Reader’s Thought

Published in: November-December 2015 issue.


The Early Riots Did Make a Difference

To the Editor:

I take issue with you saying early riots in San Francisco and Los Angeles ended with a thud [in the editor’s introduction to the “Gay New York” issue, July-Aug. 2015]. Neither city was the media center of the country that New York City was in 1969. Also, San Francisco demonstrators by-and-large are less shrill than New Yorkers.

Word of the Compton Café riot [in San Francisco, 1966]quickly spread through the trans and drag communities, and while it may not have directly affected the actions of the drag queens on that day at the Stonewall Café, it gave them permission. The New Years Drag Ball in San Francisco in 1965 resulted in dramatic changes in the way the Police Department treated gay people, and it raised the visibility of our community with city power brokers.

Small steps are often as important to creating change as the media sensations.

Chuck Forester, San Francisco


Was the Encyclopedia Fraudulent?

To the Editor:

I’m writing not about an article but about an ad that appears in the current issue [Sept.-Oct. 2015], on the back page, which promotes several books, including The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. This Encyclopedia was withdrawn by Garland in 1990 or 1991 after fraud was discovered in the volumes, which were edited by Warren Johansson and Wayne Dynes.

Here is how I discovered this sleight of hand in the Encyclopedia (which I had earlier reviewed favorably). Preparing for my LGBT lit class at City College of San Francisco, I read the Sappho entry and was surprised that no recent scholarship by lesbians was listed. Neither was the outstanding work on Sappho by Stanford classics scholar Jack Winkler. The author of the article on Sappho was “Evelyn Gettone.” When I read her entry on Willa Cather, I became even more suspicious, because the entry said Cather did not write about marriage, which was completely untrue.

Then, quite by accident, I happened to be at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, when I noticed an Italian-to-English dictionary and found that “gettone” in Italian means “token”! I suspect Dynes and Johansson wrote all of the entries themselves and wanted to disguise this clubby arrangement, and even had some sport at the expense of lesbians by inventing Gettone and writing her articles themselves. I inferred this by a close reading of the style of the signed entries and that of Gettone. Identical stylistic tics were the giveaway.

On top of that, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that some gay men had stated that a male writer in the Encyclopedia named “Ward Hauser” was also fake; no such scholar existed.

In the face of these criticisms, Garland Press withdrew the two volumes and subsequently published separate volumes on male homosexuality and lesbianism. Dynes and his friends are clearly accomplished scholars, and many entries in their work are exceptionally good. I have referred to a few articles myself. Their bias shows through in spots, for example in their disparaging entry on social constructionism.

Seeing this ad for the Encyclopedia in the GLR brought all this back to me. I wrote a few articles for the Gay Books Bulletin in the 1980s when it was edited by Dynes, but stopped because of the misogyny that I found in the GBB. A footnote to LGBT scholarship.

Peg Cruikshank, Corea, Maine


William A. Percy Replies:

So Wayne Dynes wrote some articles in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality under a female pseudonym, “Evelyn Gettone.” Peg Cruikshank still misunderstands the use of pennames. I would like clarify the record. Wayne Dynes strove mightily to attract knowledgeable female scholars to contribute to the Encyclopedia. Only Lillian Faderman and a few other lesbians wrote entries. However, Dynes felt that the inclusion of factual content was more important than who got credit for it. By this means, we succeeded in covering lesbians in our Encyclopedia.

Even Cruikshank does not argue that the articles attributed to “Gettone” are misogynistic. We editors of the Encyclopedia were indeed critical of Social Constructionism, and with good reason, I would still maintain. The translation of “Gettone,” like Ward Hauser (“defender of the house”), is evidence of a certain impish streak in Dynes.

In 1990, we had to rush to complete our groundbreaking, controversial work. Dynes and I are still around, but Warren Johansson and Stephen Donaldson are long gone. For the record, Johannson, a brilliant philologist who read dozens of languages, was born Joseph Wallfield. Donaldson, who in 1967 founded the first-ever gay and lesbian student organization at Columbia, was born Robert Anthony Martin Jr. For centuries, there has existed a tradition, often out of

necessity, of gay and lesbian writers using pseudonyms.

After Cruikshank’s crusade ended distribution of the Encyclopedia in the 1990s, Garland’s purported “gender-balanced” replacement was hardly in the same league. It received almost no attention. Politically correct, it absurdly granted one volume to each sex. Male homosexual sex has garnered more attention and persecution from religions and governments through the ages. Over the centuries, males have done most of the writing and preservation of it. Lesbians evaded the concerted attention and outrage that gay males have attracted from the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as from fascism and Communism in the 20th century.

In 1869, writing in German, the Magyar Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined the term “homosexual.” “Homo,” meaning “same,” is Greek, while “sexual” is Latinate. For the first time, this hybrid neologism combined male-male sex and lesbianism. The usage only became standard during the last century. Even so, writing and scholarship about gay men and lesbians have continued on largely separate trajectories over the past 150 years, with an imbalance between the sexes that is a simple, however regrettable, fact of life. That said, Dynes’ Encyclopedia made every reasonable attempt to give lesbian topics their due.

William A. Percy, Boston


Editor Comments:

Let me comment briefly, as this is an issue that hits close to home. As someone who has struggled with a dearth of material from lesbians, I understand the temptation to fudge a little. While I don’t regard this as heinous (assuming the articles are fair-minded), I strongly discourage the use of pseudonyms in the GLR, if only because of the history of their use in the bad old days. There are exceptions, such as a writer who lives in a homophobic country, but I always try to inform the reader when this is done.

Richard Schneider Jr., Boston


Correction: Dignity vs. Integrity

To the Editor:

In the current issue, September-October 2015, Andrew Holleran’s review of Visions of Queer Martyrdom mentions “the gay Anglican group Dignity” (last paragraph). Actually, the gay Anglican (Episcopal) group is Integrity, whereas Dignity is an LGBT Roman Catholic group.

Thanks for a great publication from a regular subscriber!

Fr. Paul K. Thomas, Baltimore