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literature

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Miller, Merle (1919-1986)  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

Ehrenstein contends that Morris knew they were not protesting over "a single paragraph" in Epstein's article, and that "it came not out of the blue but after numerous attempts to have a rebuttal to Epstein published in Harper's." Ehrenstein recalled that Morris and the magazine's executive editor Midge Decter vetoed every single suggestion for a refutation of Epstein's remarks.

Ehrenstein also remembered Arthur Evans, another member of the Gay Activists Alliance, discrediting Decter in front of the WOR cameras, claiming, "You knew that article would contribute to the suffering of homosexuals! You knew that! And if you didn't know that, you're inexcusably naive and should not be an editor. . . . You are a bigot and you are to be held morally responsible for that moral and political act!"

Sponsor Message.

[Evans's charges of bigotry against Decter were validated later by her subsequent writing about homosexuals, such as the despicable Commentary article "The Boys on the Beach" (1980), which was brilliantly deconstructed by Gore Vidal in his classic essay, "Pink Triangle and Yellow Star" (1981)].

The Harper's Magazine sit-in has subsequently been identified as a significant turning point in the gay rights movement of the early 1970s.

Merle Miller, who had once been an editor at Harper's, also felt "outraged and saddened" by Epstein's article, which had been published, in his opinion, in "one of the best, maybe the best, magazines in the country."

Consequently, he telephoned Bob Kotlowitz, a friend and editor at Harper's, to express his anger over Epstein's article and his disappointment in the magazine for publishing it. Kotlowitz responded that he, like "a great many intelligent people . . . more or less" agreed with Epstein.

Miller was stunned by Kotlowitz's insensitive remark but said nothing.

Then, several days later, Miller had lunch with two staff members at the New York Times Magazine, Gerald Walker and Victor Navasky. Epstein's piece again came up in conversation. Both Walker and Navasky praised what they described as the unusual power of Epstein's writing.

Miller was aghast. He finally exploded: "Epstein is saying genocide for queers!"

And then, as he later recounted, "for the first time, in broad daylight, before what I guess you would call a mixed audience . . . I found myself saying, 'Look, goddamn it, I'm homosexual, and most of my best friends are Jewish homosexuals, and some of my best friends are black homosexuals, and I am sick and tired of reading and hearing such goddamn demeaning bullshit about me and my friends.'"

Miller later reflected on that moment. "There it was, out at last, and if it seems like nothing very much, I can only say that it took a long time to say it, to be able to say it, and none of the journey was easy."

Navasky was astounded that Miller, a respected editor and best-selling author, and perhaps more important, a business acquaintance, had just come out as a gay man. Several days later, he telephoned Miller and asked him if he would express his reaction to Epstein's piece in an article for the New York Times Magazine.

Miller agreed, reluctantly. "I have no taste for self-revelation," he later wrote.

What Miller turned in, Navasky said in a 2012 interview, was "so beautiful, so spectacularly different, so compelling, that it had to run."

Just before its publication, Miller wrote to his former wife to inform her about the essay. The Times had just notified him that it was to be titled "What It Means to Be a Homosexual."

"Now you really can't get more direct than that, can you?" he wrote to her. "At least it's not cute." Miller enclosed the uncorrected galleys of the article for her to read. "So that you will know," he explained.

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