He was titled "father of the homophile movement" for asserting that gay men and lesbians deserved civil rights as members of a large, unrecognised minority. However, Vern L. Bullough believes the title is undeserved as Sagarin did not actively participate in resistance and did not join any homophile organisations until 1962, a time when he was seeking a topic to analyse in his thesis.
Sagarin was born in Schenectady, New York to Russian Jewish parents. Sagarin was born with scoliosis, which produced a hump on his back. He attended high school, and after graduating, spent a year in France where he met André Gide. Upon his return to New York, he enrolled at City College of New York, but was forced to drop out of college due to the Great Depression.
In 1934, Sagarin met Gertrude Liphshitz, a woman who shared his left-wing political interests. They married in 1936 and soon after, Gertrude gave birth to a boy. Sagarin established himself in the perfume and cosmetics industry, becoming knowledgeable about the chemistry of perfumes, and publishing The Science and Art of Perfumery in 1945.
Sagarin began a dual life, publishing The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach in 1951, which was deemed an "act of heroism", under the pseudonym of Donald Webster Cory. The use of the nom de plume, and the attitudes that differed when Sagarin used either of his identities, led to the comparison of Sagarin/Cory to the Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde character. Mr. Cory, who presented homosexuals as a despised minority, was seen as a "mythic hero", where Dr. Sagarin (as he would later be known) was a "hunchback deviant".
The publication of the book was considered a "radical step", as it was the first publication in the United States that discussed homosexual politics and sympathetically presented the plight of homosexuals. Sagarin described how homosexuals were discriminated against in almost all aspects of their lives and called for a repeal of anti-homosexuality laws;
"One great gap separates the homosexual minority from all others, and that is its lack of recognition, its lack of respectability in the eyes of the public, and even in the most advanced circles."A research report by Alfred Kinsey et al., "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" (1948), had a beneficial effect on the reception of Sagarin's publication. In 1952, due to the success of The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach, Sagarin established a subscription book service called "Cory Book Service", which chose a gay-themed literary work each month.
Sagarin continued using his pseudonym, and released a second publication in 1953 called Twenty-One Variations on a Theme, an anthology of short stories dealing with homosexuality to which Sherwood Anderson, Paul Bowles, Christopher Isherwood, Denton Welch, Charles Jackson, and Stefan Zweig all contributed.
In 1958 Sagarin joined Brooklyn College, completing his BA in an accelerated program, and in 1961 he entered an MA program in sociology, where he wrote a thesis on The Anatomy of Dirty Words. Throughout the 1960s, Cory remained one of the most conservative members of the Mattachine Society, and opposed the rejection of the "sickness theory" of homosexuality by some homophile leaders. His belief was that homosexuality was "a disturbance" that probably arose as a result of a pathological family situation. In 1963, he co-authored a book called The Homosexual and His Society with John LeRoy (pseudonym of Barry Sheer), which claimed that there was no such thing as a "well adjusted homosexual". In 1965 as Cory, he failed in his bid for presidency of the Mattachine Society. The loss of the presidency, and his difference in beliefs from other members of the Society, resulted in a disparity that directly influenced his education. Sagarin entered New York University's Ph.D. program in sociology, graduating in 1966, submitting a dissertation titled "Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants", which was a study of the Mattachine Society. He did not, however, reveal his involvement in the society as Cory. His acceptance of the position of assistant professor at Baruch College, a campus of City University of New York, led some to characterise it as the beginning of his rise to "giant in the field of sociological deviance" and the recession of his part in the homophile movement.
In the 1970s, Sagarin pursued an active homosexual life, though he continued to characterise homosexuals as disturbed, and frequently urged them to seek therapy. He rejected the idea that homosexuality was a natural sexual variant, and criticised the new psychological and sociological studies of Evelyn Hooker and John Gagnon. However, he argued that homosexuality should be decriminalized.
The real identity of Sagarin's persona, Donald Webster Cory, remained unknown until a 1974 convention of the American Sociological Society in Montreal. On a panel entitled "Theoretical Perspectives on Homosexuality", Sagarin levelled criticism at the liberationist scholarship, and in response, Laud Humphreys exposed Sagarin by calling him "Mr. Cory". After the convention, Sagarin withdrew from issues concerning homosexuality.
On June 10, 1986, he died of a heart attack.
