I came to Princeton after a remarkable love affair during which I realized that my odd and defiant yearnings for other boys was not a fantasy and with the permanent undermining of the idea that I was aberrant, sinful, and unworthy. This affair ended during my freshman year. But soon enough I met two groups of men, one within the University and one in the town. Further explorations led me to New York, where, of course, a large gay underground flourished.
Indeed, the real point about these years is the word “underground.” There were professors whose contacts among the professoriat were cordial and with whom they were out. The understanding was a gentleman’s agreement about individual privacy. The town group included professionals, University staff, and friends from hither and yon. I also knew some gay guys in my class and on the swim team.
I had another serious love affair while at Princeton. I made an arrangement with my roommates in order to have some privacy after a near-discovery one night in the boathouse. Silence about all this was imperative, with the consequent oppressions and omissions. The history of the period between the end of World War II and Stonewall has been written; I hope the long-promised history of gay life at Princeton now will emerge.
I wrote to Jonathan Ned Katz in the ’80s about the slowness of Princeton’s adjustment to activism for gay rights. Katz was perhaps the first to give a “queer studies” course at an American university. He replied that Princeton was inherently conservative, a tough nut. We now see that this position has been more than rectified: three cheers for Old Nassau. The support given GLBTQ people and causes at Princeton by President Tilghman is one of the many noteworthy gifts of her administration.