferred..."; Davis and Kennedy; Weeks, 200-01; Kelly interview.

Metcalf interview.

homosexuality. Although Salt Lake featured indisputably "gay" territory at certain


locations and times of day, an element of the small town persisted, with homosexuality
occurring in the context of everyday life but concealed by a willed naivete, discreetly
tucked away and easily overlooked. Befitting such circumstances, gay community life in
Salt Lake centered on adaptation rather than activism during the 1960s.
Gay men from Salt Lake had ample experience traveling and living in other
places, to which Salt Lake compared favorably in some ways, unfavorably in others.
While the greater openness and tolerance in gay meccas definitely set the standard, rather
than join the gay exodus many local gay men who had the wherewithal to do so remained
in Salt Lake and put faith in its slower evolution. As the examples in this chapter have
shown, gay men in Salt Lake did not necessarily see strength in numbers, but often
preferred the intimacy of a smaller community shaped by the common cultural
denominator and powerful adversary provided in the LDS Church. However, as the
dramatic effects of gay activism in large cities eventually rippled outward, local gay men
expected Salt Lake to catch up, while continuing to serve as a "mecca" in its own right
for men from neighboring "provinces." As the silence and naivete which had worked to
their advantage gave way to strident rhetoric and harsher reprisals within the LDS
Church, gays in Utah became increasingly restless with simply "abiding the rules." They
felt a greater need to create alternative discourses and institutions that directly affirmed
their personal and collective worth.

CHAPTER 5
"REBELLIOUS AND UNYIELDING": DISCOURSE AND
ACTIVISM IN THE 1970S

Psychological Oppression relies on the lack of self-confidence and even


self-knowledge by the oppressed group. A person who feels guilty and
ashamed of what he or she is...is far easier to control than one who feels
the support and solidarity of past ages, and who is therefore more able to
surmise and construct his own future possibilities.1
Ian Young, "The Poetry of Male Love"
It was always very awkward for me because it would be the subject in
family gatherings, they'd talk in derogatory ways about gay people and
they'd tell jokes about gay people, and I would never laugh but I was never
brave enough to stand up and say "that offends me" either. I was very
much aware of Stonewall and the rallies and the rising gay pride
movement, but in order to protect myself and keep my cover, I had to be
very careful.
Bill Cloward
"The days of passive acceptance of humiliation and discrimination are over."2
Cloy Jenkins

On June 27, 1969, a riot at a Greenwich Village bar became a call to arms for a
younger generation of gays. The curious spectacle of gay men and lesbians resisting a

'Ian Young, "The Poetry of Male Love" in Lavender Culture, ed. Karla Jay and Allen
Young (New York: Jove Publications, 1978), 275.
2

Prologue: An Examination of Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality (n.c:


Prometheus Enterprises, 1978), 47.

196
police raid released a shock wave of collective rage. The hurled bottles, catcalls, and
burning trash cans presaged a new mood favoring confrontation over accommodation.
More importantly, the melee at the Stonewall Inn signaled a change in consciousness that
affirmed sexual difference. Stonewall became a byword for gay self-respect and grassroots action, eclipsing more patient, reform-oriented politics. Although gay liberationists'
revolutionary aims and linkages to other social struggles proved elusive, Stonewall
remains a symbol of gay pride, resistance to oppression, and hoped-for solidarity.3
Beyond the vanguard in major cities, however, Stonewall's relevance was not
immediately apparent. Narrator Edward Perry explained, "We heard about them [the
riots], but I'm not sure in my mind it had the significance...that it has had in history. It
was just a bad thing that happened at a gay bar."4 Nevertheless, even in cities the size of
Salt Lake, the changed consciousness envisioned by post-Stonewall gay liberation groups
eventually appeared in subtle yet significant ways. No longer willing to stand aside while
secular and religious authorities defined their lives, gays in Salt Lake deployed a national
discourse of rights and dignity against a culture which dehumanized them.
This chapter examines efforts by Salt Lake's gays to be seen and heard in the
1970s. During that period, the concentrated, intimate community creating refuge in a
handful of public places was superceded by "community" as a political construct, an idea
if not an ideal, reflecting the new post-Stonewall consciousness. In particular, I examine
how the adversarial relation between gay activists and the LDS Church brought about a
3

Miller, Out of the Past. 365-84.

Perry, Corley interviews.

197
deepening, mutual politicization. In dialectical fashion, gays' increased visibility and
assertiveness prompted more explicit denunciations by LDS Church leaders, which in
turn spurred gay activists to abandon an initial caution and level their criticisms directly at
the church. As Spencer W. Kimball took the helm as "prophet, seer, and revelator,"
giving greater scope to his antigay views as official LDS doctrine, gays "outed" the
church's tactics and challenged its use of the media, psychiatry, and law enforcement to
regulate their lives. In so doing, they framed the church's policies as a political issue
affecting gays everywhere, not just in Utah, in light of Kimball's international stature.
This chapter also considers how the LDS culture shaped local gays' efforts to
achieve moral legitimacy in the 1970s. In particular, I discuss how denial of erotic choice
in the LDS Church compelled gay activists to defend homosexuality on the basis of innate
sexual orientation and public respectability, rather than sexual choice and "alternative
lifestyles." I will also describe the challenge facing gay leaders of projecting an
acceptable, "middle of the road" image of their community without downplaying
difference or marginalizing "overt" behavior. Reconciling liberationist and conservative
positions among gays and finding common ground with the LDS Church proved
especially daunting in an era of gay sexual revolution, LDS correlation, and sharply
polarizing views.
Although nothing on the scale of the Stonewall Riots occurred in Salt Lake, local
gays' rising expectations were apparent well before Stonewall became a household word.
For example, Ben Holbrook recalled his impression of San Francisco gays in 1963:
A friend of mine moved there, and I was just in shock at the openness,

198
seeing them sitting in the bars holding hands and dancing together. That's
what we all wanted to have happen here. When I came back I thought,
"How would it be to have that kind of openness here, I hope some day that
happens."5
Accustomed to gays pleading guilty to conduct charges, quietly paying fines, and
stoically enduring harassment, local law enforcement officials noticed a change as early
as the mid-1960s: gays were becoming less governable, in their attitudes if not their
conduct. In 1965 Sergeant Dean Eskridge of the Salt Lake City Police Department's Sex
Crimes Squad compared homosexual cases to those involving indecent exposure, which
he considered "easy to handle" since the offenders were "aware of their problem and want
to do something about it." By contrast, police found homosexuals the most difficult to
deal with of all sex offenders because they were "antisocial and anti-law in attitude; they
see nothing wrong in their actions, and regard the police as being the offenders for
'trapping' and interfering with them."6 Occasionally, frustrations over police harassment
boiled over. For example, on December 29,1972, a scuffle broke out during a routine
police raid at the Radio City Lounge. As police arrested six patrons on charges of
underaged drinking and public intoxication, one struck a vice officer after calling him
"several obscene names." The incident did not provoke collective action, but it
contrasted sharply with the patient resignation typical of bar patrons in the 1950s and

'Holbrook interview.
6

Eskridge reported that during the previous five years, his division investigated 2307 sex
offense cases, including 152 arrests for homosexual acts. "Council Airs Report on Sex
Offenders," Salt Lake Tribune. 25 June 1965, p. Bl.

'60s.7
However, violent confrontations remained rare, and for some officials, lawabiding gays who accepted their homosexuality posed a greater threat than lawlessness.
One year after the Stonewall Riots, Dr. Charles Bemis, a psychiatrist from the University
of Southern California, informed an audience of Utah law enforcement officers that
"homosexuality is a disease. It can be treated, but homosexuals, like most people, don't
want to change. But it is just not true, as some homosexuals claim, that some people are
just different and that's the way it is."8 The following month, the Salt Lake Tribune
featured an interview with Sergeant Max Yospe of the police department's sex crimes
investigating squad and an anonymous University of Utah student, "Mary X." The
discussion topic, "Should Laws Concern Homosexuality?" reflected national debate over
legalizing consensual homosexuality. At first, Yospe argued against decriminalization
based on his experience arresting men for public sex. To illustrate the incongruity of
homosexuality and respectability, Yospe spoke of married men, including "staunch pillars
in the community," having homosexual dalliances in public restrooms.9 However, when
"Mary X" replied that she only supported legalizing private, consensual behavior, Yospe
expressed a more visceral disapproval of gay domesticity:
That would be just lovely, wouldn't it? To have a homosexual couple

"Police Seize Six Persons in S.L. Bar," Salt Lake Tribune. 31 December 1972, p. B2.

Robert A. Bryson, "Police Expert Cites Danger in Lack of Sex Education," Salt Lake
Tribune. 26 March 1970, p. Bl.

'"Confrontation: Should Laws Concern Homosexuality?," Salt Lake Tribune. 26 April


1970, p. B6.

200
move in next door to you...and begin to make their amorous approaches on
the patio and have children look out of their windows and see this type of
activity going on continuously...and, as they grow up, they will think there
is nothing wrong with it. It's intolerable to many people, moralistically
speaking, to see two men showing endearments or tokens of affection to
each other.10
Yospe's remarks anticipated public battles over homosexuality in the coming decade.
While tearoom sex was a recurring but ultimately manageable feature of Salt Lake life,
public images of homosexuality as "an acceptable way of life" confounded local
authorities.
As long as homosexuality remained disreputable, however, sex education
advocates could use it to justify more open discussion of sex in the schools. For example,
in 1969 Robert Leake, a Utah State Board of Education Specialist in health and physical
education, defended sex education as a way to counteract images of "sex, homosexuality,
and sexual abnormalities" in movies. The following year, a survey of 240 Highland High
School students and their parents revealed that over 50 percent considered the "problem"
of homosexuality a fit subject for the sex education curriculum.11
Of course, "Counteracting images of homosexuality," or at least favorable images
of homosexuality, remained important to LDS Church leaders. According to LDS
sociologist Harold Christensen, the church doubled its efforts in the 1970s to "fortify its
members against the contemporary onrush of secular influences, especially influences

"John Cummins, "Physical Educator Backs Sex Instruction Program," Salt Lake Tribune.
6 November 1969, p. Bl; "Teens and Parents Favor Sex Classes," Salt Lake Tribune. 12
April 1970, p. B5.

201
which lie within the sexual arena." In particular, he described Kimball's sermons and
articles on premarital sex, abortion, and homosexuality as appearing more frequently and
"coming in stronger and stronger."12 Kimball's handling of the matter also became more
explicit. In contrast to his predecessors' vague references to "moral cleanliness," Kimball
peppered his admonitions against homosexuality with lurid references to "dens of vice,"
"dark corners," and public restrooms. However, among closeted gays, Kimball's
accounts of "swarms of young college-age homosexuals wearing tight pants" in New
York City and "more than thirty bars for 'homos' in San Francisco" undoubtedly aroused
more curiosity than disgust.13
In the 1960s, when information about gays was scarce and gay public life
consisted of bars, parks, and shadowy places, Kimball's descriptions had some validity.
By the 1970s, however, gays enjoyed more alternatives to Kimball's opinions, the LDS
Church, and "dark corners." In April 1972, a year before the American Psychiatric
Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the Episcopal
Church of Utah hosted a panel discussion, "The Church and the Homosexual."
Comprised of a psychiatrist, two gay men, and a lawyer-priest, the panel declared that
homosexuality was not deviant, unhealthy, or sinful, and one of the gay men called for
unbiased research since "all learned dissertations on homosexuality are written by

12

Gottlieb and Wiley, 59-61; Harold T. Christiansen, "The Persistence of


Chastity: A Built-in Resistance Within Mormon Culture to Secular Trends,"
Sunstone 7, no. 2 (March/April 1982): 14.

