Gay liberation pioneer Arnie Kantrowitz dies at 81

Arnie Kantrowitz, a literature professor and author who was an early advocate for gay rights and a tireless campaigner for fairer treatm...


Arnie Kantrowitz, a literature professor and author who was an early advocate for gay rights and a tireless campaigner for fairer treatment of gay people by the media, died Jan. 21 at a Manhattan rehabilitation center. He was 81 years old.

The cause was complications from Covid-19, his life partner, Dr. Lawrence D. Massnoted.

The gay rights movement was sparked in mid-1969 by the uprising sparked by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, which led to the founding of the Gay Activists Alliance a few months later. Mr. Kantrowitz became vice president of the organization in 1970, the year he came to grips with his own homosexuality.

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

His memoir, “Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay” (1977), exposed to a wide audience the difficulties he and his gay contemporaries encountered in the 1950s and 1960s and recalled how he faced them – including two suicide attempts. The book also chronicled the movement’s historical events, including what has been called the first Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day Parade, held in New York City in 1969.

“He was a leader of the generation of activists in the aftermath of the Stonewall Rebellion who put their lives and livelihoods on the line to advance the cause of gay liberation,” Andy Humm wrote the month last on GayCityNews.com.

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

Credit…Bolerium Books

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

Arnold graduated from Weequahic High School and was accepted by Columbia and Princeton. But he later recalled that being both gay and Jewish, he didn’t enroll in either school because he lacked self-confidence.

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

“My mum even took me to a doctor,” he added. “He didn’t think I was gay, he thought I was sensitive. And I was! Both!”

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

His first teaching position 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 College of Staten Island, where he introduced one of the first gay studies courses. He was appointed chairman of the English department in 1999.

Mr. Kantrowitz was a leading supporter of the work of Walt Whitman and the author of a biography of Whitman which was published in 2005 as part of the “Gay and Lesbian Writers” series.

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

Besides Dr. Mass, a physician and writer who was one of the founders of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Mr. Kantrowitz is survived by his brother Barry.

Having been present at the founding of the gay rights movement and having survived so many of its other founders, many of whom died of AIDS, Mr. Kantrowitz provided a longer perspective on the progress of the movement and the personal balance of patience and willpower. power needed to bear being gay in an unwelcoming world.

He recalled in his interview with Queer Newark that in his early days in the Gay Activists Alliance 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 looking back, it took a moment, you know,” he said, “because looking at the historical telescope, how many years has it been? Forty-six, 50 years It doesn’t matter, it’s a short time considering the length of the story.

Likewise, he recalled that when he was teaching, gay students would ask him questions about their sexuality, cautiously, but with a candor he had never felt comfortable with when he was a student. .

“Students came to me with their secrets and, you know, I was as supportive as I could be,” Mr. Kantrowitz said, “and encouraged them by saying, ‘I survived and you will too. .

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Newsrust - US Top News: Gay liberation pioneer Arnie Kantrowitz dies at 81
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