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Martin Duberman is an American historian and writer, and one of the pre-eminent scholars of the LGBTQ movement.

Martin was born in 1930. His father was a Jewish Russian immigrant who, instead of serving in the military, walked across Europe, rode in steerage across the Atlantic Ocean, and built a successful clothing business in New York City. His financial prowess enabled Martin to attend an elite prep school, Yale, and Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1957. Martin taught American history at Yale until 1962. In 1971, he accepted appointment as a distinguished professor of history at CUNY’s Lehman College.

From early on, Martin was an open and defiant anti-war protester and social justice advocate. It took him much longer, and much more angst, to come out as a gay man. He tried virtually everything to cure his same-sex attraction, from psychotherapy to bioenergetics to LSD. Martin later documented his long battle against his essential self in his book Cures: A Gay Man’s Odyssey. At the age of 42, Martin finally came out in a New York Times essay. Liberating himself personally, he also liberated himself as an activist and an academic. He never looked back.

Among Martin’s many activist accomplishments are the 1991 founding of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY, and serving on the founding boards of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and Queers for Economic Justice. As an author, Martin has published more than 20 works of fiction and non-fiction. He has written about American romantic poets, pioneering Black civil rights activists, and the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic. His most recent book was about pioneering revolutinary feminist Andrea Dworkin. As for Martin’s awards and honors, the list is too long to recite, yet probably not long enough. Martin moved the queer movement forward in ways that few people have.

Martin met his partner Eli Zal in 1987 at an ACLU gay rights event. In 2016, they got married, a step which Duberman admits he took under protest -- not for lack of love, but lack of belief in the institution of marriage. Martin and Eli live in a simple yet comfortable apartment in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
Martin Duberman: [00:00:00] The adult, parents are more likely to fall into stereotypic roles.
Mason Funk: Right.
Martin Duberman: Because kids take so much work.
Mason Funk: Right.
Martin Duberman: Somebody's got to be around. I mean, I know lots of male couples raising children and one of them has given up work.
Mason Funk: Right.
Martin Duberman: The work is to be with the kids. Yeah. Even so, I think the relationships are more equitable.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] well, at least they're not dealing with that idea that because you're the blank, the woman, you somehow should be staying home with the kids.
Martin Duberman: Yeah. Or even with the ideology that it's a deeply satisfying role that you never have any problems with it. Whereas kids can drive you nuts.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Yeah.
Martin Duberman: That's one thing I never wanted.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] We were talking about Michelle's 16 year old daughter, [crosstalk] sounds like a handful. Brilliant handful, but a handful nonetheless. So are we good?
Michelle McCabe: Yeah. Were rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay. So well finally get started
Martin Duberman: Okay.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Tell us your name, spell it out for us. Please.
Martin Duberman: Spell it out in the letters?
Mason Funk: Yes, please.
Martin Duberman: Oh, okay. my name is Martin Duberman.
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] Okay. And when and where were you born?
Martin Duberman: I was born in New York city, August six, 1930.
Mason Funk: Okay. Alrighty. Now I want to make sure, cause you filled out that questionnaire very graciously for us. So I want to make sure we hit on those points. And the first point in the questionnaire that seemed essential to talk about was your mother, you mentioned her as a person who I think had an important formative role on you.
Martin Duberman: [00:02:00] Yes, absolutely. My last book, in fact, the dedication reads for my mother and her name, who saved my life but not her own. And that pretty much sums it up. Growing up gay in the years that I did,
Martin Duberman: [00:02:30] the 19 ... well post World War 2, immediately post World War 2, and especially the 1950s, which were the most conservative decade, probably in the whole 20th century. You know, we grew up, my generation of gay people grew up feeling that we were ill, that we had a sickness. A character disorder.
Martin Duberman: [00:03:00] We were deeply disturbed human beings and definitely second rate. But that's not how my mother ever treated me. When I did finally come out to her, she was not amenable. I mean, she was not pleased or even easy with it. But I'm talking more about when I was a young child into adolescence,
Martin Duberman: [00:03:30] until I went off to college. My mother just thought I was terrific. Much, alas, to my sister's detriment, because she made it unfortunately clear that I was her favorite child. But it's like, you know, she was always there for me. She was a rock. She was somebody I could totally rely on.
Martin Duberman: [00:04:00] She never put me down. She never made me feel less than, of course, at that point she didn't yet know that I was gay. But even after that came up in adulthood, she reacted rather remarkably. Oppositely, my father was, though a gentle,
Martin Duberman: [00:04:30] good man. He was sort of, wasn't there. He had emigrated from Russia when he was in his early twenties, he had been a peasant on a farm. He was semi-literate in Russian and knew no English, but he was drafted into the army in Russia and decided he wasn't going to serve.
Martin Duberman: [00:05:00] And he literally walked across Europe, got on a boat and steerage and came over here. My feeling is that all his life, he was in a kind of culture shock. He made his way and eventually did rather well financially, but to come over when you're already 22,
Martin Duberman: [00:05:30] I think its just an enormous challenge. And he met the challenge rather remarkably. But he wasn't really very available for intimate relations. It isn't that he was that way only with me. He just was a distant man. I mean,
Martin Duberman: [00:06:00] very much within himself, not a big talker, and did everything that he was told to do in terms of parenting. My mother would say, you really ought to take the boy to a baseball game, you know, or whatever. And my father would take me to a baseball game -- which I loathed, as a typical gay boy. But anyway,
Martin Duberman: [00:06:30] that was the family pattern. I didn't have a terribly easy time of it otherwise, growing up, with all the self hatred that I was carrying along. I was not very happy with myself. but without the kind of mother that I had, who thought I was a Prince of the realm.
Martin Duberman: [00:07:00] I don't know whether I would have survived quite literally, because I've had depressive episodes throughout my life and a couple of them, rather serious ones. I think all of that would've happened more profoundly and earlier had it not been for this solid base that I had gotten from my mother. And also the fact which followed,
Martin Duberman: [00:07:30] is that very early on I discovered I was good at academics, that I was a smart kid. And through that channel, I discovered early that I could distinguish myself, and be paid attention to and honored, etc.
Martin Duberman: [00:08:00] So, in those two ways, I was, I think, extremely lucky for gay people of my generation.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Wow. You mentioned at some point that you, you sought cures for your homosexuality.
Martin Duberman: Yeah.
Mason Funk: What types of cures did you seek?
Martin Duberman: You name it. I did it. Everything from bioenergetics to traditional psychotherapy to LSD trips --
Martin Duberman: [00:08:30] that is sponsored trips designed to induce change in the personality. I tried everything. I mean, all that was a function of my own self loathing. I mean, I simply didn't like who I was. The culture had told me that I was no good, that I was a disturbed,
Martin Duberman: [00:09:00] subpar person. And, so I was very busy trying to do something about it trying to become somebody other than who I was.
Mason Funk: Going back to the list of names and people in locations that you mentioned to us, you gave the name [inaudible]?
Martin Duberman: [00:09:30] No, you had it right the first time.
Mason Funk: [Inaudible] I didnt know if thats a person, a place or a thing?
Martin Duberman: Yeah, it's a person and oh boy. Well I've written a book called Cures, which is a lot about my experience in psychotherapy with Case Beukencamp and what a number that did on my head, a negative number. And I was already very much an adult.
Martin Duberman: [00:10:00] I started with him, I think in my mid-late thirties, and I was in two separate therapy groups with him, each of which met two evenings a week plus one weekly session of individual psychotherapy. So I was with Case Beukencamp five days out of seven.
Martin Duberman: [00:10:30] And this went on for years. And the message I got overall from Case was that, well as he put it, you are the single most defiant human being I have ever met. Meaning -- unless you think that was a compliment. Meaning, you simply refuse to get on the side of your own health.
Martin Duberman: [00:11:00] And the members of the two groups very much echoed Cases sentiments, they would say the same thing, Martin, why do you keep tangling with this person or that person? Or, Why don't you accept the fact that your only hope for anything like a happy life is to change your sexual orientation,
Martin Duberman: [00:11:30] and that's what you're here for? After a number of years in each of these groups I developed very real feelings, strong, positive feelings for a few individual members of those groups. And for them to echo the same message -- in other words,
Martin Duberman: [00:12:00] people I deeply cared about and trusted -- that Case was peddling meant that I was constantly fighting this internal battle. What's wrong with me? Why can't I get on the side of my own health? I know I'm miserable as a homosexual, why don't I do something about it? This struggle went on for years.
