Victor Navasky, The New York Occasions, and A Key Second in Homosexual Historical past | Books | Coys Information


Victor Navasky, 90, is finest recognized for his books on the McCarthy period within the Nineteen Fifties and Robert Kennedy’s Justice Division within the Nineteen Sixties, longtime editorship of the Nation journal and positions at Columbia College, together with chairing the Columbia Journalism Assessment. .

What nobody remembers is how his homophobic response to a famously homophobic article in Harper’s journal led him to essentially the most pro-gay piece the New York Occasions had ever revealed – the seminal 1971 op-ed. Within the motion for homosexual liberation.

In September 1970, the famously liberal journal Harper’s revealed an notorious article by Joseph Epstein: Homo/hetero: The Wrestle for Sexual Identification.

The article appeared 14 months after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a homosexual middle in New York’s Greenwich Village, sparking public riots, a liberal journal’s first long-form response to the budding homosexual motion.

Epstein wrote that homosexuals are “cursed … actually, by an inexplicable wound within the medieval sense, a chunk of utmost misfortune”. Nothing any of his sons may do would “sore me greater than any of them being homosexual. For I ought to know that they’re despised. “

Homosexual activists had been horrified and shortly had a sit-in in Harper’s workplace. As every worker arrived, a protester greeted them: “Good morning, I am homosexual. Would you want some espresso?”

A famous novelist and journal author, Merle Miller was an everyday contributor to Harper’s and the New York Occasions Journal. He has by no means instructed one other straight individual about his orientation.

Every week after Epstein’s letter was revealed, Miller had lunch together with his two Occasions editors, Gerald Walker and Victor Navasky, on the French restaurant Chambertin, a favourite Occasions hangout.

Twelve years later, the Columbia Journalism Assessment (not edited by Navasky on the time) reported what occurred.

It was an period when the Harris Ballot reported that 63% of Individuals thought-about homosexuals “dangerous” to society, and the official handbook of the American Psychiatric Affiliation acknowledged that every one homosexuals had been mentally sick.

Miller requested Navasky and Walker what they considered Epstein’s diatribe. Each authors instructed him they thought it was a wonderful article.

Alliance of Gay Activists Plans Sit-In in 1970
Alliance of Homosexual Activists Plans Sit-In in 1970 Picture: Wealthy Wandel/New York Public Library Digital Collections

Miller exploded: “Man, I am homosexual!”

He later defined why the article was so offensive.

Navaski responded to Miller’s outrage with an openness nearly none of his heterosexual colleagues had been able to.

“Because you hated the piece a lot, it’s best to write a response to it,” Navasky instructed Miller.

Miller did. When his e-book, What It Means to Be Homosexual, appeared in January 1971, James Baldwin and Allen Ginsberg had been the one two overtly homosexual writers in America. However Miller got here out first within the pages of the New York Occasions.

Epstein’s understated data, nuance and humanity had been current in his work. The one factor the 2 writers agreed on was that “no person appears to know why homosexuality occurs” and surprisingly, after 50 years, there’s a sturdy concern {that a} son will grow to be homosexual.

However Miller added: “Not all moms concern their sons can be homosexual. There are distinguished ladies in all places amongst us who settle for homosexuality of their sons. With that, moms know that they won’t lose themselves to a different girl.”

For a 20-year-old homosexual man like me, who had by no means learn something constructive about gays within the New York Occasions, Miller’s article was a large leap of hope.

Forty-one years later, Miller’s work was republished as a Penguin Traditional paperback, Altering: What It Means to Be Homosexual. I wrote an afterword. I invited Nowsky to seem at a bookstore for a panel dialogue about his position within the conception of Miller’s work. He was glad to take part. It was the primary time he had publicly described his momentous lunch with Miller.



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