Biographical History of W. Dorr Leg

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Biographical History

The Comprehensive Bibliography of Homosexuality was a project of W. Dorr Legg and Wayne R. Dynes, and was intended to supersede Vern L. Bullough, Barrett W. Elcano, W. Dorr Legg, and James Kepner, ed., An Annotated Bibliography of Homosexuality (1976). The project was not completed due to a controversy between the authors as to whose name was to appear first in the credits. Dynes subsequently used much of the material he had collected in his Homosexuality; A Research Guide (1987) and Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (1990).

Pioneer gay activist William Dorr Legg was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on December 15, 1904. He graduated A.B. in 1926 from the University of Michigan, where he also earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music and a Master's Degree in Landscape Design in 1928. He originally practiced landscape design in Florida and New York City, before taking an appointment as Assistant Professor of Landscape Design at Oregon State College (now University), in Corvallis, in 1935. In the mid-1940's Legg returned to Michigan to care for his elderly parents. While there he fell in love with Merton Bird, an accountant of African American ancestry. In search of a social environment more accepting of their interracial relationship, the couple moved in 1949 to Los Angeles, where Legg became increasingly active in the post-World War II gay community. Shortly after their arrival, the couple founded an interracial social organization for gay men, the Knights of the Clocks, which flourished for several years in the early 1950s. In 1951, Legg joined the Mattachine Society, founded the previous year by Harry Hay, and in 1952, Legg became one of the founders of ONE, Inc., giving up his professional career to become the business manager of the organization's monthly publication, also called ONE, the first issue of which appeared in 1953. With a distribution of 5,000 copies by the end of the 1950s, it was the first widely distributed gay publication in the United States. Although the United States Post Office confiscated the October 1954 issue as "lewd, obscene, lascivious and filthy" and therefore unfit to be sent through the mails, in 1958 the United States Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, ruled in favor of ONE, thereby establishing the right to send gay and lesbian material through the mail.

Legg considered educating the public as key to gaining acceptance for gays and lesbians. To this end he was instrumental in establishing ONE's Institute of Homophile Studies, which opened in 1956, offering college- and graduate-level courses, special programs, and public lectures, and supporting a library of research materials. In the same year, Legg, under the pseudonym Marvin Cutler, published the first American survey of the gay rights movement, Homosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations and Publications. Legg also founded ONE Institute's Quarterly of Homophile Studies and co-edited the Annotated Bibliography of Homosexuality (1976), a pioneering interdisciplinary survey of gay and lesbian studies.

Legg remained a vigorous activist and scholar until the very end of his life. In 1994, in collaboration with David G. Cameron and Walter L. Williams, he published Homophile Studies in Theory and Practice, an exhaustive history of ONE and its educational endeavors. Legg died shortly after the book's publication, on July 26, 1994, in Los Angeles.

Wayne R. Dynes was born in 1934, and was raised in Los Angeles. He earned a B.A. from UCLA, and in 1969 a Ph.D. at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He is retired as Professor of Art History at Hunter College, City University of New York. He is the author of Homolexis: A Historical and Cultural Lexicon of homosexuality (1985) and omosexuality: A Research GuideH (1987). Dynes also edited the two-volume Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (1990) and is former editor of Cabirion: Gay Books Bulletin. He was a co-founder of New York's Gay Academic Union in 1973. From the finding aid for Comprehensive Bibliography of Homosexuality work papers circa 1980 (ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.)

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