Arnie Kantrowitz, Gay Liberation Pioneer, Dies at 81

Arnie Kantrowitz, a literature professor and author, early gay rights fighter and tireless campaigner for fairer treatment of gay people in the media, has passed away. on January 21 at a rehabilitation center in Manhattan. He was 81 years old.

Caused by complications of Covid-19, his mate, Dr. Lawrence D. Massspeak.

The gay rights movement was ignited in mid-1969 by a police-led uprising during a raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, which led to the formation of the Gay Activists Coalition. few months later. Mr. Kantrowitz became vice president of the organization in 1970, the same year he became more aware of his homosexuality.

In 1985, he was a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation Alliance (now known as GLAAD), which was formed to combat negative media coverage of the AIDS crisis. create.

His memoir, “Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay” (1977), shows the audience the hardships he and his gay contemporaries faced in the 1950s and 60s and recalls how he was confront them – including two suicides. The book also documents historical events in the movement, including the first Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day parade, held in New York City in 1969.

“He was a leader of the generation of activists immediately after the Stonewall uprising who put their lives and livelihoods first to advance the cause of gay liberation,” said Andy Humm. wrote last month on

Dr. Mass called Mr. Kantrowitz “a true sage and champion”.

Credit…Book of Bolerium

Arnold Kantrowitz was born on November 26, 1940 in Newark. His mother, Jean (Zabarsky) Kantrowitz, is a real estate broker. His father, Morris, is a lawyer and a salesman.

Arnold graduated from Weequahic High School and was accepted by Columbia and Princeton. But then, he recalled, being gay and Jewish, he didn’t enroll in both schools because of a lack of confidence.

“I feel ‘different’,” he said in an interview with Queer Newark Oral History Project in 2015. “I feel different from what my parents wanted me to be.”

“My mom even took me to the doctor,” he added. “He doesn’t think I’m gay, he thinks I’m sensitive. And I did! Both!”

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University-Newark in 1961 and a master’s degree in 1963 from New York University, both in English literature. He also completed preparation for his PhD at NYU .

His first teaching job was at the State University of New York at Cortland, from 1963 to 1965. He taught from 1965 until his retirement in 2006 at City University’s Staten Island College, where he introduced one of the earliest courses on gay studies. He was appointed dean of the English department in 1999.

Mr. Kantrowitz is a leading proponent of Walt Whitman’s work and the author of a biography of Whitman published in 2005 as part of the “Lesbian and Gay Writers” series.

At one point, he shared a house at 186 Spring Street in Lower Manhattan with two other gay rights leaders: James W. Owlswho died of AIDS in 1993 at the age of 46, and Dr. Bruce Voellerwho died of AIDS in 1994 at the age of 59.

Along with Dr. Mass, a physician and writer who founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Mr. Kantrowitz is survived by his brother, Barry.

Having been involved in the founding of the gay rights movement and outlived many of its other founders, many of whom died of AIDS, Mr. Kantrowitz offers a longer perspective on progress. of the movement as well as about the personal balance between patience and will. the strength it takes to endure being gay in an unwelcome world.

He recalled in an interview with Queer Newark that during his first days on the Gay Activists Coalition, he assumed that same-sex marriage would be immediately embraced by Americans. A few years later, he realized that it would take much longer,

“And now that I look back, it took a while, you know,” he said, “because in terms of long history, how many years was it? Forty-six, 50 years, whatever? It is a very small period of time in history. “

Likewise, he remembers that when he taught, gay students would share questions with him about their sexuality, cautiously, but with eyes he had never felt comfortable with. when I was a college student.

“Students come to me with their secrets and, you know, I’m always supportive,” Mr. Kantrowitz said. Arnie Kantrowitz, Gay Liberation Pioneer, Dies at 81

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