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An exploratory ethnographic study of an identifiably male homosexual subculture

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Title:
An exploratory ethnographic study of an identifiably male homosexual subculture gay church attendees
Creator:
Johnston, Eileen Ruth
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Language:
English
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106 leaves : forms ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Gay men ( lcsh )
Church work with gays -- California -- Los Angeles ( lcsh )
Church work with gays ( fast )
Gay men ( fast )
California -- Los Angeles ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 74-90).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of Sociology.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Eileen Ruth Johnston.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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Resource Identifier:
19783198 ( OCLC )
ocm19783198
Classification:
LD1190.L66 1988m .J53 ( lcc )

Full Text
AN EXPLORATORY ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF AN
IDENTIFIABLY MALE HOMOSEXUAL SUBCULTURE:
GAY CHURCH ATTENDEES
by
EILEEN RUTH JOHNSTON
B.S. Central Missouri State University* 1971
M.A. Washington University* 1973
M.A.C.J. John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
City University New York* 1979
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Department of Sociology
1988


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by
Eileen Ruth Johnston
has been approved for the
Department of
Soc i ology
by
Date


in
Johnston* Eileen Ruth (M. A.* Sociology)
An Exploratory Ethnographic Study of an Identifiably
Male Homosexual Subculture: Gay Church Attendees
Thesis directed by Professor Karl H. Flaming
This exploratory case study was designed to depict
male homosexuals in a large metropolitan area who
attended a predominantly gay church. Research
techniques included participant observation*
interviews and a questionnaire.
The emphasis was directed on describing this gay
population in terms of its norms* values and
behaviors, while addressing what* if any, impact the
external threat of the Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic had on this particular
subculture's ability to maintain itself.
This subculture more closely approximated dominant
culture members than did previous research subjects
who were drawn from gay bars* gay baths and tearooms.
Thus* this study provided a unique perspective on the
gay subculture.
This study showed that within this defined
subculture, members held attitudes, values, beliefs
and behaviors similar to those of the dominant culture.
Also* participants were highly educated* with various
occupations and commensu rate incomes. Participants
also indicated changes in sexual and other behaviors;
however* the impact exerted by AIDS cannot be stated.


IV
CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION................................ 1
Purpose of Ethnology....................... 1
Study Issues and Problems.................. 2
Methodological Techniques.................. 3
Limitations of Ethnographic Studies.. 4
Group to be Studied........................ 7
Importance of This Study.................. 10
II. SUBCULTURES................................. 12
Generalized Subculture Discussion.... 12
The Homosexual Subculture................. 15
III. ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT OF THE SELECT
SUBCULTURE: A CASE STUDY OF THE
METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCHES................... 22
Introduction.............................. 22
Evolution of the Universal Fellowship
of Metropolitan Community Churches. 23
The Church as Functioning Entity...... 26
Church Services........................ 28
Sunday Brunches........................ 30
Holy Unions............................ 31
Organizational and Social Support.. 33
Bingo.................................. 35
Outside Support........................ 36


V
Roles of Church Members................. 37
Summary................................... 42
IV. THE SELECTED SUBCULTURE: GAY
CHURCH ATTENDEES. ........................... 43
Introduction.............................. 43
Socio-economic Characteristics............ 44
Religious Background...................... 45
Values and Openness....................... 46
Reported Impacts of AIDS.................. 49
Sexual Behaviors.......................... 51
Sexual Freedom............................ 54
Summary................................... 54
V. SUMMARY, DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS... 55
Summary................................... 55
Discussion........................... 57
Conclusions............................... 71
BIBLIOGRAPHY....................................... 74
APPENDICES
A. Research Methodology........................... 91
B. Questionnaire Instrument...................... 101


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Pu rpose al an Ethnology
Certain phenomena* such as deviant
subcultures* are relatively difficult for researchers
to access and ethnographic research is one acceptable
means of bridging the barriers between the subjects
and the researcher. In the field of sociology* two
classical examples of ethnographic research ares
Tal1vs Corner (Liebow 1967) and Street Corner Soc i ety
(Whyte 1943). This particular thesis is an
ethnographic study of a church which serves a segment
of the gay subculture in a large metropolitan area.
Ethnology was established as a field of study
in the United States and Europe in the 1840fs (Ellen
1984) and developed as a derivative of anthropology at
the University of Chicago in the early twentieth
century (Thomas 1983). Ethnography was, and still is,
used predominantly by anthropologists, but has been,
and is, being utilized by other social scientists
(Ellen 1984; Marcus 1980; Werner and Schoepfle 1987).
Ethnology is derived from "ethno meaning folk
and "graphy" meaning study of another culture (Werner


and Schoepfle 1987). Ethnology is defined as "The
direct observation of the activity of members of a
particular social group* and the description and
evaluation of such activity..." (Abercrombie* Hill and
Turner 1986* p. 83) .
Ethnographic studies may be designed to
portray a picture of a population in terms of its
institutions and selected groups. In sociology such
studies usually are directed towards small groups
which are observed for extended periods of time.
Study Issue.s and Problems
When a particular subculture is selected for
indepth research* certain issues and problems must be
addressed by the researcher and this research is no
exception. This particular study population was
selected for participant observation because it had
not been previously addressed in the literature and
access was not a point of contention.
The first problem in selecting a study
population is that of identifying and gaining access
to a subculture population. In this instance locating
and obtaining entry into the Metropolitan Community
Church was not a problem because no restrictions
existed concerning who could attend religious
services. This church population openly supported
this research


3
Second* a number of general substantive
problems and issues to be addressed concerned what
identified individuals as members of this subculture*
what made them a subculture* what purpose did this
particular subculture serve for its members* to what
degree did members of this subculture differ from
members of the dominant culture and what distinguished
this as a subculture? These were the general
questions which this research addressed.
M.e.t.h.Q.dol.P.3J-QAJ. Techniques
The basic tools/methodology of the ethnologist
are observation and interviews (Werner and Schoepfle
1987; Ziegler and Michelson 1981) and/or case studies
and surveys (Fine and Kleinman 1985). Case studies are
indepth observations of a designated group for
extended periods of time* from which implications are
drawn from the data obtained (Fine and Kleinman 1985);
i.e. an ethnology. An ethnology applies methodological
rules and normative techniques (Thomas 1983).
The most common methodology applied in
ethnographic studies is participant observation*
accompanied by individual interviews (Jarvie 1983;
Thomas 1983; Werner and Schoepfle 1987). Surveys are
employed to obtain data from a different perspective
and when combined with the other two approaches*
allows for triangulation (Fine and Kleinman 1985).


4
Ethnographic studies provide a means of analyzing
social situations (Thomas 1983).
Limitations q£ Ethnographic Studies
Ethnographic studies* as do other research
techniques* have certain weaknesses that must be
identified and acknowledged. One such weakness is
that often researchers describe their study in terms
of their own* rather than the subjects' needs (Thomas
1983); thereby not portraying an accurate picture of
the group under study. In conjunction with this* are
the researchers' moral standards. The researcher
cannot allow his/her own morals* either positively or
negatively* to influence interaction within the group
by either permitting them to be barriers to
interaction or imposing them on the group under study
(Cressey 1983).
The degree to which a participant observer can
actually participate within the group under study is
determined by the latitude afforded the researcher by
the group members (Werner and Schoepfle 1987).
Therefore* the researcher may not be privileged to
observe certain activities which could result in an
inaccurate portrayal of the group under study.
As a participant observer* the researcher
will* in some form* affect the population under study
and different researchers will record their


observations differently (Goode and Hatt 1952; Jarvie
1983). Add itional1y, because no two groups are
subject to the same experiences and
influences, the results of an ethnographic study are
not generalizab1e (Hunt 1985).
Also, as a participant observer, the
researcher must constantly guard against becoming
emotionally involved in the group; thereby losing
his/her objectivity (Goode and Hatt 1952). In
addition, the researcher must constantly be aware of
the language of the group under study and not try to
impart his/her meanings to the language (Werner and
Schoepf1e 1987).
In general, ethnographic studies have
weaknesses and limitations which must be accounted
for. The researcher must constantly be aware of and
protect against ethnocentrism, applying one's own
meanings to the groups' language, or becoming
emotionally involved, thus losing objectivity.
Even though the results of an ethnography
cannot be applied to other segments of the general
population, it still has merit as a research
technique. The ethnography provides a more indepth
portrayal of the population being studied, thereby
enhancing the overall knowledge and understanding of
different aspects of the subculture. This provides
the reader additional areas for further research


6
endeavors. Additionally* this research is designed
for micro* not macro investigations.
An ethnography is a means of affording the
researcher an opportunity to understand the subjects
in their natural environment* while simultaneously
balancing his/her data and reasoning (Agar 1983).
When studying a gay subculture the researcher must be
able to enter their environment and participate in
their activities* if one is to gain an insight and
understanding of the population under study.
Gays are not readily identifiable; they do not
wear a distinguishing mark indicating their sexual
orientation. Oftentimes subcultures are readily
identifiable by such things as their skin color or
facial features (blacks* Hispanics and orientals) or
their unique form of dress (Amish); however* gays do
not always wear distinguishing dress* nor do they
portray stereotypical mannerisms commonly associated
with their classification as homosexuals.
The researcher should be able to provide the
reader with an overall description of the subculture
under study. The picture should provide a relatively
concise description of an unfamiliar area by depicting
iterns which are physical and visible (such as
clothing, hairstyles, rituals and others) to less
visible values and norms (Fine and Kleinman 1985). An
ethnography is the best method to obtain the desired