The “mysterious bond” between gay men resulted in large part from their participation in the gay subculture and consequent knowledge of its codes and tactics, both almost wholly unfamiliar to the doctors. It resulted as well from their simple attentiveness to the signals that might identify like-minded men; most other city residents were preoccupied with other matters or remained deliberately oblivious to the surfeit of stimuli on the streets. Involvement in the gay world familiarized men with the styles of clothing and grooming, mannerisms, and conventions of speech that had become fashionable in that world but were not stereotypically associated with fairies. Those fashions served as signs, “neither masculine nor feminine, but specifically and peculiarly homosexual,” observed the writer and gay activist Donald Webster Cory in the early 1950s; these were “difficult for [outsiders] to pinpoint,” but enabled men to recognize one another even as they concealed their identities from others.
The various gay magazines published in the 1950s periodically published articles with titles such as “Can Homosexuals Be Recognized?” One particularly insightful article by that title, although written by Donald Webster Cory twenty-five years after the period under discussion here, noted several of the same signs used by gay men a generation earlier, and it was wryly, but appropriately, illustrated with pictures of men staring into each other’s eyes, men walking in peculiar ways, and articles of clothing and adornment fashionable among gay men: certain kinds of shoes and sandals, large rings, scarves, and the like. (“Can Homosexuals Be Recognized?” ONE Magazine 1 [September 1953]: 7-11.) --Chauncey, George (1995-05-18). Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (Kindle Locations 3702-3708). BASIC. Kindle Edition.
Many gay historians have claimed a connection between homosexual orientation and artistic avocation. However, Edward Sagarin, the first American historian of gay life in the fifties, argued that homosexuals are hardly confined to the arts. He suggested that artists were simply more likely to leave behind hints about their sexuality than "scientists, businessmen, [and] political lead- ers"-men and women who "not only leave no such evidence," but are forced to engage in "vehement denial and deliberate misinformation."
One reason that lesbians and gay men often make great artists may be that being gay and creating art both require similar strengths: the ability to create an original world of one's own, and a willingness to jettison the conventional wisdom in favor of one's own convictions. Sagarin wrote that "homosexual creativity" is "often freed from conventional thought, with imagination unbound and unfettered-and sponsored by the need for perfection to overcome the doubt of oneself." Notable gay nonconformists who struggled against the fifties tide included poets like Allen Ginsberg, Audre Lorde, John Ashbery, and Frank O'Hara; painters as diverse as Paul Cadmus, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ellsworth Kelly; the composers Leonard Bernstein, Ned Rorem, John Cage, and Aaron Copland; and playwrights and screenwriters like Gore Vidal, William Inge, Arthur Laurents, Edward Albee, and Tennessee Williams.
The Homosexual in America was the first essential document of gay liberation in the United States. It was published under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory. The author was a man with a wife and son, whose family knew nothing about his secret life as a gay oracle. His real name was Edward Sagarin, and he lived in Brooklyn. Sagarin was the friend of a printer who did work for Greenberg, which had published a few gay novels. The printer introduced Sagarin to a Greenberg editor named Brandt Aymar. After the war, Aymar and Jae Greenberg had been indicted on a federal charge of sending obscene materials through the mail.
The offending books were three volumes of gay fiction-Qua trefoil, a fine wartime novel by James Fugate; The Divided Path; and The Invisible Glass. Vociferous complaints from the mother of one of their mail-order customers resulted in the indictment. After the charges had dragged on for five years, they were settled for a fine of $3,5oo-and a promise to keep the three novels out of print.
But no official ever challenged the right to publish The Homosexual in America. "It was well accepted all over the country," Aymar remembered forty-four years after he published it. There were seven printings of the book between 1951 and 1957. For the thousands of gay readers who discovered it at stores across the country, it was a revelation. Sagarin had participated in "American life as a homosexual" since the 1920s, and he provided the most comprehensive description of gay male life in America ever written. He also sketched a broad plan to revolutionize American attitudes on the subject. Two appendixes referred the reader to 59 nonfiction works and 213 novels and dramas with a gay theme or character.
William Wynkoop was overwhelmed when he read it. "I said, `This is amazing! This is a breakthrough that has never occurred in history before!"' His lover Roy Strickland agreed: "This was a revolutionary book."
Sagarin's preface recorded the author's typical, tortured journey, which made it clear that like nearly all lesbians and gay men, he did not feel that he was a victim of recruitment. He recounted his first attraction to another man, his complete ignorance of "any facts about homosexuality," and his "deep shock" when a teacher in high school took him aside and explained to him that there were people "called inverts." After that Sagarin read every book he could find on the subject, and "sought to understand why I could not be like others."
