There are the Big Years in gay and lesbian history – 1948, 1957, 1969, 1978 – and then there are years where it seems that nothing much happened at all. These are actually the more interesting. And 1960 is one of them.
A scan of Robert French’s invaluable listing of Australian media references to homosexuality shows very little press attention. Even Truth – that staple for the quirky and the scandalous – seems oddly silent.
It does seem that there was actually a decline in interest among the police, for example. The numbers of homosexual men arrested, prosecuted and convicted in the courts, which increased every year since 1944, had peaked in 1958 and was gently declining through most of the sixties.
But there are indications of a new interest among experts of various kinds. Gordon Westwood’s research into homosexual life in Britain (A Minority: The Male Homosexual) was published and, although it seems not to have been reviewed here, advertisements by the publisher brought it to the attention of local readers. Popular Medicine reported on the latest theory that homosexuality was an effect of environment rather than heredity and Dr Gebhard, director of the Kinsey sex research institute in the US, announced that this organisation was planning a survey here in Australia.
On their own, none of these added up to very much. But as indicators of a new way of thinking about homosexuality that would slowly filter into the minds of politicians, opinion-makers and the general public, the events of 1960 mattered too.