Martin Duberman: [00:12:30] I was about to leave therapy -- I don't know that I would've had the courage -- but I was about to leave therapy as I was approaching my 40th birthday when suddenly every member of the group got the same letter in the mail saying, it was from Case, saying, in essence, I am desperately ill.
Martin Duberman: [00:13:00] This followed the one month break, so we got the letters during that month. I had been diagnosed with a fatal illness and been told that my survival rate has a better chance in a warm climate, and so I am leaving the city, and wishing us all well, et cetera. If Case hadn't made the break
Martin Duberman: [00:13:30] and the story of why he did and what he was really like, humanly, is not anything of interest to your purposes. But he was, himself, very much a disturbed human being, and all of that only came out afterward, but he played at being God and most of the people in the group believed that he was God.
Martin Duberman: [00:14:00] I mean it was really a cultish kind of atmosphere that formed.
Mason Funk: Wow. Did you, even after he sent this letter and effectively disappeared, I feel like there must've been something in you that enabled you to separate, like you could've gone on believing everything he told you,
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] but you must not have on some level. What allowed you to, apart from the fact that he physically disappeared, what allowed you to begin to rewrite your own notions of yourself?
Martin Duberman: I think the emergence of the gay movement. I should immediately add that I don't think that somebody who grows up the way I did,
Martin Duberman: [00:15:00] and goes through that kind of a therapeutic experience or any number of other horrifying experiences that gay people did go through in those years, I don't think we ever really recover. I don't think we ever entirely lose that negative image we have of ourselves. I mean, in myself,
Martin Duberman: [00:15:30] I've long become aware that some of the things that I couldn't account for earlier in my life, I can now ascribe to the fact that I was so badly mistreated as a younger person. For example, I've never been able to travel comfortably. I've always had a sleep disorder.
Martin Duberman: [00:16:00] I've had a number of illnesses in my life, including a heart attack, which I think had a stress component. In other words, I've had to deal with this and it's hard to explain because, I think a lot of people, simply because of my productivity as a writer
Martin Duberman: [00:16:30] and the fact that I managed to become a professor and so forth and so on, they think that I'm one of the most contented and satisfied human beings on the planet. The fact is that I operate very well within a very narrow sphere.
Martin Duberman: [00:17:00] I rely heavily on routine. I don't mean that I literally suffer from a compulsive disorder in which my clothes have to be hung a certain way, and I can only eat my cereal with a fork instead of No, it's not that. It's not that pronounced,
Martin Duberman: [00:17:30] but I really do need to stay in fairly familiar circumstances. I don't enjoy partying, I don't enjoy meeting new people very much -- especially as I grow older. But even when I was younger, I felt the same way. And basically it's a very orderly life, in which on a given week,
Martin Duberman: [00:18:00] I pretty much see the same people and do the same things that I do in just about every other week. You know, I have traveled quite a bit in my life. In my early years with Eli, we did even more, but I can't remember really ever enjoying being away from home, meaning routine.
Martin Duberman: [00:18:30] I would always be counting the days until I could get back. And the only way I've ever slept for whatever 70 years, is through medication. I've tried everything from hypnotherapy ... We won't go into all the assorted treatments that I've tried. I've even tried going cold turkey.
Martin Duberman: [00:19:00] But still to this day, I require some kind of medication. It doesn't mean that the medication is any longer actually working. I don't know. I know I'm not going to stop and find out. But X number of pills must be taken every night, if I am going to eventually fall asleep.
Martin Duberman: [00:19:30] I even have one sleeping pill that I use only maybe once a month, because it's known to be an unwise pill to take. The New York Times even wrote a couple of articles saying it should be banned from the market. But not nights when I'm really anxious and totally unable to sleep, which happens whatever, once a month, every two months. I take that, so.
Martin Duberman: [00:20:00] It's been a very mixed bag, in the sense that we're talking about my life because there have been times when I've actually felt resentment at what is, obviously,
Martin Duberman: [00:20:30] the way a lot of people view me, you know, like I've got the world by the balls and I go from triumph to triumph and I'm in rigorous great health, especially given my age and so forth. It's like a lot of people want to see me that way, it turns out. And the resentment that I can sometimes feel is,
Martin Duberman: [00:21:00] Hey, can I tell you what a shitty day I am having and that last night, because of the nightmares, I slept only four hours, and tomorrow I've got to do this and I'm not up for it? And the answer is No, you can't. There are rare individuals who I know I can, the very few close friends that I have and cherish,
Martin Duberman: [00:21:30] and I know I can tell them anything. But I know that, ordinarily, people don't want me to have problems. They don't want to hear this history, they don't want to know that X, Y and Z is bothering me.
Mason Funk: Well, it's interesting also, I'm thinking because you've become a kind of a prophetic voice for the LGBT community, in my opinion,
Mason Funk: [00:22:00] in terms of asserting such a strong vision for what we ought to be and could be doing in the world. I think that might indirectly almost feed people's ideas of you as someone who is conquering ... Like a conquering spirit, something like that.
Martin Duberman: Somebody who completely has it together, and therefore can devote all this time and energy to political work.
Martin Duberman: [00:22:30] Most of us are too disabled to do that other than spasmodically. Yeah, I know that, but it goes back to what I said earlier, which is that the two things that I trusted growing up were my mother and my brain, I knew that I was smart, whatever the hell that means.
Martin Duberman: [00:23:00] We all use the word, but I don't think anybody knows how to define it because people are smart about very different things. I know lots of people who are emotionally far smarter than I am, but aren't very intellectually inclined, and I'm the opposite. But that was my great, good fortune, that I trusted my intellect and I trusted my capacity to understand,
Martin Duberman: [00:23:30] and that also I trusted myself to come out, though it was belated and much delayed by all those wasted years in psychotherapy. But finally when Case disappeared, I was out like three minutes later, and I was super active all through the 70s.
Martin Duberman: [00:24:00] And then in the 80s, I started the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and was wrapped up in that for 10 years.
Mason Funk: We'll get to that in a minute. There's another person, another name you gave me Leo Bersani.
Martin Duberman: I'm sort of surprised I put the name down, but
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] We don't have to talk about Leo. I definitely wanted to bring it up anyway. Since you [crosstalk]
Martin Duberman: Well there's one way I think it might be worth talking about. I mean ...
Mason Funk: And say his name for me, so I have you saying his name.
Martin Duberman: You're saying it correctly, Leo Bersani, now a very well-respected, literary critic and queer theorist,
Martin Duberman: [00:25:00] his book, Homos, he wrote that classic article Is the Rectum a Grave? which is highly influential, has long been, it came out like 20 years ago. Eli and I met ... This is hardly the first time I've done that. I mean, it drives Eli crazy, but I don't know what it means to this day. But anyway,
Martin Duberman: [00:25:30] what I mean to say, Leo, I often have said Eli, I think what it's a measure of is how close Leo and I were. We met in the first year of graduate school, he was in Comp Lit. and I was in History. We met in a gay bar, one of the very few that then existed in Boston. We instantly clicked that very first night that we had sex. We never had it again.
Martin Duberman: [00:26:00] And I was still, you know ... After that first night of sex, if I would spot Leo in the distance on the campus, I would go directly in the opposite direction and quickly because that's how I still felt about my gayness. This was something you did because you had to, but you were certainly not proud of it, and you certainly didn't want other people to know.
Martin Duberman: [00:26:30] And finally, Leo stopped me one day. I don't know how he caught up with me, but he did. And he said, Look, can't we just be friends? And I remember this huge sigh of relief I felt, and we immediately did become friends and remained very, very fast friends for decades. But Leo left the East coast to teach at Berkeley,
Martin Duberman: [00:27:00] oh God, I think it was something like 1980, it may even have been earlier. Gradually the contact has gotten attenuated. And in fact, it's been at least a decade since we've had any contact at all. I would say in my adult years, Eli. Jesus, I did it again.
