Pride Month Celebration — Week 5: Jonathan Katz

This post was written by our summer intern Megan, who is a MLIS student at Dominican University.

It’s the last day of June, which means it is the last day of Pride Month! This week we are listening to Studs’ 1977 interview with American historian and author Jonathan Katz. Katz is a historian of human sexuality, and in this interview he and Studs discuss his work Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States. In this pioneering work, Katz chronicles a collection of documents and letters concerning homosexuality from the 15th century onward in America.

jonathankatz

Jonathan Ned Katz

Katz’s work brings to light the suffering LGBT people have endured throughout American history. Without Katz’s hard work, much of this history would never have been discovered. He explores a wide variety of historical accounts of gay American history, ranging from that of Henry Haye, a communist and gay man who founded the first homosexual emancipation organization, to a love letter written to Emma Goldman by a woman in the early 20th century, to Walt Whitman as a forefather of the homosexual emancipation movement.

These varieties of stories and documents expose the horrendous suffering that gay and lesbian Americans have endured: they were treated as silent and invisible, considered sinners, and their existence was denied by the majority of society. When they were recognized, they were often considered deviants and abnormal, and even subjected to medical “treatments”. In his work, Katz describes documentation of aversion therapy, the use of nausea-inducing drugs, shock treatments, castration, lobotomies, vasectomies, hysterectomies, and other barbaric procedures.

At the time Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States was written, the gay community had not been historically explored; it was pushed into the darkness and forgotten. Katz explains that this time is over, and that in order to move forward, we must recognize the historical injustices that the LGBT community has suffered in America. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, Katz’s work certainly played an important role in recovering and revealing gay and lesbian American history. We thank Katz for his hard work and honor the LGBT community on the last day of Pride Month 2016.

 

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Jill Johnston & Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution

“The class of men oppresses the class of women, and the institution through which they do that is the heterosexual institution.”
– Jill Johnston

This post was written by Meghan, an MLIS student from Dominican University.

To continue our celebration of Pride month, we are highlighting a 1973 interview with feminist author, Jill Johnston.  The main topic of discussion is her book, Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution, which outlines some of her views of feminism and how she became an activist in the “lesbian feminist” movement.  Johnston was a long-time writer for The Village Voice in New York, and after having married, given birth to two children, and divorced realized that not only was she a lesbian sexually, but politically as well.  She explains, “My book is a story of growing up as a conditioned person who was instinctively at odds with the social forces around me, and not knowing that, you see, I was just a naturally acculturated female.”

In Lesbian Nation, she advocates for all women to recognize and embrace their identities as lesbians, explaining:

“I have a political definition of lesbianism and, what it really means is self-commitment, and we know that we have a feminist movement because women have been denied self-commitment and we’re just updating feminism by calling it ‘lesbianism,’ because we feel that total commitment to ourselves would include every phase of our activities…a bonding of women.”

To her mind, revising the current heterosexual norms in society is the only way to succeed in creating a better world.  Toward the end of the interview, she tells Studs, “In the end, you’ll see that we’re right – that this is the really broad approach to the world’s problems.”


Jill Johnston’s views may not have been shared by many at the time, and certainly, over forty years later, we know that her vision has not become a reality, however, it is the tireless work of women like her that has set the precedent for the feminist movements that still exist today.

 

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Pride Month Celebration – Week 3: Leonard Matlovich

“They gave me a medal for killing two men, and a dishonorable discharge for loving one.”

-Leonard Matlovich

This post was written by our summer intern Megan, a MLIS student at Dominican University.

All month we’ve been posting in honor of Pride month, and this week we will hear Studs’ 1975 interview with Leonard Matlovich, a former member of the United States Air Force who was discharged because he was gay.

Leonard Matlovich had a long and established history with the United States Air Force. His father was in the Air Force, and Matlovich himself was born on an Air Force base, graduated from an Air Force high school, and achieved most of his higher education through the Air Force. Furthermore, Matlovich was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his superior service. Despite his dedicated service for the United States, when Matlovich informed his superior officer that he was gay, he was immediately processed to be discharged from the Air Force. In this interview with Studs, Matlovich explains that he wanted to stop this kind of discrimination and oppression of gay people.

Gravesite of Leonard Matlovich

Matlovich’s gravestone at the Congressional Cemetery. Matlovich’s gravesite functions as a memorial site for LGBT activists.

Much of Studs’ interview with Matlovich focuses on the pain that comes from having to hide who one is. Throughout most of his time in the Air Force, Matlovich had to hide his true identity, and this terrible pain turned into hatred towards other groups of people. After admitting to himself that he was gay and finally coming out, Matlovich’s hatred toward others was eradicated, and he was finally able to love himself. He explains to Studs, “You can’t love others until you love yourself, and as long as you hate yourself, you’re going to hate others.”

Ultimately, Leonard fought his discharge, and attended a military hearing regarding his status. Approximately twenty witnesses came to Matlovich’s aid. In September of 1975, base commander Alton J. Thogersen suggested that Matlovich’s discharge be upgraded to an “Honorable” status. In October of the same year, his discharge was officially upgraded to an Honorable Discharge.

Matlovich explains in his interview with Studs that anything less than equality and justice is not tolerated in this country. The theme of this interview is freedom–the freedom to be who you want and love who you want. Unfortunately, Leonard Matlovich passed away from HIV-related complications in 1988 at the age of 44. The Studs Terkel Radio Archive honors Leonard Matlovich, the LGBT community, and those who have lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS.

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Pride Month Celebration – Week Two: Quentin Crisp

This post was written by Meghan, an MLIS student from Dominican University.

“Oh no.  I don’t think homosexuals are really happy.  I wouldn’t say this. I think they’re madly gay, and this itself is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?” 

  • Quentin Crisp in conversation with Studs Terkel
Quentin Crisp by Ella Guru - Oil on Canvas

Quentin Crisp by Ella Guru – Oil on Canvas

Studs Terkel speaks to Quentin Crisp in his one-room flat in a boarding house in London’s Chelsea neighborhood, where, at the time of the interview, Mr. Crisp had lived for thirty years.  Although Mr. Crisp was 61 when he was interviewed, and ultimately lived to be 90 years old, he remarked to Studs Terkel, “I don’t expect anything new from my life now.”  As a “self-confessed homosexual,” Quentin Crisp suffered a great deal during his early adulthood, as he was subjected to verbal, emotional, and physical abuse from friends, family, and strangers.  However, he came to the realization that the best way to cope with this treatment was simply to accept it.

By the time of the interview, although a sexual revolution had taken place and Crisp was then living in a much more “permissive” society, he still claimed that the best way to live was to accept one’s chains, rather than trying to break them, saying, “when you can’t sink any lower, then you’re absolutely free.”

Quentin Crisp NYC 1992 Ross Bennett Lewis

Quentin Crisp NYC 1992 photo by Ross Bennett Lewis

Mr. Crisp was an actor, writer, a well-known public figure, and the subject of films and interviews.  He nonetheless felt that he was “always at the losing end.”  Were he alive today to see that the struggles he endured during his life have paved the way for others, perhaps his outlook might have changed.

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