7
results, because without actually observing the
group's activities, and merely relying on interviews
or survey distribution and completion (provided a gay
population could be visibly located) would produce an
inadequate and incomplete picture of the gay
population under study. An ethnography permits a form
of examination of a specific group in terms of the
interdependence of their ideology, social behavior and
social structure (Thomas 1983).
Group to. b_£ Stud ied
For this particular study, a specific
homosexual population was identified. The group
studied were male homosexuals who attended a Church in
a large metropolitan area. Attendees at social as
well formal religious services were observed and
interviewed, and additionally, attendees on a
predetermined Sunday received a questionnaire which
they were requested to complete and return.
This particular group was selected for study
because they provided an identifiable homosexual
population that would afford this researcher access to
their norms, values, attitudes and beliefs of the
homosexual subculture. For example, one norm within
the gay subculture was sexual involvement with members
of the same sex; an important value for this
subculture was having sexual freedom; an attitude


8
which has become incorporated in this subculture was
that AIDS will result in lifestyle changes; and a
commonly held belief was that being homosexual did not
mean one was condemned to "Hell.
Previous studies dealt with segments of the
gay subculture, that by their setting, should depict a
popu1 ation that engaged in promiscuous sexual
practices; therefore, this study selected a setting
where the participants would be more likely to engage
in more "normal" interactions. Thus, this study
should depict gays from a different perspective than
have other studies.
In the years before the Stonewall Riots of
1969, which commenced the gay rights movement,
homosexual lifestyles were generally secretive in
nature and one had to have a means of gaining access
into this underground subculture (Altman 1982;
D'Emillio 1983). Attendees at Metropolitan Community
Church appeared to be predominantly, but not
exclusively, homosexual. They had opened their doors
previously to researchers and supported research
endeavors. Therefore, with the support of the clergy,
specifically the minister, and the attendees in
general, this particular subgroup of the homosexual
population was determined to provide a heretofore
untapped environment for study.


9
Past research of the homosexual population has
been predominantly conducted in gay bars* gay baths
and other gay locations where social activities were
primarily for sexual encounters (Hooker 1956;
Humphreys 1970; Warren 1974). Humphreys' study dealt
with males who participated in anonymous sexual
activities in public restrooms* commonly referred to
in the gay subculture as 'tearooms'. The majority of
the clientele who opted for this form of sexual
encounter did not actively participate in other
factions of the gay subculture (Humphreys 1970).
Warren (1974) was concerned with a selected male
homosexual population involved primarily in small
informal group interactions* which were generally
conducted at various participants homes. Achilles
(1967)* Hooker (1956, 1967) and Lezenoff and Westley
(1956) looked at the homosexual community from a
functionalist perspective* in the ethnographic
tradition (Sonenshein 1968).
This study does not purport to provide a
representative cross-section of an urban gay
population or its subculture, only to provide a
different perspective of the gay subculture in an
attempt to provide a more complete picture. Due to
the stigma attached to identifying one's self as
homosexual* coupled with various fears ranging from
exposure to loss of family* friends and job* to


violence directed towards the individual* there has
been no definitive research on what constitutes the
homosexual population in terms of actual numbers and
absolute characteristics (Feldman 1985 $ Lezenoff and
West!ey 1956) .
Importance q This Study
This study was important for the following
reasons. First* this afforded another opportunity in
which to study subcultures. It also enhanced one's
understanding of this subculture in terms of their
differences and similarities .to the dominant culture.
Second* this study allowed for an exploratory*
naturalistic* investigation into a segment of the
homosexual population that had not been historically
studied. By studying this aspect* another perspective
of the gay subculture has been identified and depicted
in which to compare/contrast findings from other gay
subculture studies. This study was conducted within
the confines of a religious institution which may
attract a different segment of gays than those who
\
would have been involved in previous studies. No
other studies have addressed this segment of the
population and therefore it was anticipated that this
study would fill a gap in the previous research
conducted and indicate alternate directions for future
researchers to travel.


11
Third* this study allowed for the combination
of participant observation* interviews and survey data
for case analysis. Triangulation allowed for a
broader and more accu rate depiction of the subculture
under study.
Finally* this study provided an opportunity to
discover how the homosexual population in this
particular subculture dealt with both long and short
term threats or perceived threats to their way of life
in terms of their reported behaviors* as well as their
observed behavior patterns.


CHAPTER II
SUBCULTURES
Generali zed Subculture Discussion
Subcultures have been defined in various ways
without an all-encompassing definition having been
developed (Fine and Kleinman 1985; McCaghy 1976;
Yinger 1960). However# for the purpose of this paper
the following definition of a subculture will be
utilized. A subculture is ... "a system of values#
attitudes# modes of behavior and lifestyles of a
social group which is distinct from# but related to
the dominant culture of a society" (Abercrombie# Hill
and Turner 1986# p. 212). The term subculture labels
a segment of the population as a distinctly separate
but related entity of the dominant culture (Fine and
Kleinman 1985; Hall and Jefferson 1976; Yinger 1960).
A subculture indicates the existence of a
culture# a more encompassing term. Culture# like its
derivative subculture# has been plagued by numerous
meanings (Abercrombie# Hill and Turner 1986; Clarke
1974). In general# culture implies learned behaviors#
attitudes# norms# values# beliefs and traditions by


13
members of a given society (Brake 1980; Dawson 1948;
Gordon 1970; Herskovits 1985).
Much research in the area of subcultures has
been concerned with groups that deviated markedly from
the dominant culture. There are some subcultures that
involve activities defined by the dominant culture as
illegal or are negatively stigmatized (Akers 1968;
Bowker 1977; Cavan 1975; Douglas 1970; Henslin 1977;
Yinger 1960). Hence the term subculture is
frequently associated with the concept of "deviant
from the dominant culture (Ashworth and Walker 1972;
Henslin 1977; Humphreys and Miller 1980; McIntosh
1968). The groups most commonly aligned with deviant
subcultures are: delinquent youth groups, prison
subcultures, drug subcultures and homosexuals (Bowker
1977; Brake 1980; Cloward and Ohlin 1975; Cohen 1970;
Douglas 1970; Hall and Jefferson 1976; McCaghy 1976;
Wolfgang and Terracuti 1970). Other less negatively
stigmatized subcultures which have been studied
include: students, the elderly, the poverty class,
Latin Americans and the Amish (Longind, McClelland and
Peterson 1980; McCaghy 1976; Oxley 1975; Said 1971).
In ethnographic case studies subculture
encompasses those group members who identify
themselves as a part of a group that has some form of
communication, shared norms and values and and a
unique language (Fine and Kleinman 1985; Hollinshead


14
19705 McCaghy 1976; Rueda 1982). Throughout an
individual's life span* the person lives within
numerous subcultures, both simultaneously and
independently (Arnold 1970b; Fine and Kleinman 1985;
Oxley 1975).
Each subculture is unique from other
subcultures (Hollinshead 1970). Subcultures sanction
certain behaviors which the dominant culture does not.
When the subculture is not accepted by members of the
dominant culture, its members reaffirm their values
and provide for their needs (Cohen 1970; McCaghy 1976;
Wolfgang and Terracuti 1970). Subcultures, like any
culture, if they are to survive, must continuously
adapt to changes internally as well as in response to
external environments (Irwin 1970).
Subcultures are alternative means to the
dominant culture and allow for a decrease in the
conflict between both factions, which permits society
to survive (Arnold 1970b; Brake 1980; Said 1971). Not
everyone in society is socialized precisely in the
same manner; therefore, variations in learned
behaviors, attitudes and beliefs will permeate both
the dominant culture and its subcultures (Barrett
1984; Kerbo 1983). Homosexuals are not socialized from
birth into the homosexual subculture, but rather are
socialized into the dominant culture, with its values,
norms and beliefs (Warren 1974).


15
Socialization is an ongoing process throughout
an individual's life time* and when someone enters the
gay subculture* he commences a socialization process
into that subculture. Subcultures draw from and
retain portions of the learned values, attitudes*
beliefs and expectations of the dominant culture that
are applicable to their existence (Brake 1980; Clarke
1974; Oxley 1975; Walter 1982).
Subcultures provide researchers with a
delineated area of study* often times* but not always,
in relation to geographic boundaries (Arnold 1970c;
Gordon 1947; McCaghy 1976). Thus, subcultures provide
an area of study for the researcher from the viewpoint
of the subculture rather than the dominant society
(PIummer 1975).
The Homosexual Subculture
The homosexual subculture* sometimes referred
to as the homosexual "community", has been studied
previously from selected factions that present a
delineated sector of the homosexual population
(Achilles 1967; Hooker 1956, 1967; Humphries 1970;
Warren 1974). However* bars and public sex occurrences
cannot be utilized to portray an extensive picture of
the gay subculture (Plummer 1975). These activities
involve only a portion of gay subculture members i n a
limited environment. There is much more than public


16
sexual activities. For instance* gays frequent gay
restaurants, theaters that show films primarily
associated with the gay lifestyle, gay bookstores
that stock a wide variety of gay literature (gay
novels, gay magazines, gay newspapers and others) gay
guides that reference gay locations (bars,
restaurants, hotels, bookstores and other facilities)
and advertise activities that are of interest to
members of the gay community and other nonsexually
directed activities.
Homosexuals for various reasons congregate in
large urban areas. After World War II, many
homosexuals departed the military services and
remained in some of the larger disembarkment cities,
such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York
(Castells 1983; Murray 1984). These same areas are
still homosexual meccas where openly homosexual
lifestyles and communities are located (Harry, 1978;
Karlen 1978; Patton 1985).
The homosexual population consists of
individuals from all strata within society
(Auchincloss 1968; Gould 1979; Karlen 1978; Lezenoff
and Westley 1956; Pomeroy 1969). Some homosexuals who
can pass as heterosexuals, are not limited to
participation in the homosexual subculture and do not
need this subculture as much as those who cannot pass
as heterosexuals (Dannecker 1978; Murray 1984).