13

Spencer W. Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1971), 18, 21.

202
heterosexual psychiatrists." Although the psychiatrist, Dr. R. Duncan Wallace advised
parents to discourage homosexual tendencies in children, he did so because society had
not reached the stage of accepting it, not because he considered homosexuality wrong.14
A drive for self-determination also spawned a variety of gay institutions-newspapers, consciousness-raising groups, help lines, and bars-which better served a
more confident, diverse community. In 1963 a transplanted Wyoming native, Joe
Redburn, began his four-decade career as a progressive commentator on Salt Lake's
KSXX Radio. His talk show offered a liberal forum in which gay issues were discussed
openly, providing a lifeline to closeted gays and thus extending the reach of the local gay
community. In 1973, Redburn became impresario of a more expressive, liberated gay life
in Salt Lake when he opened the city's first gay-owned and operated bar, the Sun. Named
after a renowned San Francisco gay bar, the Sun soon became the hippest night spot in
town. The 1960s counterculture, with its emphasis on alternative lifestyles, set
precedents for a more vibrant gay presence, and the Sun fittingly occupied the former site
of a hippie bar, the Railroad Exchange. In contrast to gays "taking over" straight bars in
the 1950s, however, the Sun was gay from its inception. Although narrator Tim Stratton
claimed that "the straights liked it so much it almost went straight," the Sun attracted a
mixed clientele while remaining identifiably gay.15 Scott Milner shared an anecdote
about defending the bar's integrity as gay territory:

'"Views Aired on Sex Variations," Salt Lake Tribune. 24 April 1972, p. C5.
5

Ben Williams, "Joe Redburn: Founder of Utah's Gay Progressive Movement," The
Pillar (October 2002): 42; Stratton interview.

203
One night these young, young kids came in, a couple of guys with their
dates, girls...and I thought, "they're here just watching the freak show,"
they were just all agog and so I walked over and asked this one young kid
if he wanted to dance. He was just flustered, he said, "Oh, no, I'm with
her," so I spoke to the girl, I said "Would you mind if he dances with me?"
and she just laughed and said "No, not at all." Well, he wouldn't dance
but it made him uncomfortable and that's basically what I wanted to do.16
Whereas mixed-sex couples provided gays protective cover in the more restrictive bar
scene of the 1950s and '60s, heterosexuals patronized the Sun on the sufferance of its gay
clientele in the 1970s.
Besides creating a dependably gay social venue, Joe Redburn secured space for a
Gay Community Services Center that included a reading room and twenty-four-hour
crisis line staffed by volunteers. He also sponsored gay kegger parties in nearby canyons,
Salt Lake's earliest public gay pride celebrations. While Redburn's pioneering efforts
brought national trends here, other activists compiled Salt Lake's first gay community
resource guides for distribution in other cities, putting Salt Lake "on the map." In
addition, a smattering of avant-garde booksellers stocked gay-themed books and
distributed the city's first gay and lesbian newsletter, which appeared under a succession
of titles: The Salt Lake Gavzette. The Salt Lick, and The Open Door.17
In their newsletters and support groups, Salt Lake's gays embraced the ideological
challenge of "setting the record straight," so to speak, through educational campaigns
presenting more complex, if not appealing, representations of homosexuality. However,
16

Scott Milner [pseud.], interview by author, Tape recording, Salt Lake City, 18 February
2006.

"Williams; The Salt Lake Gavzette. 28 June 1975, unpaged; July 1975, p. 1; The Salt
Lick. January 1976, p. 1; The Open Door. January 1979, p. 20.

204
while Spencer W. Kimball addressed homosexuality more explicitly in response to
national gay rights trends, local gays were initially reluctant to criticize the church. With
many gays still actively LDS, finding a common language of resistance was challenging,
and local reverence toward Kimball made him a difficult target.18 Caution toward the
church characterized an otherwise groundbreaking 1973 piece in the Salt Lake Tribune's
Common Carrier series. In "Homosexuals Have Rights Too" an underemployed
secondary school teacher, Sherman Beutler, made a provocative plea for legalizing
private, consensual homosexuality as "an acceptable part of pluralistic American
society." Although he challenged stereotypes of promiscuity and sickness commonly
ascribed to gays, Beutler made no reference to Kimball's statements. Beutler also
condemned "witch hunt" tactics such as those employed in the 1955 Boise sodomy cases,
without mentioning similar practices at BYU.19 Likewise, during the Salt Lake
Gavzette's first two years of publication, opinion pieces directed their ire against a
generic "straight society." For all appearances, the articles could have originated in any
city.
Instead of taking on the Mormon Church, Salt Lake's first gay newsletters and
18

Charles Perry, "Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Orange: Gay Rights, Anita
Bryant, and the LDS Church in Salt Lake City" (Master's Thesis, University of Utah,
forthcoming).

''"Homosexuals Have Rights Too," Salt Lake Tribune. 7 January 1973, p. BIO; Kimball,
"A Counseling Problem in the Church." In November 1955, the arrest of three Boise,
Idaho men on charges of sexual activity with teenage boys precipitated a moral panic.
Over a fifteen-month period, some 1,472 men were interrogated and sixteen were
charged, with several sentenced to long prison terms. See John Gerassi, The Boys of
Boise (N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, 1966), passim; also Miller, Out of the Past.
272.

205
community center focused on alternatives. Accurate information and nonjudgmental
advice propelled the community center's early work in both public relations and personal
counseling. Local gays also sought understanding allies among other mainstream
religious denominations. In March 1976, Utah's Episcopal Diocese sponsored a two-day
forum on sexuality featuring Reverend Dr. Norman Pittenger, a senior president at King's
College and divinity professor at the University of Cambridge. Pittenger incorporated
decades of academic and pastoral work in a Christian ethic that included gays. Whereas
LDS Church leaders associated nonprocreative sexuality, particularly homosexuality,
with loss of self-control and spiritual degradation, Pittenger maintained that a person
became "distorted, repressed, and inhibited" without an awareness of sexuality.
Addressing modern sexual mores and homosexuality in particular, he supported only one
"genuine, absolute morality, and that is love, a positive awareness of the other person and
a willingness to live with them and accept them."20
As gay liberation and the Mormon Church's opposition to homosexuality became
highly publicized, LDS gays found it harder to reconcile their faith and sexuality.
Circumstances had changed since Edward Perry came out in the 1950s. Edward never
felt conflicted about his Mormonism and sexuality, and he did not consider himself sinful
or closeted:
I had no guilt, because on Sunday I would go to Priesthood, Sunday
school, sacrament meeting...homosexuality has always been a very easy
thing to live. I have never had religious problems in my head about

20

Charles J. Seldin, "Human Sexuality Discussion 'Sign of Times,'" Salt Lake Tribune,
19 March 1976, p. B8.

206
this...and gone through all that hellish thing like some people.21
By the early 1970s, however, the LDS Church's unequivocal condemnation of gays put
LDS gays in the position of choosing between their sexuality and faith. Many walked
away from the LDS Church and embraced alternative philosophies and social networks.
Missionary service gave LDS gays an appetite for foreign travel, which provided
cross-cultural perspectives on homosexuality that could aid in the coming out process.
For example, Wayne Hewitt encountered a relaxed atmosphere in Brazil during the early
1970s:
Brazil was actually a very nice transition because there men had sex with
other men, and they were married, only the really effeminate men were
considered gay...and it was a good thing, and there I began to lose my
guilt, my feelings that the church had instilled in me.22
Similarly, Scott Milner came out in 1970 after completing an international study program
in Spain. Upon returning to Salt Lake, Scott joined a freethinking network of artists who
gave him the psychological space to explore sexuality and quietly withdraw from the
church: "I thought if they [the LDS Church] can't accept me, then I don't need to be with
them. I decided my heart wasn't there, it meant nothing to me."23
By contrast, Lee Paulsen left the church after BYU expelled him, but never felt
embittered because the experience forced him to reexamine Mormon beliefs, which were
"all I had ever known as a child." Although he missed the LDS community, being

21

Perry interview.

22

Hewitt interview.

23

Milner interview.

207
expelled allowed him to express long-standing doubts: "I had already decided quite early
that I didn't believe, that philosophically I was on a different path."24
For many gay Mormons who wanted to reconcile their faith and sexuality,
however, the LDS Church was less a problem than a challenge. Reconciling
homosexuality and Mormon identity required recognition of the moral complexity denied
to gays by Spencer W. Kimball and his counterparts in law enforcement and psychiatry.
In particular, gay advocates argued for what scholar Jeffrey Weeks calls a "morality of
relations" versus a "morality of acts." A morality of relations considered consent,
responsibility, and actual social consequences as determining factors in the morality of
sexual acts, rather than the sex of one's partner. Such an approach contravened
Kimball's use of a broad brush depicting all homosexual relations as "indiscriminate
looseness."25
However, defending homosexuality as a choice based on love, mutual respect, and
commitment was difficult in a culture where the most "progressive" voices only
condoned eroticism in the context of reproduction and marriage. In a 1977 Dialogue
article, Val MacMurray discouraged use of the "homosexual" label lest it become selffulfilling prophesy, resulting in a "confining cycle" where "behavior will be directed
toward maintaining that identity."26 For homosexual Mormons, however, the critical

'Paulsen interview.
'Weeks, 17-19; Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals, 26-7.
'Val D. MacMurray, "Warning: Labels Can be Hazardous to Your Health," Dialogue 10,
no. 4 (Winter 1977): 130-1.

208
issue was what church leaders ascribed to the homosexual label rather than the label
itself. Lacking a moral middle ground, homosexual Mormons who acted on their desires
often felt that "all was lost" and the church's dire predictions about homosexuality
became self-fulfilling prophesies. According to Evan Thompson, "I wasn't very
successful as a gay man...and it brought out parts of myself that I didn't like. I found
myself engaging in drinking and smoking, and sometimes being involved with people that
I didn't really want to be involved with. I got sick of it., .so I started going back to
church."27 In his study of Mormon sexual attitudes and behavior, Harold Christensen
explained,
Strict controls often lead to rebellion on the part of some, and to excesses
among many who do break loose. Condemned for small or first-time
offenses, they think, "Having the name, I may as well play the game."
Norms that paint life either black or white provide little to guide or to
stabilize the offender.28
Although Christiansen, MacMurray, and other Mormon intellectuals assumed a
softer, less judgmental approach toward heterosexual eroticism, they offered little to gays
who experienced homosexuality as more than a passing phase. MacMurray broke with
the church's official stance by advocating less fearful discussion of homosexuality so
those with "homosexual problems" would feel comfortable consulting bishops,
counselors, and parents. However, his approach ruled out the possibility of
homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. His call for less shame in discussing homosexuality

Thompson interview.
'Harold Christensen, "Mormon Sexuality in Cross-Cultural Perspective," Dialogue 10,
no. 2 (Autumn 1976): 68-9.

