#QueerHeroes Day 6.
Edward Sagarin (Alias: Donald Webster Cory).
I was conflicted about including him, but his contributions are undeniable and his story is an interesting one.
Sagarin was born in 1913. He married his wife in the 30’s and worked in the perfume and cosmetics industry.
But he led a double life. Under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, Sagarin published “The Homosexual in America” in 1951 which earned him the reputation as “Father of the Homophile Movement.” It was one of the first publications in the US to not only discuss homosexual political causes and action, but to stand staunchly in support of us. He said, “The only homosexual problem that exists is the one created by heterosexual society.” The book sold thousands of copies, though hardly anyone read it in public.
If the Kinsey report showed gays of the era the scope of our numbers, “The Homosexual in America” rallied them. It’s undoubtable that the information and calls to action in the book helped advance the cause, however Sagarin didn’t advance with it.
Sagarin (as Cory) was a member of the Mattachine Society, and a conservative one at that. The group reached a divide and Sagarin was on the wrong side of it. Fellow Mattachine member Frank Kameny said to them in a speech, “The entire homophile movement is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether homosexuality is a sickness, and upon our taking a stand on it.” We know that this is exactly what happened and we began advancing leaps and bounds faster as society began to relinquish the idea that we are mentally ill. However, at the time, Sagarin was against Mattachine taking the position that homosexuality was not an illness or maldevelopment. He threatened to leave the organization if it took that position, to which Kameny replied: “You have become no longer the rigorous Father of the Homophile Movement, to be revered, respected, and listened to, but the senile Grandfather of the Homophile Movement, to be humored and tolerated at best, to be ignored and disregarded usually; and to be ridiculed, at worst.”
Sagarin remained closeted all his life.