8 Montrose Voice / May i4,1982
'Sons of Harvard' examines lives of 10 gay men
for 10 years from one graduating class
By Joseph DiSabato
On behalf of book's publisher
SONS OF HARVARD by Toby Marotta. Published by William Morrow and Company, 105
Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Hardcover: $13.50. Publication on May 7,1982.
In the spring of 1977, Toby Marotta
received a form asking for his contribution
to the 10th anniversary report ofthe Harvard College Class of 1967. As an undergraduate he had been a familiar figure on
campus, an ardent booster ofthe University, and a very politically-involved
He had been caught up in the political
and counter-cultural spirit of the '60's—a
time when great concern was focused on
personal growth and awareness and the
impact that the changing moral and
social values of the youth of our county
could have on the political system.
Marotta became close friends with the
son of Larry O'Brien (one of the chief figures in the Kennedy administrtion and the
Democratic Party) and saw his destiny as
one of involvement in the political process.
What prevented him from pursuing these
goals was the fact that Marotta was also
It was not that being gay in and of itself
would have kept Marotta from successfully pursuing a career in politics. He
would have remained closeted, as he had
during his days as a Harvard undergraduate. It was rather that, as the gay move-
ent took shape out of the counter-
cultural and political tides ofthe late '60s,
Marotta's political interests became refo-
cused as he began to deal with his
For Marotta, the personal became political, and as he pursued his graduate studies at the Kennedy School of
Government, the Graduate School of Education and the Graduate School of Arts
and Sciences (all at Harvard), his area of
interest became the politics of the gay liberation movement.
His Ph.D. thesis was published last year
as The Politics of Homosexuality, and it
stands as the definitive work on the history of the modem gay liberation movement, thoroughly exploring the people, the
political and social philosophies, and the
organizations which have contributed to
the struggle for gay rights in this country.
When Marotta received the form to fill
out for his 10th anniversary report, he had
mixed feelings about replying. He questioned whether or not he could honestly
report to his classmates the fact that he
was gay and what his activities and
interests had been—in effect coming out to
his class. His chance meeting with a fellow gay member of his class of'67 who had
also been politically involved and whose
post-graduate evolution had closely mirrored his own made him curious as to how
many other members of his class were gay
and how their lives might have changed
as they dealt with their own sexuality.
He wrote back to the alumni yearbook,
honestly relating his development and
interests including his Ph.D. work. The
reaction to his publicly coming out was
very gratifying, and he was contacted by
many other graduates of the class of '67
who were gay. Marotta decided to meet
some of these men and set down their stories in a book—Sons of Harvard.
Where The Politics of Homosexuality
was an objective, impersonal, scholarly
work, Sons of Harvard is exactly the opposite. This new book is an intensely personal account of Marotta's travels across
the country to meet with 10 other graduates of his class. It was a journey of self-
discovery, taking him from the tenderloin
district of San Francisco to the home of an
Episcopal minister in Chicago, from a
commune in Michigan to the halls of
government in Washington.
Marotta interweaves the interviews
with and attitudes of these 10 men with an
intensely personal account of his own
changing attitudes, feelings and concerns
about his sexuality. Marotta presents us
with the fact that "the best and the brightest" (as Harvard men like to think of themselves) can also be the gayest.
Sons of Harvard relates the stories of
men trying to come to terms with their
sexual orientation, revealing their guilts,
their fantasies, their deepest feelings.
They remember their first sexual encounters with another man, meeting in Harvard Johns for clandestine sex, the horror
of being found out. They describe their
evolution from involvement in anonym
ous, guilt-ridden encounters to partaking
in the joys of personal, guilt-free gay sex.
As Marotta describes it:
"For a good many years, most of us
accepted what traditional moralities said
about homosexuality. We believed our
homosexual feelings were wrong and sick.
We thought it sinful and perverse to
engage in homosexual acts. We did everything we could to ignore, repress and
replace our homosexual longings. We
spent endless hours feeling alien, odd,
inferior, bored and trapped and hopeless.
"For us liberation meant learning how
to admit to ourselves that we were homo
sexual; to enjoy the homoerotic dimensions of our life experiences; to let non-gay
intimates know what we really felt; to discover some sense in traditional ways; and
to give homosexuality a natural, appropriate and enrichening place not only in our
personal and social lives, but also in our
professional and political pursuits."
Sons of Harvard is an excellent companion to Marotta's previous work. The Politics of Homosexuality. It presents a
persona], human side to the historical and
sociological processes of gay liberation so
excellently and objectively described in
the first book.
Toby Marotta talks of formation of
national group of gay Harvard graduates
By Shawn P. Kelly
Toby Marotta, Harvard '67, has graduate
degrees from the Kennedy School of
Government, the Graduate School of Education, and the Graduate School of Arts
and Sciences at Harvard University. He is
the author of The Politics of
After completing research for Sons of
Harvard, he organized a San Francisco-
based group of gay Harvard graduates
called Sons of Harvard, Inc., out of which
emerged other chapters, now loosely affiliated in a national network. Interested
gay alumni may make contact through
the Gay Harvard Alumni Newsletter, c/o
Eric Rofes, '76, editor, 22 Bromfield St.,
Boston, MA 02108.
Sons of Harvard is the name of your
most recent book, and it is also the name of
a group of gay Harvard alumni which you
founded. What caused you to form the
Well. I got the idea for the group, actually, before I was doing the book. To my
10th reunion report I submitted an entry
in which I came out, and after that was
published and circulated to members of
the clasB, gay classmates, most of whom I
did not know before, began to get in touch
with me and I found that a remarkable
excitement came from that, and a remarkable rapport developed.
And so this growing circle of gay Harvard graduates became my friends and
that feeling of intimacy and fraternity
was so strong, that I thought that it could
be expanded and shared by organizing it