209
did not challenge policies that treated being homosexual as shameful. Defining
homosexuality as a substitute for failed heterosexuality, MacMurray advised
homosexually-inclined men to identify themselves simply as people "with difficulties in
relating to the opposite sex."29 Similarly, Bruce Steed's Sunstone article "Hollow
Homes" did not condone homosexuality as a viable lifestyle, but he challenged
complacence about Mormon family life, blaming homosexuality and masturbation on
non-nurturing fathers who retreated from "the true masculine role." At a time when
church leaders decried feminism for obscuring gender differences, Steed criticized a
society which "encourages men to be macho and makes them ashamed of the gentler
masculine virtues that nurture a good family."30
Progressive by Mormon standards, Christensen, MacMurray, and Steed
interpreted homosexuality as a call for Mormons to put their houses in order and rethink
assumptions about eroticism and child-rearing. With young Mormons trapped between,
in Christensen's words, "a sensuous society on the one hand, and a judgmental, inflexible
sex code on the other," LDS progressives cited homosexuality as the antithesis of a
healthy heterosexual eroticism that was not well served by repressive standards.31
However, their only concession to the sexual revolution was affirming sexual pleasure
within marriage, a bold departure given the church's strict procreative ethic, but one that
did not help gays at all.

29

MacMurray.

30

Bruce Steed, "Hollow Homes," Sunstone 2, no. 2 (Summer 1977): 48.

'Christensen, "Mormon Sexuality in Cross-Cultural Perspective," 71-2.

210
Thus, while some LDS intellectuals dissented from the church's more rigid
strictures against sexuality, their middle ground excluded homosexuality, which they
could only see as rebellious and destructive. As Kath Weston argues in her studies of gay
family relations, defining homosexuality as rebellion implies that overzealous parents (or
church leaders) provoked it and, conversely, could reverse it.32 Viewing the sexual
revolution and gay liberation as reactions to repressive morality proved serviceable when
arguing for moderation, but Mormon moderates continued to see homosexuality in any
form as an extreme response to extreme authority. While calling for freer discussion,
they retained the prerogative to define homosexual identity as negative and reactive.
Nevertheless, Mormon intellectuals' critique of authoritarian leadership resonated
with gays. Harold Christensen described discontent among Mormon women and youth:
Two powerful movements are shaking the family structure of American
society today: woman's liberation and youth's rebellion. If the upheavals
have been less in our Mormon communities, the differences are in degree
only; for we too have those who feel abused by the system.33
In a 1967 Dialogue article Veon Smith urged restraint in exercising "responsibility
for one's fellow man" which too often led to "management and force instead of free
choice." Significantly, he believed free agency required alternatives and active
participation in the choices made.34 While a "liberated" gay lifestyle did not suit
everyone, choosing or not choosing "the life" without fear of retribution marked the

32

Weston, Families We Choose, 70.

33

Christensen, "Stress Points in Mormon Family Culture," 32-3.

34

Veon G. Smith, "Free Agency and Conformity in Family Life," Dialogue 2, no. 3
(Autumn 1967): 64, 66.

211
difference between moral self-determination and a "scripted" life. Whereas Spencer W.
Kimball compared homosexuality to drugs, alcoholism, or "other vicious habits which
eventually take over control of the person and make him slave," the burgeoning gay rights
discourse and "gay is good" imagery cast it in an entirely different light. In short,
Kimball viewed homosexuality as something one should be freed from, while gays
increasingly demanded the freedom to consider, if not embrace it. Although Mormon
progressives stopped short of condoning homosexuality, the logic of their arguments
about free agency required freedom to choose homosexuality as an alternative within the
church.35 However, choice was difficult to defend at a time when church leaders felt
limiting it served their members' best interests. The church's correlation movement
imposed orthodoxy through a top-down leadership style and standardization. In addition,
Harold Christensen's studies revealed that Mormons preferred a "temptation-reduced
environment" in which "positive thinking" and isolation from gay life substituted
avoidance for engagement. Thus, the LDS Welfare Services Packet advised struggling
homosexuals to flee from other gays, even if it contradicted their responsibility to "guide
those who stumbled" since "a sympathetic effort to work with other homosexuals to
'help' them is especially dangerous."36
On a personal level, LDS leaders fostered a "temptation-reduced" environment by

Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals, 5.


5

Gottlieb and Wiley, 56-61; Christensen, "The Persistence of Chastity," 10;


Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1 (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973), reprinted in "LDS vs. Homosexuality, Part
1," The Open Door, November 1978, p. 18.

redoubling their emphasis on control and self-sacrifice as opposed to spontaneity and


self-fulfillment in intimate relations. During the 1970s, sexual constraint in the LDS
culture promised stability and predictability in a dangerous, unpredictable world. The
church's traditional "sealing" ceremonies solemnizing marriage assuaged heightened
insecurities about family bonds, formalizing them as eternal and irrevocable. According
to psychologist MaryBeth Raynes, "the bond once formed is not seen as negotiable
thereafter, becoming as much the tie that binds as the tie that bonds." In New Horizons
for Homosexuals Spencer W. Kimball explained, "In troublous times, men are usually
grateful to have parents and wives and children bound to them by loyalties and deepseated affections (italics mine)."37 By contrast, he dismissed same-sex love and
counseled homosexual men to seek "genuine" intimacy in marriage and "real" friendships
among the church brethren. In a rhetorical passage soon belied by gays' response to
AIDS Kimball advised,
Think for yourself what would these persons do for you should you
suddenly fall victim to an incurable disease. Suppose your body shriveled;
suppose you could no longer satisfy sexually; suppose you could no longer
be "used." How long would the alleged friendship and the distorted socalled "love" last?38
Defending the authenticity of same-sex love and intimacy thus became a
cornerstone of gays' ideological response to Kimball. Marybeth Raynes challenged
Mormons' reliance on "structure" to guide intimacy: "As long as structure is provided we

'Marybeth Raynes, "Avenues and Roadblocks," Sunstone 7, no. 1 (January/February


1982): 59; Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals. 28.
'Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals. 28.

213
know how to act in caring ways, but when left to experience the spontaneity,
ambivalence, immediacy, and unexplored paths of new interpersonal situations we stop
short." Whereas true intimacy required "letting go" or "flowing with the experience,"
Kimball's emphasis on "controlled passions" imbued spontaneity with loss of control and
wrongdoing.39
Although Kimball's conviction that men must be "bound" to families implied that
domesticity went against natural inclinations, church leaders generally considered
heterosexual family life the "genuine," natural expression of masculinity. In 1975 Dr.
Robert Card, an advocate of "Reparative Therapy" and member of the Association of
Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists (AMCAP), stated in AMCAP's annual
meeting that "...the measure of success I'm looking for [with homosexuals] is
marriage."40 Spencer W. Kimball described gay men as "conditioned against marriage"
and believed that marriage could "recondition" them to heterosexual love and intimacy:
"Conditions must be controlled and companionship corrected and changed."41 However,
his use of behaviorist terminology suggested that homosexuality originated in factors
outside one's control, and tremendous acts of will were required to overcome them. In a

'Raynes, "Avenues and Roadblocks," 6; Spencer W. Kimball, Letter to a Friend,


(Salt Lake City: Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978),
reprinted in The Open Door. September 1978, p. 7-8.
D

"Aunt Sara," The Salt Lake Gavzette. June 28,1974, p. 3; Robert D. Card, "Counseling
the Homosexual in a Private Practice Setting," AMCAP Journal 1 (October 1975): 1013.

'New Horizons for Homosexuals. 22; Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft,
1969), 353.

214
letter to The Open Door, "LML" described how Kimball warned him against "Satan and
his plan of force" and advised him "to force myself to be heterosexual (italics mine)."42
Whether homosexuality resulted from worldly pressures or the otherworldly workings of
Satan, church leaders believed forceful intervention, including such patently unnatural
methods as aversion therapy, would restore gay men to their "natural" roles as
heterosexual husbands and fathers.43
Although electroshock therapy failed to convert his sexual orientation, Evan
Thompson found emotional solace and stability in heterosexual marriage, but at the cost
of sexual fulfillment for himself and his wife:
I decided that I would try to do the church thing and get married. It was
very hard on me, I thought that I was going to die. I just wasn't used to
having a woman around me or touching a woman...but when I did get
married, I married somebody with whom I was very, very compatible and
that I cared a lot about. It saved my life because I don't know what would
have happened to me, I probably would have died from AIDS. At any
rate, the marriage turned out to be a very good marriage in spite of the
obvious sexual sacrifices that we both had to make.44
However, an apparent choice between eternal marriage and terminal disease demonstrated
the absence of a moral middle ground in the church's framing of homosexuality.
Bill Cloward, on the other hand, was unable to reconcile "control" with integrity:
"I was a bishop and I was in the high council and stake presidency at one time, with this
very firm facade of being a strict Mormon husband and father, but inside I was totally not

'The Open Door. February 1978, p. 28.


'Steed; Kimball, Letter to a Friend.
'Thompson interview.

215
what people saw."45 In contrast to Kimball's theory, Bill felt heterosexual marriage
falsely "conditioned" him against his more natural, authentic feelings toward men.
Beyond marriage, the LDS Church's interest in "controlled conditions" and
"correcting companionship" affected its tradition of encouraging strong, sometimes
physical affectional ties between young men, especially missionary companions. The
church's 1970s policy forbidding missionaries from sharing beds ended a long tradition,
as expressed in The Teachings of Joseph Smith: "When we lie down, we contemplate
how we may rise in the morning; and it is pleasing, for friends to lie down together,
locked in the arms of love, to sleep and awake in each other's embrace."46 Scholar Klaus
Hansen has described Mormons' twentieth-century efforts to "out Victorian" their
Victorian predecessors in matters of heterosexual morality, but the persistence of strong
emotional and physical bonds between Mormon men also fit the Victorian model of
"romantic friendships"~long after mainstream America abandoned such ties for a more
"companionate" heterosexuality. As the flip side of restrained heterosexual relations, it
further distinguished Mormons as a "peculiar people."47
By the 1970s, however, as gay liberation promised to release the homosexual
potential in everyone, the singularity of Mormon same-sex bonds shifted from an unusual
tolerance to an unusual vigilance. While the twentieth-century decline of homosocial
romantic ties in American culture correlated with more permissive heterosexual relations,

45

Cloward interview.

46

Prologue: An Examination of Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality. 28.

Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1; Hansen, 175; Quinn, 366.

