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Gay in the USA: 1972

by Ethan Thompson

[commentary by Christin Wade-Vuturo]

The video clip from the 1972 public service documentary “Coming Out” focused on educating its audience about gay people and their culture by trying to convey the motivations and thoughts behind being gay. The documentary aired on WLAX with the broadcast station in Nashville, Tennessee. A large part of the PSA was footage of men in drag at the Miss Gay America Pageant in Nashville, blatantly and immediately displaying the lack of concern for desertion of the different types of LGBT people in the 1970s, long before the term existed. The documentary interviews priests, doctors, and police officers which all frame the topic of homosexuality as something that is scientifically explainable, curable with religion, or manageable with jail time.

This specific clip of the PSA features commentary from gay men themselves. The men explain that they are not a harm or threat to society, as many people believe they are. The men have honest intentions and explain they have no control over their sexual orientation and no intentions to do anything but live their lives and be happy. The man featured at the end of the clip, Tony, explains to the interviewer that he does not identify as gay and rejects societies labels, claiming he is just “Tony” and nothing else. We then see Tony lip-syncing to a song about freedom of self-expression and love, symbolizing the strength that LGBT people were gaining following the Stonewall Riots, which marked the beginning of the gay rights movement in 1969 in New York City.

This clip details the discrimination that many gay people faced in the 1970s. Many of the gay men interviewed chose to do the interview in shadow so that their families would not be offended or shamed. The lack of acceptance in society at the time called for the men to literally hide their faces when talking about issues of homosexuality. Additionally, the clip details the lack of concern addressed to differentiating between the types of gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual or in-between orientation that existed. The clip offers a glimpse into understanding the hostile waters that surrounded the early LGBT movement.

Gay in the USA: 1972

Three gay men discuss their hope to live normal, happy lives in 1972.

from Coming Out (1972)
Creator: WLAX/Nashville
Distributor: Peabody Archive
Posted by Ethan Thompson
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