Arnold (Arnie) Kantrowitz was an early secretary and vice-president of the pioneering New York City group Gay Activists Alliance. He is a co-founder of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He is the author of Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay, one of the first autobiographies by a gay activist. From 1999 until his 2004 retirement, Kantrowitz was chair of the English department at the College of Staten Island, where he taught for 41 years. He received a B.A. from Rutgers University (1961); an M.A. in English Literature from New York University (1963); and completed coursework toward a Ph.D. at New York University. He lives in New York City with his life partner, Lawrence D. Mass, a physician and writer.
Kantrowitz has authored two books and contributed articles, essays, poems and short fiction to magazines, newspapers and anthologies. In the early 1970s, he was one of the first openly gay individuals to appear on popular radio and television shows, including those of Jack Paar, Geraldo Rivera, Bill Boggs and Sally Jesse Raphael. He has appeared in several documentary films, including After Stonewall, Gay Sex in the Seventies and Activist: The Times of Vito Russo. He has also been interviewed about gay liberation and the AIDS epidemic.
Kantrowitz's autobiography Under the Rainbow was first published in 1977 by William Morrow, reprinted in 1978 by Pocket Books, Inc., and a third edition published in 1996 by St. Martin's Press. His second book, a biography of poet Walt Whitman, called Walt Whitman: Gay and Lesbian Writers, was part of the Stonewall Inn Classics series on the lives of gay and lesbian writers published in 2005 by Chelsea House Publishers/St. Martin's Press.
As an educator, first at the New York State University College at Cortland (1963-1965) and for the rest of his career at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York (1965-2006), Kantrowitz was among the first to teach courses in gay literature, beginning in 1973 with "Homosexuals and Literature."
In October 1985, Kantrowitz joined Gregory Kolovakis, Darrell Yates-Rist, Vito Russo, Jim Owles, Allen Barnett and Barry Adkins in helping to form The Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation League, renamed The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The organization's original purpose was to respond to the inaccurate and slanderous portrayals of gay and lesbian people that were widespread in the early years of the AIDS epidemic.
In 2009, Kantrowitz was elected grand marshall of the Staten Island Gay Pride parade, and was awarded a testimonial citation from the New York State Assembly in recognition of his decades of gay activism. The personal papers of Kantrowitz and Mass are designated for deposit with the New York Public Library.
Works and publications
- Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay, William Morrow and Co., 1977; Second Edition: Pocketbooks, Inc., 1978. Third Edition: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
- Walt Whitman: Gay and Lesbian Writers, Chelsea House Publishers, 2005.
Selected publications in anthologies
- Friends Gone With the Wind, in Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront AIDS, edited by John Preston, St. Martin’s Press, pp. 13–26.
- Family Album, in Friends and Lovers: Gay Men Write About the Families They Create, edited by John Preston with Michael Lowenthal, Dutton, pp. 281–300.
- Such a Polite Little Boy, in Sissies and Tomboys: Gender Nonconformity and Homosexual Childhood, edited by Matthew Rottnek, New York University Press, 1995, pp. 226–235.
- Greenwich Village, New York in Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where they Belong, edited by John Preston, Dutton, 1991, pp. 258–271.
- A Date with Judith, with Judith P. Stelboum, in Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together, edited by Joan Nestle and John Preston, Harper San Francisco, pp. 273–286.
- Swastika Toys, in Leatherfolk, edited by Mark Thompson, pp. 193–209.
- Growing up Gay, in The Conscious Reader, edited by Caroline Shrodes, Harry Finestone and Michael Shugrue, Pearson Education, Inc., 1994, pp. 544–547.
- An Enemy of the People, in We Must Love One Another or Die: The Life and Legacies of Larry Kramer, edited by Lawrence D. Mass, Cassell, 1997, pp. 97–114.
- Humor, in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, edited by Claude J. Summers, Henry Holt and Company, 1995, pp. 375–380.
Selected contributions to periodicals
- We Are Already Your Children, New York Times, Op-ed, September 1, 1973, p. 21.
- Homosexuals and Literature, in College English Vol. 36, No, 3, November,1974, pp. 325–330.
- A Gay Struggles with the New Acceptance, The Village Voice, Nov. 17, 1975, pp. 36, 39.
- The Boys in the Back Room, The Advocate, May 31, 1978, pp. 40–41.
- Who Killed Gay Lit? Gaysweek, Sept. 18, 1978, pp. 8–9.
- The Death of Peter Pan, Gay News, London, England,Oct. 16, 1980, p. 201.
- The Day Gay Lib Died, New York Native, November 2–15, 1981, pp. 1, 14–15.
- The Synagogue, The Saint and The Mineshaft, The Advocate, April 15, 1982, p 33.
- Minority’s Minority Steps from the Shadows: Gay Male S/M Activists, The Advocate, May 29, 1984
- Bette and Me, The Woman Gay Men Love to Quote, The Advocate, September 19, 1984, pp. 33.
- Letter to the Queer Generation, NYQ, No. 20, March 15, 1992, pp. 39–42.
- How Gay was Walt Whitman? The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, Spring 1998, Vol .V, No. 2, pp. 7–9.
- Walt Whitman’s Manly Love of Comrades, White Crane, Fall 2007 No. 74. pp. 27–31.
- Donn Teal, The Gay Militants. New York: Stein and Day, 1971, p.252
- Toby Marotta, The Politics of Homosexuality. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981, p. 173.
- David Eisenbach, Gay Power: An American Revolution. New York: Carol & Graf Publishers, 2006, pp. 153-154, 301
- John-Manuel Andriote, Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 7-9, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 141, 338-39, 402, 416-417, 420-21.
- 'Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay, William Morrow and Co., 1977; Second Edition: Pocketbooks, Inc., 1978. Third Edition: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
- Walt Whitman: Gay and Lesbian Writers, Chelsea House Publishers/St. Martin's Press, 2005.