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Changing Sexual Stereotypes

July 11, 1993

In his review of "Queer in America" by Michelangelo Signorile (June 27), Quentin Crisp reveals an ignorance of the author's ideas within the lesbian and gay civil rights movements in general.

Some familiarity with the history of the African-American civil rights movement or the women's movement would have shown Crisp that cultural changes don't occur because people sit down to tea and politely decide to change things. Angry members of oppressed groups march, write, put their jobs and lives on the line and risk alienating people. It is understandable that those who take the risks would be frustrated and angry at others who benefit from the privileges of silence and collusion with the dominant group.

Crisp believes we can now "see (films) in which black people of all kinds appear just as they do in real life." I'm not sure whose real life he is referring to, but any positive changes in the film industry have come from just the kind of outspoken, "abrasive" actions Crisp finds uncomfortable. (Think of Spike Lee.)

Thank you for publishing Signorile's "A Queer Manifesto" because it shows that his book contains gentleness, hope and good advice, along with the anger.

LEAH I. YOUNKER, SAN DIEGO

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I admire Quentin Crisp but I have great difficulties with some of his comments in his review of "Queer in America."

Crisp realistically claims that "to heterosexual people there is little difference between sodomy, incest, sadism or bestiality." But he betrays a profound misunderstanding of the process of sexual socialization when he insists that "This is a viewpoint that cannot be altered. . . ." As the author of "Myth and Sexuality," I take strong exception to the arbitrary notion that sexual and gender biases cannot be altered. One might as readily say the dogma that African-Americans are inferior cannot be altered. For all its biological basis, sexuality, like racial attitudes, is essentially a social construct, and there is virtually nothing about our sexual criteria that cannot be altered. To claim otherwise is to caste us into eternal social hopelessness.

JAMAKE HIGHWATER, LOS ANGELES

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In his review of "Queer in America" Crisp (a gay man) makes the following statement: "I am not sure that Signorile understands why straight men object to homosexuality. It is a fact of human nature that, if our attention is drawn toward some unusual behavior, we judge it by imagining what it would be like to take part in it. Most men know or can guess the nature of the sex acts in which homosexual males indulge, and they would hate to have to try them. This is a viewpoint that cannot be altered."

At last! A simple, reasonable, and politically incorrect view of many men's reactions to male homosexuality. Most people are not gay-bashers at heart, are not homophobic (the most misused and overused word in current lexicon), and generally have a "live and let live" attitude. However, instinctive reaction to "the act" is one of distaste, and, as Crisp says, this will not change.

This reaction is not criminal, or phobic, or correct, or incorrect. It just is.

KEVIN GRANT, LOS ANGELES

COMMENT, CORRECTION

Allow me to set the record straight on Nick Tosches' ineptly reported article of April 25, "Mafia-a-Go-Go." Tosches, who seems to fancy himself an authority on record mogul Morris Levy (though he did not even correctly report the year of Levy's death), printed two serious falsehoods about him. First, the man he described as Levy's "longtime accountant," Aaron Schechter, never worked for Levy a day in his life. Second and far more egregious, Tosches names Levy as a suspect in the murder of singer James Sheppard. I made a study of Morris Levy in researching my book, "Hit Men," and since Levy is no longer alive to defend himself, let me assure your readers that the murder charge is baseless and irresponsible.

FREDRIC DANNEN, NEW YORK CITY

Editor's note: "Mafia-a-Go-Go" did not mean to suggest that either Fredric Dannen's "Hit Men" or William Knoedelseder's "Stiffed" was poorly researched. The Times regrets it if this impression was created. Aaron Schechter was the accountant for acts signed to Morris Levy's Roulette recording label. Levy died in 1990.

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