Frequently homosexuals who can pass as heterosexuals*
in order to preserve their association with the
dominant culture did not participate in the gay
subculture* because they feared exposure of their
homosexual orientation. What primarily distinguishes
homosexuals from heterosexuals is that they are
involved in sexual relationships with members of the
same sex.
Of possibly even greater importance is that
individuals have "come out"/identified themselves as
homosexuals (Berger 1983; Burk 1978; Dank 1979; Levine
1979; Lynch 1987). This identification of oneself as
homosexual is important because until one accepts
oneself as homosexual# one can engage in homosexual
activities* without acknowledging one's homosexuality*
i.e.* an individual to be homosexual must identify
oneself as homosexual. It is one's self
identification as homosexual that distinguishes a
homosexual from someone who is merely engaging in
homosexual sexual activities because they are unable
to have sex with a member of the opposite sex due to
environmental constraints* such as being imprisoned*
and as soon as a heterosexual partner is available*
the heterosexual will no longer engage in homosexual
sexual activities.
Homosexual history has not been well
documented in more open and socially acceptable


18
settings for various reasons. Some of the reasons
proposed for this inadequate or inaccurate history
will be addressed here. The foremost reason for an
inaccurate and incomplete history of the gay
subculture relates to the prejudices experienced by
homosexuals which led to their lifestyles being
conducted in secrecy, creating a secretive sector of
the society (Karlen 1978; Lezenoff and Westley 1956;
Warren 1974). The subculture has survived
predominantly in an underground setting, with strict
limitations on access by outsiders (Humphreys 1970;
Lynch 1987).
Secondly, because this subculture has been
negatively stigmatized, many homosexuals have not been
openly homosexual to members of the heterosexual
society. Because homosexuality has not been condoned
by the dominant culture, there have been many negative
sanctions imposed against homosexuals (Ellis 1968;
Humm 1980; Lezenoff and Westley 1956; McIntosh 1968).
These negative sanctions have resulted in homosexuals
existing in secretive lifestyles (Lezenoff and Westley
1956; Warren and Laslett 1977). To be identified as a
homosexual can result in loss of family, friends,
jobs, homes and other important factors (Eitzen 1985;
Gould 1979; Lezenoff and Westley 1956; McCaghy 1976).
This secrecy has led to many homosexuals being afraid
to be seen or interviewed in gay establishments.


19
The costs of openly identifying oneself as
being homosexual has been and continues to be too
great for a subpopu1 ation of this subculture. Within
the gay subculture many people identify themselves by
first names only* by false names or by saying nothing
at all* in order to decrease their opportunities for
exposure (Harry 1978). Additional1y* often times there
are no discussions concerning occupations or
residential areas by participants in this subculture.
The aforementioned are all coping techniques and
adaptive in nature.
The above limitations on studies of the
homosexual subculture were more severe prior to the
Stonewall Riots of 1969* which marked the commencement
of the gay rights movement (DEmillio 1983; Humm 1980;
Morin 1977; Teachout 1983). Since that time many
homosexuals have fought for their civil rights and
openly expressed their sexual orientation (Altman
1986; Plummer 1975; Teachout 1983). This openness
provides heretofore untapped research opportunities.
The homosexual population conforms to the
aforement.ioned characteristics of stigmatized
subcultures. Homosexuals are negatively stigmatized by
the dominant culture (Gagnon and Simon 1967; Pollack*
Huntley* Allen and Schwartz 1976; Plummer 1975; Warren
1974; Weissbach and Zagon 1975). In the case of
homosexuals* they are both legally and socially


20
stigmatized (Lezenoff and Westley 1956). Homosexuals
are primarily stigmatized because they defy the
dominant cultures idea of "normal sexual behavior#
as exemplified by Judaeo-Christian teachings (Bullough
1978; Burk 1978; Maret 1984; McCaghy 1976; Rueda
1982) .
One of the primary functions of the gay
subculture is affirmation of one's gayness (Chauncey
1985; Levine 1979; Lezenoff and Westley 1956; McCaghy
1976). The gay subculture provides numerous
opportunities for gays to meet and interact with other
gays# such as bars# churches and gay owned and
operated businesses restaurants# barber shops#
clothiers and so on. It is at these locations where
gays are provided acceptance of their sexual
orientation and they are able to openly express
themselves# e.g. they can hold their partners hand#
they can kiss# they can dance together and they can
discuss various aspects of their lives# without
concern for who may be present. With the exception of
their own homes, provided they are not living with
someone who is unaware of their sexual orientation#
such as their parents# the gay subculture is the one
environment where they can be gay.
The homosexual subculture provides its own
unique set of values# beliefs and norms (Lezenoff and
Westley 1956; Plummer 1975; Rueda 1982). One norm


within the gay subculture has been sexual diversity.
In the dominant culture, one is expected to marry and
be monogamous. In the gay subculture the norm is less
restrictive, ranging from sexual promiscuity to
monogamous, long term relationships. Many gays placed
a high value on being openly gay, while others placed
the value on being gay and open only to selected
individuals. Also gays believed their sexual
orientation was not "wrong" and that they were not
religiously condemned.
In summary, the homosexual subculture provided
new research opportunities into the functioning of
subcultures in terms of their adaptations to internal
and external threats to its existence. In this
chapter subcultures, and in particular the homosexual
subculture were discussed. The next chapter will
address in depth, one congregation of the Universal
Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.


CHAPTER III
ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT OF THE SELECTED
SUBCULTURE; A CASE STUDY OF THE
METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH
Introduction
The previous chapters were designed to
provide the foundation for the remainder of this
study. Chapter I presented background information on
ethnographic research. Chapter II presented requisite
data on cultures and subcultures, with an emphasis on
the homosexual subculture. This chapter will provide
a description of a selected subculture institution
that has not been previously addressed in depth: a
predominantly gay church in a western metropolitan
area, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan
Community Churches.
As in the dominant culture, not all church
attendees are representative of the culture. So
too, the attendees at Metropolitan Community
Church will not represent all members of the
homosexual subculture. Nevertheless this group
afforded this researcher an opportunity to
participate in, observe and interview a segment of


23
the homosexual subculture that has not been
specifically analyzed.
All Metropolitan Community Churches are not
the same in terms of membership composition,
qualified clergy members, support rendered to its
members and so forth. Therefore, the picture
presented in this paper represents that of the
researcher in terms of participant observation in
one selected Metropolitan Community Church.
E-V.o.l UtJ-O.n -the Universal Fel lowship
Metropolitan Community Churches
The charter of the Universal Fellowship of
Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), a world-wide
religious organization based on Christian
(predominantly Protestant) beliefs was founded by
Reverend Troy D. Perry as a result of his struggle to
accept his homosexuality in terms of his belief in
God. The name evolved from Troy Perry's belief that
God wanted him to found a Church that provided a place
to worship for "...anyone and everyone who believed in
the true spirit of God's love, peace and forgiveness"
(Perry 1972, p. 106); Community because it would be a
place to foster camaraderie for members of the
homosexual community; and Metropolitan because the
church was to meet the needs of the Los Ang'eles
metropolitan area (Perry 1972, p. 106).


24
At the first sermon, conducted in his home,
Troy set forth the original purpose of the
Metropolitan Community Church: to meet the religious,
spiritual and social needs of the homosexual community
in Los Angeles and later to expand to meet those needs
of homosexuals everywhere. Throughout the years this
goal has been achieved. There are over 200
Metropolitan Community Churches throughout the United
States, Canada, and other parts of the world
ministering predominantly to members of the gay
subculture.
After the congregation became too large for
Troy's house, the Metropolitan Community Church rented
space for Sunday services at the Huntington Park
Women's Club, until the stigma of homosexuality became
an issue. Services were conducted in various
locations, which changed frequently, due to the
congregation being homosexual. The church observed
also utilized rented buildings, until funds were
raised to purchase a permanent location.
This church denomination developed as a result
of conflict between one man and organized religion.
Formal religious organizations did not and for the
most part, still do not condone nor accept
homosexuality; however, this is becoming a more
prominent issue within religious denominations as more


25
clergy members acknowledge their homosexuality and/or
become more accepting of their homosexual members.
The desires of one man to provide religious
opportunities for a stigmatized sector of society and
the availability of willing participants made the
founding of this organized religious group possible.
Homosexual behavior has been tolerated in some periods
of history and condemned during other periods, but it
has never been a totally acceptable lifestyle within
society (Bullough 1972j Greenberg and Bystryn 1982;
McCaghy 1976). Troy Perry, as were many other
homosexuals, was ostracized from organized religions
because of his sexual orientation.
Perrys belief in God and ultimately his
acceptance of his own sexuality resulted in his
separation from heterosexual society to address the
needs of the homosexual subculture. For many
homosexual members of society, there was and continues
to be, conflict between the heterosexual morals and
norms they were socialized into and their own
homosexual morals and norms. Society teaches that
homosexuality is wrong and against the teachings of
God; yet, Troy believed that homosexuals were God's
children too. Therefore, the need to be accepted as
homosexual was assisted through participation in an
organized religion that fulfilled the needs of its
unique membership.