Martin Duberman: [00:27:30] [inaudible] done in a while. This is very strange. Leo and I ... I would call Leo, in my adulthood, one of my two closest male friends. The other was another literary critic named, Dick Poirier. who's now dead. Leo is still alive. He's about my age.
Mason Funk: [00:28:00] So can you put your finger on why it was that you would've put his name down as someone you wanted to talk about?
Martin Duberman: Yeah, I think I can, it suddenly comes to me. I guess I wasn't sure why I put his name down, but now I think I know. It's got something to do with,
Martin Duberman: [00:28:30] I want to say, the kind of damage that all or most of us from that earlier generation bring to our relationships; even the most important ones that we're well aware are very important to our wellbeing. We, nonetheless, bring some of this self hatred from the past,
Martin Duberman: [00:29:00] self distrust, whatever it is. Even before Leo and I just stopped seeing each other entirely, there were periodic explosions in the relationship, misunderstandings that got quite heated and separations and arguments.
Martin Duberman: [00:29:30] I've always distrusted, and I think that's what this relationship may represent, I've always distrusted the easy assertion that gay people are so much better at friendship than straight people. I think I'd be willing to go so far as to say that I think gay men are somewhat better
Martin Duberman: [00:30:00] at intimacy than straight man, deep emotional sharing. But I think we're selling ourselves a bill of goods, generally. I don't think because of the damage that's been done to us, I don't think we are terribly good at
Martin Duberman: [00:30:30] sustaining profound friendships. I mean, but why just indict us? Indict the whole culture. I mean, I think Americans, period, just don't go very deep in their relationships. That theres just so much intimacy the culture and its inhabitants can tolerate.
Martin Duberman: [00:31:00] That's a wild generalization, but I do believe it.
Mason Funk: Let's jump to the 60s because that was another thing that you named as, you just simply said when I said list three events that were important to talk about. You said the 1960s. Now, I don't know if you mean politically, I know you got, I also want to talk about redress and your involvement in the anti Vietnam war movement.
Mason Funk: [00:31:30] So, I don't know if that's all part of one question. In terms of when you say the 60s, if that's kind of what you were referring to. I know that was obviously when you were also very much struggling against your own sexuality, but maybe talking about in the 60s from the activist point of view and how you became involved with redress and eventually sitting in on the Senate floor and all that.
Martin Duberman: [00:32:00] Yeah, I mean, the 60s were my decade. Even though I was a product of the conservative 50s, no sooner than the 60s arrived when I knew, Yes. Everything that they, that is the new generation is saying is true. We need to renovate this goddamn culture from top to bottom. All these traditional institutions and values that have been handed down to us
Martin Duberman: [00:32:30] need to be scrutinized and mostly discarded. I was still struggling with my sexuality. It's so long ago that I am unable to really say with any confidence, Yeah. I was still struggling, but I was feeling better about myself. Maybe. I know that by the end of the 60s,
Martin Duberman: [00:33:00] I was seriously considering leaving therapy before Case left it. so, you know, the counterculture had some real impact on me.
Mason Funk: And how did you get involved in the anti Vietnam war stuff and what groups were you involved with? What was redress, let me ask you that. [Crosstalk] Start up by saying redress the name of the group.
Martin Duberman: [00:33:30] Yeah. The name of the group that I was most active with in terms of protesting the war in Vietnam was called redress. The expanded meaning was something like, we demand a redress of grievances.
Martin Duberman: [00:34:00] Congress has the ability and the authority to get us out of this war. The house can cut off funding, et cetera. And so we aimed at various actions in the Capitol in order to say, Here we are, we're sitting down,
Martin Duberman: [00:34:30] we're protesting. We want you to stop this damn war now. I can't go back much earlier than that because I can't really remember it, but it seems to me that I was against the war from the very beginning. I don't know that I was particularly active in protesting it. I know that I was part of a group
Martin Duberman: [00:35:00] that had decided to withhold their taxes. We were going to withhold a percentage that was due the government, equal to the percentage of the national budget that was going toward the war. That became a very tangled agenda because
Martin Duberman: [00:35:30] all kinds of problems arose in terms of how to withhold taxes and what else might be done. But the group that I think I was most involved with was redress. I don't know how much you want me to talk about redress.
Mason Funk: Well, I'm curious to know specific actions you guys or you mentioned considering not paying taxes.
Martin Duberman: [00:36:00] Yeah.
Mason Funk: I see. You mentioned also in your questionnaire that at some point you ended up literally on the Senate floor.
Martin Duberman: Yes, right. That was redress. That was
Mason Funk: How did that action come about?
Martin Duberman: Let's see. I can give you the precise year, I think, because I was reading proofs on a book of mine that came out in 1972. What happened was ...
Martin Duberman: [00:36:30] Damn, it's frustrating cause I can't quite tie it to an event, but all I know was that I was already active in redress, and proofs arrived for my book, Black Mountain, and they had to be returned in X amount of days and so forth.
Martin Duberman: [00:37:00] My phone rang and it was a friend of mine at the other end, whose name I'm sure you know, Howard Zinn, the historian. We were not close friends, but we'd known each other for quite a while and we liked each other. Howard said, There's going to be an action in Washington tomorrow. Can you join us? And I said, I literally said, Oh God,does it have to be tomorrow?
Martin Duberman: [00:37:30] I've got to get these damn proofs done. I've got a deadline. And Howard said, Well, bring the proofs with you. Yeah, sure. And finally hearing myself say that I became so ashamed that I said, Oh, fuck the goddam proofs, I'll do them. They'll get in a week later. So what? Yes, Sign me up, I'll be there. Give me the details.
Martin Duberman: [00:38:00] And so I went down with my proofs, put them in a railway locker when we arrived in DC and then we went down the night before the action and so we had strategy sessions that night. And then the next morning we went over to the Senate and sat in. And it was a group -- it was a kind of grandiose group.
Martin Duberman: [00:38:30] Meaning that these were people who self-defined as having some kind of voice in the culture. People of achievement who, of course, would not be ignored if they sat down. Little did we know. So,
Martin Duberman: [00:39:00] we sat down and were arrested. I mean, no, about half the group whom ... It must've been about 60 of us all together. We all went over and sat down, but then when the police arrived with their bullhorns and they said, you have exactly 10 minutes to leave the Senate floor or you will be arrested. And about half of our group did get up and leave. I was giving it serious thought
Martin Duberman: [00:39:30] when suddenly Judy Collins started to sing, All we are asking is give peace a chance. A number of us practically burst into tears and promptly fixed our asses to the tile and stayed seated. And then everybody began to sing, and we were bonded.
Martin Duberman: [00:40:00] Anyway, then they handcuffed us and they carted us off in a van. I remember, this was ... Having talked about how much I need routine earlier. This I did not need. My psyche was not prepared for this kind of major disruption. And even going over in the van,
Martin Duberman: [00:40:30] I remember saying, we were all crowded in and I was standing right next to Noam Chomsky, right? And I said, Noam, where are they taking us? And he said, Relax, theyre taking us to prison, well be fine. I said, To prison? And they were taking us to prison. We were locked up, it was like a hundred degrees down there.
Martin Duberman: [00:41:00] And we were like three or four crammed into these tiny single cells. And it was pretty nightmarish, but it was only for a single night. But it was very tough for me. I got some glimmer anyway of God, what it must really be like for people without privilege.
Martin Duberman: [00:41:30] I remember at one point, it was Memorial day weekend because one by one it was the next day, one by one, they were releasing us with fines and there were only like five of us left, waiting for our names to be called, and the guards started to enjoy themselves at our expense. One of them said,
Martin Duberman: [00:42:00] Well fellas, it looks like the judge has gone home. It's Memorial day weekend, we're going to have you all to ourselves for five whole days. Won't that be fun? And I thought, Oh shit, am I in trouble? I can't not sleep for one night. What the hell are they going to do?
Martin Duberman: [00:42:30] One of the other five was the photographer, Dick Avedon, and Dick, I think could see that I was going into some kind of panic mode and he sat down next to me and he put his arm around me and he said, Marty, relax. He said, just remember we are the privileged and they do not keep the privileged in jail.