He felt "deeply ashamed of being abnormal and was aware of the heavy price that must be paid if anyone were to discover my secret.... I struggled against my homosexuality, sought to discipline myself to overcome it, punished myself for failures to resist sinful temptations. But the struggles did nothing to diminish the needs within me." And like many of the men studied by the army during World War II, he alternately felt "trapped by a human tragedy to which I could never adjust, or blessed as one of the elite of the world."
But Sagarin's experiences with men discouraged him from believing in the possibility of a long-term homosexual relationship: "Passionate infatuations that seemed permanent were torn asunder after only a short period of time.... It appeared to me that I faced a life of dissipation, a hopeless dead-end." So when he discovered at twenty-five that he was "capable of consummating a marriage," he married his childhood sweetheart. His final solution was typical of his generation-a marriage that lasted until the end of his life, and a simultaneous love affair with a black boyfriend.
The Homosexual in America was a call to arms, an attack on every anti-homosexual prejudice. As the historian John I)'Emilio pointed out, it "not only provided gay men and women with a tool for reinterpreting their lives; it also implied that the conditions of life had changed sufficiently so that the book's message might find a receptive audience."
Sagarin declared that being homosexual "is as involuntary as if it were inborn," and he decried the fact that homosexuals were the only significant minority without "a spokesman, a leader, a publication, an organization, a philosophy of life," or even "an accepted justification" for their own existence. "There is surely no group of such size, and yet with so few who acknowledge that they belong."
To make money and to educate the faithful, Sagarin joined forces with his editor, Brandt Aymar, and opened a gay bookstore called the Book Seller, on Second Avenue near 49th Street. Gore Vidal was among the many gay authors who did signings there. Sagarin and Aymar also started a gay book club called the Cory Book Service (after Sagarin's pseudonym). The club flourished for about a year, until it ran out of new titles to offer.
Sagarin said his "friends" attacked the homosexual for lying to everyone, including himself. Then he identified the dilemma confronting almost every gay person in the fifties: If he was honest about who he was, he faced "discrimination and social ostracism." But if he disguised his true nature to protect himself, he was denounced for "living a life that is a lie." And he wrote, "In this situation, the dominant heterosexual group is without an answer."
Dozens of his declarations foreshadowed themes that would dominate gay political debates for the rest of the twentieth century. For example, he attributed the promiscuity of many gay men to the lack of any "social, legal or ecclesiastical pressure to bind together the homosexual union," a precursor of subsequent arguments in favor of gay marriages. He also believed that heterosexual men would be just as promiscuous as homosexuals if they had the chance: "The fact is that every male who is not woefully undersexed is essentially an undiscriminating satyr. Most men want women. They want many females, and any females. They will whistle after every girl on the street, unless restrained by social convention; they will visit the prostitute without knowing in advance what that partner will look like.... The woman on the other hand is restrained.... The key to the puzzle ... of homosexual promiscuity is ... quite simple: the promiscuous (heterosexual) male meets the discriminating (heterosexual) female" who acts as a restraint, while "the promiscuous (homosexual) male meets the promiscuous (homosexual) male, and the restraints are entirely removed."
Other students of this question argue that the absence of a normal adolescence leads many gay men to be promiscuous young adults. "One of the reasons gay men deal badly with dating and relationships is that they're not trained in the same way as heterosexuals," said Tom Stoddard, one of the most effective gay activists of the eighties and nineties. "They lose that experience in adolescence and have to make up for it in some fashion. I think of all the experiences I missed when I was in high school and college because I was not a sexual person, when all of my peers, except for the gay ones, were experimenting and learning and having a good time. It's one of the reasons that many gay men in their twenties and thirties, perhaps even later, act like adolescents. First of all, it's a lot of fun, at least for a while. And, secondly, they never had an opportunity to progress or to learn. You had no examples-nothing even to read about the subject, other than hostile stuff. In the good world of the future, I think that won't happen. They will be adolescents at an appropriate time in their lives."
Sagarin's original radicalism was suggested by his attack on those who advocated "tolerance" for homosexuals. "Tolerance is the ugliest word in our language," he wrote. "We appeal to people to be tolerant of others-in other words to be willing to stand them ... I can't see why anyone should be struggling to be tolerated. If people are not good, they should not be tolerated, and if they are good, they should be accepted," This attitude would also become a leitmotif of the gay movement three decades later.
