john d'emilio

Professor Emeritus, Gender & Women's Studies and History

Education: PhD, History - Columbia University, 1982

About Dr. D'Emilio

John D'Emilio's research interests include gay and lesbian studies; the history of sexuality; social movements; and U.S. history after 1945. Besides his GWS courses, he teaches an undergraduate history course on the U.S. in the 1960s.

A pioneer in developing the field of gay and lesbian studies, he is the author or editor of more than half a dozen books, including Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States;Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America [with Estelle Freedman];Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University; andCreating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights [co-edited with William Turner and Urvashi Vaid]. Intimate Matters was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional.

The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture, published by Duke University Press, won the Editor's Choice Award of the Lambda Literary Foundation in 2003 as best book. Lost Prophet (The Free Press, 2003), a biography of American civil rights leader and Gandhian activist Bayard Rustin, has been widely honored. It was a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award; winner of the Stonewall Award of the American Library Association for best gay and lesbian nonfiction book; and a New York Times "Notable Book" of 2003.

D'Emilio has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities; received the Brudner Prize from Yale University for lifetime contributions to gay and lesbian studies; and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, CA.

A former co-chair of the board of directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, he was also the founding director of its Policy Institute. He has also served on the board of directors of the Gerber/Hart Library in Chicago, a community-based library, archives, and cultural center devoted to preserving and making accessible the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. He can often be found there reading their archival holdings on Chicago's gay and lesbian history.

When not working, he watches old movies, solves sudoku puzzles, and searches for New York style pizza in Chicago.

Current Articles

  • “History and Me” – an autobiographical essay about why history has mattered to me.

  • “Gay Power” – discussion of the use of this phrase by activists in Chicago in 1966, more than two years before the Stonewall Riots, in response to unrelieved police harassment.

  • “Let's Dance” – about the successful effort in 1970 of gay and lesbian liberationists to have public same-sex dancing in Chicago.

  • “In the News” – a look at a 4-part series on Chicago’s homosexual world, run by the Chicago Daily News in 1966. It was the first such major coverage in a Chicago newspaper.

  • “Pulp Madness” – about the lesbian pulp phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s, using two novels set in Chicago and Illinois as examples.

  • “A Woman for All Generations” - a biographical portrait of pulp author and activist Valerie Taylor.

  • “Bayard Rustin in Chicago” – an effort to imaginatively reconstruct how Rustin’s sexual identity was taken in by those he worked with in Chicago over the decades.

  • “Risky Business” – about gender-crossing in the 1960s.

  • “Writing for Freedom” – about the series of lesbian writers conferences that were held annually in Chicago in the mid-1970s.

  • “The Lavender Scare in Chicago” – a look at how the Chicago Tribune exploited and sensationalized the issue of homosexuals in government during the McCarthy era.

  • “Dade County, U.S.A.” – the first of two columns on the repeal of Dade County’s gay rights ordinance in 1977 and the figure of Anita Bryant.

  • “Every Kick Is a Boost” – there was a local Chicago angle to Anita Bryant’s antigay crusade in Dade County, and this column describes it.

Selected Publications:



A 1983 interview with John D'Emilio about his first book 

Curriculum Vitae

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Contact Information

Office: 1212 UH, MC 360
Phone: 312-996-2502
Fax: 312-355-4478