Letter: Lesbians and gays on the march

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Sir: It is extraordinary of you to describe last weekend's March on Washington, a peaceful and legal demonstration for lesbian and gay rights, as aggressive and counter-

productive ('An aggressive step in the wrong direction', 26 April).

Shows of support of this huge size (more than 1 million people) send their own unique message to politicians, as well as being invaluable morale-boosters to the campaigners, and they have undoubtedly been a key factor in the success of previous great civil rights movements. Behind-the-scenes lobbying belongs alongside, not in place of, these mass tactics; this is not altered by the presence of one sympathiser (albeit the most important one) among Washington's politicians.

Large-scale visibility is maybe even more important to lesbian and gay campaigners than to others: it is largely because so many gay people are hidden that their needs and their rights are ignored. Furthermore, the sight of large numbers of gay people, happy and confident, can be an immense comfort to those who are in the process of coming out, a process which is often all too difficult and traumatic.

Indeed, the real message of the Battelle study on sexual behaviour to which you refer is simply that few homosexuals are 'out' to the point of their being open with someone who telephones them, out of the blue, claiming to be an independent researcher who wants to ask them some very personal questions. Is this surprising when gay sex is widely regarded as sinful and is actually illegal in half the states of the union?

Although you choose not to point this out, the Battelle study has been widely criticised. Dr Ted McIlvenna, president of the Institute for Advanced Study in Human Sexuality in San Francisco, for example, has described the study not only as scientific hogwash but also as 'almost a homophobic diatribe'. A sound study requires one to ensure that all participants can trust the interviewers and trust the anonymity of the data, and such studies give very different results to those of the Battelle report.

The preliminary findings of the institute's own report which began in 1970 and includes more than 90,000 people, suggest that 4 per cent of men are exclusively homosexual and a further 6 per cent predominantly homosexual. It is worth pointing out that Kinsey's figures are very similar to these; they certainly did not claim 10 per cent of men are exclusively homosexual as your editorial suggests.

Yours faithfully,



27 April