The culmination of the following events
eventually led to the founding of Metropolitan
Community Church: (1) being denied admission to
various seminaries! (2) being prohibited from
preaching in organized churches; (3) his wife being
informed of his homosexuality; and (4) his wife
leaving, with their two children.
Die Church as. £. Functioning Entity
Religion is an institution designed to meet
the spiritual as well as other needs of society. The
Metropolitan Community Church congregation under study
has been successful, because it has been fluid, not
static, adapting as the congregation's needs have
changed to maintain a state of equilibrium. As
challenges, such as being forced to relocate, to the
church arose, church members responded and found a new
location where services could be held. The success of
the church was important to its congregation and they
exerted whatever effort was necessary to maintain the
organization.
Part of this success has been due to Dr.
Reverend Charlie, an ordained Methodist minister, who
received his D.D.M. from Iliff Seminary in Denver.
"Charlie" is devoted to God and his congregation and
the needs of this population. To receive his support,


27
guidance, or assistance, requires no membership in the
church, only a need for his abilities.
He once stated that he is not concerned if or
what church someone attends or what religion they
profess, only that they know they are welcome in his
church, as they are. There were no judgments passed
on the individual based on whether he/she was
bisexual, a "queen", a transvestite, a transexual or
heterosexual. To him, everyone was God's child.
One individual stated that he had attended
congregations across the country and until he
discovered this congregation, he was unable to
participate in organized religious/social activities.
The other congregations he attended were unable to
fulfill not only his spiritual needs but they did not
provide social, and to a lesser degree, political
activities designed for members of the homosexual
subculture. What distinguished this congregation were
its minister and attendees.
The following two examples indicate how the
church responded to meet the needs of its
congregation. First, Richard Ploen, the first
minister to join the Metropolitan Community Church,
provided sign language interpretation for its deaf
members at church services. (The Metropolitan
Community Church observed provided signing at the
11:00 a.m. service.) Often deaf and other handicapped


28
persons needs were not accommodated by various
institutions and in a subculture where considerable
emphasis was placed on the person's physical
attributes, if the church were to meet the needs of
its congregation, then signing was necessary.
Secondly, a crisis intervention committee was founded
as a result of a call from someone contemplating
suicide, to which Troy and a friend, Willie,
responded. (Again, the church observed had a crisis
intervention center which had expanded its purpose
since the onslaught of the AIDS crisis.)
There were certain church members who quite
actively participated in various religious, social and
political activities, while others only attended
Sunday services. The church served as sanctuary, a
place where a homosexual or heterosexual could come
and be oneself, without fear of rejection. It is the
individual's decision as to what role one plays in the
church community.
Church Services
Religious services were designed to meet the
religious/spiritual needs of all attendees. Sermons
were related to homosexuality when applicable. The
services, written by Charlie, dealt with basic
Biblical teachings.
Paramount in all the services attended was
that "we are children of God and He loves us as we


29
are." One portion of each service was dedicated to
silent prayer# which allowed each individual to
reflect# confess# request or communicate with God in
one's own way.
The diversity of the clergy# reflected the
combination of religious beliefs/foundations. The
pastor was Methodist# the assistant pastor was also
Methodist# but more Pentecostal in nature# a newly
appointed assistant clergy was Baptist and finally# a
contributing clergy member was a Catholic priest who
served the Catholic Church and periodically preached
at this church.
Church services were relatively conservative#
drawing heavily on Catholic proceedings# with some
Pentecostal and other Protestant religious procedures.
Communion was open to all who professed Jesus Christ
as their Savior# whether they were church members or
not.
Services were directed towards the issues and
holy holidays at hand# e.g. Easter Services and those
during the period of Lent dealt with that event# as
did Christmas# as well as special occasions unique to
homosexuals# such as a special Metropolitan Community
Church world wide AIDS service dedicated to those
people in some way affected by AIDS# with a second
offering going to AIDS research.


Sun-diiy Brunches
One important need was for greater
oppo rtun ities and situations for informal
socialization. In response to this need, the church
had* on a weekly basis, after the 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.
services had Sunday Brunches, with all proceeds
dedicated to the church. This provided attendees
socialization opportunities before and after
services, while simultaneously aiding the church. The
proportion varied weekly, however, approximately 15-
45% of the church attendees partook of this
socializing time by either enjoying the brunches or
merely having a cup of coffee. It was a time to
interact with other people who had their homosexuality
as a common bond. This location provided an
opportunity for people openly to be who they were
without fear of exposure or stigma.
For maintenance of the organization, fund
raising activities were vital to the successful
functioning of the church. Many gay bars in town
assisted and continue to assist the Church in their
money making endeavors. Before moving to the new
location, periodically, Sunday brunches were conducted
at various bars, with the proceeds going to the
Church.
During the summer the church sponsored a team
in the "gay volleyball" league, which was comprised of


31
teams from various gay organizations. Games and
practices were held at one of the gay bars in town.
One of the team members was able to bring her teenage
daughter with her.
These fund raising activities were requisites
for the survival of the church. Without financial
support* the church would not exist. Generally* the
Sunday service offerings were inadequate to meet
operational expenses; therefore supplemental income
was vital.
Hoiy Unions
Another religious function of the church was
the performance of Holy Unions. This process was a
means of legitimizing normative behaviors within the
homosexual subculture. Holy Unions refer to the
religious* not legal equivalent of heterosexual
marriages. The fellowship and this particular
congregation required a couple be together a minimum
of six months* prior to conducting a Holy Union. At
this particular church there were some couples
conducting Holy Unions after the first* twelfth* and
twenty-second year(s) together. (Notes From various
conversations* it was discovered that some
congregations required a one year relationship before
performing a Holy Union* reportedly to increase the
potential for the union to survive.)


The Holy Union* as heterosexual marriages*
varied dependent upon the desires of the couple. Both
Charlie and Sandy* the assistant pastor* performed
Holy Unions. Who performed the service was the
couple's decision. As in heterosexual marriages* fees
were incurred. The current fees at this church were:
minister-$100.00; sanctuary- $75.00; and
administrative processing- $30.00. (Note: The social
hall could also be rented for pre/post receptions.
Cost was dependent upon such factors as length of
time* support requirements and season.)
The vows could be written by the couple or the
minister's standard* traditional ceremony could be
used. The decision lay with the couple. Some
ceremonies were small* encompassing the couple and
their ring bearers/witnesses* while others were very
formal* with quite a large attendance.
One individual informed me he had just been
married. His was quite formal with the couple wearing
long tuxedos. They also had a reception following the
ceremony at their apartment. Another couple had their
impending ceremony announced at the commencement of a
Sunday service* inviting all interested parties to
attend.
A Certificate of Holy Union was prepared and
presented to the couple after completion of the
ceremony. The presiding minister ensured both parties


33
understood the certificate was not a legal document;
however* should homosexual marriages ever be
legalized* he/she would complete legal documentation
at the couples request.
Prior to performing a Holy Union* both parties
must attend a counseling session with the presiding
minister. This was a rather informal session which
served to ensure that the couple was advised of
certain actions which* to protect one another* should
be completed prior to the Holy Union. Of particular
concern were legal actions which should be formalized*
e.g. special powers of attorney, property ownership
agreements, wills and the like. It was emphasized that
the Holy Union was not legally binding; therefore,
precautions to protect one another should be in place.
It was also the time to discuss the service
arrangements.
Interestingly* there were no formal
procedures for dissolving a Holy Union. Religious
termination of a union was based upon both parties
electing to separate* going their different ways.
Legal termination was based upon changes in wills,
powers of attorney and other legally binding
agreements which were in effect.
Organizational and Soci al Support
This church provided homosexuals a place to
worship and socialize that met their needs. As the


needs of the congregation changed* new social services
developed. The church* directly or indirectly
supported many diverse organizations. A number of
examples will illustrate this point.
Several activities* the single's group, the
couple's group and dating classes* commenced within
the church, to some degree as a result of the AIDS
epidemic. The single's group evolved as a result of
the overwhelming success of the couple's group and
served a socialization purpose. Monthly "pot-luck"
dinners were held to meet and socialize. The dating
class was sponsored by the single's club and addressed
issues concerning dating.
Another, often overlooked group* which needed
support in dealing with their sexuality* were
teenagers. To meet this need a youth group was
formed. Curiously enough* this group* after three
separate attempts* had not flourished. It had been
successful with special events, such as a Halloween
dance* but enthusiasm could not be maintained. A
church representative* however* felt the group would
succeed when the circumstances became "right". He
based this on past experience* surrounding the initial
beginnings of other social groups.
Recently weight-watchers came to the church*
maybe because the Pastor and assistant Pastor were
among those who professed an ongoing weight problem.


35
The success of this endeavor will be dependent upon
the level of participation.
Bingo
To increase the profits for church operations,
BINGO was formed several months after the study
commenced. It was and appears as if it will continue
to be successful for a long time. Again, as with
other activities, it was operated by volunteers and
profits went to the Church. An average crowd of 100
participants was common, with several hundred dollars
in profit each week. Bingo players were predominantly
homosexual and/or related/associated with homosexuals
- e.g. a father and his children, parents of a
homosexual participant and friends of someone
homosexual. BINGO participants did not necessarily
attend Metropolitan Community Church on Sunday. BINGO
players came as couples, as dates, as friends; there
were 'queens", men into heavy leather, and so on;
their commonality was that they liked to play Bingo.
Bingo was strictly a social activity that
provided people an opportunity to socialize, to be
themselves and to forget their troubles. Just how
important it was for this subculture to experience
socializing without concern for outside events was
evidenced by the following occurrences. First,
conversations were observed on insignificant, general
topics requiring little thought. Any time someone


attempted to engage another person in on indepth#
serious subject# they were politely informed that they
were not interested in discussing the topic; thereby
effectively terminating such conversations.
Secondly# the AIDS quarantine bill was
receiving media attention and was thought by one
person to be a subject that needed to be addressed;
therefore an announcement was made between games
asking individuals to sign a petition to defeat the
bill. The response of the participants was one of
inaction the paper was merely passed among
participants.
As a direct result of this action# a number of
BINGO participants raised their distaste for any type
of announcements concerning anything other than social
events being permitted during BINGO. The minister and
the individual in charge of BINGO decided to honor the
participants desires and not permit announcements#
thereby providing people a place to come and be
themselves# totally free from outside pressures.
Again the needs of the participants was the priority.
Outside Support
The church served as a focal point for the
homosexual subculture in this urban area and attempted
to meet the members needs# whether they were


37
1
religious* social or otherwise Organizations were
not denied use of the church social hall or sanctuary
unless the space was unavailable on the requested
day/time. Some outside organizations which conducted
meetings at the church were* the Lesbian Women's
Forum* Slightly Older Lesbians (SOL)* Parents and
Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and others. The
church did not discriminate on any basis.
Another organization* which currently did not
meet at the church, had been extended an invitation to
meet there, when the need arises. DIGNITY* an
organization comprised of gay/lesbian Catholic
members* was in the process of being prohibited by the
Pope, presumably because homosexuality is not condoned
by the Catholic Church. (Dignity is the Catholic
version of Metropolitan Community Church.)
Roles ai Chu rch Members
The members in this subculture had to play by
its rules and comply with its norms and values. The
rules and norms of this subculture for the most part*
appeared to be standardized. Members of the church
1
One example of the church being utilized to
foster outside activities of a political nature* was a
debate between the incumbent Mayor and his challenger
on issues related to the gay subculture. These
politicians were/are aware of the impact an estimated
50,000 gay voters could have on their election
success.


