From William A. Percy
Jump to: navigation, search

Why the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality went out of print.

In May of 1995 Garland Publishing, Inc. abruptly withdrew the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality from sale. Uniformly well reviewed, the set had garnered a number of prestigious awards. Since the 1990 publication, sales had been steady. Today objective observers acknowledge that the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality has not been surpassed in its field.

What happened between 1990 and 1995? Garland caved in to a pressure group of leftist and feminist activists who viewed the Encyclopedia as lacking in political correctness. After an ongoing whispering campaign, they succeeded in selling their complaints to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which published a one-sided article. The pretext for the intervention was the fact that a number of articles in the Encyclopedia were signed with the name of Evelyn Gettone. Gettone was one of a number of pseudonyms employed in the work. In fact, of the original four editors, two names were pseudonymous-Warren Johansson and Stephen Donaldson. These two distinguished scholars had long been using these names in their published work.

In fact the use of pseudonyms has a long and distinguished history in gay scholarship and activism. Early figures, such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Eugen Wilhelm used pseudonyms. At a time when open espousal of gay rights was almost unheard of, they did not want to compromise their reputations and employment. The reasons, then, were in large measure prudential. But not wholly. As with many others, the use of a pen name allows one to spotlight some particular aspect of one's work, without bringing in other features. A striking instance is the Portuguese gay poet Fernando Pessoa, who devised three major pseudonyms as vehicles to showcase different facets of his complex personality.

Some hold that one may only choose a pseudonym corresponding to one's own sex. Since the name of Evelyn Gettone was used mainly by males, this was wrong. Nonetheless, George Eliot and George Sand (both genital females are known under male names). Today the film writer and commentator Paul Rudnick has employed several pseudonyms, among them Libby Gelman-Waxner. Likewise the Boston gay writer John Mitzel who sometimes writes under the name of Bunny LaRue. And of course, as the example of the novelist Waugh shows, the name Evelyn may be borne by men as well as women.

In the entire fracas no one ever discovered serious errors in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. The attacks were a pretext for suppression of views regarded as politically undesirable. As such they were a shameful effort to impose censorship.

Today, Garland Publishing has been absorbed by another firm based in Britain. Still, it remains a scandal that the original owner and editors of Garland should have yielded to a spiteful pressure campaign. In many ways the late twentieth century was a dark time. It was an era in which the left (forgetting the lessons of the McCarthy era) sought to impose its own form of censorship. In the end they did not succeed. Now one can judge for oneself through the reappearance of the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality on the Internet.

Wayne R. Dynes, April 2006

Personal tools