Compare the type size and readability of the word homosexual on the 1971 book jacket and today's re-release from Penguin Classics.
Five days after America met rascally bigot Archie Bunker in the debut of All in the Family, the NYT magazine ran Merle Miller's groundbreaking coming out essay, "What It Means To Be a Homosexual," a response to Joseph Epstein's homophobic screed in Harper's. Miller's piece generated a record-setting 2,000 letters and later was described as "the most widely read and discussed essay of the decade." He expanded his work into a short book, On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual [Kindle] republished today with a self-absorbed foreword by Dan Savage about his Hawaiian vacation -- three gay couples, three straight 13 year-old boys, zero seductions, total trust; look how far I've come since 1971 when Miller's friends wouldn't bring their teen children to his house anymore -- and a far, far better afterword by Charles Kaiser. Brave and important as it was, the book is not a cheerleading celebration. One writer now says On Being Different "is a searing indictment of social hypocrisy, written with a quiet but burning passion… it is an American classic because of the beauty it achieves through its unflinchingly honest portrayal of the raw pain of rejection." Historian Jonathan Ned Katz notes Miller's "eloquent voice is still poignant, still relevant to the ongoing struggle, our struggle for dignity and equal rights."
Miller published several novels and bestselling biographies until his death at 67 in 1986. On October 10, Kaiser, Savage, and Victor Navasky discuss On Being Different at the 82nd & Broadway B&N.