Martin Duberman: [00:43:00] And I said, Thank you Dave. Thank you very much. And sure enough, they did not, a couple of hours later, the remaining five are called up. And I remember getting on the plane with two of the others and we had like three martinis apiece within an hour and we were back in New York.
Martin Duberman: [00:43:30] I went back the next time for the next action, and I was very disappointed because very few of the people who have been part of the first action showed up. And I think in part I use that as an excuse the second time for not getting arrested. I participated, but I didn't go to prison, but I continued very much to be against the war and to be active. I mean, I was part of this amnesty conference when it was clear the war was winding down at least.
Martin Duberman: [00:44:00] We started to get busy with the subsequent issues, which would now arise, like amnesty, who to claim it for, et cetera, et cetera.
Mason Funk: Do you remember anything? We interviewed a guy in Newark named James Credle. You know James.
Martin Duberman: Oh, God. Forever.
Mason Funk: Oh, really?
Martin Duberman: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Oh, great. Well, he enlightened me to term bad paper.
Martin Duberman: [00:44:30] Bad paper?
Mason Funk: Bad paper. Basically when, in his opinion, a disproportionate number of black soldiers who came back from Vietnam, who in the six months after returning to the States were still soldiers, but there was all this unrest going on, and so they might start to play with the rules or break some rules and they would get dishonorable discharges, which was called colloquial speaking bad paper.
Mason Funk: [00:45:00] And so you get none of the benefits. Whereas white draft dodgers who went off to Canada, when Carter was elected, he did some kind of a blanket amnesty, which covered these white soldiers or white citizens, but not the black soldiers who had actually served. Does this ring a bell with you at all as something that was going on? Like essentially in the post war years?
Martin Duberman: [00:45:30] No, it doesn't, but I certainly did not have those feelings about the white man who chose to go to Canada. I felt positively about them.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I don't think he felt negatively about them. I think he just felt that the black soldiers.
Martin Duberman: Oh, it sounded like he felt negatively.
Mason Funk: No, no, no. More about the fact that the black soldiers who had gotten dishonorable discharges and who subsequently never got any benefits. So it was something that you brought that to [crosstalk]
Martin Duberman: Well, it's like, you know, what else is new, right? About second class citizenship.
Mason Funk: [00:46:00] Right. So you mentioned that after Stonewall and the early seventies, and on the 70s, you, like you said, you burst out of this closet and burst into the world of gay activism.
Martin Duberman: Right.
Mason Funk: So what forms did that take? I know eventually culminated in helping to found the center for lesbian gay studies. Is that right?
Martin Duberman: Right.
Mason Funk: Right. What else, where else did you invest your time and energy once you finally embraced the idea of gay activism?
Martin Duberman: [00:46:30] I remember going to one or maybe two gay liberation front meetings just sort of by myself, but at that point everybody looked 22 and I was 40 and I felt sort of uncomfortable.
Martin Duberman: [00:47:00] But I knew perfectly well that I wanted to connect, I wasn't sure for a year or two which group ... There weren't that many groups in 71 or so. But I remember getting a phone call from Howard Brown who had been New York city's health commissioner under Lindsey, and he had recently resigned. Wait a minute.
Martin Duberman: [00:47:30] I know how it happened. That's why Howard was calling me. Yeah. At the time I was regularly reviewing for the New York times book review. I wasn't one of their regular critics, but anytime a book came along that I heard about that was in my field, that I was interested in, I would be able to simply call up and say,
Martin Duberman: [00:48:00] here's a book that might well interest me in terms of reviewing, I don't know the author -- which was always important -- so I have no axe to grind. And I would almost always get the go ahead. The first big idea that I had was books had just started to come out post Stonewall, about this new vision of gay people
Martin Duberman: [00:48:30] and these new organizations. And there were really quite a few of them that came out. And I thought, Hey, what a nice way to come out? Things pop in as I talk, so I gotta go back another step now because the Black Mountain book was published, I think in 71,
Martin Duberman: [00:49:00] and I had made the decision when writing it -- I finished writing it in 70, I guess -- I had made the decision that I was going to find a way to come out in that book. The way I did it was, the so-called rector, the head of Black Mountain, which was an experimental community college in North Carolina was named Bob Wunsch.
Martin Duberman: [00:49:30] Bob Wunsch was caught by the local police one night in his Roadster, having sex with a Marine, and this avant-garde community, Black Mountain, made it very clear to Bob Wunsch that he had to leave and immediately, and that very night, he packed up all of his things and left. And though these people,
Martin Duberman: [00:50:00] I mean, the people like Buckminster Fuller and Paul Goodman and these people who prided themselves on their radicalism when it came to sexual orientation, uh-uh. Because when I did my interviews for the book, a number of the people said, To this day, I feel horribly about the way we treated Bob Wunsch. Not one of us --
Martin Duberman: [00:50:30] We could hear those tiny foot gone up and down the stairs as he packed his books in his clothes into his car -- and not one of us went out to wish him well or to help him. And when I hit that point in the book, I said, Here's the place to come out. And I said something very close to, in the book, something very close to,
Martin Duberman: [00:51:00] It's hard to think well of a place like Black Mountain College, which allowed itself, to treat a sexual minority Whatever. But perhaps I exaggerate a function of myself being homosexual, and concerned about the public repercussions or whatever exactly I said.
Martin Duberman: [00:51:30] Incidentally, from that point on, I have almost never -- there were some exceptions, I think -- but I have almost never been asked to review for the New York times. But what followed from the Black Mountain book I was still in their good graces. And I called and said,
Martin Duberman: [00:52:00] I'd like to do a kind of a essay about all of these books that are coming out about gay liberation, and they let me do that. And that I know came out in 1972. I remember the outstanding book I felt was Dennis Altman's book, I'm forgetting the exact title, I think it was The Homosexual in America. Dennis has gone on to write all kinds of good books on the subject.
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] Oh, interesting. I know that in those early years, Karla Jay and one of her longterm collaborators.
Martin Duberman: Jim Furet, a man or ...
Mason Funk: A man. Put together
Martin Duberman: John Demilio? No?
Mason Funk: No, I can't remember her coauthor. It was either ...
Martin Duberman: Oh, Allen Young.
Mason Funk: Yes, of course.
Martin Duberman: Yeah. Yeah. They did several books together [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: Closet out of the closet, voices of gay America.
Martin Duberman: [00:53:00] They did one called Lavender Culture, an anthology. Another was Out of the Closets, and then they did a thick book, a survey book, the gay report, I think it was called, which was quite influential.
Mason Funk: And then there was one by Kay Lahusen, Kay Tobin Lahusen maybe with Barbara [crosstalk] I forget what that book was called. We interviewed Kay.
Martin Duberman: [00:53:30] Really?
Mason Funk: We missed Barbara, but we interviewed Kay.
Martin Duberman: Kays probably mid eighties.
Mason Funk: Yeah, yeah, yeah. She wrote the book.
Martin Duberman: A book of her photographs has just come out, along with Diana Davies. [Crosstalk] Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Mason Funk: Well, anyway, we digressed a little bit. But I wanted to ask you, what led to the formation then of the Center for Lesbian and Aay Studies. How did that come about?
Martin Duberman: [00:54:00] I had started to say, do you want anything on the task force?
Mason Funk: Oh, sure. Absolutely.
Martin Duberman: Oh, okay. Because I had started and then all these previous memories came up. So I got a phone call one day from Howard Brown, Lindsay's ex health commissioner saying that he had read my Time's piece,
Martin Duberman: [00:54:30] and was very moved by my example and he too wanted to come out and he wondered if I would meet with him. And of course I said, Yes. We met and Howard did immediately come out. And then at the same time, the Gay Activists Alliance, which is a group that followed the Gay Liberation Front, neither group lasted more than a couple of years,
Martin Duberman: [00:55:00] but they were important. Howard linked up with those two guys I mentioned earlier, Bruce Vola and Ron Gould. They were both very prominently active in GAA, but they had grown dissatisfied with it, because they wanted a more orderly Robert's rules kind of organization
Martin Duberman: [00:55:30] so that more practical items could be put on the agenda instead of everybody having a voice about everything. Howard, Ron, Bruce, decided to form a new organization, which they called then The National Gay Task Force. It's an index into the gay-lesbian split at the time.
