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Allen Young

Over the past 54 plus years, Allen Young has secured his legacy as an author, journalist, writer, and gay liberationist. He graduated with an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1962 and then received an M.A. from Stanford and an M.S. from Columbia University. In 1964 he received the Fulbright Award and spent three years in Brazil, Chile, and other Latin American countries, writing for The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and several other periodicals. When he returned to the States, he became an anti-Vietnam War activist and was staffed by and wrote for the Liberation News Service. In 1969, he and other members of the Students for a Democratic Society organized the Venceremos Brigade. The Venceremos Brigade was formed as a coalition of young people who wanted to show solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by working alongside native workers, challenging U.S. policies towards Cuba. Later, increasingly aware of the Cuban regime's harsh anti-gay policies, he became disillusioned with the regime and wrote a book, Gays Under the Cuban Revolution. Allen became involved with the gay liberation movement in 1970 when he joined the New York Gay Liberation Front. In 1973, he moved to rural Massachusetts where he has published numerous books and anthologies, including Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation, After You're Out: Personal Experiences of Gay Men and Lesbian Women, and most recently his biography, Left, Gay & Green: A Writer's Life.

"In 1961, I had my first crush in college—a repressed homosexual relationship with my college roommate. We were close friends, took a lot of classes together, and were physically involved. We were also intellectually compatible. We both enjoyed the sex that we had. However, while this was happening, I had no awareness of homosexuality except seeing the word in the dictionary and knowing it was a sickness. I was concerned. Am I sick? I decided that I better see a psychiatrist, and I did. Before I went to Brazil for a scholarship, I approached a psychiatrist, Dr. Rubinfine, who I knew socially in New York. He was a left-wing psychiatrist, and we had a nice relationship. I told him that it was terrifying for me to go to him and that I was a homosexual. I asked him if he could help me. Can you cure me? I actually used the word cured. He said, well, you know me socially, I can't do that. Go to the Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. I went to Columbia, and the doctor there said, we can't start your treatment here. This involves years of treatment, and you're going to Brazil. He took a book off his shelf, and he gave me the name and address of a psychiatrist in Rio de Janeiro.

Allen Young at an anti-war demonstration in Washington by David Fenton, 1969.

In Brazil, I talked to the psychiatrist in Portuguese twice a week and began psychotherapy. At the same time, I met some other gay men. I became friends with them, and they taught me about cruising, and I started having more and more sex with men. The psychiatrist said things—he almost said nothing, but when he did say something, I said to myself, this is stupid. This is ridiculous. I'm gay. Self-awareness and self-acceptance were a very, very big part of me coming out. I considered these psychiatrists to be very important enemies of the people—they were our enemies. There were six authors, six psychiatrists, doctors in particular, whose books were very popular and very important.

When I was doing my first writings, I listed the names of those authors and the titles of those six books, and I said, 'These books are killing us. These books are very dangerous, and we need to counter all of the ideology, the false science.' There also have been scientists in the past doing bad things, and among those were these psychiatrists, and thank goodness we have had a change of that mentality, but we had to fight for it. It was a big fight, lots of demonstrations, lots of marches, lots of lobbying and so on. When I came back in 1970, I got involved in the gay liberation movement, starting with the New York Gay Liberation Front. The Gay Liberation Front was the first place I felt at home—the first place where I felt that I was a whole person. The people I was close to then are still some of my closest and most important friends."


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