On Being Different
What It Means to Be a Homosexual
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
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The groundbreaking work on being homosexual in America—available again only from Penguin Classics and with a new foreword by Dan Savage
Originally published in 1971, Merle Miller’s On Being Different is a pioneering and thought-provoking book about being homosexual in the United States. Just two years after the Stonewall riots, Miller wrote a poignant essay for the New York Times Magazine entitled “What It Means To Be a Homosexual” in response to a homophobic article published in Harper’s Magazine. Described as “the most widely read and discussed essay of the decade,” it carried the seed that would blossom into On Being Different—one of the earliest memoirs to affirm the importance of coming out.
Merle Miller (1919–1986) was an editor at Harper’s Magazine, Time, and the Nation, and was the bestselling author of several books, including the novel A Gay and Melancholy Sound and Plain Speaking, a biography of President Harry Truman.
Dan Savage is the internationally syndicated columnist of “Savage Love” and the author of several books. With his husband Terry Miller, he cofounded the It Gets Better project and edited the It Gets Better collection.
Charles Kaiser is an author, journalist, and blogger. His books include 1968 in America and The Gay Metropolis, which was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book. He lives in New York City.
“Forty years after Miller’s article and book his eloquent voice is still poignant, still relevant to the ongoing struggle, our struggle for dignity and equal rights.”
-Jonathan Ned Katz, Founder, Co-Director, OutHistory.org
“Forty years later, the story Miller tells remains important and necessary to read, not only for both gay and straight readers to understand ‘the way it used to be,’ but because the issues Miller raised are still being discussed and argued about.”
“Merle Miller’s On Being Different is a searing indictment of social hypocrisy, written with a quite but burning passion… This book is not only a valuable historical document about the gay civil rights movement, but it is an American classic because of the beauty it achieves through its unflinchingly honest portrayal of the raw pain of rejection.”
-David Carter, author Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution
“Without indulging in sensationalism or special pleading but making it clear that he was writing directly from his own experience, [Miller] bridged the gap between the ‘straights’ and the ‘gays’ in a way that few recent writers on the subject have done. He also put himself on the line as a well-known writer, who was not afraid to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality.”
“Brilliant, moving, and one is obliged to add, courageous narrative of personal homosexuality.”
-James A. Wechsler, columnist