Since the advent of written language gay authors like Socrates and Plato have been leaving their mark on the culture and communities in which they lived. Since the Stonewall Uprising 50 years ago, gay writers have been fearlessly and honestly telling our Community’s stories and blazing trails into mainstream America.
Their vibrant words and voices, which began as “fringe” in an often-hostile society, were groundbreaking for their times but their courage and remarkable writing made them best-selling authors. In their respective fields, novelist, Armistead Maupin, journalist, Randy Shilts and essayist, Paul Monette paved the way for generations of writers to carry on the vital tradition of storytelling in our Community.
First appearing as a newspaper serial in 1974, the stories of Anna Madrigal and the other fascinating, mysterious residents of “28 Barbary Lane,” Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City was not published as a book until 1978.
What followed is a literary phenomenon spanning nine books over 36 years; including, Babycakes in 1983, one of the first books to deal with the subject of AIDS; four miniseries based on his Tales, the latest premiering last week on Netflix; two additional novels; more than six million copies printed in ten languages; and numerous literary awards. In 2017, Maupin published critical acclaim, Logical Family – a memoir, following his conservative Southern upbringing to his liberation as a gay man in San Francisco. Always close to his inspiration, Maupin still lives in San Francisco with his husband activist, Christopher Turner.
“Sooner or later, though, no matter where in the world we live, we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us.” – Armistead Maupin
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Despite graduating at the top of his journalism class in 1975, it wasn’t until 1981 that out writer; Randy Shilts was hired full time, becoming “the first openly gay reporter with a gay ‘beat’ in the American mainstream press” by “The San Francisco Chronicle.”
Called “the pre-eminent chronicler of gay life and spokesman on gay issues,” by Jeffery Schmalz of the New York Times, Shilts is most known as an author for his three widely acclaimed best-selling books: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, (1982) creating a new literary genre “gay political biography.” And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1980–1985), (1987) recounting the Reagan Administration’s apathy and derelict of action as well as the gay community’s resistance to changing its behavior in the face of a growing health crisis which became an award winning film in 1993. Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military, (1993) the last chapter of which Randy Shilts dictated from his hospital bed while battling AIDS.
He planned for a fourth book on homosexuals in the Roman Catholic Church.
“I can only answer that I tried to tell the truth and, if not be objective, at least be fair; history is not served when reporters prize trepidation and propriety over the robust journalistic duty to tell the whole story.” – Randy Shilts
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(1945 – 1995)
Graduating from Yale in 1967, Paul Monette began his career as an English teacher, not publishing his first book of poetry until 1975. It was followed by three gay novels which while receiving praise, Monette called, “glib and silly.”
When his longtime partner, Roger Horowitz died of AIDS in 1985, Monette’s work became anything but. He chronicled Roger’s fight and his loss in the poetic and devasting, Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir published in 1987 to critical acclaim. He continued to write about the epidemic ravaging the gay community in his novel and poetry while he himself was fighting it.
Widely considered his seminal work, Becoming A Man: Half A Life story was published in 1992 winning the National Book Award for Nonfiction. In the autobiography, Monette recounts his closeted childhood, coming out, and meeting Roger the first time. A year before his death in 1995, he published, Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise completing his life trilogy and leaving gay men a legacy for generations.
“The struggle for true openness and intimacy is a lifelong struggle for all of us, gay and straight alike.” – Paul Monette
The Monette-Horwitz Trust was established in 1995 to support future LGBT activism and scholarship. Monette-Horwitz Trust Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations for their contribution to eradicating homophobia through their literary, scholarly, archival, or activist work.
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Previous posts from theOUTfront series, “Generations of Pride”
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