Sagarin was also one of the first to describe what would later be widely labeled as internalized homophobia:
The prejudice of the dominant group, seen everywhere ... is most demoralizing when we homosexuals realize to what extent we have accepted hostile attitudes as representing an approximation of the truth.... A person cannot live in an atmosphere of universal rejection ... without a fundamental influence on his personality.... There is no Negro problem except that created by whites; no Jewish problem except that created by gentiles ... and no homosexual problem except that created by the heterosexual society.... The very impact of the words I am a homosexual ... forced me at ... all moments of the day to convince myself that I was as good as the next person; in fact better.Sagarin believed the main problem for the homosexual was the hypocrisy of the antisexual society he lived in. He wrote that "Sexual freedom is actually being practiced on a very wide scale in modern life," despite its condemnation "by school, church, newspapers and government.... In modern anti-sexual society, [even] the heterosexual is tolerated only because he is necessary for the propagation of the species," while "the virgin and the chaste are glorified as pristine purity."
He called for the abolition of all laws regulating sex.* "All sexual activity [should be] accepted as equally correct," Sagarin wrote, "so long as it is entered into voluntarily by the parties involved, they are perfectly sane and above a reasonable age of consent, free of communicable disease, and no duress or misrepresentation is employed."
And he identified the essential fact about all lesbians and gay men, the element that paradoxically undermined their confidence and simultaneously imbued them with a sense of superiority: "the dominant factor in my life, towering in importance above all others, is a consciousness that I am different. In one all-important respect, I am unlike the great mass of people always around me, and the knowledge of this fact is with me at all times, influencing profoundly my every thought.... To my heterosexual friends and readers" who are baffled by "the desire that I always carry within me, I can only state that I find their own sexual personality just as much an enigma."
Most importantly, he framed what would become a four-decade-long debate about the tyranny of the closet-and accurately predicted the impact of its destruction. "Many homosexuals consider that their greatest fortune, their one saving grace, has been the invisibility of the cross which they have had to bear," Sagarin wrote toward the end of his book. "Actually, the inherent tragedy-not the saving grace-of homosexuality is found in the ease of concealment. If the homosexual were as readily recognizable as ... members of ... other minority groups, the social condemnation could not possibly exist. Stereotype thinking on the part of the majority would ... collapse of its own absurdity if all of us who are gay were known for what we are.... If only all of the inverts, the millions in all lands, could simultaneously rise up in our full strength!"
Sadly, Sagarin never took his own advice on this subject, a failure that contributed to his eventual estrangement from the vanguard of the movement he did so much to create.
WILLIAM WYNKOOP was thirty-three in 1949 when he met the thirty-one-year-old Roy Strickland on a park bench in Washington Square in Greenwich Village. It was an unusually mild evening in December. Strickland was the young man from Long Island who had suffered through unsuccessful male hormone treatments paid for by his sister. Now he was working in window display at a department store. Wynkoop was a Dartmouth graduate who had become a college English professor. As a gay man in 1949, his thinking was decades ahead of its time.
Until he met Strickland, Wynkoop remembered, "There wasn't one homosexual that I had talked to-or gone to bed with-who shared my view that we were not abnormal and sick." His contemporaries told him they had never heard anything like his philosophy before. "I said, we are not inferior in any sense," Wynkoop recalled. "We don't produce babies, thank heavens, because there are too many being born as it is. But so far as our own pleasure in sex is concerned, I'm convinced the pleasure of most homosexuals in sexual activities is equal in passion and enjoyment to that which the majority of heterosexuals experience. The choice we made was to be true to ourselves.
"The world regarded us as flibbertigibbets. That was the general view of homosexual men, that they were childish, depraved, and degenerate. That was the favorite word of heterosexual society in referring to us. Degenerate people who are incapable of any lasting relationship-they are too unstable, too childish, and too vicious." This aspect of the psychiatric profession's formal judgment was its most damaging: the notion that all homosexuals were the victims of some kind of arrested development, coupled with the idea that nearly all of them could change, if only they exerted the will to do so. "I knew from the depths of my soul that this was not true. And yet I would get no support from fellow male homosexuals." When Wynkoop made his speech about the health of the average gay man in front of Strickland's roommate on West 9th Street, the roommate told Strickland, "This one's crazy. You've got to turn him in for another one." Strickland ignored the advice. In 1996, he and Wynkoop celebrated their forty-seventh anniversary together.
