On Wednesday, October 19, John D'Emilio '66 met with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to discuss his life and career as a leading historian of LGBTQ+ history. D'Emilio, considered a pioneering researcher in the field, also shared excerpts from his recent memoir, which chronicles his life growing up as a gay, Italian-American Catholic.
D'Emilio is Professor Emeritus of History & Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Chicago Illinois. After graduating from Regis, he received both a Bachelor's degree and Ph.D. from Columbia University, and went on to author several groundbreaking works exploring the history and politics of sexual identity. In 2003, D'Emilio's and Estelle Freedman's book, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, was cited by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Lawrence v. Texas, which historically declared state sodomy laws unconstitutional. He would later earn numerous accolades for his contributions to the field, and was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2005.
Earlier this July, D'Emilio released his memoir, Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties, which shares his experiences from growing up in the Bronx to navigating the social and political developments of the late 60s. D'Emilio had the opportunity to preview his book amongst classmates at his Golden Owls Reunion last spring, and visiting New York City this month to promote the memoir, he was eager to return to 84th St. to further tell his story.
“I didn't start with the intention of writing a memoir," reflected D'Emilio. “I had heart surgery in 2004, I'm lying in the hospital wondering if I'll be there tomorrow, and found myself flooded with memories of my early life, emotionally powerful. And after recovery, in my spare time, I found myself writing up different ones, just for my own satisfaction and enjoyment."
D'Emilio's visit began with a conversation about his approach to writing in English teacher Mr. Chris Rose's The Art of the Personal Essay elective, where seniors have been analyzing the memoir over the past two weeks. After school, he spoke with Prism, Regis' LGBTQ+ & Allies club, about his career and time at 84th St, and closed out the evening with a similar discussion with Open, Regis' affinity group for LGBTQ+ alumni.
“My hope, certainly, in what we do today, is that we are creating a community that is really characterized by respect for dignity, belonging, and a commitment to justice," said President Fr. Christopher Devron, SJ in his introductory remarks at D'Emilio's alumni event. “The inclusion of this community is one of the priorities certainly of my leadership, as well as the faculty and staff."
Memories of a Gay Catholic Boyhood: Coming of Age in the Sixties is available for purchase on Amazon.