The essay was published in the British journal Freedom, V19 N50, (December 13th, 1958).
Homosexuality & Freedom
A RECENT editorial in the Manchester Guardian made the proposal that “if two men, living together, give a reasonable man cause to believe that a homosexual act has been privately committed” then they will have to forego the right to privacy suggested in the Wolfenden Report, To this Stephen Spender, in a letter to the editor, properly replied that, if this proposition were made law, it would effectively end not only the “right to privacy”, but also the male cohabitation tolerated under the present law. It would, he wrote, “ . . . put a question in the minds of
their neighbours about what was the nature of the relationship of any two men sharing apartments in a district”. He argued that it would lead to “persecution, prosecution and blackmail” and that it would “encourage the great army of busybodies, amateur spies, and Puritans who are already keen to interfere in other people’s lives”.
To anarchists, whose standards are not those of legality and conventional morality, all this may seem very obvious. It is good, nonetheless, that such views should be expressed in a national newspaper. What is important, however, is that we should encourage the extension of this attitude of non-interference to cover all so-called ‘queer’ relationships, whether they be homosexual, lesbian or ‘perverted’ in character. Any relationship which is entered into freely and which the participants can dissolve when it no longer satisfies them cannot be opposed by those whose watchword is freedom. We may think such a relationship it unhealthy, that those engaged in it are neurotic, but we have no ethical warrant for interference. The libertarian criterion it that of whether a relationship is voluntary or coerced. If it is the former, we must exercise tolerance, no matter how distasteful the relationship might appear to us. If it is the latter, then we must oppose it and seek to help the coerced person, or persons, to liberate themselves.
Perhaps there are readers of this paper to whom such views as these will seem tantamount to sanctioning an orgy of sexual vice and ‘immorality’. If there are we can only answer that the acceptance of the principles of freedom, of the right to self-determination, involves tolerance of any practice, belief, or relationship, that does not violate the sovereignty of the individual. Suppression, intolerance and puritanism have yielded a harvest of fear and furtiveness that has blighted the lives of millions. The exercise of tolerance, responsibility and respect would not only be in keeping with a libertarian ethic, it would also counteract those tendencies towards asocial activity which are often induced in the sexual deviant by the repressive, authoritarian condemnations to virulently urged, by the anti-life representatives of ‘virtue’ and ‘decency’.