100 Heroes: Edward Sagarin
The gay man whose writing helped shape the movement for queer equality.
Edward Sagarin was an American professor of sociology and criminology at the City University of New York, and a writer.
His book The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach, published in 1951, is considered one of the most influential works in the history of the gay rights movement. The book highlighted the difficulties faced by homosexuals men.
He’s been described as the father of the homophile movement for asserting that gay men and lesbians deserved civil rights as members of a large, unrecognised minority.
Sagarin was born in 1913 in Schenectady, New York.
Although he had developed a successful career in the perfume and cosmetics industry, Sagarin began a dual life as a writer.
He adopted the pen name of Donald Webster Cory, and it was in that name that in 1951 he published The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach.
The book is seen as the first publication in the United States that discussed homosexual politics and sympathetically presented the plight of homosexuals. In the book, Sagarin described how homosexuals were discriminated against in almost all aspects of their lives and called for a repeal of anti-homosexuality laws.
Building on the positive response that his book received, Sagarin established a subscription book service called Cory Book Service, which chose a gay-themed literary work each month.
Throughout the 1960s, Sagarin was active in the Mattachine Society, and continued to study and write about sociology and sexuality.
Sagarin died of a heart attack in 1986.