216
the LDS Church's sanctions against heterosexual eroticism created a dilemma in a society
where heterosexual prowess remained the surest means of proving one was not gay. The
church's more restrictive policies toward homosocial bonding in the 1970s compensated
for this, as did continued emphasis on marriage and fatherhood as "masculinizing"
institutions.48
During the 1960s, LDS officials had focused on securing orthodoxy within the
church and assimilating the outside world to LDS standards through individual
conversion. In the 1970s, church leaders extended Mormons' "temptation-reduced
environment" into the public sphere, embracing efforts to maintain laws criminalizing
homosexuality and to overturn gay rights ordinances. In New Horizons for Homosexuals
Spencer W. Kimball quoted an unnamed "authority" as saying, "There is one more cogent
argument for retaining laws against homosexuality. Its practice can and does break up
families, and the protection of the family is a legitimate area of legislation."49 As privacy
advocates challenged state sodomy laws, LDS leaders urged lawmakers to keep them on
the books. One year after Salt Lake Police Sergeant Max Yospe debated the topic
"Should Laws Concern Homosexuality?" Spencer W. Kimball insisted that they should.

48

Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 194-6;
Knowlton, 26-7; Christensen, "The Persistence of Chastity," 13.

49

The church's influence on lawmakers and use of its security arm to address "moral
issues" demonstrated a double standard between the LDS approach to sexuality and
race. Church authorities invoked the "ways of the Lord" to justify action against gay
rights and inaction on black civil rights. In 1963, church officials told local NAACP
members that civil rights was a political issue and the LDS Church only took a stand on
moral issues. Two years later, NAACP-led demonstrations finally pressured LDS
leaders to throw their weight behind a state civil rights law, but only a watered-down
version exempting the Mormon Church. See Gottlieb and Wiley, 180.

A Life magazine editorial which he cited concurred, since a statute at least expresses
society's disapproval." However, the article also acknowledged that the laws were
"notoriously ineffective" because enforcement was "either nonexistent or unjust...because
of its peephole and entrapment methods."50 In his address "The Popular Myth of the
Victimless Crime" BYU President Dallin Oaks equated legal discourse with moral
discourse. He quoted a Missouri judge who believed that whether antigay sentiment "is
rational or not, so long as the feeling persists, the majority will insist that its
condemnation be reflected...in the criminal code even if it is unenforceable."51 As with
psychiatry, however, LDS leaders' support for such laws was more than metaphorical.
Just as the availability of LDS psychiatrists allowed church officials to apply the illness
model of homosexuality on a practical level, the church's security arm at BYU permitted
enforcement of antigay laws, and BYU did not shrink from "peephole and entrapment"
methods.
In 1978 the Utah Legislature gave BYU's security force powers rivaling those of
the State Police. Unlike city police and county sheriffs departments assigned specific
jurisdictions, the new law allowed BYU officers to operate anywhere in the state to arrest
lawbreakers of any religious persuasion.52 Reverend Robert Waldrop of Salt Lake's
Metropolitan Community Church acknowledged Mormons' right to teach that

^Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals. 12; Life (11 June 1965): 4.
'Prologue: An Examination of Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality. 31.
2

Ron Barker, "BYU Security Personnel Can Operate Off Campus," Salt Lake Tribune,
23 October 1979, p. D2.

218
homosexuality was sinful, but expressed outrage that the church could enforce those
beliefs "with its own militia." His fears seemed warranted, for BYU Security Chief
Robert Kelshaw acknowledged previous surveillance of the Sun Tavern. Kelshaw also
admitted that a BYU detective had written a letter to The Open Door recruiting students
interested in forming a "BYU gay underground," although he claimed that it was
unauthorized. Dallin Oaks denied that the university harassed homosexuals and insisted
that BYU police had no intention of enforcing religious beliefs except for violations of
the law: "People should be able to walk down the street without someone seizing them
and soliciting sexual relations." He also stated that any sex-related arrests involved
solicitation or abuse, and BYU enforced the laws against heterosexuals and homosexuals
alike.53
However, when BYU Security charged twenty-four-year-old David Chipman with
"forcible sexual abuse," the circumstances did not resemble Oaks' hypothetical scenario
of a bystander "seized" while walking down the street. Instead, officers alleged that
Chipman touched the groin of a BYU law enforcement student posing as a homosexual.
The incident occurred in a canyon far from campus, and Chipman was not a BYU
student. Furthermore, he first met the undercover agent at the university's student center
in response to the "BYU gay underground" letter planted in The Open Door. Although
Chief Kelshaw described the letter as unauthorized, the agent acted with the full
cooperation of campus police; in a preliminary court hearing, he testified that he had used

"Ibid.

219
an electronic device to alert campus officers trailing the couple.54
The use of such methods to enforce antigay laws and LDS standards demonstrated
that church leaders viewed the laws as more than a symbolic codification of their values.
According to Kimball, "the Church never mentions punishment and penalties except as a
last resort when all appeals and warnings are ignored," but laws could serve the church's
interests as both warnings and punishment.55 While sealing ceremonies "bound"
individuals to the church and one another in ways that constrained personal choice, police
power ensured that the church's values were legally binding among Mormons and nonMormons alike.
LDS authorities also supported Anita Bryant's 1977 efforts to overturn gay civil
rights laws, particularly her drive to keep gay teachers out of the nation's schools.
Spencer W. Kimball publicly congratulated Bryant for "doing a great service" but stopped
short of an official endorsement. However, LDS Relief Society President Barbara B.
Smith sent Bryant a telegram hailing the repeal of Dade County, Florida's gay rights
ordinance.56 Similarly, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch defended Anita Bryant against
vilification by gays. Identifying homosexuality with "psychological deficiency," he

54

"Mormon Militia of Morality: Attorney Challenging Arrest by Y. Campus Police," Salt


Lake Tribune. 8 September 1979, p. CI; "Crime, Punishment, and Injustice in Utah,"
The Open Door. August 1979, p. 9,11; "Brigham Young University Admits Stakeouts
on Homosexuals," New York Times, September 27, 1979, p. 16; "Classified: BYU
Gay Underground," The Open Door, November 1978, p. 22.

55

Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals. 12.

56

"LDS Leader Hails Anti-Gay Stand," Salt Lake Tribune. 5 November 1977, p. D3;
"Relief Society Leader Hails Anita Bryant's Homosexuality Stand," Salt Lake Tribune.
11 June 1977, p. B3.

220
maintained that "parents shouldn't have to subject their children to any unusual
educational practices. I wouldn't want to see homosexuals teaching school any more than
I'd want to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school."57
LDS leaders feared that the credulity and trust essential to their proselytizing work
could also leave church members vulnerable to gay "proselytizing." In the absence of
visible, respected gay role models, the notion of a corrupting influence prevailed when
homosexuality took root in LDS families and communities. The image of gays as morally
contaminating was reminiscent of federal government policies in the 1950s which purged
gays on the basis of their "corrosive" influence rather than actual subversion.58 While
Anita Bryant's crusade focused on children, Mormons in the 1970s exceeded nonMormons in their desire to insulate adults from homosexuals by excluding gays from all
walks of life. According to a 1977 Salt Lake Tribune poll based on 602 interviews
representing a cross-section of Utah adults, Utahns favored discrimination against gays
overall by a roughly five to three margin. However, while a majority of LDS and nonLDS respondents, 75 percent and 64 percent, respectively, opposed equal rights for gays
as teachers or ministers, 62 percent of the LDS participants also favored discrimination
against gays in business and government professions, versus 38 percent of the non-LDS.59
The LDS Church Educational System threatened dismissal from its programs of

"Con Psarras, "Students Quiz Two Utah Republicans on Morality, 'Gay' Rights Issues,"
Salt Lake Tribune. 2 June 1977, p. B7.
58
59

Johnson, 116.

J. Roy Bardsley, "Area Residents Oppose Equal Rights for Gays," Salt Lake Tribune, 9
October 1977, p. Al.

persons "who have engaged in homosexual relations and...have not totally repented and
forsaken these evil practices."60 However, gay educators survived through time-honored
strategies of tact and discretion, and Brian Jeffries enjoyed teaching children in Sunday
school despite the church's proscriptions. In contrast to those who rejected gays as
educators but felt that the topic of homosexuality had cautionary value in sex education
classes, Jeffries proved a capable teacher but avoided discussing LDS norms of family
life:
When I was living with Bill we lived across the street from the church, and
I used to teach Sunday school, but if there was a subject that I didn't feel
comfortable teaching, I would skip that. If they were talking about getting
married and having a family, I wouldn't talk about that because in the first
place, I didn't think I was qualified and secondly, I didn't want to get
married and have a family....I used to love to go to church, but then when
they started lining you up with women in the ward, then of course I didn't
want to be involved in it.61
Similarly, Scott Milner took pains separating his personal life from his career as a
Salt Lake high school counselor during the 1970s:
I was a high school counselor and I needed to be prudent, and I never took
advantage of any kids. I would be at the bar some nights and I would see
kids from my school who were definitely underaged and I would worry,
am I going to be exposed? But I thought they had a greater risk of being
exposed than I did, and I never had any problems. I decided what I'm
doing is legal, I'm not committing any crimes by going into a bar and I felt
very comfortable, and at school I was very discreet.62
Scott's experience contrasted with Ken Mattingly's in the 1950s, when Ken and his

homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1.


61

Jeffries interview.

62

Milner interview.

222
partner left the bar scene from fear that one of their students would see them entering the
Crystal Lounge.63 In both cases, however, discretion came at the price of invisibility,
leaving no flesh and blood role models to disprove allegations that gay teachers inducted
their students into homosexuality.
However, when the Salt Lake Tribune printed an editorial in support of
eliminating gays from Utah schools, James Elwell of Logan penned a response examining
the analogy between homosexual seduction and religious conversion: "There is no
evidence suggesting that homosexual teachers will inflict their sexual mores onto their
students, any more than there is evidence that a teacher of one religion will automatically
convert all of his students of any other religion." Rather than argue about a fixed
orientation which could not be transmitted to children, however, Elwell advised parents
to teach children values and give them freedom to make informed moral choices, echoing
Joseph Smith's credo of teaching correct principles and leaving people to govern
themselves. According to Elwell, parents who felt secure in their convictions had little to
fear from exposing their children to other religious or sexual mores: "If we properly
teach our children what we believe is right, they will be able to handle the conflicts that
arise when encountering different, not 'wrong,' beliefs."64
LDS Church leaders obviously disagreed, and given their support for Anita Bryant
and their homosexuality-based opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, Mormonism
and homosexuality had never seemed more at odds. Bryant's appearance at the Utah
63

Mattingly interview.

The Open Door. February 1978, p. 9.

223
State Fair was a cause celebre which historian Charles Perry describes as "Utah's
Stonewall."65 The event sparked protests, but also solidarity among disparate elements of
Salt Lake's gay community. Within that solidarity, however, various strategies came into
play, including "reeducation," withdrawal from the LDS Church, defining sexual
orientation as innate, exposing LDS policies, and promoting public respectability.
The LDS role in Bryant's crusade inspired gay editorial writers to abandon their
earlier caution and sharpen their focus on the church. Activists dedicated themselves to
"reeducation," providing accurate data to counter "LDS public opinion voices who have
in the past and present made uninformed comments...on the issue."66 The most widelycirculated and controversial piece was both memoir and manifesto. In 1977, "uninformed
comments" about gays in BYU Psychology Professor Reed Payne's lectures prompted an
anonymous author, later identified as Cloy Jenkins, to write Prologue: An Examination of
Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality. Prologue combined extensive research and
personal experience in its unsparing critique of church orthodoxy in matters ranging from
scripture to aversion therapy. According to Jenkins, Mormon psychiatrists gained
acceptance in the church by keeping a "discreet silence" if they privately disagreed with
the official view of homosexuality, and he accused Reed Payne of disguising prejudice as
science.67

Perry, "Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Orange: Gay Rights, Anita
Bryant, and the LDS Church in Salt Lake City."

