Gerry Studds: America’s First Openly Gay Congressman
by Mark Robert Schneider
UMass Press. 296 pages, $29.95
GERRY STUDDS, who served in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1997, might have been just another in a long line of reputable representatives from Massachusetts, were it not for a relationship with a Congressional page in 1983. That brief fling eventually resulted in Studds being outed as gay and censured by the House for diddling the page. But it was the spark for a speech on the House floor in which Studds acknowledged being gay—a first in the U.S. Congress. By using the speech as an opportunity to talk about being gay as an elected official and in general in a society rife with anti-gay prejudice, he helped to launch a national discussion about a hitherto silent minority.
Gerry Eastman Studds (1937–2006) was born in Mineola, New York, and grew up mostly in Massachusetts, where he might have been mistaken, having attended Groton and Yale, for a descendant of old-line Yankee stock. In fact, he was descended from families of Virginia and Tennessee, and the fact that his father was named for Elbridge Gerry had more to do with the marriage of obscure relatives than with blue blood.
Alan Contreras is a writer and higher education consultant who lives in Eugene, Oregon.