It was much different being a gay teenager in the 70’s than it is now. There were no out gay role models. I think everyone knew that Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly were gay, but they weren’t out at the time. Neither was Liberace. The only gay character on tv back then was Jodie from Soap, played by Billy Crystal, but he wasn’t so gay not to father a child. In bookstores, there was no gay books section. Still, there was one book that stood out to me as a teen because on the cover there was a drawing of two men holding hands, staring at each other. That book, which made an impression on me back then was The Lord Won’t Mind, written by Gordon Merrick. It was a book that gave me hope.
Gordon Merrick was originally a Broadway actor. It is rumored at one time he was playwright Moss Hart’s lover. He quit acting in order to become a journalist and he wrote for The Baltimore Sun and The New York Post. In 1970, his book The Lord Won’t Mind was published. Other gay novels he wrote included Perfect Freedom and The Great Urge Downward. The books had covers of handsome young men with their shirts off. The books weren’t well written but they were basically about good looking men on Fire Island trying to find true love and cocaine (It was the 70’s!).
I never bought a copy of the book but I remember every time I went into Walden Books I would make a bee line to where the it was, trying to find the dirty parts, which I doubt I ever found. Unfortunately, I never got the courage to bring it up to the counter and pay for it. I know the person behind the counter would know I was gay. I’m sure that I would buy an another Agatha Christie or a Ray Bradbury book instead.
Today, it’s very different. There are LGBT sections at Barnes and Noble. There are plenty of books queer youth can read like Two Boys Kissing by David Levitan or The Rainbow Boys trillogy by Alex Sanchez. These books are marketed to gay teens. I think they are very popular and a great resource to have. I hope gay boys are not afraid of buying them and discussing the books with their supportive parents. I would imagine Gordon Merrick, who died in Sri Lanka of lung cancer in 1988, would approve.