John D'Emilio - "Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood"

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
John D'Emilio

John D'Emilio will discuss Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties

This event will be held in person at the Catholic Theological Union.

About the book: John D’Emilio is one of the leading historians of his generation and a pioneering figure in the field of LGBTQ history. At times his life has been seemingly at odds with his upbringing. How does a boy from an Italian immigrant family in which everyone unfailingly went to confession and Sunday Mass become a lapsed Catholic? How does a family who worshipped Senator Joseph McCarthy and supported Richard Nixon produce an antiwar activist and pacifist? How does a family in which the word divorce was never spoken raise a son who comes to explore the hidden gay sexual underworld of New York City? Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood is D’Emilio’s coming-of-age story in which he takes readers from his working-class Bronx neighborhood to an elite Jesuit high school in Manhattan to Columbia University and the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s. He shares his personal experiences of growing up in a conservative, tight-knit, multigenerational family, how he went from considering entering the priesthood to losing his faith and coming to terms with his same-sex desires. Throughout, D’Emilio outlines his complicated relationship with his family while showing how his passion for activism influenced his decision to use research, writing, and teaching to build a strong LGBTQ movement.

This is not just John D’Emilio’s personal story; it opens a window into how the conformist baby boom decade of the 1950s transformed into the tumultuous years of radical social movements and widespread protest during the 1960s. It is the story of what happens when different cultures and values collide and the tensions and possibilities for personal discovery and growth that emerge. Intimate and honest, D’Emilio’s story will resonate with anyone who has had to chart their own path in a world they did not expect to find.

About the author: A pioneer in the field of LGBTQ history and the history of sexuality, John D’Emilio is a retired Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author or editor of almost a dozen books including Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970; Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin; and Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, co-authored with Estelle B. Freedman and now in its third edition. His biography of Bayard Rustin was a finalist for the National Book Award. He was the founding director of the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and he recently served as President of the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives in Chicago. His book, Queer Legacies: Stories from Chicago’s LGBTQ Archives, draws on its collections. Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties, published by Duke University Press, is his most recent book.

Event Location: 
Catholic Theological Union
5416 S Cornell Ave
Chicago, IL 60615