Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II p. 502; and Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History:From World War II to the Present Day p. 460 Ed. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon Rutledge, New York, 2001; $29.95
Review of Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II p. 502; and Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History:From World War II to the Present Day p. 460 Ed. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon Rutledge, New York, 2001; $29.95
Reviewed by William A. Percy and John Lauritsen
The articles in this gay and lesbian Who's Who range from the excellent to the inadequate, as one might expect when such a large number of contributors is involved. Inevitably, there will be disagreement over who is included and who is excluded. As to balance, it devotes one volume to all history before WWII and the other to the period since then. It was edited from Australia and published in England, with much input from Commonwealth citizens and from Teutons (Dutch, German and Scandinavian authors), reflecting their interests as well as British ones. The two co-editors picked eight "advisors and senior contributors" and about 120 contributors, only a handful of whom are not speakers of English or of closely related tongues. Thus it balances the Germanic focus of Hirschfeld and the American one of The Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay History and Culture (Garland, 1999) -- whose predecessor, the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality (Garland, 1990) sought a balance with more input from speakers of Romance and Slavic languages, while retaining a focus on Western Civilization.
The scholarship is usually up-to-date, as are the biographies of, for example, Sappho and Stanislaw Poniatowski, but the omissions jar. In the classical period, for example, Pindar, Anacreon, Tibullus, Alcibiades, Lucian, Bion, Moschus, Nonnos, Achilles Tatius, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus are missing.
To have omitted Jim Kepner, one of the principal leaders and journalists of the American movement, yet devoted almost two full pages to Jean Le Bitoux, the prolix-author (more even than to Plato or St. Paul) shows a distinct lack of proportion. There are no entries for such important Americans as Prescott Townsend, Arthur Evans, Charley Shively, Don Slater, Barbara Gittings, Jack Nichols, Marty Robinson, Jim Owles, Bob Mizer (Athletic Model Guild), Charles Ortleb, and Arthur Warner. There are no entries for such Britons as Anthony Grey, leader of the Albany Trust, or for Bob Mellors, co-founder of gay liberation in London.
It is unfortunate that scholars of homosexuality in France seem to be altogether omitted, contributing to the mistaken impression that, in contrast to the achievements of Gallic novelists, there is little harvest of information there. The editors should have included Patrick Cardon, Claude Courouve (the dean of these studies), Didier Eribon, Frédéric Martel, and Florence Tamagne. Much of this information appears in Martel's superb book, Le rose et le noir: les homosexuels en France depuis 1968, to be read in the definitive, enlarged edition, Paris, 1996.
Absent writers include Goethe, Donne, Matthew ("Monk") Lewis, Poliziano, John Wilmot (Earl of Rochester, the author of Sodom), and H.H. Munro ("Saki"). For musicians there are no entries for Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Ravel, Benjamin Britten or Arthur Sullivan. There are none for gay scholars Paul Brandt ("Hans Licht"), Eugen Wilhelm ("Numa Praetorius"), Otto Kiefer, Joseph Wallfield ("Warren Johansson"), and Rictor Norton. There are many AIDS-related entries, including those for such "experts" as Robert Gallo, Jonathan Mann, Mike [sic] Gottlieb and Jerome Horwitz, but none for Peter Duesberg or others who question the prevailing AIDS paradigm.
Theology is almost ignored: both Philo Judaeus and St. Thomas Aquinas, two of the most influential homophobic theorists, receive no mention, whereas Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides -- two psychiatrist charlatans soon to be forgotten -- get two and four columns respectively, an egregious editorial lapse. Virgil is mishandled. Incredible as it may seem, John Boswell is the only secondary source cited for Plato. (Boswell hardly qualifies as a specialist in Hellenic studies, and his Christian-apologist theories have never been accepted by serious scholars.) Nevertheless, within its limitations, Who's Who is useful. The entries on European writers and activists in the early homosexual rights movement (Meier, Mackay, Hössli, Ulrichs, Hirschfeld, Hiller, Friedlaender, von Kupffer, Blüher, et al.) are informative and well done.
It may be that the amount of biographical information is now so great that it is impractical to present the material in a single work, even in two volumes. Accordingly, the best way to advance may be to divide the material into sectors. For example, Paul Knobel, a Research Associate of the University of Sydney, Australia, has published An Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Poetry and its Reception History. It covers 243 languages, has 6,400 entries and deals with material from 118 countries. He is now writing A History of Male Homosexual Poetry (6 of 12 chapters are complete) and also completing An Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Art, which has 5,300 entries drafted. The Poetry Encyclopedia costs $60.00 (US) and copies may be obtained from the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another method is to concentrate on a single region or country. Perhaps it is not surprising, given the vast amount of information uncovered by classic German scholarship as well as more recent developments, that this task should have first been accomplished for Germany, Austria, and German-speaking Switzerland. The book is Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller, Mann für Mann: Biographisches Lexikon (Hamburg, 1998). Covering the period from the Middle Ages to the present in more than 900 pp., this volume is about as definitive as such a work can be. Many figures, whose homosexuality had been obscure, are included, such as the art historians Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, Conrad Fiedler, and Heinrich Wölfflin. In addition, the author has made an effort to include modest, ordinary men as well as famous ones.
Another tack is to separate the sexes. The Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures (Garland, 1999) devotes one volume to females and another to males, despite the vast disparity of source material and even secondary works. The result is a welcome abundance of information on lesbians. On the whole the female volume is of consistently higher quality than the male volume. Articles in the latter range from the excellent (men in the early homosexual rights movement) through the mediocre (various literary figures) to the abysmal (Ancient Greece and Rome, "homosexuality"). Although there are more than two dozen articles on religion in the two volumes, there is not one on humanism or secularism, outlooks which informed many of the activists in the early movement.
In Italy the leading scholar Giovanni Dall'Orto (who wrote a number of entries for Who's Who) has been accumulating biographical material on figures in his country for a quarter of a century. He is now making these data available on his web site known as "La gaya scienza" (digilander.libero.it/giovannidallorto/). As the examples of Knobel and Dall'Orto show, much biographical work is being realized through the newer technologies.