38
came from different socio-economic classes, and held
the heterosexual societal norms and values into which
they were socialized as children, young adults and
even older adults, which influenced their perspective
of the homosexual subculture.
Many homosexuals observed during the period
February 1986 through November 1987, did not portray
the stereotypical mannerisms of dominant/submissive.
Most of the attendees were not into role playing, e.g.
"butch"/ "femme"; only one male was consistently
observed wearing a dress; some males were effeminate
in their actions, but not in their dress; there were
several occasions of males referring to other males by
both female names and pronouns; and so on. These
examples were in the minority, as the majority of
attendees did not overtly typify the stereotypical
connotation of the gay male. In fact, most would not
be identifiable in the heterosexual population as
homosexual by their mannerisms.
The following were some examples of church
attendees who employed the above characteristics. The
male couple who had recently been married, when
talking to one partner, he referred to his partner as
his wife, but did not use she. A female couple, where
one member was extremely masculine (wore her hair in
a crew cut, wore three piece suits with a tie, and
masculine shoes) referred to her partner, as her to be


wife. These examples demonstrated the roles of
male/female within the relationship. The use of
opposite pronouns towards one's partner was a more
common norm in the past. However, within the last
decade or so, this has become less frequent with the
younger generation of gaysi but, it was still common
in the older (particularly forty and over) age group.
In other relationships, the roles were not
pronounced and members in these for want of a better
word unisex roles were not concerned with who was
responsible for the more masculine or feminine tasks.
Rather, tasks were divided based on individual
preferences and abilities. These people, found it
difficult to understand the role playing of others.
Again, the older generation tended to exemplify
butch/femme role playing behaviors, whereas the
younger generation were more likely to exhibit
androgynous behaviors, with each partner performing
the tasks she/he was most competent at, regardless of
the "fit" between the individual's sex and the
specific task(s) to be performed.
Numerous people indicated they had been
married to members of the opposite sex some for
twelve or more years and some more than once. The
reasons provided by those who discussed it were, that
was what society expected them to do either grow up
and become a mother/housewife or a father/provider -


or they were unable to accept their desire to be
involved with someone of the same sex, due to the
stigma attached to that sexual orientation.
One male weekly Bingo attendee always brought
his two daughters. They appeared quite comfortable
with the situation and remarked they periodically
visited their mother. Several parents of both sexes,
brought their children to church and other social
functions. In no instance was there any indication of
unease by any of the children observed.
Additionally there were several instances of
parents of homosexuals accompanying their children.
Only one young man's mother appeared to be ill at
ease. The others appeared to interact with other
attendees and enjoy themselves.
The single homosexual parent was a relatively
new role in the homosexual subculture, and in the
heterosexual culture as well. The identifiable single
homosexual parents displayed an acceptance of
themselves and their homosexuality. In an in depth
conversation with several homosexual single parents,
three women and one man, two women and the man had
been married only one time and the third woman had
been married twice. The longest heterosexual marriage
was the male, for 12 years.
All explained their marriages as their
attempts to live a heterosexual lifestyle, which were


41
complete disasters (except for their children), and
all wished they had not suppressed their homosexuality
for so many years. All the women had or had had
custody of their children (some of the children were
of legal age). The. male had visiting rights, but not
custody.
One woman was married to a queen, which she
knew he was, but during their marriage, she did not
acknowledge her homosexuality. The divorce resulted
from her eventual inability to deal with his
indiscretions. Another woman, romantically involved
with the preceding woman, was extremely masculine in
her actions and dress. She had been married three
times, to men, and had children from two of her three
marriages. Finally after the third failure, she was
ready to acknowledge her homosexuality. The third
woman divorced her husband, gained custody of her
daughter and waited almost seven years before acting
on her sexual orientation. Her daughter was aware her
mother was gay and did not display any difficulty in
accepting it. She was only concerned that her mother
was happy and that she loved her. All the women's
children were aware of their gayness, only the male
had not informed his children; however, he indicated
when the children were old enough to understand or
they questioned him, he would reveal his homosexuality
to them. (Note: Several months after our


conversation, the male was observed in church with his
daughter, unfortunately he disappeared before he could
be reached for a clarification.)
Summary
In summary, the church population provided an
interesting case study. The church under study
appeared to be meeting the special needs of this
subculture. It was not always a smooth, efficient or
effective operation. There were internal (monetary'
and interpersonal conflicts) as well as external
(predominantly the AIDS epidemic) problems confronting
it. However, it did provide members of this
subculture a location to be themselves and to
participate in organized religion and social functions
directed towards their particular lifestyle. The
need for homosexuals to attend organized religious
services, that accepted them for who and what they
were, was and continues to be the mobilizing force
behind the Metropolitan Community Church.


CHAPTER IV
THE SELECTED SUBCULTURE:
GAY CHURCH ATTENDEES
Introduction
The Metropolitan Community Church provided
homosexuals an environment where they could be openly
gay without fear of exposure. This institution also
had its own norms, values, attitudes, beliefs and
behaviors to which its members had to adhere if they
desired to be a functioning member.
To enhance participant observation techniques
a questionnaire was administered to male church
attendees. (For a more detailed discussion refer to
Appendix A.) Results of this survey provided a
greater understanding of this population.
Specifically, information is presented about the
respondents social and economic characteristics, t he i
values, their sexual orientation and related behavior
and the impact of the AIDS phenomenon on them as
individuals.


44
S.ocio-economic Characteristics
The educational level of the respondents was
high* as 79.6% of the participants had completed at
least four years of college (20.4% had Masters degrees
or higher) and only 3.9% had less than a high school
education. The majority (53.4%) of respondents fell
in the $10*001 to the $29,999 income categories, while
23.3% were in the $30,000 and above category. The
remaining 23.3% were at the $10,000 or less level.
Individuals reported their specific occupation
and then general occupational categories were
determined. Occupations ranged from business related
(44.6%) to professional (29.2%) to blue collar (5.8%)
to unemployed (8.7%) to retired (5.8%) to self-
employed (4.9%). The highest percentage, in a single
area, 10.7%, was concentrated in the computer
specialty area followed by the medical field at 10.2%.
The majority of respondents were young.
Respondents ages ranged from 20-68, with a mean of 37
years and a mode of 27 years.
In general this particular sample was well
educated and engaged in predominantly business and
professional occupations, even though they were not
high in economic remuneration. And finally, the survey
respondents fell within the age category most
vulnerable for AIDS contagion.


45
Religious Background
Questions concerning religion were designed to
obtain a basis for past religious influence as well as
current religious affiliation. Responses to concerns
about religion indicated that this population was
diverse in their religious backgrounds. Although the
inadvertent omission of Catholic* as one alternative
in the questionnaire* somewhat skewed the responses,
the results indicated that this particular church
attracted individuals from a variety of religious
affiliations* with the largest percentage encompassing
Protestant. It was also not unexpected that there were
few respondents from Fundamentalist denominations.
Additionally* most (96.1%) of the respondents
were satisfied, to varying degrees with their current
religious environment. Also* most (95.2%) were
satisfied with their gayness in terms of their
religious beliefs. As in the dominant culture*
religion can be an important part of an individual's
life. Often times the conflict between what they were
taught in their conservative church background and who
they were was difficult to reconcile in terms of their
homosexual orientation.
Thus this church environment provided the
homosexual a religious situation in which to accept
oneself as a child of God and as a worthwhile person.


46
Additional1y^ respondents indicated an increase in
their church attendance on a regular basis as well as
a turning to God/religion for support, since the AIDS
epidemic.
Thus, the overall satisfaction with the clergy
and the religious environment indicated that the
respondents religious needs were being met. Because
most of the respondents had a religious background it
may be important to them, as homosexuals, that they
had a religious environment that fulfilled their
religious needs.
Values and Openness
Of those individuals who answered, the
majority of respondents (90.2%) indicated being gay
was important to them, while a minority (6.8%)
indicated being gay was not very important to them.
The majority (73.9%) of those who responded indicated
that being openly gay was important to them, while
23.4% indicated that it was not very important to
them. The more openly gay one was, the greater the
need for a homosexual subculture in which to live.
Those who were more openly gay had much less to fear,
in terms of exposure to family, friends and coworkers.
The more openly gay depended on the support of other
gays for their identity in terms of the subculture


47
values* norms* attitudes and beliefs* i.e. they were
socialized into the subculture.
Those individuals who were not openly gay or
placed little or no importance on being gay*
frequently "passed" as heterosexual and did not
participate in the gay subculture, except rarely.
These individuals had not adopted the gay identify
required for membership in the gay subculture. As
stated earlier, one aspect of a subculture was that of
identity with the subculture. For individuals who
were openly gay* it was imperative that they
identified themselves as gay and as members of the
gay subculture; for without this identity*
socialization into the gay subculture had not
occu r red.
Not being openly gay to family members was not
very important for 51.5% of those answering, while
44.7% indicated it was important. Similar results
were reported for the importance of not being openly
gay to friends* with 55.4% stating it was not very
important* and 40.7% responding it was important. And
finally the indication was that not being openly gay
to coworkers was important* with 49.5% holding it was
not very important not to be open, while 48.6%,
indicated it was important not to be open.
Openness to significant others with respect to
their gayness was addressed with the following


48
results obtained: 86.4% were open to their friends#
8.7% were not open (4.9% missing); 50.5% were open
with their co-workers# 36.9% were not open (12.6%
missing); 62.1% were open to their mothers# 27.2% were
not open (10.7% missing); 50.5% were open to their
fathers# 35.0% were not open (14.5% missing); 59.2%
were open to their sisters# 23.3% were not open (17.5%
missing); 48.5% were open to their brothers# 26.2%
were not open (25.3% missing); and 37.9% were open
with other family members# while 35.0% were not open
(27.1% missing).
Again openness to significant others impacted
on the degree to which an individual participated in
the gay subculture. Based on various conversations
with church members, those who were more open to
significant others# indicated they had a greater need
for subculture support. The less open to significant
others# concerning their sexual orientation# the less
the need for subcultural identification. The gay
subculture provided the individual an opportunity to
meet and "socialize" with other people of the same
sexual orientation; to develop a certain language that
allowed one to enter the subculture and be identified
as a member; to accept oneself as not being the "only
person" who was sexually attracted to members of the
same sex; and to learn the culture that makes this
population a unique subculture.


