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This Week 458: Homosexuals (1964)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Bryan Magee claims that one in twenty people of both sexes are homosexual, and that it's only possible to recognise "the obvious ones", a tiny majority. He cites various famous people known to be homo- or bisexual: Socrates, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, William Rufus, Edward II, James I, William III, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Frederick the Great, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, Proust, Hans Christian Andersen, Tchaikovsky, Oscar Wilde, Lord Kitchener, Lawrence of Arabia.

Homosexuals come in all walks of life: civil and military. The law treats men and women differently: for women, homosexuality is not a crime. Only half a dozen countries in the world deem homosexuality to be illegal, including Britain.

Magee interviews five anonymous men. The first speaks about his need to pretend, to guard his language. He feels that to some extent homosexuals are recognised by what they say when discussing ordinary topics, particularly when making assumptions about the future. Between 16 and 22 he found it hard to come to terms with his homosexuality, but this changed when he met an ordinary man who just happened to be homosexual. He says that he has few sexual feelings towards women despite media pressure. He wanted girlfriends when he was younger, though largely as a social convenience. He describes a mutually unsatisfactory sexual relationship with a close female friend.

The second man, a middle-aged office worker, describes his life after he left his wife. He moved to London, and became involved with an organisation which facilitated his meeting his current (male) partner at a church service. They have been together for seventeen years. He feels they lead a 'normal' life, like a married couple, and he and his partner are accepted by both families. He claims his love for his partner is greater than that of his married friends towards their wives.

The third man is a waiter. He describes the break-up of the relationship between himself and his long-term male partner, who found his increasing independence very difficult to accept. He claims that it is easy to meet and recognise other homosexual men, though he can't always tell immediately. If they are attractive, he makes overtures, and is sometimes rebuffed.

The fourth man is in his sixties, and expresses sadness that he has no children and family. He conceals his homosexuality from most of his acquaintances. Some members of his family and colleagues know, but it is never openly discussed.

The fifth man confesses to leading a double life: nobody knows about his homosexuality. He moved from Scotland to London in quest of greater freedom. He recently lost his job because a 'friend' made an anonymous telephone call to his employer.

In Holland, homosexuality is legal between consenting adults in private. The C.O.C. club is one of the biggest organisations for homosexuals, with 4,000 male and female members and branches in six cities. The General Secretary talks about the provisions which the organisation makes for members: legal advice (especially for practising homosexuals under 21, the legal age of consent) and recommendations on dealing with blackmail threats, especially to people in high office.

At the Amsterdam C.O.C., male couples and one female couple dance in close physical proximity, sit and chat, some with their arms around each other. Magee acknowledges that these people have feelings that are just as strong and natural as those of 'normal' couples.

He asks one member of the club if he is open about his homosexuality, and is told: partly. His brother and colleagues know about and accept it. He feels that for him there is no disadvantage in being homosexual: other men living in more provincial, repressive places may have problems. The General Secretary talks about the difficulties men face in living together.

Magee returns to England and continues interviewing the fourth man (the one in his sixties). He says that he would prefer to be heterosexual if it were possible, if only for the sake of society, though he sees advantages in being bisexual and having the best of both worlds. He thinks most homosexuals would agree with him. The second interviewee says that homosexual men often need someone to talk to, and suggests a doctor or a priest.