"BYU Students Dispute LDS Doctrine," The Open Door. September 1977, unpaged.

Prologue: An Examination of Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality, v., 46, 55.

Jenkins problematized the dynamic between a cohesive "us" and a stigmatized


"them" by situating gays within the best Mormon families. "Domesticating"
homosexuality as an unremarkable, unnoticed presence among LDS families made
scapegoating and excluding gays a matter of disowning one's children, which often
occurred but also contradicted the church's professed concerns over eternal, unchanging
family ties. While BYU officials identified homosexuals in order to redeem or expel
them, gay advocates wanted the prevalence of homosexuality among Mormons brought
into the open. Jenkins' published allegations of widespread homosexuality at BYU
undoubtedly disturbed church authorities:
It would astound you to know how many student body officers, football
players, branch officers, wrestlers, and outstanding students at BYU over
the years have been homosexual. Some of these homosexual students are
some of the very top administrators and faculty....This will continue to be
the case in spite of all your prohibitions, preachments, and inquisitions
against homosexuality.68
Even Bruce Steed's Sunstone article about homosexuality acknowledged that "all but the
ostriches are aware that the problem is also widespread in the Church."69
Many writers expected or encouraged defection from the church. "Barbara," the
author of a 1977 essay "Are Gay People Really Gay?" regretted that heterosexuals could
function as "whole human beings" and serve God while gays who "needed God's love,
acceptance, and understanding more" had to choose between the two.70 In contrast to the

'Ibid., 43.
'Steed.
"'Are Gay People Really Gay?" The Open Door. June 1977, p. 20-2.

225
traditional Mormon upbringing stressing self-sacrifice and adhering to the "script,"
psychologist Paul Larson advised local gays to keep their own counsel: "Don't live up to
the expectations of others. As a native Utahn and ex-Mormon, I feel I have weathered the
worst possible social environment for gays. I have nevertheless come out for my own
values and the choices I've made."71 Another ex-Mormon advised her gay readers, "If
you only would take the time to stop using 'Listening to men' as an excuse and start
talking and listening to God you'd be amazed at how much 'He' has to say to you."72
However, while The Open Door's masthead proffered "an alternative lifestyle,"
many LDS gays steadfastly adhered to Mormon beliefs, if not to the church. Even when
the church's antigay stance became overtly political, The Open Door's editors faced
accusations of antiMormon bias from LDS gays who disagreed with church leaders, yet
retained their faith. For example, the author of "A Gay Mormon Remembers" explained
that he "could no longer live with the social pressures of being a good, upright, churchgoing Latter-Day Saint" and had since found genuine happiness with his lover often
years. However, he still accepted the "basics" of LDS doctrine while disagreeing with
how people interpreted them.73 Like participants in Lynda Brzezinski's more recent study
of homosexual men raised in the Mormon faith, gay men in the 1970s often preserved
their LDS beliefs by distinguishing "Mormon people" from "Mormon culture," or the

'Glenn Greene, "A Quiet Strength," The Open Door, June 1977, p. 6.
z

The Open Door. November 1978, p. 4.

The Open Door. March 1978, p. 10; April 1978, p. 4; "A Gay Mormon Remembers,"
The Open Door. May 1979, p. 5-7, 10.

226
"spirit of the law" from the "letter of the law." Thus, in "Thoughts on Being a Utahn,
Mormon, and Gay" Kory Jensen explained, "I don't think I shall ever be able to escape
entirely the bonds which tie me to [the church], and I'm not sure I want to. I feel deep
loyalties to the Mormon Church, despite the narrowness of its members."74
Gays' need to separate the church from its members attested to how thoroughly
the church had portrayed homosexuality and Mormonism as incompatible. According to
an Open Door editorial, however, the gay community could offer "hope and solace for
those young people who find themselves in the untenable position of being gay and LDS.
Since the LDS Church states the two...are impossible to reconcile, it is the duty of the gay
community to offer proof it IS possible."75 While some gay activists urged Mormon gays
to choose gay identity and put the church behind them, many LDS gays sought open
dialogue with church leaders to clear the air of misconceptions and delineate a moral
middle ground including homosexuality. At a human rights convention that coincided
with Anita Bryant's appearance, a group of gay Mormons defied church strictures against
meeting together and launched a support group, Affirmation. In an Advocate article
Affirmation founder Steve Zakharias defined the organization's goal as ending the
"isolation, rootlessness, depression, and self-loathing" of gay and lesbian Mormons. He
also stated that "homosexuality is not learned or acquired; it is not something chosen."76

Brzezinski, 150; Kory Jensen, "Thoughts on Being a Utahn, Mormon, and Gay," The
Open Door. January 1979, p. 5.
'The Open Door. September 1977, unpaged.
5

"Gay Mormons Organize," The Advocate (November 2, 1977): 30.

227
The LDS practice of insulating children and adults from potential corruption made
the argument for innate sexual orientation, which could not be transmitted to others, a
compelling strategy for Mormon gays seeking inclusion and non-Mormon gays who
recognized its strategic value. Framing sexual identity as an inherent trait rather than a
chosen behavior anticipated more recent debates over essentialist and social
constructionist theories of homosexuality. Essentialists define homosexuality as an
innate, blameless condition akin to race. Social constructionists view it as a culturallyand historically-specific category of difference that obscures the complexity of desire
revealed in the Kinsey studies. The Kinsey studies showed that much of the American
population engaged in homosexual activity, not just those who self-identified as
homosexuals. While gay activists typically favor essentialism as a pragmatic means to
advance civil rights since gays cannot help being "that way," social constructionists
criticize essentialism as a defensive posture that denies sexual choice while leaving the
door open to biological "cures." The social constructionist paradigm is also more
consistent with genuine free agency and gay liberationists' goal of "smashing the
categories" dividing homosexuals and heterosexuals. According to a 1977 Open Door
editorial, people must be educated that "a way of life is not forced upon anyone; rather it
is chosen, usually after experimentation with both alternatives open to any sexual
person." However, given the LDS Church's opposition to erotic choice, essentialism was
a highly appealing expedient for local gays.77
77

The Open Door, May 1977, unpaged; John D'Emilio, The World Turned: Essays on
Gay History, Politics, and Culture (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press,
2002), 154, 221-2; Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, Love the Sin: Sexual

228
Thus, an Open Door editorial writer felt that "gays need...to impress on the
'others' that gayness is not an option which the individual chooses." Whereas Spencer
W. Kimball emphasized "controlled conditions," another writer enjoined gays to
"challenge the status quo and not bend with the techniques and teachings of the church
which debase what the individual cannot control (italics mine)."78 Innate sexuality rang
true among gays who experienced difference from an early age. For example, Scott
Milner "didn't remember reading a lot about how the public felt about queers and
homosexuals" while growing up, but finding the term "latent homosexuality" in a
dictionary during the ninth grade was an epiphany: "I thought, 'That applies to me, that
seems to fit.' I just felt 'This is the way I'm programmed.'"79 Similarly, the author of a
1978 editorial described his sexuality as deep-seated and thus worthy of respect. Raised
in a "stringent Mormon environment," the 21-year-old "Gay Missionary" claimed his
homosexuality "defied change and quietly but stubbornly rebelled against everything that
it was claimed to be by President Kimball."80
Cloy Jenkins considered Kimball's advice that homosexual men sever all contact
with other gays detrimental because
It cuts him off from the only real possibility open to him to experience

Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004), 75-101;
for local examples of the immutability argument, see The Open Door, January 1978, p.
17 and May 1979, p. 6.
78

The Open Door, June 1978, p. 4; September 1977, unpaged.

79

Milner interview.

8Q

The Open Door. September 1978, p. 5.

229
love. It unquestionably condemns him to a life of loneliness which cannot
and is not ministered to by any facet of the church or society. This can
only be realized through a mature loving intimacy (italics mine).81
Emphasizing only one "real possibility to experience love (italics mine)" reflected a
conception of homosexuality as inborn, authentic, permanent, and nontransmissible.
Based on interviews with Mormon gays, Jenkins argued that "seduction" merely
confirmed an existing homosexual disposition. Thus, in response to Orrin Hatch's
statements about gays teaching children, Jenkins concluded that "Senator Hatch is much
more capable of turning his son into a homosexual than any homosexual school teacher."
The author of an Open Door editorial concurred, taking a playful jab at the Mormon
imperative to "multiply and replenish" and the doctrine of eternal families: "Gays in Salt
Lake are eternal, as long as new crops of babies are born to heterosexual couples....Since
gays, ideally, do not procreate, the blame must lie with the straight community to bring
this 'evil' into their midst."82 Although some gay advocates continued to argue from the
gay liberationist position of erotic choice and "alternative lifestyles," the pervasiveness of
the LDS culture in Utah set the terms of debate. The church's emphasis on control and
devaluation of choice ultimately fostered a pragmatic approach stressing gays' lack of
choice in their sexual orientation and limited choice in its public expression.
When formulating their strategies, gays drew from Mormon experiences with
polygamy and race. By positioning themselves among other oppressed groups, including
the Mormon pioneers, local gays sought legitimacy for sexual diversity. At first glance,
81

Prologue: An Examination of Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality, 19-20.

Ibid., 29-30, 33; The Open Door. July 1978, p. 2.

230
the historical experience of Mormon polygamy provided a local example of sexual and
religious choice that seemed to support the gay liberationist position.83 Like
contemporary gays, nineteenth-century Mormons were the sexual nonconformists of their
day, and their practice and sanctification of polygamy earned them national opprobium.
Furthermore, Mormons' eventual renunciation of plural marriage suggested a flexibility
under social pressure that, under the right circumstances, could shift in favor of gay
rights.
Those circumstances did not exist in the 1970s, however, given the persistent
homophobia in American culture, Mormons' historically-based fear of being tarred as
sexual extremists, and the credibility Spencer W. Kimball had invested in the issue. The
polygamy comparison also ran up against the church's framing of sexuality as a doctrinal
matter. Historically, Mormons did not view polygamy as a chosen lifestyle, but a
commandment from God to a chosen people.84 Thus, rather than view their predecessors
as martyrs to sexual diversity, LDS leaders treated Mormons' renunciation of polygamy
as the relevant model for gays, who must ultimately conform to social expectations or
keep their illicit lifestyles "underground." Consequently, expedience compelled local
gays to defend homosexuality as an inborn trait analogous to skin color, which could not
be changed, rather than argue that homosexuality should not be changed.
83

Prologue: An Examination of Mormon Attitudes Toward Homosexuality, 31-2; "Fear,"


The Open Door. Winter 1977, unpaged.