49
Reported Impacts of AID_S
AIDS may be perceived as an external threat to
the continued existence of the gay subculture. Not
only will gay institutions have to adapt to meet the
new needs of the gay subculture? but so too will its
members. As norms change from fast uncommitted sex?
the bath houses and bars will be replaced by
establishments that cater to the new norms of fewer
sexual partners? safe sex and more long lasting
relat i ons h i ps .
The gay subculture as whole will have to adapt
to survive the epidemic? as it is perceived by its
members. The gay subculture was composed of
individuals with varying norms? values? attitudes and
beliefs. Segments of the population will not forgo
their norm of sexual promiscuity (as evidenced by the
behavior of "patient 0" (Shilts 1988)) in order to
preclude their potential for AIDS contagion. Others
will not place any importance on employing safe sex
guidelines; others will place considerable value on
maintaining their lifestyle as it was? while others
will value the opposite. Not all members of this
subculture will react in positive ways. Some may not
alter their behavior to preclude? or at least reduce
their opportunities for AIDS contagion. Others may
become recluses? afraid to interact within the


50
subculture for fear of contagion or fear of even
greater stigma. Others will adopt necessary behavior
changes to protect themselves and others and to reduce
their fear of exposure to both AIDS and their
1 i festy1e.
There were certain limitations which the
subculture determined to be acceptable and members who
elected to cross the boundary lines were not
considered members of the subculture. For example,
leather is an alternative lifestyle within the gay
subculture. There were certain bars that specifically
catered to leather clientele and members of the
leather scene established criteria for admission and
retention within the group. If someone failed to
comply with the norm of using a "safe" word when
engaging in sexual intercourse, then that person was
identified and prevented from further interaction with
that group. The norm was that safe words (a word that
the sexual partners used to indicate that whatever
activity was being engaged in was to cease
immediately) were honored; for to do otherwise could
result in injury or death of one of the partners.
Violation of this norm netted immediate ostracizing of
the violator.
The gay subculture, in order to respond to the
threat, will have to undergo some structural changes.
The questions are, what changes are necessary for


51
maintenance of the subculture? Will members of the
subculture be able to make these behavior changes?
How will these changes affect the homosexual
subculture? Some changes will be expansive and will
probably become permanently incorporated into the gay
subculture. Other changes will be more individual in
nature and not impact on the gay subculture as an
entity. Simultaneously, members of the gay subculture
are being compelled to re-evaluate their norms and
values in light of the potential threat of AIDS to
their very existence, as well as their way of life.
Judging from responses elicited in this
survey, the AIDS phenomenon had impacted in a number
of ways, some more intrusive than others. For
example, in this church congregation, data indicated a
slight increase in the number of people who turned to
God after they became aware of AIDS (8%). Results
further indicated a 33% increase in the number of
people who regularly attended church, versus those who
regu1ar1y attended prior to their knowledge of AIDS.
Therefore, it is inferred that since AIDS, though not
necessarily because of AIDS itself, respondents have
altered their religious behaviors.
Sexual Peh^viors
The questionnaire also asked certain questions
pertaining to the respondents sexual behaviors both
prior to and since the AIDS epidemic. These questions


52
attempted to determine if this selected portion of the
subculture had effected any changes in their sexual
practices to reduce their risk of contagion.
With respect to one's willingness to be open
with significant others were questions concerning AIDS
testing and the respondents reactions to the AIDS
testing policy of reporting names and addresses of
individuals with HIV positive test results. One
concern mentioned by some interviewees was their fear
that by name/address testing procedures could be
potentially damaging to them because it could result
in exposure of their gayness to significant others who
were unaware of their sexual orientation; loss of
employment in some instances; inability to obtain
health and life insurance; and added negative stigma
to their lifestyle. The.survey results indicated the
majority of respondents opted not to be tested
(61.1%), while 26.2% indicated the above policy for
reporting test results by name and address, did not
impact their decision to be tested (12.7% missing).
The results also indicated a reported decrease
by 42% of the respondents in the number of different
sex partners and a reported decrease in the number of
one night stands by 61% of the respondents.
Respondents also indicated a decrease in all high risk
meeting locations; a decrease in unsafe sexual acts
and an increase in safe sex acts; an increase in the


53
use of condoms; and a decrease in the number of
sexually transmitted diseases since the AIDS epidemic.
Abstinence was and still is the only sure
means of preventing infection, however, it was and is
not realistic to believe that people will cease having
sexual encounters. Therefore, the next best means is
the use of condoms. Indications were that members of
this population were utilizing condoms much more
frequently than prior to the AIDS epidemic.
These results indicated that this particular
study population did not participate in the degree of
sexual variances that many of the previous study
populations engaged in. Past research indicated much
higher numbers of sexually transmitted diseases, more
frequent attendance at gay bars and gay baths and a
greater incidence of high risk sexual behaviors than
were reported by this study population (Hirsch and
Enlow 1984; McKusick, Wiley, Coates, Stall, Saika,
Morin, Charles, Horstman and Conant 1985; Morin 1984).
Hence this study proposed that this selected
population depicted a much more conservative segment
of the gay population than that which has generally
been the subject of research endeavors.
The norms within this subculture will be fewer
numbers of sex partners, more socializing prior to
engaging in sexual intercourse, greater coupling, more
monogamous relationships and increased utilization of


safe sex guidelines (Morin* Charles and Malyon 1984).
And based on the population in this study*
approximately 70% of the respondents indicate their
life style has been affected.
Sexual Freedom
Sexual freedom was designed to determine its
importance to the respondents* as gay had been
synonymous with sexual freedom in the past. However,
again this study population did not conform to
previous study populations. The vast majority (74%) of
respondents strongly disagreed that being gay and
sexual freedom were synonymous.
Summary
The population utilized for this research was
an identifiable segment of a unique homosexual
population, persons who attended a gay church.
Utilizing any segment of the homosexual population
(e.g., attendees at gay bars* gay baths, or gay and
lesbian community centers) would also net skewed
population samples. Therefore* even though this
segment of the population was not wholly
representative of the larger homosexual subculture* it
probably provided a view of more conservative* less
dramatic portions of that subculture.


CHAPTER V
SUMMARY, DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Summary
Interest in subcultures and how and to what
degree they differ from or are similar to the dominant
culture guided this research endeavor. This was an
exploratory ethnographic study of a male gay
subculture in a large metropolitan area. Subjects
were attendees at one of the member churches of the
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community
Churches, a world wide religious organization founded
primarily to meet the spiritual, religious and social
needs of homosexuals. The population utilized for
this research though not representative of the larger
homosexual subculture, did provide a view which
contrasted with that typically portrayed in the
various well known and publicized "gay bar" and
"tearoom" studies.
Participant observation, personal interviews
and questionnaire techniques were used to obtain data
on the church. The church, as an institution, was
viewed as having evolved over time to meet the needs


56
of this segment of the subculture, and as its members
needs changed, so too did the functions of the church.
As with church environments in the dominant
culture, this church was religiously based and
provided counseling by clergy for attendees; church
services that were founded upon Biblical teachings and
related to various religious Holy Days for both Jewish
and Protestant religions; "gay marriage" ceremonies;
fund raising activities, such as "drag" shows, rummage
sales, bake sales and other similar activities; and
social activities, such as Bingo, Sunday Brunches and
pot luck dinners.
The distinguishing factors within the church
congregation were that its members were predominantly
homosexual and the religious emphasis, based on the
Bible, was designed to assist members with accepting
themselves as children of God. This population was
diverse in its composition, but fairly well educated.
The vast majority of respondents had completed high
school and possessed varying levels of college,
ranging from two years to doctorate and medical
degrees. Many individuals were also involved in
service industries, which required high education
levels, without corresponding salary rates.
The members of the Metropolitan Community
Church who consented to interviews, were observed for
an extended period and/or completed surveys, indicated


