glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

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

Merle Miller was one of the first mainstream American writers to discuss his homosexuality publicly. The best-selling author came out as a gay man in the pages of The New York Times Magazine in 1971 with an article titled "What It Means to Be a Homosexual." He was 51 years old. He was writing in response to a viciously homophobic article by Joseph Epstein that had appeared earlier in Harper's Magazine.

Later that year, Miller's piece was expanded and published as a book, the groundbreaking On Being Different: What it Means to Be a Homosexual.

Penguin Classics republished the book in 2012 with a new foreword by Dan Savage, founder of the "It Gets Better Project," and a new afterword by the journalist and historian Charles Kaiser.

David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, notes that "On Being Different is a searing indictment of social hypocrisy, written with a quiet but burning passion," and goes on to say that the book "is not only a valuable historical document about the gay civil rights movement, but it is an American classic because of the beauty it achieves through its unflinchingly honest portrayal of the raw pain of rejection."

Miller also wrote best-selling oral biographies of presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as other highly regarded nonfiction books, including We Dropped the A-Bomb, about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and Only You, Dick Daring!, about the making of a television series.

Miller is also the author of more than a dozen novels, including That Winter, considered to be one of the best books on postwar readjustment for returning U.S. veterans, The Sure Thing, A Day in Late September, and the autobiographical A Gay and Melancholy Sound and What Happened.

Early Life and Career

Merle Miller was born on May 17, 1919 in Montour, a small town in central Iowa and grew up in the larger city of Marshalltown, Iowa where he spent an unhappy childhood.

He was an awkward and unathletic boy who wore thick glasses and played the violin and piano. He was called a sissy when he started school at the age of four, and "I heard that word at least five days a week for the next 13 years," he recalled, until he went away to college.

"It's not true," he later wrote, "that saying about 'sticks and stones'; it's words that break your bones."

Growing up, he had three close friends, all misfits in his narrow-minded community: a Jewish boy, a girl who had survived polio but was confined to a wheelchair, and a middle-aged woman with a clubfoot who sold tickets at the local movie theater. The three hung out together and tried to protect one another.

Miller recalled heading to the local train depot for his earliest sexual encounters, picking up boys travelling surreptitiously through Depression-era America. "They were all lonely and afraid," he reminisced. "None of them ever made fun of me. I was never beaten up. They recognized, I guess, that we were fellow aliens with no place to register."

In 1936, Miller enrolled at the University of Iowa. He was later awarded a scholarship to study at the London School of Economics for a semester.

At the University of Iowa, he became editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Iowan. He later recalled, not without a certain amount of shame, how he had turned his years of taunts and ridicule for his effeminate mannerisms outward, demeaning and denigrating the "theater queens" in newspaper articles.

Miller did not graduate from the University of Iowa, however, having refused to take the mandatory swimming and Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) courses that, in the 1930s, were prerequisites. After leaving school, Miller was hired as the Washington correspondent for the daily newspaper The Philadelphia Record (which subsequently went out of business in 1947).

With the entrance of the United States into World War II in 1941, Miller enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served in both the European and Pacific theaters as a war correspondent and editor for Yank, the Army Weekly, a weekly magazine published by the United States military and made available to soldiers, sailors, and airmen serving overseas from June 1942 through December 1945.

He was awarded two Bronze Stars for bravery displayed in combat, but returned them in 1968 to General William Westmoreland, then commander of U.S. military operations in Asia, in protest of the war in Vietnam.

    page: 1  2  3  4  5   next page>  
zoom in
Merle Miller's On Being Different as re-released in 2012.
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Literature
Popular Topics:

Social Sciences

Stonewall Riots
Stonewall Riots

Gay Liberation Front

The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980
The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980

Leather Culture

Anthony, Susan B.
Anthony, Susan B.

Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence



Computers, the Internet, and New Media





This Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.