elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Allan Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007)

Allan Ronald Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007) was an American historian, activist, independent scholar, self-described "community-based" researcher and college drop-out, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about homosexual members of the American Armed Forces during World War II. He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.

Among Bérubé's published works was the 1990 book Coming Out Under Fire, which examined the stories of gay men and women in the U.S. military between 1941 and 1945. The book used interviews with gay veterans, government documents, and other sources to discuss the social and political issues that faced over 9,000 servicemen and women during World War II. The book earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men's Nonfiction book of 1990 and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film's director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the "genius grant") from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death.

Bérubé was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and lived with his family in Monson, Massachusetts, and later in a trailer park near the waterfront in Bayonne, New Jersey. He lived for a time in Boston and for many years in San Francisco. He moved to New York City, and finally settled in Liberty, New York, where he died in 2007.

Allan Bérubé with John D'Emilio

Starting in 1979, Bérubé was interviewed about his work in publications including Time (magazine), The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Advocate, Christopher Street (magazine), Gay Community News (Boston), and the San Francisco Examiner. His many radio and television appearances included interviews by Studs Terkel, Sonia Freedman on CNN, and two by Terry Gross on National Public Radio's Fresh Air.

Bérubé was twice elected Trustee, Village of Liberty, Liberty, NY, 2003 and 2005.

The records of Bérubé's life and work are preserved by the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, of which he was a founding member. Bérubé donated the research and administrative files of his World War II Project to the society in 1995, with an accretion in 2000 (collection no. 1995-16). That collection is processed and open to researchers; a finding aid is available on the Web at the Online Archive of California.

Bérubé also donated the records of the Forget-Me-Nots (collection no. 1989-10), an affinity group of which he was a member; the group performed civil disobedience at the United States Supreme Court during the 1987 Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, with each participant protesting in honor of an individual who had died of AIDS.

Following Bérubé's death, the executors of his estate donated his complete personal and professional papers to the Historical Society in 2010. Preliminary processing of those papers is underway as of fall 2010; the records will not be open to researchers until processing is complete and a finding aid is prepared. A number of other collections of personal papers and organizational records at the GLBT Historical Society also include correspondence from Bérubé and other material documenting his work; details are available by searching the society's online catalog of manuscript collections.
"I do my work now in the borderlands between social classes, between the university and the community, between heterosexual and homosexual, between educated speech and down-to-earth talk, between Franco-American and Québécois, between my family and the gay community."
"None of us can do our best work until we believe that the life of the mind really does belong to us."
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_B%C3%A9rub%C3%A9
Coming Out Under Fire, by Allan Berube is a non-fiction book, history, really, but so much of it reads like a good detective novel. For gays and lesbians this is just such a good, enlightening and yes, empowering story. It’s also very instructive, as Berube tells us about the coastal origins of what we know today as the American gay community. Today I watched a YouTube video of American soldiers in Afghanistan dancing together to a Lady Gaga song – it’s somehow comforting to know that queer soldiers were doing the equivalent all throughout WWII, and probably long before that! This book was also invaluable research for a WWII period movie script I wrote called “Me and Mamie O’Rourke.” --Jim Arnold
In Coming Out Under Fire, a super study of homosexuals who served in the American military during the Second World War, Allan Bérubé reports that the psychiatric establishment used an economic argument to convince the War Department of the need for psychiatric screenings. The government had spent more than $1 million caring for psychiatric casualties of World War I; in 1940, these victims still occupied more than half the beds in veteran's hospitals.
Unfortunately, as Bérubé explains, Sullivan and his colleagues "had carved out the territory on which others would build an antihomosexual barrier and the rationale for using it". Sullivan's belief in the relative insignificance of "sexual aberrations" in establishing mental illness was undermined as his plan was digested by the Washington bureaucracy. By the middle of 1941, the army and the Selective Service both included "homosexual proclivities" in their lists of disqualifying "deviations". --The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
A final reason we have failed to see the gay subculture that existed before World War II is that it has been obscured by the dramatic growth of the gay subculture after the war. As the groundbreaking work of Allan Bérubé and John D'Emilio has shown, the war "created something of a nationwide coming out experience". By freeing men from the supervision of their families and small-town neighborhoods and placing them in a single-sex environment, military mobilization increased the chances that they would meet gay men and explore their homosexual interests. Many recruits saw the sort of gay life they could lead in large cities and chose to stay in those cities after the war. Some women who joined the military, as well as those on the homefront who shared housing and worked in defense industries with other women, had similar experiences. As a result, the war made it possible for gay bars and restaurants to proliferate and for many new gay social networks to form. --Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey
Millions of young women and men, many of whom may never have heard the words "fairy", "invert", "homosexual", or "lesbian" and may not yet have discovered all aspects of their sexual desires, had enlisted. Being thrown together with so many different people of the same sex gave them an opportunity to understand their lives in new, radical ways. Bérubé weaves a broad, textured tapestry of the lives of same-sex desiring service members during the war. Many speak of erotic, affectional, and sexual relationships with their fellow enlistees. Some of these relationships began before the war and lasted for decades. Others occured during the war, ending when the partners reentered civilian life. Many were brief sexual encounters, similar to heterosexual liaisons on the home front. Many women and men enjoyed same-sex romantic and physical relationship during the war, but for the reminder of their lives engaged in different-sex relationships. --A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

Allan Bérubé, 1994, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123727)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History by Allan Berube
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (May 18, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0807871958
ISBN-13: 978-0807871959
Amazon: My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History

This anthology pays tribute to Allan Berube (1946-2007), a self-taught historian and MacArthur Fellow who was a pioneer in the study of lesbian and gay history in the United States. Best known for his Lambda Literary Award-winning book Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II (1990), Berube also wrote extensively on the history of sexual politics in San Francisco and on the relationship between sexuality, class, and race. John D'Emilio and Estelle Freedman, who were close colleagues and friends of Berube, have selected sixteen of his most important essays, including hard-to-access articles and unpublished writing. The book provides a retrospective on Berube's life and work while it documents the emergence of a grassroots lesbian and gay community history movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Taken together, the essays attest to the power of history to mobilize individuals and communities to create social change.

Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II, 20th Anniversary Ed. by Allan Berube
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 20 Anv edition (September 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080787177X
ISBN-13: 978-0807871775
Amazon: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II, 20th Anniversary Ed.

During World War II, as the United States called on its citizens to serve in unprecedented numbers, the presence of gay Americans in the armed forces increasingly conflicted with the expanding antihomosexual policies and procedures of the military. In Coming Out Under Fire, Allan Berube examines in depth and detail these social and political confrontations--not as a story of how the military victimized homosexuals, but as a story of how a dynamic power relationship developed between gay citizens and their government, transforming them both. Drawing on GIs' wartime letters, extensive interviews with gay veterans, and declassified military documents, Berube; thoughtfully constructs a startling history of the two wars gay military men and women fought--one for America and another as homosexuals within the military.

Berube's book, the inspiration for the 1995 Peabody Award-winning documentary film of the same name, has become a classic since it was published in 1990, just three years prior to the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which has continued to serve as an uneasy compromise between gays and the military. With a new foreword by historians John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, this book remains a valuable contribution to the history of World War II, as well as to the ongoing debate regarding the role of gays in the U.S. military.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: essayist: allan berube, particular voices

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