57
that as a whole respondents came from diverse
religious backgrounds and were satisfied with their
present religious environment. Furthermore*
respondents indicated that "being gay" was important
to them* though a smaller proportion felt that
being "openly gay" was more important. Finally
responses indicated that behaviors within this gay
subculture were changing in response to t.he AIDS
epidemic. However* not all persons were adopting
behaviors that would reduce their risks of contagion*
nor would one have expected a consensus of change in
such a diverse group. Changes within this subculture
were being reported by some individuals who responded
to the survey as well as by some who were interviewed
and observed.
The results of this study tended to support
other research studies reporting that many gay males
were altering their sexual practices from those
practices determined to be unsafe to those determined
to be safe. Yet* these changes were self reported and
may not be totally accurate. There were still
homosexuals practicing unsafe sexual acts* thus
increasing their opportunities for infection.
Discussion
This study was important because it expanded
the picture presented by past researchers. What made


this study interesting was that it provided another
perspective on the homosexual subculture; that it
depicted a subculture in a conventional (i. e.
religious environment) context where past research
dealt with other segments of the homosexual
subculture, that by their very nature reflected a more
deviant lifestyle. To obtain a more complete
perspective on the homosexual subculture would require
research into a more representative cross-section of
the homosexual subculture.
Given the problems of entry to subcultures, an
ethnography was a valuable method when studying such
groups in order to understand and portray their
culture to others. There is no standard format for an
ethnology; however, the reader should be provided the
conditions under which the fieldwork is conducted, the
daily life happenings of the observed population,
validation of participant observations and an
explanation of terms and concepts employed by the
group being studied (Marcus 1980). In general,
"The very strength of an ethnography lies in its
openness, its willingness to approach complex behavior
in a natural context, its lack of commitment to the
common wisdom as encoded in social science theory, its
methodological flexibility in adapting elicitation and
observation to the situational and personal demands of
the moment, and its stress on the quality of the
relationship within which the information exchange
occurs." (Agar 1980, p. 36).
One of several issues raised in Chapter I
concerned entry into a particular subculture. In this


59
research endeavor access to the church population was
not a barrier. Information on various gay
establishment locations can be obtained through
purchasing any one of several "gay guides" available
at gay bookstores* which can be located through the
Yellow Pages.
The Fellowship of Metropolitan Community
Churches was founded prior to the Stonewall Riots and
commencement of the "gay rights" movement and had
always proclaimed their doors were open to anyone.
Thus* access to a visibly gay subculture was easily
atta i ned .
It was difficult to state whether entry to
this church was enhanced as a result of the gay rights
movement or not. Since the Stonewall Riots gays have
been more open* both vocally and visibly* however*
being open in a confined* basically secure environment
provided by a religious structure may have had a
bearing on the situation. What can be stated was that
the impact of this movement has been felt by many
members of the subculture.
Based on the literature and this study* access
was easier than in the past* when gays were much more
"closeted" than presently. Yet this must be qualified
in the sense that entry into gay bars and baths was
still more difficult than entry into a church.
Behaviors in bars and baths differ from behaviors in


60
church environments. People were not as likely to
experience physical or verbal threats to their well-
being in a church; bars and baths still provide
opportunities for verbal or physical abuse, exposure
and arrest to patrons.
The Stonewall Riot had impacted on the
openness of many gays, and access was consequently
made easier. As a result of this new openness, after
attending several services, the minister was
approached, provided insight into the proposed study
and permission requested to study this population.
The minister granted permission to observe the
congregation; to formally interview anyone willing to
participate; and he provided names and phone numbers
of several people who would be willing to be
interviewed. He also indicated that he would support
this research endeavor.
The second issue concerned what identifies
individuals as members of this subculture?
Subcultures have been described as having different
norms, values, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and
lifestyles that distinguish them from the dominant
culture, while simultaneously sharing portions of
these with the dominant culture. These
characteristics held true in the population studied.
Members of this particular subculture valued
their religious beliefs and held religion to be an


61
important aspect of their life. Many also held that
monogamy was important/ as was having a Holy Union
performed to legitimize* not legalize/ their
relationship within a religious institution. Just as
the dominant culture professed that religion and
marriage were important institutions* so too did
members of this subculture.
An individual learns to identify oneself as a
member of a subculture through adaptation and adoption
of various behaviors* norms and values. For example*
to identify oneself as a member of the Onieda
community* one must forego the societal norm of
monogamy within the marriage for spouse sharing. To
be a member of a deviant youth group one oftentimes
must be subjected to an initiation process* which may
necessitate one being tattooed in a specific location
with an identifiable tattoo that visibly identifies
one as a group member.
The predominate quality that separated this
subculture from the dominant culture was that of
sexual orientation. Their sexual orientation* which
was negatively stigmatized by the dominate culture,
compelled members of this subculture to formulate
their own norms and values to support their sexual
orientation. For instance, certain sexual practices -
anal and oral intercourse were the norms within this
subculture and these sexual practices were integral to


62
the subculture. The subcultural norms and values
positively sanctioned their sexual orientation by
providing an environment in which they could freely
express themselves while simultaneously obtaining
approval and acceptance for who they were. Attendance
at various gay activities, such as church retreats and
services, home pot lucks and other informal gatherings
and various other activities, allowed members of this
subculture to interact with other people of the same
sexual orientation, to observe and learn what was or
was not permissible, how to dress for various
activities, e.g. one would not wear leather to a
country western bar, nor would one be welcomed in a
leather bar wearing a three piece wool suit and other
skills, such as who asks whom to dance, who leads and
what type of dancing is acceptable.
The dominant culture defined acceptable
rituals, language and dress which identified one as a
member of that culture. In many instances, these
rituals, language and dress were what identified
individuals as members of a subculture. Gays have
developed a language which holds a unique meaning for
them. For example, after meeting someone for the
first time, two important questions were often asked.
The first was, "How long have you been out?" This
usually received a response of the number of years
(sometimes it may have elicited a response of days,


weeks or months) someone had known they were gay and
been involved to some degree in the gay subculture.
The second question was* "Are you with someone?" Thi
did not mean, did you come with someone, but rather,
solicits a response concerning one's involvement with
another person. Generally, respondents would state
whether they were currently involved with another
person and if so, whether the relationship is open or
monogamous.
Also within in this subculture there were
certain aspects of dress that alerted another
subculture member that the individual might be gay.
For example, wearing all leather clothing, from a hat
to a shirt, to pants, to boots indicated someone who
would probably be into leather. Wearing keys on a
chain, which were prominently displayed on a thick
leather belt on either the right or left hip would
indicate another type of preference. Whereas an
i mmed i ate identifier of a member of the Amish
subculture was their unique mode of dressi a unique
language utilized by certain youth gang members
distinguished them as members of that subculturej and
other subcultures performed unique rituals that were
distinct from the dominate culture. A common ritual
among gay men was cruising. Cruising was done
virtually anywhere and involved watching other men.
Once the cruiser had the other man's attention, he
held eye contact with him and then looked down to his


64
crotch area and held that pose for longer than would
be "normal" if two men were heterosexual.
Members of the subculture studied here*, even
though they did engage in some distinct behaviors#
dress and so forth# were not markedly different in
rituals# language or dress from members of the
dominant culture. Individuals dressed in appropriate
attire for their sex (with only one exception# a male
who was consistently attired in female clothing).
There was nothing unique in the congregations dress
that would have identified them as homosexual.
In other segments of the subculture there were
distinguishing modes of dress that readily identified
someone as homosexual as well as other facets of their
life, such as wearing all leather clothing# wearing
certain types of key chains in certain locations and
wearing various colored western bandannas in certain
locations. However# these dress modes did not
necessarily identify one as homosexual. Using a red
bandanna handkerchief did not always signify one was
gay# but it does give someone who was gay a visible
means of readily identifying the sexual "tastes" of
the person with the red bandanna should he# in fact#
be gay.
A unique language# which was often associated
with a subculture# was not markedly different in the


65
group studied. The most distinguishing use of
language variation was employment of the female
pronoun "she", when referring to men who were
expressly effeminate in their behaviors. However, in
some instances common words had a unique
interpretation for members of the subculture and
served as one means of identifying someone as a member
of this subculture. Some examples were: "my partner",
"my other half", or "my life's partner" were used more
commonly than were my wife or my husband (Notes Some
members did use wife when referring to. their other
half); being "in the life", meaning being actively
gayj going to "hit the bars", meaning various types of
gay barsj and merely asking someone if they were
familiar with a specifically known gay person, bar,
bookstore or restaurant.
As previously stated, rituals also separated
the dominant from the sub-culture. In this study, the
most unique ritual observed was that of the Holy
Union. What made this ritual definably different from
the dominant culture's marriage ritual, was that it
was between two persons of the same sex and it was not
legally recognized. It served the purpose of formally
making a life-time commitment to someone before God,
as one another's life's partner, very much the same
purpose of a church wedding.
Dating was not so much of a ritual as it was,


66
who asks who for a date and who pays? It also had to
be determined, often times through casual
conversations, if someone was being asked out on a
date or whether it was a "dutch" treat, with no formal
date being made. There were no set guides for datingj
therefore, sometimes people find themselves on a date
and being expected to pick-up the tab, without ever
having realized they were on a date.
A third issue concerned ways in which this
subculture served its members. Subcultures provide
its members with an identity which the dominant
culture cannot provide. To be a functioning member of
a subculture, one must identify himself with that
subculture. The subculture reaffirms one's values,
norms and self worth. For many gays, being gay was a
highly held value and their self worth was usually
evaluated in terms of their acceptance of their
gayness. Additionally, the norm of the subculture was
sexual involvement with a member of the same sex.
Within this study population, the self-identification
of one's gayness with the subculture was probably the
most important factor in distinguishing an individual
as a member of the subculture. The church was an
institution where members of this subculture were able
openly to identify themselves as homosexuals and
participate within the established norms (e.g.
consistent church attendance and volunteering for many


67
of the fund raising activities) and values (e.g.
religion was an important aspect of their lives) of
this subculture, while simultaneously receiving the
positive feedback essential for maintaining a positive
self image (that being homosexual was alright and one
was no less a person because one was homosexual).
Individuals can also be members of more than
one subculture simultaneously. A homosexual may belong
to the gay subculture, during which time he openly
displayed his sexual orientation; he may also be a
member of a professional organization, which was a
subculture where the norms and values were determined
by his occupation; he may be an athlete and a member
of that subculture; and/or any of a myriad of other
subcultures which have their defined norms and values,
which may or may not be subsequently approved of by
the dominant culture. It should be noted, however,
what made him a member of any subculture was his own
identification and participation within that
subculture.
The fourth issue concerned how members of this
subculture differed from members of the dominant
culture. Based on the findings in this study, this
particular segment of the homosexual subculture was
less distinguishable from members of the dominant
culture than those portrayed in earlier
characterizations found in the literature. Many of


