The Failure of Liberalism to Confront the Gay Past
Benjamin DeMott (1924-2005) was a liberal academic and social critic. Kenneth C. Davis is a liberal who has written the "don't know much" series of books. They were/are gung-ho about rights for women, blacks, etc. One would expect them to have been supportive of gay rights, but it seems that their support only went so far. DeMott once wrote a gay-friendly screed titled "But he's a homosexual" which was included in a book called Supergrow (1969). It was therefore only natural that some gay students later came to him at Amherst and asked him to create a course in gay history. He smugly informed them that he could not do this because homosexuals had no history. Davis in his best-selling book Don't Know Much About History (1991) had exactly nothing to say about gay American history, even though Jonathan Katz had long since written a massive tome on the subject. I e-mailed Davis to complain. He did not respond. I am of course no mind-reader and cannot fully account for this blind spot in the mentality of these two certified liberals. It would seem that we exist in the present, but not in the past. We are to be given a place at the table, but are expected to hunch down in our chairs so as not to be too visible. They are ready to celebrate black history, feminist history, Sioux history, but not gay history. We have no history. Katz is an illusion; his book does not exist. If there were any important figures in history who seem to have been gay, this is of no importance, or else they weren't really gay, and in any case we can't have a course about the imaginary history of a people who merely think they have a past. One would expect this from conservatives, but here we have it from at least two liberals, and possibly more.