(WB) The author of an upcoming book on gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny’s groundbreaking work beginning in the late 1950s in fighting the federal government’s discrimination against gay people has given the Blade an advance look at the book’s unique cover.
Entitled “The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America,” the book’s cover partially replicates the cover of a sensational 1950 U.S. Senate report on homosexuals in federal employment that is credited with triggering widespread purges of gay federal workers over the next 30 years.
The book’s author, gay historian and Harvard and Cambridge University trained scholar Eric Cervini, spent six years researching Kameny’s work from the time he was fired from his federal job as a civilian astronomer for the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 and his role as co-founder and leader of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.’s first significant gay rights group.
The book, which Cervini describes as a history of Kameny’s unique and innovative work in advocating for LGBTQ rights, ends in 1971 when the D.C. Mattachine Society was replaced by the then-D.C. Gay Activists Alliance, for which Kameny also played an active role.
A statement released by the book’s publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, says the book is scheduled to be released on June 2, just prior to the 50th anniversary of the world’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration in New York.
“Based on fifty thousand pages of firsthand accounts, recently declassified FBI records, and personal documents, The Deviant’s War unfolds over the course of the 1960s, as the Mattachine Society of Washington – the group Kameny [co] founded – became the first organization to protest the systematic persecution of gay federal employees,” the statement says.
“It is a story of America at a cultural and sexual crossroads; of shocking, byzantine public battles with Congress; of FBI informants; murder; betrayal; sex; love – and ultimate victory,” the statement says.
It points out that the book’s black and pink cover is modeled after the 1950 U.S. Senate report, “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government.” Kameny was among those ensnared in the gay purges that the Senate report is reported to have triggered when he was fired from his civilian federal job in 1957 for being gay.
The publisher’s statement notes that unlike so many others at the time, Kameny fought back by contesting his firing before the then-U.S. Civil Service Commission and through the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, all of which turned down his appeal for a reversal of his firing. His Supreme Court brief, which Kameny himself wrote, marked the first known time a gay person challenged anti-LGBTQ bias before the high court and became a model for future efforts to contest anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“By tracking Kameny’s story alongside the movements for African Americans, lesbian, and trans rights, the book also shows how LGBTQ+ Americans are, in the end, a family of the persecuted – a minority that must continue fighting for the most marginalized of its members,” Cervini said in the statement.
Cervini said a major source for his book was Kameny’s papers, which Kameny donated to the Library of Congress in Washington. He said he also traveled across the country tracking down other documents and to “place Kameny’s story in dialogue with America in the 1960s, a decade before the Stonewall Riots.”