Two years after Wynkoop met Strickland, The Homosexual in America was published. "Before this came out the majority of people that I remember hearing talk about gays-'faggots,' as they would call us-were convinced that we choose this lifestyle," said Wynkoop. The book attracted a devoted following, even though, as Strickland remembered, "You would never see anybody reading it on the subway or a bus because of the title." And although it was stocked by many stores, "People were afraid to go in and ask."
Wynkoop and Strickland wrote to the author in care of his publisher, and Sagarin soon wrote back to invite Wynkoop to meet him for a drink at a hotel on Madison Avenue, right next to St. Patrick's Cathedral. When Wynkoop arrived at the appointed hour, he saw a single man at the bar-very short and hunched. "I do remember the shock that I got when he moved off that stool at the bar," said Wynkoop, who remembered Sagarin being severely crippled and stooped.
Later Sagarin invited Wynkoop and Strickland out to Brooklyn to meet his family. "My wife and child don't know anything about this," Sagarin told Wynkoop a few weeks after their first meeting. "He said, `I would like very much for you to come out there, to meet them, and for them to meet you. But if you do, don't say anything that would reveal what I am,"' Wynkoop declined the offer. "That sort of turned me off. I greatly admired his ability, but I didn't feel much rapport with him. He was such an entirely different type of man than I was."
However, in 1952, Wynkoop and Strickland did accompany Sagarin to a meeting of the Veterans Benevolent Association, one of the first gay groups in New York City, founded in 1945. Under discussion that evening was a motion to admit a new member. "Two or three of the members got up and in pretty strong terms opposed his being taken in," William Wynkoop recalled. "And I remember wondering, What in the world are they opposing him for? The guy is gay, he's apparently a veteran, and he wants to be a member. And he's a man. Then it came out after some discussion. He was an effeminate man, and they didn't want to have anything to do with effeminate male homosexuals. This made me boil." Wynkoop put his hand up during the meeting, but he was never allowed to speak. "When we went out, I said I thought that was absolutely infuriating. This is not what we're fighting for"-yet another form of discrimination. And Sagarin said, "Well, they were in the army and so they're very macho, and they don't want to be identified. They felt that it was just too risky to accept a member who was effeminate."
JACK NICHOLS CONTINUED to articulate the need to reject the medical establishment's view of homosexuality: "The mental attitude of our own people toward themselves, that they are not well-that they are not whole, that they are less than completely healthy-is responsible for untold numbers of personal tragedies and warped lives. By failing to take a definitive stand ... I believe that you will not only weaken the movement ten-fold, but that you will fail in your duty to homosexuals who need more than anything else to see themselves in a better light."
This was the fundamental philosophical insight that was necessary to the formation of an effective fighting force among gay men and women. Edward Sagarin had hinted at this idea in The Homosexual in America when he wrote that there was "no homosexual problem except that created by the heterosexual society." He had also written, "It remains to be proved that there is anything neurotic about the preference for one's own sex," but during the thirteen years since his landmark volume had been published, he had become increasingly reactionary. Now he led the fight against the new young militants. "He could get very nasty when he chose to be," Kameny said about Sagarin.
Kameny echoed Nichols in his speech to the New York Mattachine Society in July 1964. "The entire homophile movement is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether homosexuality is a sickness, and upon our taking a firm stand on it," he declared. And he was right. The following spring, the Washington chapter overwhelmingly adopted this revolutionary statement: "The Mattachine Society of Washington takes the position that in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance or other pathology in any sense, but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity, on par with, and not different in kind from heterosexuality."
Sagarin vowed to quit the New York chapter if it adopted such a statement, and he ran as part of a slate determined to hold on to the notion that homosexuality was an illness. Kameny wrote to him: "You have fallen by the wayside.... You have become no longer the rigorous Father of the Homophile Movement, to be revered, respected and listened to, but the senile Grandfather of the Homophile Movement, to be humored and tolerated at best; to be ignored and disregarded usually; and to be ridiculed, at worst."
In May 1965, the New York chapter elected the militant slate with two thirds of the vote. "It is very much a victory for all of us who are working hard and who don't want to see the clock turned backwards by the stick-in-the-muds and the `sickniks,"' Nichols enthused. Using his real name for the first time, instead of a pseudonym, Sagarin wrote a doctoral dissertation about the New York Mattachine Society in which he made scathing criticisms of the organization and dismissed the possibility that serious philosophical differences were at the heart of the dispute.