84

For an overview of the LDS Church's retreat from plural marriage, see Leonard J.
Arlington, Great Basin Kingdom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958; repr. Salt
Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993), 377-8, 380; Gottlieb and Wiley, 50; Dean
May, Utah: A People's History (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 128.

Racial comparisons seemed especially salient after the LDS Church reversed its
ban on black priesthood membership in 1978. The church's policy change on race, like
its renunciation of polygamy, demonstrated a grudging evolution under social pressure,
since the decision occurred amidst civil rights protests that threatened to tarnish the
church's international image. Using race as an example, LDS gays defended their
sexuality as natural, indelible, and God-given. When defined as innate, homosexuality
assumed the permanence of skin color and the solidity of doctrine, ruling out genuine
change; even if gays purportedly changed under duress, it did not alter the fundamental
nature of their sexuality. Hence, Bill Cloward's phrase regarding LDS family
expectations, "the script was written before I was born," could also apply to an
understanding of homosexuality as something one was born with.
However, claiming an innate basis for homosexuality did not insulate gays from
pressure to suppress it or, to use the polygamy analogy, change the "policy" of
homosexual behavior even if they could not change the underlying "doctrine" of sexual
orientation. As long as homosexuality lacked the broad social consensus favoring black
civil rights during the 1970s, the church's ultimate concession on race did not translate
into a similar breakthrough for gays. Furthermore, LDS leaders steadfastly presented
their decision to lift the racial ban as revelation rather than a concession to political
realities, suggesting they had no control over the church's decades-long reluctance to
address racism, let alone homophobia.85 Like polygamy, church leaders defined race as a
doctrinal matter and therefore, the church's ultimate positions on the two issues validated
85

Gottlieb and Wiley, 180-5.

232
neither sexual nor racial difference. Rather than accede to a lifestyle that undercut the
foundation of patriarchy and gender difference, church authorities dug in their heels. In
New Horizons for Homosexuals. Spencer W. Kimball argued that "the Lord and his true
church will never condone these sexual sins....God is unchangeable. He is the same
yesterday, today, and forever."86 The same year the church reversed its racial ban,
Apostle Boyd K. Packer gave an address at BYU which placed the burden of change on
gays, warning that "the effort might require a change of social life, job, or geographic
location."87 Thus, while Evan Thompson considered his sexual orientation a "genetic
brick wall," he believed he had "transcended" it through marriage: "I not only put it out of
my social life but I also put it out of my mind, I was really quite free of it."88 While
behaviorist therapy implied sexual orientation was not chosen and, as Thompson's case
suggests, could not be changed, the LDS Church continued to expect gays to "transcend"
it and choose heterosexual marriage as the alternative to an "alternative lifestyle."
Defending their antigay policies as doctrinal, church leaders also dismissed the
American Psychiatric Association's decision to remove homosexuality from its list of
mental disorders. Ironically, LDS leaders invoked the "ways of the Lord" to avoid blame
for their slowness in changing racial policies, while condemning psychiatrists who

86

Homosexualitv: Welfare Services Packet 1; for a discussion of Spencer W. Kimball's


differentiation between the ways of the church and those of the world, see The Open
Door, February 1978, p. 28; Bayer, 149-51; Kimball, New Horizons for
Homosexuals, 24, 32.

87

Thayne Hansen, "Cures for Homosexuality Discussed by Elder Packer," The Open
Door, April 1978, p. 6.
Thompson interview.

233
believed gays "are helpless to change and...there is no reason to blame them for what they
are."89 Consistent with the church's more explicit approach to homosexuality in the
1970s, LDS Welfare Services Packets set specific standards for church social workers
who counseled homosexuals. This stood in dramatic contrast to the 1950s, when the
church provided no published advice to guide the parents of homosexuals. When Evan
Thompson's parents discovered he was gay in the 1950s, "They were not demeaning, they
did not reject me, it was just something they didn't understand, they had never heard of it.
They didn't know what to do about it."90 By the early 1970s, Kimball's public statements
ensured that Mormons heard about homosexuality and the Welfare Services Packet
codified guidelines for "treating" homosexuality the same year the APA declassified it as
an illness. Significantly, the Welfare Services Packet emphasized that mental health
professionals may be utilized
if they understand and support gospel truth concerning proper behavior.
Because the world does not view homosexuality as the Church does, i.e. as
a sin, counsel received from 'worldly' counselors could be very confusing
to a Latter-day Saint.91
Practically speaking, however, the church concurred with most of the world on the issue,
for intolerance toward gays remained the rule in the United States and abroad, despite the
APA's official position. Whereas the church's lifting of its racial ban redressed a cultural
lag, the APA's decision favoring gays remained well ahead of national norms and church

'Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1.


'Thompson interview.
Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1.

234
leaders felt comfortable opposing it. Applying the Mormon concept of a spirit-flesh
continuum in support of sexual orthodoxy, LDS Welfare Services guidelines stated that
priesthood leaders "would usually be able to help the homosexual with spiritual and
physical behavior (italics mine)."92
Although LDS leaders maintained that homosexuality was changeable and the
church's position was not, gays took heart from the APA's decision to reconsider
"scientific" orthodoxy and aligned themselves with progressive members of the
profession. They also printed LDS Welfare Services Packet passages dealing with
homosexuality in The Open Door. The Anita Bryant controversy undermined LDS
attempts to contain Mormon homosexuality as an ecclesiastical matter. Church leaders'
efforts to influence public policy on homosexuality while having the final word on LDS
gays was analogous to the challenge of sending missionaries into the world while
shielding them from its influences. The church's claims of executing the "ways of the
Lord" rather than the "ways of the world" did not square with the slippery boundaries
between church and state affairs in Utah, the church's deepening political engagement on
the gay issue, and its methods of controlling homosexuality among its members. LDS
leaders' use of media reaching Mormons and non-Mormons alike ultimately broke the
church's exclusive hold over its homosexual members.
Local gay activists learned from the Anita Bryant affair that they could reject the
Mormon Church, but not ignore it. Thus, The Open Door's editors believed that their
series about gay Mormons would edify Mormons and non-Mormons alike since "It's a
92

Ibid.; Bayer, 193-5.

235
problem that belongs to all of us (italics mine)." Similarly, they reprinted the LDS
Welfare Services pamphlet because "it is directly opposed to the gay lifestyle, and...we
are influenced daily by the philosophy of the Mormons in one way or another, directly or
indirectly, here in Utah." Open Door managing editor Sparc R. Joseph also asserted gays'
collective right to be informed of LDS policies on homosexuality: "We, as a community,
have a right to know exactly what the Church says. We are all affected by the Mormon
religion if we have any connection with Utah." While Spencer W. Kimball framed
homosexuality as an ecclesiastical matter by claiming that the church had 8,000-10,000
bishops ready to counsel members with "homosexual problems," filmmaker Andrew
Welch defined it as a political issue affecting "an estimated 50,000 people and families
along the Wasatch Front."93
Once the APA declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, partly in
response to organized gay protests, gays' redefinition of homosexuality as a political issue
not only broke the isolation of the psychiatrist's office, but the bishop's office as well.94
In particular, gays revealed that church leaders simultaneously violated privacy and relied
on it to maintain exclusive authority over Mormon homosexuality. Debate over
decriminalization of private, consensual homosexuality struck a chord locally since LDS
notions of hidden sin and "Satan's plan of force" denied the possibility of privacy and
consent in homosexual relations. In New Horizons for Homosexuals Spencer W.
93

The Open Door. November 1978, p. 3; January 1979, p. 5; "LDS Leader


Hails Anti-Gay Stand"; "LDS vs. Homosexuality," The Open Door. December 1978,
p. 5.

'Bayer, 91, 100.

236
Kimball not only encouraged confession of "hidden sin," but considered its exposure
inevitable:
Heaven knows and nothing can be hidden....There is recorded like a
continuing television picture all the imagery which passes through your
mind....The Lord knows everything that goes on in automobiles, in
bedrooms, in public restrooms, in dark corners. One cannot hide his
perversion any more than Cain could hide his murder.95
During the church's Fall 1977 General Conference, Kimball stated that
"Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the
uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be
brought into the open."96 Use of surveillance and informants at BYU literally ensured
that "nothing could be hidden," but church leaders did not want homosexuality within the
church publicized either. Church leaders wanted gays to emerge from the shadows, but
only for the sake of submitting to church counsel. However, a dialectical relationship
existed between gay visibility and LDS policy. While the church cracked down on
homosexuality in response to gays' increased visibility in American culture, harassing
gays in private often drove them into the public sphere, generating further visibility and
expanding the gay community. Church leaders faced a conundrum: unrepentant gays
were a public relations problem inside or outside the church. Inside the church, they
could influence others and tarnish Mormons' uncorrupted image; outside the church, they
could expose the ethically questionable methods used against LDS gays.
95

Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals. 14-15, 18.

96

Spencer W. Kimball, Official Report of the One Hundred Forty-Seventh Semi-Annual


General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Dav Saints. October 1 and 2,
1977, 5-7.

237
Much had changed in the few years since Rick Pace and others accepted
Kimball's advice at face value. Whereas Rick saw Kimball's inquiries as an opportunity
to "finally let all of this out," an editor for The Open Door advised LDS gays to follow
their own counsel and felt strongly that "anyone who confesses to his bishop deliberately
asks for recrimination and censure. By now surely it is generally known what a bishop
will do with privileged information, and the gay who confesses might as well take out an
ad in the ward paper."97 Instead, Mormon and ex-Mormon gays reported their
experiences in The Open Door's editorial pages.
In counterpoint to Kimball's view that "nothing can be hidden," local gays availed
themselves of opportunities to speak out about their experiences in the LDS Church.
Their narratives can be compared to the Mormon tradition of "bearing one's testimony,"
the monthly ritual where a microphone is passed among the congregation and members
volunteer to share experiences from their daily lives. In the process, personal experiences
are reinterpreted in terms of Mormon collective values and the speech always ends with a
reaffirmation of the person's "testimony," or personal belief that the church's teachings
are true. Although participation appears spontaneous, the content of the speeches tends to
be ritualized. The experiences that may be shared and the phrases used to convey them
follow a set pattern, based on similar speeches from others. In this manner, as
anthropologist David Knowlton explains, testimony bearing binds the individual to the
church in a socially-approved way, recasting personal experience in terms of the church
and reinforcing it as the "dominant ideology" in members' lives. He also describes how
97

Pace interview; Rocky Mountain Open Door, November 1977, p. 4.