Martin Duberman: [00:56:00] I mean, lesbian wasn't even in the title of the organization, and wasn't added for something like a decade until the women finally let the men know, Enough boys, we want equal billing. Thank you. So, he went to Barbara Gettings -- Howard did -- Frank kameny and me,
Martin Duberman: [00:56:30] we were the original board of the task force. We promptly duplicated ourselves, we invited other people to join. So before long we had a board of whatever, 20 people, and we started to do work which from the very beginning I thought was important to do, but wasn't enough. At that point, my radical lobe ...
Martin Duberman: [00:57:00] I mean, though I had been such a kind of 50s person, moving through the traditional traces and doing all the expected things. Once I came out I was almost immediately, on the radical left fringe of everything.
Martin Duberman: [00:57:30] And the older I've gotten, the more radical I've become. I was trying to make a point, but I forgot what it was, about the radical [crosstalk]. Oh yeah. I know what it was. From the beginning, my radical lobe was throbbing. I was thinking, Wait a minute. Our ultimate goal is, it sounds like assimilation.
Martin Duberman: [00:58:00] We're asking to be led in, we want all the privileges and every other person -- at least, theoretically -- has in this society. But I felt it was important to be doing liberal work as well, namely work that leads toward acceptance by those who run the show, who finally under enough pressure will anoint you and say,
Martin Duberman: [00:58:30] Alright, you're acceptable human beings, you can now join our various fraternities and sororities. And I stayed with the task force because I thought, They're not doing the kind of radical renovation that I would ideally prefer, but there's no constituency for that now. so let's do the liberal practical stuff,
Martin Duberman: [00:59:00] that also needs doing. And maybe, hopefully someday the rest will follow. Because in the 70s, the culture of hedonism took over the gay male world with a vengeance. I mean, somebody well known, whose name I will refrain from using, famously -- during the 70s,
Martin Duberman: [00:59:30] when asked why he wasn't political, why didn't join the task force and so forth -- said, Oh, for God sakes, that's hardly chic. The so called Fire Island crowd, partying, drugs, all of which I was perfectly happy to do, and did.
Martin Duberman: [01:00:00] But I thought we, as relatively young people, had enough energy left to maybe do a couple of other things as well. But the gay male community through most of the 70s, was reduced to practically nothing. The task force was all that really existed. Women, lesbians had gone the separatist route,
Martin Duberman: [01:00:30] and very understandably. Well, there was the gay academic union, which I was part of forming, but again, there was the male female split because, the women rightly felt, yeah, these gay men may be a little better on the issue of feminism, but they're not a hell of a lot better. Sexism is everywhere, we're hearing it everywhere.
Martin Duberman: [01:01:00] We ought to just form our own organizations. And that's precisely what they did. And the gay academic union also went under within two or three years. It was taken over by a group of conservative gay men, really conservative gay man, people like Wayne Dynes, the art historian, Jim Levin, the professor of history. These guys are really part of the right,
Martin Duberman: [01:01:30] and they literally insinuated themselves and took over the academic union. All of us who were radical minded or even liberal minded just fled and then the gay academic union died within a year or two. But from the beginning -- and this is what the women meant -- people like Wayne Dynes were saying,
Martin Duberman: [01:02:00] We absolutely will not deal with anything relating to feminism. This is a movement for gay rights. We have plenty on our plates. Thank you. And we want nothing to do with women's rights. And they had no compunction about saying this up and down the line. Frank Kameny,
Martin Duberman: [01:02:30] on the original task force board, was saying exactly the same thing. Was yelling it, he had a violent temper, and the women on the task force on that first expanded board, people like Charlotte Bunch, I mean, really, impressive human beings in every way. I mean, I used to say, when a tough issue comes along and we have to vote on it,
Martin Duberman: [01:03:00] I always wait to see whether or not Charlottes gonna put her hand up. And if she does, then I'm putting mine up. That's how much I admired her and a number of the other women on the task force. But Frank Kameney would have none of it. He was outraged every time one of the women tried to say anything about equality representation for lesbians, for women, there are other struggles we ought to link to. Absolutely not.
Martin Duberman: [01:03:30] And that included the Panthers and getting ourselves involved in race issues as well. Absolutely not. And the gay men in retrospect were a pretty appallingly solid block against affiliating with any kind of oppression other than their own. I'm sure, I hope a lot of them have changed since.
Mason Funk: Yeah. This seems like a good moment. Just take a little pause.
Martin Duberman: [01:04:00] Oh yes.
Mason Funk: You've been going amazingly, I mean, Gosh!
Martin Duberman: I'm sort of surprised
Mason Funk: Going backwards and forwards and we'll go for another half an hour or so, or a little longer basically until we feel like stopping. And just to warn you, I have four final questions that are very short that I always use to wrap up, but we'll get to those in due time and I'm going to eat cookies. We're speeding?
Martin Duberman: Finish some please before I do.
Mason Funk: [01:04:30] Let's jump in right. And just talk about Eli. You mentioned him as someone important to talk about, presumably not just because of the person himself, but because of maybe how it changed you or not.
Martin Duberman: Oh, okay. Let's see. It's hard to find a way into that. We met at a party.
Mason Funk: start off by saying Eli and I.
Martin Duberman: [01:05:00] Eli and I met at a party. It was the first anniversary of the ACLUs gay rights project. It was a party that I felt I had to go to, but I had already given up going to parties. I had already accepted the fact that I was going to remain a loner, that that was best suited to my temperament anyway,
Martin Duberman: [01:05:30] since I was basically a hermit scholar. I wanted to be left alone with my work. But I go to this party out of duty and there I met Eli. I believe in that instant click thing, I think that is how it happens in most cases.
Martin Duberman: [01:06:00] The French have an expression for it, hooked atoms. It's like once the hook comes into view, you're linked.
Mason Funk: Excuse me, cookie crop.
Martin Duberman: So we started to see each other immediately. It's a fairly standard story,
Martin Duberman: [01:06:30] within six months Eli let me know that he was looking for a domestic relationship. He wanted a partner who he would live with. And I made it clear that I was really not looking for that, that I was very well adjusted to my single life. It went for a while,
Martin Duberman: [01:07:00] and finally he gave me an ultimatum, he said he doesn't want to get in any deeper if it's going to be a dead end in terms of what he wants. And I remember once he put it in the form of an ultimatum, I instantly backed off and said, Okay, when do you want to move in? Because I sorta knew, I knew, first of all,
Martin Duberman: [01:07:30] all those first few months are going to be awful. This adjustment is going to be major, but if you don't do it now, you found somebody you really care about, if you don't do it now -- I was 55 or something -- you're never going to do it. And do you really want to be alone for the rest of your life? And some not, some days I would answer yes. And that went on for years.
Martin Duberman: [01:08:00] I mean, like all couples we would have terrible times together. One or the other would threaten to leave; its all over and I can't stand you, get out of my life. But, we've hung in there and did a lot of therapy, actually. A lot of couples counseling. And the last 10 or 15 years have been very comfortable,
Martin Duberman: [01:08:30] peaceful. I feel very lucky to have the relationship. We understand each other, I think, very well. We're no longer looking to derive all of our needs from that one other person. We know that's impossible,
Martin Duberman: [01:09:00] but we also know that on a very deep level, we do connect and care about each other and want to be together. That's basically the story.
Mason Funk: So you were 55 or so and you never lived with anybody.
Martin Duberman: Never lived with anybody. In fact, I had a lot of trouble even letting a friend from out of town stay overnight, though I have plenty of room. I mean,
Martin Duberman: [01:09:30] I was really an isolate. I chose my profession wisely, the adjustment has happened. I can't now imagine living alone or be without Eli.
Mason Funk: That's a great story.
Martin Duberman: It's another very, very lucky break.
Mason Funk: What would you, I know you listed your mom and [crosstalk].
Martin Duberman: [01:10:00] Right. And Eli's definitely a third.
Mason Funk: So they come in threes.
