Letter to Christopher Street regarding Clemmer Mayhew's review of "Outing"

From William A. Percy
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Letters to the Editor
Christopher Street
Post Office Box 1475
Church Street Station
New York City, NY 10008

20 June 1994

Dear Sir;

I was flattered to share the cover page of Christopher Street, still the most literate and literary of gay periodicals, with America's greatest living poet, Allen Ginsberg, whose recent lecture crowded a large Boston auditorium. My coauthor and roommate, Warren Johansson, (born Peter Joseph Wallfield) died on Friday 10 June 1994. He read fifty languages, was first in his class at the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, and received his MA from Columbia University in 1957, and was long associated with the Harriman Institute and with gay rights. Consequently, I am replying alone and was almost solely responsible for the thirty two page preface added to the second printing of Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence ( which came out in May ) . The foreign phrases and other recondite historical allusions to which Clemmer Mayhew III objected in your May 1994 issue were largely Johansson's work.

Just as Mayhew's review of Reinaldo Arenas' memoir, Before Night Falls was unusual if not unique in being negative , his denunciation of Outing has not been echoed. The ten or twelve reviews in other gay periodicals have been positive. Several glowed with praise and some ranked it better than Signorile's Queer in America. No one has, however, compared either book to Larry Gross's The Contested Closet or to Richard Mohr's Gay Ideas: Outing and Other Things.

I must object to some of Mayhew's rambling remarks. What do I or outing, in general, have to do with Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. to whom he devoted several paragraphs of the review? I certainly do not agree that history is " chiefly mythology ". Mayhew pontificates " Reputable resources have been mixed with daily newspaper reports ". Does he presume that newspapers cannot be reputable? He does not like obscure references either, especially those in foreign languages. He criticizes us for page after page of Latin and French " colloquialisms " whereas the examples he quotes are standard ( if foreign ) language, not colloquialisms. Perhaps he should brush up on his German and French.

It has, also, long been acknowledged by authorities such as Thomas Mann that " Homosexuality has been the disease of professors", an idea to which Mayhew objected. That was more so in the days when men and women went to segregated colleges. Oxford and Cambridge professors had, in fact, to resign upon marriage until the 1860's or 70's and living , dining, and drinking together with their students, as the dons did, encouraged homosexual liaisons. Willard Thorpe, the Chairman of The Princeton English Department four decades ago, when the university was still all male, stated at a cocktail party " Of course, I do have a lot of homosexual professors. They do a better job because they are more interested in their students ".

As the rather " square " chairman of my department( History ) at the University of Massachusetts in Boston told me the other day while discussing the Boy Scouts " Everyone knows that if you like boys that is where you would go ". I replied that many might become a priest instead. Lesbian gym instructors are notorious. The main difference is that ephebophiles (those preferring youth in the age bracket of approximately eighteen to twenty two) have been more likely to take jobs in universities whereas pederasts in the strict sense of the word ( those preferring pubescent youth of approximately twelve or thirteen to eighteen years of age ) tend to seek out groups with adolescents of that age. Finally, pedophiles in the strict sense ( those who prefer prepubescent children ) might be drawn disproportionately to day care centers and elementary schools. To out people who prefer an underage partner might send them to jail. See what happens in the current case of a Tory lord in Great Britain outed as a pederast by the muckraking new paper Scallywag.

Mr. Mayhew's general attack on Haworth Press was unwarranted and should not have been included in the review. Haworth has been the mainstay of publishing gay and lesbian non-fiction for the past two decades. Other publishers come and go, but Haworth like Christopher Street endures. Its Journal of Homosexuality is the leading periodical in the field worldwide and will apparently remain so for the forseeable future. Even the excellent five year old Journal of the History of Sexuality, which is by no means exclusively devoted to gay and lesbian studies may not last. It is extremely difficult in these days of drastic cuts in library budgets to keep journals afloat as John DeCecco, editor of the JOH is doing. JOH has rigorous scholarly standards and peer reviews. Haworth has printed some of the most important gay studies such as In Pursuit of Sodomy in 1988 ( about homosexuality in Renaissance and early modern Europe ). The most significant of its long list is perhaps Laud Humphrey's expanded edition of 1975, Tearoom Trade, the path breaking study that showed that many who indulged in gay sex in rest areas a couple years later denounced such activity in vitriolic terms when interviewed at home. Haworth has a well deserved reputation for publishing avant garde gay and lesbian scholarship both in book form and in articles in the JOH.

I am surprised that Christopher Street by publishing such a reactionary ( not to mention rambling ) review seems to agree with Bruce Bauer who also rambles in a reactionary and devisive way that we should not " crawl out of the woodwork " unless we can act like straight suburban Christians. Where is Mayhew coming from and where is Christopher Street going?

Sincerely yours,

William A. Percy
History Department
Univ. Massachusetts
Boston, MA 02125

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