238
the best "performers" of the ritual are usually those with the highest social standing in the
community, their performances perceived as a sign of spiritual superiority and high
status.98
By contrast, gay "testimonies" bore witness to the pain of being misunderstood
and disadvantaged within the church. Reversing the process that privileged the church
over individuals, gays affirmed individual experience over official LDS renditions of their
lives. Just as bearing testimony gave tangible form to an abstract, inner acceptance of
God, gay LDS narratives articulated long-suppressed feelings in a public "coming out"
gesture. Like the often formulaic content of spoken testimonies which conveyed one's
sense of belonging to the LDS community, gay testimonies fostered collective
identification among those similarly affected by the church's policies. In so doing, they
publicized and politicized what were once private matters and addressed homophobia as a
social phenomenon. Insofar as Mormon gays remained committed to changing social
attitudes rather than their sexuality, Kimball and Mormon intellectuals were apt in calling
them "rebellious." Although many LDS gays continued to experience coming out as a
crisis of faith, those who experienced homosexuality as something positive and creative
proclaimed the disparity between Kimball's assertions and the realities of their lives.
One of the more ambitious efforts to publicize gays' experiences in the Mormon
Church was a 1978 television documentary produced by former Utahn Andrew Welch.
The film included interviews with forty gay men and two BYU psychologists, as well as

98

David Knowlton, "Belief, Metaphor, and Rhetoric: The Mormon Practice of Testimony
Bearing," Sunstone 15, no. 1 (April 1991): 24-25, 27.

material on electroshock conversion therapy. After tentatively scheduling its broadcast in


Salt Lake, the local PBS affiliate, KUED, canceled the program, citing station guidelines
dictating a clear separation of church and state. In response to criticism from local gay
leaders, KUED General Manager Robert Reed insisted that "public television should not
interfere with intra-denominational affairs....It's our judgment that it's a religious
issue-not a civil issue...that is, someone's rights under the Constitution have not been
abrogated or threatened."99
However, PBS stations in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
followed a different standard, airing the program during Gay Pride Week.100 A
University of Utah Chronicle editorial expressed dismay that KUER's management did
not consider the church's practices civil issues when Mormons comprised 60 percent of
the state. In addition, LDS Church-owned KBYU did not share KUER's reservations
about airing "religious issues." In March 1978, KBYU broadcast Apostle Boyd K.
Packer's statements condemning homosexuality in response to Prologue's publication.
When Reverend Robert Waldrop of Salt Lake's Metropolitan Community Church
requested equal time to present a gay perspective, the station's general manager refused
on grounds that the equal time provisions of the 1934 Federal Communications Act only
applied to political campaigns. Local gay activists replied that the same federal law
contained a statement requiring stations to air all points of view on subjects controversial

"The Open Door. August 1978, p. 17, 19.


100

Ibid.

to a community.
In the politically-conscious atmosphere of the late 1970s, however, gays could be
as sensitive as their Mormon adversaries about keeping certain aspects of their culture
under wraps. Some gay advocates favored strategies emphasizing private sexuality and
public respectability. LDS Church leaders' efforts to publicize antigay views while
concealing the mistreatment of homosexual Mormons were paralleled by gays' efforts to
combine greater visibility with limits on public expression. In 1977, leaders of the Salt
Lake Gay Services Coalition stated their disapproval of gays "flaunting their sexuality in
public unnecessarily, but we do maintain that what we do behind closed doors is our
affair and business."102 Similarly, a 1978 editorial emphasized that "the secure gay
person does not flaunt his/her sexuality any more than the secure heterosexual person."
In his 1979 article "Salt Lake City: 1984" John Gilwood explained that "our only real
difference [from heterosexuals] is our sexuality, and even that isn't as different as we
would sometimes like to believe. This is clearly pointed out by the fact that we move
through a 'straight' world almost totally unnoticed."103 In their bid for visibility,
acceptance, and equality, Utah's gay advocates urged other gays to demonstrate public
conduct falling somewhere between the sexual hedonism of "liberated" urban gays and

101

Kirk Johnson, "Gay Documentary Canceled," University of Utah Chronicle. 20 July


1978, p. 1-2; "Gay Leader Loses Equal Time Bid," Salt Lake Tribune. 30 March 1978,
p. B7; The Open Door. April 1978, p. 5-6, 11; December 1978, p. 3.

102

The Open Door, Winter 1977, unpaged.

103

"USU Inquires," The Salt Lick. March 1976, unpaged; The Open Door.
July 1978, p. 2; John Gilwood, "Salt Lake City: 1984," The Open Door. May 1979,
p. 11.

241
the hypocrisy of the closet. However, respectability came at the expense of less
respectable elements of the community, such as those who engaged in cross-gendered or
overtly sexual behavior. Thus, a 1978 Open Door editorial claimed that
the "straight" community needs to be educated...about the true Gay
Community, in that the visible Gay person does not necessarily represent
the typical gay person....The unsophisticated straight person is not aware
of the typical/average gay person when they might meet on the street, at
work or at play (italics mine).104
Another writer was more forthright, complaining about "strutting peacocks who
flaunt themselves" and described sexual identity as a very "private and personal thing."105
The issue of "queerness" versus assimilation was not unique to Utah. During the 1950s
and '60s the national "homophile" organizations, Mattachine and Daughters of Bilitis,
urged conformity with conventional roles in gays' gender presentation. They also
enjoined gays to keep their sex lives strictly private, stressing that the only difference
between homosexuals and heterosexuals was what they did in bed. By the early 1970s,
gay liberation and radical feminism rejected assimilationist strategies and challenged
conventional categories of sex and gender.106 As in the LDS Church, tensions between
assimilation and distinctiveness in relation to the larger world have persisted among gays
and lesbians, periodically erupting over such issues as drag queens' participation in public

"The Open Door. July 1978, p. 2.


5

The Open Door, January 1978, p. 17-18.

D'Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual


Minority in the United States. 1940-1970. 81-7,108-9,113-14; John D'Emilio and
Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (New York:
Harper and Row, 1988; repr., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 318-23.

242
events and sexually-explicit advertising in GLBTQ periodicals. However, during the
1970s the forces of respectability and nonconformity were particularly polarized in Utah,
given the LDS Church's correlation-era ultraconservatism and a corresponding urge
among Utah's gays to "sin a lot."
A chasm existed between orthodox Mormonism and the exuberant, free-wheeling
gay lifestyle possible in major cities. Although gay sexual orientation was not reducible
to a simple act of rebellion against repressive mores as Mormon intellectuals suggested,
many gays and non-Mormon heterosexuals countered repression with indulgence.107
Claiming to represent "the voice" of Salt Lake's gays, activists tried to carve out a middle
ground between invisibility and the libertarian leanings of those who condoned public
sex. Gay leaders' desires to convey an acceptable image of their community, the easing
of conduct restrictions in bars, and greater openness posed a challenge of self-regulation.
Whereas LDS Church officials constrained free agency and emphasized a "temptation
free" environment, partial relaxation of constraints against homosexuality prompted
concern among some gays that others would not use their freedom judiciously. The more
permissive environment in gay-operated institutions such as the Sun Tavern or the new
bathhouses coincided with greater media attention given to gay rights. Consequently,
image-conscious gays preferred that outrageous conduct and public sex remain in the bar
and baths and out of the public spotlight.
Differing attitudes toward public and private sexual expression governed gays'
response to a 1978 vice seminar conducted by Salt Lake City Police for rural law
107

Christensen, "The Persistence of Chastity," 9-10.

enforcement officers. During the proceedings, one officer described Salt Lake as an
"ideal training ground" for arresting homosexuals and another claimed that "the worst
problems come from 'closet queens'...who wish to keep their sexual preferences quiet.
The public has no idea of how much secret and illegal homosexual activity is going on in
Utah." Subsequently, vice officer Bill Shelton reported an onslaught of calls and letters
from gays who feared police would arrest them in their homes. He also alleged that
several gays "threatened violence against our guys if we conduct a crackdown on
homosexuals." In a letter defending consensual private behavior, ACLU Director Shirley
Pedler expressed dismay that police would focus on '"closet queens.' I would think that
the legitimate interest of the Vice Squad would be limited to...those individuals whose
sexual practices, because they involve juveniles or...public behavior, present a public
nuisance." Bill Shelton hastened to assure an agitated gay community that "we're not
trying to suppress homosexuality per se, we never have. The only homosexual activity
that concerns us is that which is carried on in public places."108
The suggestion that police efforts were never directed against homosexual status,
but only public sexual conduct, did not square with the bar raids and harassment gays
endured in the past. More plausible was Shelton's claim that some gays expressed
appreciation for the crackdown because "people who engage in public sex are hurting the
gay movement." During the 1950s and '60s, gay-identified and closeted men alike
adapted public spaces for homosocial and homoerotic use by remaining inconspicuous,

108

"ACLU Reacts to Salt Lake Gay Harassment," The Open Door. September 1978, p. 6;
"Officer Explains Policy on Gays," Salt Lake Tribune. 18 August 1978, p. B2.

244
and the boundaries separating life at the bar, parks, and mineral baths were fluid. During
the 1970s, as visibility became the hallmark of gay liberation, inclusion-minded gays
typically frowned on the "wrong" kinds of public homosexual behavior. Although many
gay men delighted in the furtiveness and "underground" element of the 1960s subculture,
gay advocates in the '70s often viewed park cruising and tearoom sex as inexcusable
given the availability of alternatives, and lesbians were particularly loath to share the
repercussions of such activities. Increasingly, the park became a less legitimate
introduction to gay life and more closely identified with married, closeted men and
behavior reflecting adversely on the gay community.109 According to Brian Jeffries,
Some of these people, they do the weirdest things, I mean they used to go
to the bathrooms in Liberty Park, and I'm sure it was cruisy because I have
to admit I used to drive by there, but I don't know that I would ever go in
there...because it was too scary, and I can't believe the things I would hear
about that were going on in there.110
However, gays who envisioned a moral middle ground balancing private sexuality
with public respectability encountered complex realities. Sexual privacy was especially
salient since Mormon Church leaders did not consider what people did in bed strictly
private or irrelevant. LDS authorities not only believed that "nothing can be hidden," but
also supported laws criminalizing both public and private homosexuality. On the other
hand, ostensibly nonsexual public expressions of homosexuality triggered intractable
prejudices. Authorities often treated any form of gay visibility as potentially disruptive
and invoked public order as a means to exclude gays from certain places, especially those
109

"Officer Explains Policy on Gays"; The Salt Lick. May 1976, unpaged.

110

Jeffries interview.

245
with political significance.111 In addition, a March 1978 Deseret News editorial by an
unnamed LDS "general authority" urged legislators to resist gay rights advocates
demanding "special privileges" for those who "parade their debauchery and call it
clean."112 Remarks about "parading debauchery" suggested that church leaders linked all
public expressions of gayness, no matter how respectable, to proscribed sexual behavior.
Having redefined the personal as political, gays were unable to confine their sexuality to
the bedroom any more than the church could confine it to the bishop's office.
Furthermore, the David Chipman entrapment case revealed that the distinction between
public and private sexuality became murky when BYU security personnel used private
correspondence to entice gays into committing public offences.
Concern with image demonstrated the extent to which homosexuality had entered
public consciousness in the 1970s, having outgrown the boundaries of personal morality
among LDS Church authorities and privacy among gays. In their more explicit political

11

'For example, in April 1977 the Salt Lake Metropolitan Community Church received
permission from Lieutenant Governor David Monson's office to hold a dance in the
State Capitol Rotunda. A few weeks later, however, Monson's office withdrew
permission "due to the restrictions we have placed on the capitol and due to the nature
of your organization." Monson based his decision on regulations against usage of the
rotunda "that may incite demonstrations or pose a threat of damage to the building or
hazards to people attending." The argument was disingenuous, however, since officials
allowed Anita Bryant's appearance at the state fairgrounds to proceed despite prior
knowledge of protests; in fact, city police screened her audience and ensured that the
protests outside remained peaceful. See "Discrimination?" and "Shall We Dance?" The
Open Door. Winter 1977, unpaged; "MCC Goes to Court," vol. 4,1977, p. 1; Paul
Wetzel, "Both Sides 'Greet' Anita Bryant," Salt Lake Tribune. 19 September 1977, p.
19.