Martin Duberman: Yeah. And I give us both credit. I mean, we both went to individual therapy, group therapy. We worked very hard at making it work. And now it works. A lot of the drama's gone.
Mason Funk: Eli is probably 20 some odd years younger than you, right?
Martin Duberman: [01:10:30] Yes.
Mason Funk: How [inaudible] the relationship?
Martin Duberman: For a long time, it didn't seem to matter at all.
Mason Funk: Tell me what you're talking about, the age difference. Say ...
Martin Duberman: Oh, Eli will be 65 in December, I will be 89 in August. Now it's mattering. Even though I'm basically who I was, I mean, I've got all my marbles.
Martin Duberman: [01:11:00] I still swim three times a week, lift weights twice a week, but that's really it. The rest of the time, because my stamina has definitely decreased, and the rest of the time I really do need to be alone and to do my work, which remains very important to me.
Mason Funk: So when he comes home from work on a typical evening, for example, what's your routine?
Martin Duberman: [01:11:30] Well, our routine is simple. It's almost always the same. Eli prefers to cook rather than go out. I've never been a cook. He tends to do the cooking. Tends? He does the cooking. Though he changes his mind somewhat about whether or to what extent he enjoys it. I don't think he really enjoys it, what he enjoys is a whole whole atmosphere.
Martin Duberman: [01:12:00] Often we eat dinner watching television. I mean, absolutely standard middle-class routine. We both have the same body clocks, we go to bed early, 10/10:30 for me, Eli, often, even earlier because of his work. He arrives home almost always quite exhausted because he's a really good therapist and he's there, he listens.
Martin Duberman: [01:12:30] It isn't about him, it's about them. And from my own experience with therapists, I know how rare that is, but it exhausts him. If he walks in the door while you're still here, you will see a shrivel of himself.
Mason Funk: Right, right. I see my own husband coming in the door, so I kind of know what you mean. That kind of like just give me my dinner and let me watch some stupid television.
Martin Duberman: [01:13:00] Exactly. And I'm brain dead by that point anyway, so that's, that's fine.
Mason Funk: So now let's talk a little bit about, I read some really interesting material relating to, I guess what I derived from it was this idea of the American character perhaps, tending to the conservative, tending to the belief that progress
Mason Funk: [01:13:30] and time will take care of ... will cure our social ills, radicalism is a form of dementia and the abolitionists is only one example. And this ultimately resulting in gay assimilation. That's a big thought. But you definitely thought a lot about this and written a lot about this.
Martin Duberman: You're not describing your own value structure ...
Mason Funk: [01:14:00] I'm describing some of the things I think you've observed and written about.
Martin Duberman: Oh, okay.
Mason Funk: Yeah. I really derive from some of the things you've written, this idea that it may be just part of our American temperament, kind of patriotic belief in America as a kind of, I don't know, I want you to fill in the blanks, but I think you kind of know where I'm going, the dangers of assimilationism.
Martin Duberman: [01:14:30] Yeah. I think the country's history, proves that a sustained radical movement regardless of the issue, is all but impossible to manage in this country as opposed to say Europe or other places in the world I know less about, but
Martin Duberman: [01:15:00] I think the culprit because in my value structure, I would much prefer that there was some significant hope for a more radical restructuring and a greater equality. But I think the fly in the ointment is that Americans have been brought up to believe
Martin Duberman: [01:15:30] that the path is wide open, that anybody who works hard enough applies themselves, is a good citizen, etc. will be able to get ahead in whatever endeavor he or she chooses. And then, I think this is the real crux, if you don't succeed,
Martin Duberman: [01:16:00] the reason is always to be found within you, you just didn't work hard enough. You didn't apply yourself and so forth and so on. I think we've been brainwashed to believe that our success and failure hinge solely on ourselves, which is absolute nonsense. There are so many obstacles,
Martin Duberman: [01:16:30] standing obstacles that so many people are born having to directly face, and which in order to get around, they have to go six miles to the left and four miles East and climb a mountain. The pathways are not open. Theyre very narrow and only a few people
Martin Duberman: [01:17:00] who arent born into the elite ever manage to successfully travel the road to success. But if Americans would face, to a greater extent, how much our institutions need readjustment, then maybe the pathways would widen.
Martin Duberman: [01:17:30] But I don't see that happening. I really cannot believe, no matter how many times I hear it, that Trump's rock bottom constituents, faithful to death, is around 40% of the country. And yet these are the very people in many, I think the majority of cases,
Martin Duberman: [01:18:00] who come from working class backgrounds who have not gotten much, if any, beyond the status of their own parents. And yet, I guess the message that they hear Trump giving is the old American message
Martin Duberman: [01:18:30] that, this is the greatest, what you gotta do is apply yourself and they remain working class according to that theory. It's not simply that they're not applying themselves hard enough, it's also that there are certain conspiratorial elements
Martin Duberman: [01:19:00] like Jews, like queers, like the crazy brand of feminists who think somehow women would do better than men, whereas everybody knows they are destined biologically for exactly two roles, wife and motherhood.
Martin Duberman: [01:19:30] So, I don't see much, given the social structure at the moment. I certainly don't think that a new radical movement is around the corner.
Mason Funk: What do you think -- when I was writing my notes, I wondered five, six years ago, we saw this flash point around the occupy movement -- what do you think became of the occupy movement? What's your take on how,
Martin Duberman: [01:20:00] as it seems, as soon as it kind of burst on the scene, just as quickly it seems to have disappeared.
Martin Duberman: Well, at the risk of crazy generalizations, I think they ran into what most movements for radical change run into, obstacles. And white men, big generalization,
Martin Duberman: [01:20:30] don't have any patience. Their birthright is to get ahead, I can give a year and a half to destroying wall street, and if the walls don't come tumbling down, I'm outta here. I've got a bright future waiting for me. And most of the rest of the population -- everybody wasn't a white man --
Martin Duberman: [01:21:00] just sort of falls away because they lack the structural power to forge ahead without some kind of alliance with those who have entree into the structures of power. This is a gross exaggeration, there are all kinds of exceptions.
Martin Duberman: [01:21:30] But talking about a general pattern, with all the exceptions, I think that's true. But, I don't know. It's a strange time right now. I was maybe a bit too negative just before because I think the newest generation, the whatever, 20-25 year olds, on all the polls that I ever see,
Martin Duberman: [01:22:00] they are radical. I mean the majority, of course, not the whole generation. If you ask them about what do you think of the transgender phenomenon? Fine. People ought to be and do what they want as long as they're not hurting anybody else. Do you approve of gay marriage? Well, of course, that's an old issue. Who doesn't approve gay marriage?
Martin Duberman: [01:22:30] But if you ask middle class, middle aged, white Methodists the same questions, No! majority. And those are the people who, essentially, are still in power. The question then becomes, will these people who in their twenties are radical, will they remain so? As they begin somewhat to age,
Martin Duberman: [01:23:00] some will start to form relationships, some will begin to have children, they gotta make a living, Heres a door that's halfway open already, why don't I just sidle through? Only for a couple of years, of course, I'm going to come right back out and resume my radical activities. Which doesn't happen except in very rare cases.
Mason Funk: [01:23:30] But you also, it sounds like where we started was that in terms of the American spirit or the American character, that it just maybe a so-called fatal flaw within us as a people to tend towards assimilation or settling down, taking the half open door as opposed to a sustainable radical restructuring.
Martin Duberman: [01:24:00] Yeah, I mean, I think Americans deeply believe, most Americans, what Trump says that we are the greatest. Yeah, sure A, B and C are wrong or could be better, but where else in the world do you find a thriving democracy, which is also economically sound?
Martin Duberman: [01:24:30] And if we really apply ourselves or our kids do, we're going to be able to take full advantage of all the opportunities that do exist here. And if we don't, if we fail, if we remain stationary, well, there's nobody to blame but ourselves, because this is the greatest country in the world. And there is something to be said for that point of view. When you think of what is going on in the rest of the world,
Martin Duberman: [01:25:00] the return of the autocrat, the dictatorships, the massacres, the United States does begin to look pretty good to you.And you know that the complaints you're making about the system, though they may well be real, are nonetheless rather privileged complaints when put into a global context. As an American,
Martin Duberman: [01:25:30] you still are far better off than most of the people of the world. Just the fact that you have enough to eat. Of course, we now know millions and millions of Americans don't have enough to eat. But those are the kinds of basic facts that I don't think, a majority of the country is willing to face. They keep hearing these horror stories about the rest of the word,
Martin Duberman: [01:26:00] then they look at their own circumstances. And if they're having to have macaroni again for dinner, they say, Look, we're not being lined up against the wall and shot. Let's get it in perspective. Human life is imperfect, as things go, we got the favorable end of things.
