When C.A. Met Alfred, Part 1*
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Published in: November-December 2021 issue.


BY 1974, I had grown increasingly absorbed in the new scholarly field of the history of sexual behavior and had been making periodic research trips looking for buried source materials in various manuscript libraries. “I’ve long said that historical study isn’t ‘useful’ (relevant),” I wrote in my diary at the end of February 1975, “because past experience is so different from ours. Now, as regards my interest in sexual behavior in the past, I’ve realized its study is useful precisely because that experience was so different.”

            I also began to teach a course on the subject and to review some of the books that were beginning to appear. One that I found particularly original—despite its exasperatingly misogynistic overtones—was C. A. Tripp’s 1975 book The Homosexual Matrix. I’d never heard his name before, but a few inquiries turned up the fact that, although Tripp was 56, The Homosexual Matrix was his first book. Intrigued, I dug a little deeper and discovered that he’d been born in Denton, Texas, in 1919, had studied photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, become a staff member in the Eastman Kodak Company’s research department, and served in the Navy during World War II.

            In the postwar period, Tripp and a long-time friend, Bill Dellenback, started a small photographic firm. One early customer was the well-known psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, who’d studied with Freud at the University of Vienna but had fled the Nazis (he was Jewish) in 1938, heading for New York. Lacking a medical degree, Reik had found himself at odds with the school of medically trained psychoanalysts then dominant in the U.S. and decided to found the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (which is still active) to train so-called “lay” analysts. Reik also wrote a number of influential books, including the 1948 bestseller Listening with the Third Ear.

            Tripp’s marginal success as a photographer coincided with his growing interest in psychology, and Reik became something of a mentor, even writing a placating letter to Tripp’s parents expressing enthusiasm for their son’s gifts and characterizing him as “having an unusual facility for this kind of work”—being “just such young men we need [sic].” But it had been Tripp himself who, in 1948, immediately after reading Kinsey’s just-published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (co-authored with Wardell B. Pomeroy and Clyde E. Martin), simply picked up the phone one day and called Kinsey directly. We have no detailed record of what was said, but Kinsey did take the call, and something about the young man’s authoritative boldness caught the older man’s attention.

            Tripp made a point of letting Kinsey know that he was himself homosexual and was writing a book on the subject.

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Martin Duberman’s recent books includeAndrea Dworkin: The Feminist as Revolutionary andHas the Gay Movement Failed?