With or without tassels?

Tassel or no tassel was the only question asked of the parents of a newborn baby in the binary world of the 1940s. It was a question that, once answered, was supposed to define a person for life. ; a question he never had to ask himself again. People were born male or female and were supposed to conform to those stereotypes. More babies could only come through the interaction of this duality, so it was natural to believe that men were only attracted to women and women only to men. A challenge to this conventional wisdom emerged in 1953 from the activities of Lord Montague de Beaulieu.

It is doubtful that the Honorable Member intended to start a sexual revolution because he tried to hide his actions from public view. But the publicity surrounding the exposure of his involvement with a 14-year-old boy scout at a summer camp on his New Forest estate in Hampshire brought a new awareness of homosexuality to the general public. Lord Montague always protested his innocence and was acquitted of the charge involving the boy scout, but a year later he was found guilty of serious crimes with an RAF soldier and sentenced to twelve months in prison.

Those who heard about Lord Montague and realized homosexuality for the first time tried to rationalize their motivation. It was recognized that prepubertal boys are very much like girls and that perhaps a man who cannot attract a girl would accept a boy. However, prepuberty implies less than the legal age of consent, for which His Honor was accused for the first time of homosexuality and sex with a minor. For some time, it seemed that the public perception of homosexuality was limited to the proclivities of a few frustrated men who preyed on young children.

The publicity surrounding the Lord Montague trials is said to have prompted a review of the law, and in 1957 a committee chaired by Lord Wolfenden recommended that consensual homosexual acts between adults be decriminalized. Ten years later, this recommendation was adopted by Parliament and the Law of 1533 that criminalized homosexual acts was repealed. Thus began what was called the sexual revolution. Although they still come into the world with or without tassels, children today are no longer confined to the monochromatic categorization of the past, but can choose their sexual orientation from a rainbow of options.

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