Mason Funk: And do you think that same mentality has kind of afflicted the LGBT community where we're like, Hey, they're no longer raiding our bars,
Mason Funk: [01:26:30] they're no longer, you know, submitting us to electroshock therapy? For the most part, we should just be happy that we're not being ... We've come as far as we have.
Martin Duberman: Oh, I think that's a very widespread attitude in the gay community. I think radicalism at the moment is dead, but again, the new generation of LGBTQ people, I hear a lot of radical voices.
Martin Duberman: [01:27:00] It's hard to know where to come down, I don't think it's a situation without hope for radical change. There are all kinds of imponderables that none of us can see the clouded ball.
Mason Funk: It's funny and I'm kind of happy, but you sound a little more optimistic than you sometimes do in some of your published writings.
Martin Duberman: Well, I had a good night's sleep.
Mason Funk: [01:27:30] Whatever it takes.
Martin Duberman: Right. Try me tomorrow. I'll be down and dour.
Mason Funk: We've got just a few more and then we'll do, we'll pivot. I'm going to, I'm going to give Michelle a minute to ask any questions she may have. Cause sometimes, oftentimes our camera operators have amazing questions. I'm looking ...
Mason Funk: [01:28:00] How about, where are you at? Do you have some ideas or some questions in here?
Michelle McCabe: I was just like, wow.
Mason Funk: You know, I know, I know. I don't, I never mean to put the person on the spot, but I also want to [crosstalk].
Michelle McCabe: Youve just hit so many.
Mason Funk: [01:28:30] You want to think about it for a minute while during the next question.
Michelle McCabe: I dont know, sort of thinking like what are the danger zones that you can ... If you were advising young, 25-year-old LGBTQ activists, advising them how to stay active
Michelle McCabe: [01:29:00] and having that broad vision in retrospect and kind of projecting forward, what would you advise them to look out for and where to stay engaged?
Martin Duberman: Yeah, absolutely.
Mason Funk: Youll just answer to me as if that was my question.
Martin Duberman: Okay. What I think is very important in terms of being able to maintain a radical hope is alliances.
Martin Duberman: [01:29:30] I think the movement has always been, and still is, much too much a single issue movement. And it isn't entirely our fault. It's not like the rest of the left has exactly been holding out the hand of welcome.
Martin Duberman: [01:30:00] They tend to think our issues are very privileged issues. That's because they often aren't aware of the actual diversity of our communities and how many gay people are working class people, suffering the same ills that the rest of the working class is suffering, they don't see that. On the other hand, I don't see the gay movement reaching out
Martin Duberman: [01:30:30] and trying to form alliances. They did for a while, like GLF right after the Stonewall riots, they were very outspoken in support of the Black Panthers, and they even went to various Panther conventions. Unfortunately, which is an example of what I just said, the only person in the Panther group that reached back was Huey Newton
Martin Duberman: [01:31:00] who actually sent out some kind of notice to the brothers and sisters that We have to pay serious attention to these people and their issues. But the Panthers never did. So beyond that, I think the only way to maintain any kind of radical momentum
Martin Duberman: [01:31:30] is to have some successes along the way. You need encouragement. You need some evidence that the work you've been doing is having some concrete results. And in the current climate, I think it's hard to find that.
Martin Duberman: [01:32:00] I mean, I don't know what's going on very much in say the transgender community. I have some few contacts there. I think the general feeling there is that there's a huge way to go, but we really have made significant progress. And this whole question now of what is gender,
Martin Duberman: [01:32:30] what is this binary that we've all been brought up with? Andrea Dworkin who I told you I was writing about, Andrea Dworkin didn't believe for a minute that biology had anything to do with maleness or femaleness as we have come to think of those qualities,
Martin Duberman: [01:33:00] that gender is a function of our social environment. It is not a function of our genes or our hormones. The few signals that reach me suggest that the transgender community is growing rapidly,
Martin Duberman: [01:33:30] and is forceful currently in its demands. They want the pronoun they to be used, etc. and they'll bring it up. I think that entering wedge is itself very promising, at least, as of this moment. Because once you start to question gender and it's reality,
Martin Duberman: [01:34:00] I think that leads to an awful lot of other questioning like race, like gay versus straight. Maybe what the transgender world is telling us is true for much of what characterizes our current definitions of humanness. Maybe we ought to stop talking
Martin Duberman: [01:34:30] about maleness and femaleness as if they were biologically determined in the same way we ought to stop talking about how different -- this gets tricky even as I try to say it, it's a real rubbing point. I was going to say how different
Martin Duberman: [01:35:00] is the black subculture really from mainstream white culture. Well, which part of the white mainstream are you talking about? You're talking about dyed-in-the-wool Baptists in the deep South, or are you talking about sophisticated East coasters who don't go to church or synagogue or mosque?
Mason Funk: [01:35:30] Well, it is an interesting question because on one hand, the transgender movement, and I love the fact that the transgender movement includes the prefix, trans, as in transgress, transcend. So there's a kind of an innate quality of erasing, seemingly fixed categories and questioning. But then at the same time, we all seem to agree that trying to erase these cultural differences and everybody trying to pretend that we're all the same is also a path that can lead to ruin.
Martin Duberman: [01:36:00] I don't think that's the only option though, to pretend we're all the same.
Mason Funk: So what is the third way so to speak?
Martin Duberman: No. I think the third way is very different from that. I think it's that each individual is a unique and therefore wildly interesting combination of qualities and talents and feelings.
Martin Duberman: [01:36:30] The more you break down these rigid barriers that define gender and race and so forth, the more you allow what is special about that one person to emerge because they stop defining themselves as, Well, after all, I'm a man. What do you expect me to feel a thing? Well, you know, after all I'm white, of course,
Martin Duberman: [01:37:00] I have these prejudices or views or standards or whatever. That's why I call it an opening wedge because I think a lot could topple if the momentum continues. And of course, that's the big IF, how to get it to continue.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Well, sustainable is everything. And it seems like ever since the 60s and the early 70s,
Mason Funk: [01:37:30] we've been looking for that sustainable radical change that can really rewrite the rules. Karla Jay was very eloquent when we interviewed her three years ago. She was very honest. She said, I hoped for much more change, much more profound change than we've been able to accomplish. But it was very clear. That's where she was at and it was hard to question why she would feel that way.
Martin Duberman: Though you could flip the coin. I agree with karla, I'm disappointed too.
Martin Duberman: [01:38:00] But the other side of it is, as many people have said, no movement in our history has made more progress in a shorter period of time than has the LGBTQ movement, that can be reversed, that can disappear. But the fact is, I'm here to tell you, given my age, that 50 years ago, the idea
Martin Duberman: [01:38:30] that within our lifespan, the majority of the American population would approve of gay marriage was absolutely unthinkable. And yet it's happened. I'm not thrilled it's happened mind you, because I think that's of course the path to assimilation and the path away from radical change.
Martin Duberman: [01:39:00] In the meantime, while we're approaching the radical horizon, which keeps ever receding as we approach it, it's nice to have at least these liberal reform changes. It does make lives easier.
Mason Funk: Oh, can you sit up a little bit? Yeah. Sorry. As you get comfortable, we're like, dont get comfortable.
Mason Funk: [01:39:30] One more thing cause we're kind of dealing with these weighty and this very broad categories. It's tough. But I'm also so fascinated at the writing and the thinking you've done about this. And I want to ask one more kind of broad question and then we'll get down to these four finals, which is, oh and I saw two names here that we have to talk about. The broad question
Martin Duberman: Are you Jewish?
Mason Funk: No. That's Rock Hill and Ken Dawson. Those were two more people you wanted to talk about. If you still want to, but I have one more question.
