Allan Bérubé was born today, December 3, in 1946. He was an historian, activist, independent scholar, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about gay members of the American Armed Forces during World War II. He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working-class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.
Among Bérubé's published works was the 1990 book Coming Out Under Fire, which examined the stories of gay men and women in the U.S. military between 1941 and 1945. The book used interviews with gay veterans, government documents, and other sources to discuss the social and political issues that faced more than 9,000 servicemen and women during World War II.
The book earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men's Nonfiction book of 1990 and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film's director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the "genius grant") from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death.
Bérubé was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and lived with his family in Monson, Massachusetts, and later in a trailer park near the waterfront in Bayonne, New Jersey. He lived for a time in Boston and for many years in San Francisco. He moved to New York City, and finally settled in Liberty, New York, where he died in 2007.
His obituary in the New York Times read:
"Allan Bérubé, a MacArthur Award-winning independent scholar whose history of gay men and lesbians in the military in World War II is widely considered the definitive book on the subject, died on Tuesday in Liberty, N.Y. He was 61. A former resident of Manhattan, Mr. Bérubé had lived in Liberty in recent years.
The cause was complications of stomach ulcers, a friend, Wayne Hoffman, said."