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social sciences

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Sagarin, Edward (Donald Webster Cory) (1913-1986)  
page: 1  2  

Sagarin's employer somehow found out that he was the author of the book and summarily fired him. Still, Sagarin persisted, using the Donald Webster Cory pseudonym to issue other books, including most prominently, Twenty-One Variations on a Theme (1953), a pioneering anthology of short stories dealing with homosexuality by authors as varied as Sherwood Anderson, Paul Bowles, Christopher Isherwood, Denton Welch, Charles Jackson, and Stefan Zweig.

In 1952, using the large correspondence he received as the author of The Homosexual in America, Cory established the "Cory Book Service," a subscription service that selected a gay-themed book each month, usually literary works of high quality.

Sponsor Message.

Cory accepted membership on the editorial board of ONE, the magazine published by the Mattachine Society of Los Angeles, and regularly contributed to the journal. He also joined such organizations as the Veterans Benevolent Association and the Mattachine Society of New York and encouraged the formation of Daughters of Bilitis chapters.

Sagarin as Academic

In 1958, Sagarin returned to college. He entered an accelerated program at Brooklyn College and completed his B. A. in the same class as his son. Then, at age 48, he entered the M. A. program in sociology, writing his thesis on "The Anatomy of Dirty Words."

Sagarin then entered New York University's Ph. D. program in sociology. He graduated in 1966, having submitted a dissertation on "Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants," which was in fact a study of the Mattachine Society. He accepted an assistant professorship at the Baruch College campus of the City University of New York, where he would rise through the ranks, gaining a reputation as an excellent teacher, and ultimately achieving national prominence as a specialist in deviancy.

Cory as Conservative

In the 1960s, however, Cory became one of the most conservative members of the "old guard" of the Mattachine Society, opposed to the radicalism of such activists as Frank Kameny, who were eager to launch a civil rights movement on behalf of homosexuals. He particularly opposed the rejection of the "sickness theory" of homosexuality by the new wave of homophile leaders.

In Cory's view, perhaps reinforced by his friendship with psychologist Albert Ellis, homosexuality was "a disturbance" that probably resulted from a pathological family situation. His publication of a book, co-authored with John LeRoy (pseudonym of Barry Sheer), called The Homosexual and His Society (1963), which claimed that there was no such thing as a "well-adjusted homosexual," only exacerbated the distance between his positions and those of the new activists.

In 1965, after a bitter fight for control of the Mattachine Society of New York resulted in a decisive victory by the militants, Cory left the organization in disgust. Some of that disgust he poured into the dissertation he submitted under his own name for his Ph. D.

Sagarin as Critic of the Gay Liberation Movement

Although homosexuality was not the only topic of Dr. Sagarin's academic publications, he nevertheless became a conspicuous critic of the gay liberation movement of the early 1970s, despite his continuing to pursue an active homosexual sex life, particularly with hustlers whom he would meet in Times Square and other New York City cruising sites.

In his liberal academic publications, Sagarin argued that homosexuality should be decriminalized and that the manifest injustices homosexuals suffered should be redressed. However, he continued to characterize homosexuality as pathological and homosexuals as disturbed, frequently urging them to seek therapy and to attempt to become heterosexual.

He especially attacked the new psychological and sociological studies of Evelyn Hooker, John Gagnon, and others who presented homosexuality as a natural sexual variation and homosexuals as well adapted.

At the 1974 convention of the American Sociological Society in Montreal, Sagarin, appearing on a panel entitled "Theoretical Perspectives on Homosexuality," proceeded to attack the liberationist scholarship as special pleading.

In response, Laud Humphreys, author of Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places (l970), like Sagarin a married homosexual who came to academia late in life, subtly but dramatically exposed Professor Sagarin as Donald Webster Cory. Humphreys, in a carefully calculated and rehearsed gesture, repeatedly made deliberate "slips" in referring to Sagarin, calling him "Cory."

The confrontation, which reportedly ended with Sagarin slinking away in tears, led to the formation of the Sociologists' Gay Caucus.

Following his exposure as Donald Webster Cory, Sagarin withdrew from the controversies concerning homosexuality. He died of a heart attack on June 10, 1986.

Although Edward Sagarin became a truculent foe of the gay liberation movement that he helped inspire, Donald Webster Cory is warmly remembered as the author of his era's most radical and most prescient book on homosexuality, one that exerted a powerful influence on the American homophile movement.

Claude J. Summers

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social sciences >> Overview:  Homophile Movement, U. S.

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social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

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social sciences >> Daughters of Bilitis

The first national lesbian political and social organization in the United States, the Daughters of Bilitis was a significant part of the pre-Stonewall lesbian and gay rights movement.

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André Gide, one of the premier French writers of the twentieth century, reflected his homosexuality in many of his numerous works.

social sciences >> Hooker, Evelyn

American psychologist Evelyn Hooker's pioneering studies on male homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s challenged the "sickness" model of homosexuality then prevalent.

social sciences >> Humphreys, Laud

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literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

social sciences >> Kameny, Frank

One of the founding fathers of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny helped radicalize the homophile movement, preparing the way for the mass movement for equality initiated by the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.

social sciences >> Mattachine Society

One of the earliest American gay movement organizations, the Mattachine Society was dedicated to the cultural and political liberation of homosexuals; but in the face of McCarthyism, it adopted conservative policies of accommodationism.

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Duberman, Martin. "The 'Father' of the Homophile Movement." Left Out: The Politics of Exclusion: Essays 1964-2002. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2002. 59-94.

Escoffier, Jeffrey. American Homo: Community and Perversity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Murray, Stephen O. "Donald Webster Cory." Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. Vern Bullough, ed. Binghamton, N. Y.: Haworth, 2002. 333-343.

Sullivan, Gerald. "Cory, Donald Webster." Who's Who in Contemporary Gay & Lesbian History from World War II to the Present Day. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. London: Routledge, 2001. 92-93.


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Sagarin, Edward (Donald Webster Cory)  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated August 11, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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