Mason Funk: [01:40:00] You wrote about the abolitionist movement, and this was educational for me. I really have never studied that era, but how they were in contrast with the movement, I forget what they were called, but they were trying to contain slavery.
Martin Duberman: The Republicans.
Mason Funk: The Republicans. They thought if we just contain it, keep it from expanding, it'll die of its own. It'll die a natural death or fade out. Whereas the abolitionists were like, no, that's not going to work. We have to actually actively ... And even if it means risking the union,
Mason Funk: [01:40:30] whatever it takes. What parallels do you see between, could you even reference that kind of divide between radicals and liberals that existed in the mid 19th century and where we are today? And what parallels you see? Is that just a hopelessly broad question?
Martin Duberman: Well, I'm trying to anchor it in my head. I'm having trouble. Can you relate it to a specific trend or ...
Mason Funk: [01:41:00] The whole question that, as you've critiqued, as you've criticized the gay LGBT movement for, in a way, going all in for marriage equality, as a form of like, just as you said, we may not reach the promise land in terms of restructuring society, but we're going to be able to visit our partners in the hospital and we're going to be able to
Mason Funk: [01:41:30] inherit each other's wealth when we die. So it was incremental change as opposed to rapid change. Incrementalism versus, say, radical changes. I'm not sure where the question is in there. I'm not sure if I'm cooking anything in your brain in terms of something that you feel is worth talking about? Just, again, in terms of how change occurs?
Martin Duberman: [01:42:00] Well, if we start maybe with the abolitionists themselves ... I dont know, I'm puzzling it out as I go along, but it was initially a very small group, much despised even by their neighbors. People much like themselves, in other words, but they not only took a very firm stand,
Martin Duberman: [01:42:30] but they never deviated from it. William Lloyd Garrison said, as did the other abolitionists, No, we want immediate abolition. We want it now. And we will not compensate the slave owners for freeing their slaves. Which made it a double,
Martin Duberman: [01:43:00] No! No! for most of the American population. There were more Americans who were willing to settle for a platform of emancipation and exile. If you can find a place to send all the free slaves, well, maybe we'd be more willing to free them.
Martin Duberman: [01:43:30] Various schemes like the colonization society, Liberia, et cetera, did develop, hoping that that would be the solution. But it never was, because freed blacks didn't want to leave. And much more important white slave owners didn't want to surrender their slaves. What happened, I think it maybe is what always happens,
Martin Duberman: [01:44:00] that though people like Abraham Lincoln originally despises -- that's too strong -- refuses to become involved with abolition, nonetheless, he does become more profoundly committed to at least a long range plan for getting rid of slavery,
Martin Duberman: [01:44:30] to the point where there's this critical compromise that comes up in the Congress in 1860, the so-called Crittenden compromise. They were going to draw a line straight across the country. Above it, slavery was to be forbidden in all the new territories out West. Below it, it would be allowed. And Lincoln, more or less single handedly, he took key Congressman aside,
Martin Duberman: [01:45:00] defeated the Crittenden compromise. And lots of historians think, I don't know where I'm going with this, but stop me at any point.
Mason Funk: Im enjoying it. [inaudible] come to the present, its still good history.
Martin Duberman: We're still in the 19th century. I mean, after all, we have just more centuries to [inaudible]. I guess given our history,
Martin Duberman: [01:45:30] what I'm trying to say is probably the most we can hope for is that a radical movement will sustain itself long enough so that something less than what the radicals are demanding happens and that what happens is worth having. The radical agenda in its original pure form,
Martin Duberman: [01:46:00] regardless of the group on the flag that's being waved, isn't gonna happen. It's some compromised but advanced result that's going to eventuate from it.
Mason Funk: Okay. Excellent. Thank you for ...
Martin Duberman: We're not going to have a French revolution is what I'm trying to say.
Mason Funk: Okay. I have four final questions.
Michelle McCabe: [01:46:30] I'm going to ask you to sit properly.
Martin Duberman: Oh God. That's interesting.
Michelle McCabe: It happens.
Mason Funk: It's probably because I asked you to go down that path and you were just like, Oh, where do I even start and finish?
Martin Duberman: I didn't do that one.
Mason Funk: That was my bad. It wasn't your fault. It was mine. First final question. If somebody comes to you today or tomorrow and says, I'm thinking about coming out, whatever that might mean to that person,
Mason Funk: [01:47:00] whatever form of coming out they're envisioning or contemplating what very short, concise pearl of wisdom or guidance would you offer them?
Martin Duberman: Are they asking me a practical question? Like who should I notify?
Mason Funk: They're just asking you what should I do or do you have any advice for me?
Martin Duberman: Yes. There are lots of things you can do, at least for starters.
Martin Duberman: [01:47:30] If you live in New York city, and there are analogous institutions elsewhere, you could go to the gay center on 13th street, and you could ask to see their listing of various organizations, gay organizations, and if you're say 18, they will have, Im sure, a number of listings for gay youth activities. Either people who are just coming out or ...
Mason Funk: [01:48:00] Its Eli.
Martin Duberman: Hi there.
Mason Funk: Hi Eli. how are you? Let's pause for a second.
Martin Duberman: You want to get on camera?
Eli: No, probably [inaudible] guys do your thing.
Mason Funk: Were almost done here.
Martin Duberman: Were almost done. Is that a good enough answer?
Mason Funk: [01:48:30] Yeah, thats great. We'll move on to the next question. So we've been talking about this question in a way, but what is your, if this isn't redundant, what is your hope for the future? But I think we've sort of really expressed it.
Martin Duberman: I think so, yeah.
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] Okay. Third, is it important to you to tell your own personal story? For example, talking about your mom and is it important and if so, why? Why is that important to you?
Martin Duberman: That's a very good question. I have a feeling it would take me a lot of time to answer it well, but I think a willingness for each of us to tell his/her
Martin Duberman: [01:49:30] or they story is very important. It's like getting behind the masks that all of us have been taught to wear in our daily lives. I think until you get behind the mask,
Martin Duberman: [01:50:00] you can't really connect in depth to anybody else because what you're dealing with is this fixed face that doesn't seem to react to any events or emotions or changes. Everything's hidden behind it.
Martin Duberman: [01:50:30] It's only when you can connect to what's under all that, that I think real relationships start to happen. You're connecting to the whole person, the real human being.
Mason Funk: Great. Great. And finally, this project OUTWORDS, effectively we're trying to do people like [inaudible] as I described, people all over the country from all different circumstances.
Mason Funk: [01:51:00] What do you see as the value of a project like OUTWORDS? And if you could include the word OUTWORDS in your answer, that would be helpful.
Martin Duberman: Say it again. I'm sorry. What is the value?
Mason Funk: [crosstalk] value of a project like OUTWORDS? And if you could include the word OUTWORDS in your answer would be helpful.
Martin Duberman: If I understand OUTWORDS accurately, what you're doing is going to create a wonderfully useful archive
Martin Duberman: [01:51:30] of LGBTQ experience and it's going to be across genders, across races, across classes and that's the kind of a broad representation of the community that we don't often see. I mean within our own communities, we're often,
Martin Duberman: [01:52:00] I think usually, bifurcated along class lines or race lines, and even gender lines. I think what you're doing is, trying to break down some of some of those walls and show the rest of us just how diverse we are.
Martin Duberman: [01:52:30] And why is that in turn important? I think it's important because, we would be far less prone to settle for simplistic descriptions of others in our world, and also, far less ready to adopt simplistic answers
Martin Duberman: [01:53:00] that in fact don't really apply very well to the quite different lives of people who don't happen to fall within our own categories of say; white, male, working class, religious, whatever. I think for future generations it's going to be a very valuable archive.
Mason Funk: From your mouth to God's ears.
Martin Duberman: [01:53:30] I believe it. I believe it.
Mason Funk: Thank you. We're going to record 30 seconds of just this room essentially with nobody talking and then we'll be done.
Martin Duberman: Sure.
Mason Funk: This is room tone.
Mason Funk: [01:54:30] Okay. That's a wrap.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Michelle McCabe
Date: March 28, 2019
Location: Home of Martin Duberman, New York, NY