68
the individuals observed could "pass as
heterosexuals, without drawing attention to their
sexual orientation. The majority were from religious
backgrounds and still actively participated in
religious services.
Other patterns which were similar to the
dominant culture were addressed below. A proportion
were in committed, long term, monogamous
relationships. Some had made formal commitments to
one another through Holy Unions! some had waited two,
ten and twenty years prior to formalizing the
relationship, while others do so after the required
six month waiting period. Their language, rituals and
dress were not always outwardly distinguishing factors
to non subculture members. They came from various
socioeconomic strata. The individuals in this study
represented one segment of the gay subculture that
more closely approximates the dominant culture in
terms of many norms, values and attitudes such as
legitimizing their relationships! maintaining
monogamous relationships! attending church services
regularly! and treating people as human beings who
were not exact duplicates of themselves.
Members of this congregation were not readily
distinguishable from members of the dominant culture.
They were more similar than dissimilar to the general
population and most could "pass" in the heterosexual


69
world* because they did not portray many of the
stereotypes depicted in the literature (e.g. they were
not "swooshy", 1imp-wristed* dressed in female attire
or overly dramatic in their mannerisms).
Some were more political in nature and openly
gay in their interactions outside the gay subculture.
However* most of these people did not."flaunt their
gayness* but rather attempted to display the
inequalities faced by someone because they were
homosexual. Attention was drawn to their sexuality in
an attempt to reduce the stereotypical beliefs and
fears held by many heterosexuals* while simultaneously
emphasizing the ways in which they were similar to the
general population.
And finally* the last issue to be addressed
concerned what distinguished this as subculture?
One's sexual orientation* identification of oneself as
gay and participation within the subculture
distinguished one as a member of the gay subculture.
Many (75.6%) gays in this study believed that they
were born either heterosexual or homosexual* that
their only decision is whether they acted on their
"true" sexual orientation and lived fulfilling lives,
or whether they denied their "true" sexual orientation
and lived unhappy* unfulfilled lives. Orientation was
elected over preference, which implied one has a


70
choices thus implying they did not have an option to
choose homosexuality over heterosexuality.
Just as one who was born into a black*
Hispanic or other ethnic or racial group, had no
choice in skin color and ethnicity, someone who was
homosexual had no choice in his sexual orientation.
There are numerous "theories" on the causes of
homosexuality. It has been proposed that
homosexuality was biological, psychological and/or
sociological (Dannecker 1981; Tripp 1975). However,
there have been no studies that can prove any one or
combination of any of the three basis for
homosexuality exists. The roots of homosexuality was
beyond the scope of this paper, but it was necessary
that one be aware there were numerous causation
theories, but none can substantiate whether
homosexuality was a sexual preference or a sexual
orientation.
What was relevant was that most members
(75.6%) of the study population believed homosexuality
was an orientation, something which they could not
elect. It was their sexual orientation, self
identification as a homosexual and participation
within the gay subculture that made them part of this
subculture


71
Conclusions
Based on this research* certain conclusions
concerning this subculture can be drawn. This study
called into question some of the stereotypical
connotations of homosexuals. Members of this study
population, with the exception of their sexual
orientation and participation within the subculture,
which identifies them as members of the homosexual
subculture, were not obviously different from the
dominant culture in general. Most were not as
sexually promiscuous as the homosexual subculture had
been depicted in the literature. This population
reported fewer sexually transmitted diseases, less
attendance at high risk locations, such as gay bars
and gay bath house and fewer encounters with high
risk sexual practices.
This subculture was being faced with an
external threat to its continuation and some changes
will be necessitated for it to survive. This study
supported other studies on changing sexual behaviors
of homosexual men, that reported gays had altered
their sexual behaviors from high risk activities to
low risk activities. Most studies on changing sexual
behaviors had been conducted on the gay subculture in
San Francisco, the most heavily hit gay subculture,
and therefore data from other segments of the gay


72
subculture which had not been as effected were
i mpo rtant.
The gay subculture cannot always be identified
by a common language* unique rituals or unusual modes
of dress. Entry to the subculture was formulated on
ones identity as homosexual and willingness to learn
the cultural norms and values of the subculture.
This subculture* as any other subculture* was
constantly adapting to internal and external threats
to its existence* for failure to adapt could result in
the destruction of the subculture. The church* as an
institution was adapting to the external threat of
AIDS.
Some of the changes which were occurring
included* self reported increased church attendance by
members of this subculture! greater influence being
exerted on couples publicly to commit themselves to
one another through Holy Unions! and more services
mentioning persons with AIDS* persons who have died
from AIDS and persons hospitalized/confined to their
homes with AIDS. The subculture was adapting through
decreased unsafe sexual practices and increased safe
sexual practices.
Finally* this study on the homosexual
subculture indicated that this segment was not that
uniquely different from the dominant culture in
several important respects. Its members were


73
relatively religious* well educated and not readily
discernible to members of the dominant culture. They
had defined norms* values and a lifestyle that
supported their need to express freely their sexual
orientation without fear of exposure. The major
function of the church and this subculture was to
provide its members an opportunity to identify
themselves as homosexual and be affirmed that they
were God's children.


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91
APPENDIX A:
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
INITIATION QE_ IH£ STUDY
This study of one Metropolitan Community
Church incorporated three complementary methodologies.
First* the researcher observed activities of the
church by becoming involved in its activities. Second*
a survey was administered to participants attend i ng
Sunday services on 30 April 1987. And finally*
informal and formal interviews were conducted with
several of the participants.
In an attempt to better understand the
homosexual church population* this researcher decided
to participate in various church activities as an
observer. It was decided not to inform the
participants of the research project* in an attempt
not to prejudice the observed situations.
Participant observation was not incorporated
into the original design of the study. The original
purpose of this observation process was to provide
background information on the church population in the
design of the survey instrument.


92
The population observed consisted of
individuals attend ing church services on several
Sundays during the months February 1986 through April
1987j individuals attending "special meetings* e.g.
the womens group* concerned persons over the addition
of a new clergy member* etc.; and persons attending
Bingo during the months March thru November 1987.
The researcher initially had no intention of
incorporating participant observation into this study
as a major aspect of the study design. Therefore*
early in the study only brief notations on observed
occurrences were made. The initial intent on the
researcher's part was to gain some personal insight
into an identifiably homosexual subculture. In this
capacity she attended various Sunday church services*
observing the behavior of the attendees. Whenever
possible* she sat as far to the rear as possible* to
provide the widest population for observation. She
also* on occasions* partook of the brunches- at the
old church location* at one bar and in the new
location.
For the majority of this time*interaction was
limited to a casual "Hello* how are you". During the
March to April 1987* time frame* she became more
actively involved in the activities of the church as
an observer.


93
The primary change came in active
participation at the church sponsored BINGO on Friday
evenings when she became a volunteer. Her duties
consisted of selling "specials" (an additional page of
three BINGO cards), and later "pickles" (cards
designed after the slot machines in gambling casinos),
to Bingo players. This provided the opportunity to
observe and interact with players and other
volunteers.
Most background information provided on this
particular homosexual subculture was obtained from
indepth conversations with the minister and
recommended references by -him of willing members to
discuss the church and the congregation.
Additionally, observations based on participation were
included.
In keeping with the church attendance, the
BINGO attendees were predominantly male. The primary
observation was that many of the church attendees were
not BINGO attendees and vice versa; but, most of the
volunteers operating BINGO, were also some of the most
active members in other church functions.
Several limitations must be noted with respect
to this phase of the research. One problem,
acknowledged above, was that participant observation
was not part of the original design. As a result,
note taking was not as specific and detailed as it


could have been. Also# involvement might have been
more in depth and church attendance could have been on
a more regular basis. Most important# if participant
observation had been part of the original design# a
more detailed plan of observation would have been
designed to assure a systematic basis of record
keeping.
A second and important part of the study was
administering a questionnaire to individuals
participating in church activities. The population
for this questionnaire# then# was drawn from willing
male attendees at one western Metropolitan Community
Church on Sunday 30 April 1987. Weekly church
attendance averaged 300 persons including both' the
9:30am. and ll:00arn. services# of which approximately
80% are males.
A convenience sample was utilized for this
study. It was recognized that this particular sampling
procedure did not allow for a representative cross
section of the gay male population. Previous research
has been plagued by the elusiveness of the homosexual
world.
This particular segment of the the homosexual
subculture was part of a well defined social setting#
a homosexual church in a western SMSA. Due to the
stigma attached to homosexuals# the fear of exposure
by many# the inability to easily identify homosexual
males within society as a whole and the support of


95
this project by the minister* this particular
population was determined to be a readily available
study group.
It was acknowledged that this convenience
sample had strict limitations as to inferences of
obtained results to more generalized homosexual
populations within society as a whole. However* these
limitations were acceptable within the general
purposes of this study.
ItLE QUESTIONNAIRE
On Sunday* April 30* 1987* male attendees at
both services were requested to complete the attached
questionnaire (Appendix B). Two options for
completion were made available: (1) complete prior to
departing the church and place the completed
questionnaire in the box provided in Taylor Hall or
(2) mail completed questionnaire to the researcher in
a post-paid addressed envelop. A 50% return rate was
anticipated. The questionnaire was distributed to all
willing males (and females requesting a survey) as
they departed church services.
The minister* during the announcement period
preceding each of the two services* informed attendees
that an anonymous questionnaire would be distributed
at the termination of service and that the respondents
participation was voluntary. He further stated that