112

Reverend Robert Waldrop, "An Open Response to a Nameless General Authority


Who Wants to Call Some Kettles Clean," The Open Door. April 1978, p. 20.

246
engagement of homosexuality, LDS leaders could no longer claim that Mormons were in
the world but not of the world, and gays responded move for move. As church leaders
went public with their condemnations, gays publicized their grievances. While the
positions aired by gays and their opponents typically fell short of dialogue, history reveals
how the issue had evolved in three decades: what was once a monologue had become a
debate engaging multiple points of view.
However, publicity also revealed strategic differences among gays, upsetting the
notion of a monolithic "voice of the community." Although many gays embraced the
ideal of sexual revolution behind the national gay liberation movement, others were
mindful of local political realities, promoting respectable images of gays as a means to
overcome prejudice and the psychological obstacles keeping LDS men in the closet.
Divisions within the gay community over the appropriate stance toward the dominant
culture, assimilation versus difference, corresponded to the LDS Church's mixed message
of love and condemnation. Despite the pitfalls attending strategies of respectability,
innate sexuality, and privacy, however, the LDS Church's intransigence continued to
supply opportunities for local gay solidarity in years to come. Beset by fragmentation,
AIDS, and demoralization from resisting a formidable adversary, Salt Lake's gay
community adapted as Spencer W. Kimball's successors moderated the tone, but not the
substance, of his antigay policies. Just as Anita Bryant's campaign boosted gay solidarity
nationally, the LDS Church's antigay initiatives prompted disparate elements of the local
gay community to unite. Ironically, the standardized culture and policies of the church
supplied the diaspora of Mormon and ex-Mormon gays a common bond that facilitated

organizing. As the church began to flex its political muscle on issues of marriage and
family law, Utah's gays remained on the defensive, unable to choose their battles but
always fighting back, combining age-old resilience with vigorous activism.

CONCLUSION

In 1937 Grant Rasmussen observed that homosexual life in Salt Lake City
resembled that of other cities its size, at least superficially. During the postwar years, Salt
Lake epitomized small cities impacted by wartime industrialization and agricultural
decline, absorbing homosexual men from neighboring towns and farms while others left
to pursue better lives in major cities. Salt Lake was the birthplace of some, a destination
for others, but in either case, those who stayed usually had connections to the place, its
dominant culture, or both. However, the city was unquestionably unique as headquarters
to an international church that made gays' presence there anomalous. Salt Lake was not
typically considered a gay "mecca," but a gathering place for Latter-day Saints, and the
city's history is inseparable from church history. Unlike the sexually-based migrations to
gay meccas, homosexual men who moved to the area typically did so for nonsexual
reasons, often because of the church. However, given the church's presence and Utah's
highly concentrated population, Salt Lake had an influence disproportionate to its size,
and the church inadvertently attracted Mormon-raised gays from the intermountain area
and beyond. Once they came out of the closet, and often out of the church as well, gays
in Salt Lake participated in an urban gay subculture and remained close to their Mormon
roots if they desired.
During the postwar years, gays in Salt Lake City created a community in the
shadows of denial, in places one would least expect. Mormons' experience with

polygamy left them sensitized to public opinion, especially in sexual matters. Thus,
church leaders in the 1950s were prone to address Mormon homosexuality quietly and
internally until events forced the issue. While discretion about homosexuality remained
the rule among both heterosexual Mormons and gays, they coexisted by ignoring each
other. Gay bars were "hidden in plain sight," visible yet decidedly "underground." Gay
space was more embedded in heterosexual space in Salt Lake than in larger cities, and
perceiving homosexuality in the midst of "life as usual" required a discerning eye and an
open mind.
By the late 1950s, however, homosexuality in Salt Lake City and the Mormon
Church became difficult to ignore. Chief of Police Cleon Skousen's efforts to cleanse the
city of "moral degenerates" revealed prominent citizens among those arrested and a gay
bar in the Mormon capital. Consequently, denial became impossible and LDS leaders
could no longer deal quietly with the problem; preserving the church's image required a
firm public stand. After Spencer W. Kimball proclaimed Mormons' abhorrence of
homosexuality and became their point man on the issue, church leaders never let down
their guard.
Given the considerable overlap between religious and civil affairs in Utah, the
history of gays and the Mormon Church is one of imperfect boundaries and abounding
paradoxes. As demonstrated in the church's reliance on psychiatry and police power,
divisions between the sacred and profane were unclear. In and of themselves, neither the
LDS Church's scripturally-based disapproval of homosexuality nor its systematic,
worldly methods of dealing with it were remarkable; the presence of both in a single

institution was. In their cyclical history, Mormons had pivoted between insularity and
worldliness, separatism and assimilation, but in the 1960s church leaders combined
insularity with global aspirations. However, their efforts to impact the world without
being impacted by it was a difficult feat at best. The "correlation" movement fostered
conformity in Mormon belief and ritual, but the LDS missionary program and BYU
brought diverse people into the fold and to Utah, including many gays. At the same time,
LDS leaders tried to influence public policy on homosexuality while avoiding scrutiny of
how the church treated Mormon gays. Exposing that treatment thus became a weapon of
choice for local gays.
Church leaders in the 1950s had kept quiet about homosexuality until public
events forced the issue, but the reverse occurred in the 1970s. The church's proactive,
public stance against homosexuality provoked gays to respond, drawing unwanted
attention to the church's methods and hindering its ability to control Mormon
homosexuality as an internal matter. Just as events in the late 1950s forced LDS leaders
to break their silence about Mormon homosexuality, the church's 1977 endorsement of
Anita Bryant's campaign prompted local gay activists to end their silence about
Mormonism. Their focus evolved from a generic oppression to the specific abuses of the
LDS Church, just as Mormon leaders had shifted from vague scriptural prohibitions of
sodomy to explicit attacks on "perverts" and "homos" in the 1960s.
Homosexuals as scapegoats, or in the words of some scholars, "folk demons,"
helped LDS leaders consolidate their power against the attenuating effects of unwieldy
growth and anti-authoritarianism. To use scholar Michael Cobb's phrase, homophobia

251
was a "lingua franca" uniting the church's rank and file behind their leaders' sovereign
authority.1 During the late 1970s, the church's policies similarly rallied Salt Lake's gays,
but differences persisted about the appropriate stance toward the church, consistent with
Mormons' ambiguous position between rejecting gays and redeeming them. Although
many gays separated from the LDS faith, it continued to exert a strong influence, and gays
within the church often remained conflicted. Because of the church's power, Salt Lake's
gays were in a class of their own, however typical their subculture. Writing from the
perspective of outsiders, authors Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley explained that Salt Lake
City "had all the appearances of any western community on the build" but "a closer look
revealed that this was a very different community."2 As this study shows, Mormonism
imposed extraordinary challenges on Salt Lake's gays, yet they bore their burdens with
incomparable grace.

'Michael Cobb, God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence (New York: New
York University Press, 2006), 14, 25-7, 30.
2

Gottlieb and Wiley, 22.

APPENDIX

SELECTED DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS


OF INTERVIEWEES

Primary
Occupation*

Currently or
Previously
Married*

Utah Native

LDS Upbringing

Peace Officer
Bartender
Social Worker
Bank Employee
Travel Agent
Teacher
Art Curator
Architect
Small Business
Owner
School Counselor
Visual Artist
Unavailable
Librarian
Freelance Writer
Property Manager
Social Worker
Teacher
Librarian

No
No
Currently
No
No
No
No
No
No

Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No

Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No

No
No
Previously
Previously
No
No
Currently
No
Previously

Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No

Yes
Yes
Yes
No1
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

*This field includes the previous occupations of retired persons. In a few cases, the
occupation field is marked "unavailable" to safeguard the subject's anonymity.
**In this case "marriage" refers to legally-sanctioned heterosexual marriage.
'Converted to the LDS faith as an adult.

253

Hospital
Administrator
Unavailable
University
Professor
Floral Designer
Retail Clerk
University
Professor
Medical Billing
Clerk

No

No

No

No
Previously

Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes

Previously
Previously
No

No
Yes
Yes

Yes
Yes
Yes

Previously

Yes

No

*This field includes the previous occupations of retired persons. In a few cases, the
occupation field is marked "unavailable" to safeguard the subject's anonymity.
**In this case "marriage" refers to legally-sanctioned heterosexual marriage.
'Converted to the LDS faith as an adult.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources
Interviews
Branson, Keith [pseud.]. Interview by author, 16 February 2004, Salt Lake City.
Cloward, Bill [pseud.]. Interview by author, 12 April 2004, Salt Lake City.
Corley, Allen [pseud.]. Interview by author, 8 December 2003, Davis County, Utah.
Durham, Trent [pseud.]. Interview by author, 14 July 2004, Salt Lake City.
Eldridge, Mark [pseud.]. Interview by author, 1 September 2004, Salt Lake City.
Hewitt, Wayne [pseud.]. Interview by author, 23 May 2004, Utah County.
Hammond, Brent [pseud.]. Interview by author, 20 June 2005, Sanpete County, Utah.
Holbrook, Ben [pseud.]. Interview by author, 6 December 2004, Salt Lake City.
Iverson, John [pseud.]. Interview by author, 19 July 2004, Salt Lake City.
Jeffries, Brian [pseud.]. Interview by author, 22 November 2004, Davis County, Utah.
Kelly, Rita [pseud.]. Interview by author, 11 October 2004, Salt Lake City.
Lambert, Stan [pseud.]. Interview by author, 26 April 2004, Salt Lake City.
Madsen, Neil [pseud.]. Interview by author, 14 June 2004, Salt Lake City.
Mattingly, Ken [pseud.]. Interview by author, 15 March 2004, Salt Lake City.
Metcalf, Allen [pseud.]. Interview by author, 15 January 2005, Salt Lake City.
Milner, Scott [pseud.]. Interview by author, 18 February 2006, Salt Lake City.
Pace, Rick [pseud.]. Interview by author, 29 March 2004, Salt Lake City.

255
Paulsen, Lee [pseud.]. Interview by author, 24 May 2004, Salt Lake City.
Perry, Edward [pseud.]. Interview by author, 8 December 2003, Davis County, Utah.
Ramos, Jeff [pseud.]. Interview by author, 28 June 2004, Salt Lake City.
Randall, Blaine [pseud.]. Interview by author, 2 January 2006, Salt Lake City.
Simms, David [pseud.]. Interview by author, 5 April 2004, Utah County.
Stratton, Tim [pseud.]. Interview by author, 9 January 2005, Salt Lake City.
Thompson, Evan [pseud.]. Interview by author, 26 December 2005, Davis County, Utah.
Topham, Gene [pseud.]. Interview by author, 2 May 2005, Salt Lake City.

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