On July 4, 1965, Kameny and Nichols organized the first of a series of annual pickets outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a tradition that continued through 1969. Kameny believed the sight of people identifying themselves as homosexuals in public had a decisive impact on the movement: "These demonstrations created the necessary mind-set for gays demonstrating in public." Without them, he thought the crucial Greenwich Village explosion at the end of the decade might never have occurred.
"IS GOD DEAD?" Time magazine asked on its Easter cover in 1966. A sharp drop in religious faith during the sixties helped to put all the old puritan taboos in jeopardy. Because so much antigay prejudice was grounded in religion, the challenges to religious orthodoxy were a necessary prerequisite for a general reconsideration of the subject.
There was tremendous ferment within the Christian denominations surrounding the subject of homosexuality. As early as 1964, the Episcopal Diocese of New York supported the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults. An Episcopal spokesman said that his church's position was part of its acceptance of "God's continuing and progressive revelation about man's nature"-the very reason why so many people would eventually reject the Bible's injunctions against homosexuality. The following year, even The New York Times editorial page quietly endorsed the repeal of the law forbidding homosexual acts in private. But the Catholic archdiocese mounted a fierce and successful battle to retain statutes making both adultery and homosexuality criminal acts in New York State. On July 22, 1965, Governor Rockefeller signed two special bills to please the Catholics on these issues, after the legislature had passed a complete revision of the state's eighty-four-year-old penal code.
In 1967, ninety Episcopalian priests met at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, and a large majority declared that homosexuality should no longer be dismissed as wrong "per se." The Reverand Walter D. Dennis, canon of the cathedral and organizer of the conference, said, "A homosexual relationship between two consenting adults should be judged by the same criteria as a heterosexual marriage. That is, whether it is intended to foster a permanent relationship of love." The keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, who had coauthored Sexual Behavior in the Human Male with Kinsey. Pomeroy attacked the "myths" that homosexuals were more likely than others to be child molesters, and that they were "effeminate and identifiable." The event was front-page news in the Times.
In October 1968, twelve gay worshippers met at the home of the Reverand Troy D. Perry in Los Angeles. Sixteen months later the tiny group had become the Metropolitan Community Church with 348 members, the first congregation in the country to identify itself publicly as a gay church. As Edward Sagarin had written seventeen years earlier, "Homosexuality is not an anti-religious force, although religion is anti-homosexual." The truth of that statement would become clear as hundreds of gay churches and synagogues of every denomination were founded throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties.
At the same time, the church had lost its direct power over Hollywood after the film censorship office was finally abolished in 1968. It was replaced by the G, R, and X ratings system, which is still administered by the Motion Picture Association of America. --Charles Kaiser. The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America. Kindle Edition.
Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America by Christopher Bram
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Twelve (February 5, 2013)
Amazon: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America
In the years following World War II, a small group of gay writers established themselves as literary power players, fueling cultural changes that would resonate for decades to come, and transforming the American literary landscape forever.
In EMINENT OUTLAWS, novelist Christopher Bram brilliantly chronicles the rise of gay consciousness in American writing. Beginning with a first wave of major gay literary figures-Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, and James Baldwin-he shows how (despite criticism and occasional setbacks) these pioneers set the stage for new generations of gay writers to build on what they had begun: Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, Tony Kushner, and Edward Albee among them.
Weaving together the crosscurrents, feuds, and subversive energies that provoked these writers to greatness, EMINENT OUTLAWS is a rich and essential work. With keen insights, it takes readers through fifty years of momentous change: from a time when being a homosexual was a crime in forty-nine states and into an age of same-sex marriage and the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Basic Books (May 19, 1995)
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Gay New York brilliantly shatters the myth that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet, where gay men were isolated, invisible, and self-hating. Based on years of research and access to a rich trove of diaries, legal records, and other unpublished documents, this book is a fascinating portrait of a gay world that is not supposed to have existed.
The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (June 10, 2007)
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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of a Lambda Literary Award, The Gay Metropolis is a landmark saga of struggle and triumph that was instantly recognized as the most authoritative and substantial work of its kind. Filled with astounding anecdotes and searing tales of heartbreak and transformation, it provides a decade-by-decade account of the rise and acceptance of gay life and identity since the 1940s. From the making of West Side Story, the modern Romeo and Juliet tale written and staged by four gay men, to the catastrophic era of AIDS, Charles Kaiser recounts the true history of the gay movement with many never-before-told stories. Filled with dazzling characters — including Leonard Bernstein, Montgomery Clift, Alfred Hitchcock, and John F. Kennedy, among many others — this is a vital telling of American history, exciting and uplifting.
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