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Greek Fraternity or Gay Fraternity?

STORY: June 25, 1978: In December 2017, I reconnected with a younger fraternity brother I hadn’t seen since Gay Pride in NYC 39 years earlier.

I’d graduated from Brown in 1974, while Bill Barnert didn’t arrive in Providence until the fall after I’d left. Still, we’d met during my visits back to Phi Delt house parties while I attended grad school in nearby Boston. In December 2017, we reconnected and got together when he visited NYC from his home in Boston. Getting together with him again brought back vivid memories of our last meeting, captured in this photo, which has been sitting in one of my albums, but which I’d regularly overlooked.

After I moved to NYC in late 1976, and since I was closeted in my position at a conservative (i.e. homophobic) commercial bank from the start, it took 18 months before I got up the courage to attend NYC’s Gay Pride parade for the first time (June 25, 1978), Back then, paradegoers marched north up Fifth Avenue and ended with a huge rally on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Because being openly gay wasn’t possible when someone on a career path like mine attended the Gay Pride parade, he did his best to remain innocuous and unseen. If I ran into someone I knew, I’d make sure that person was under the impression I was just a “gawker”, looking at all the colorful and weird personages marching by.

I’d noticed Bill, who had been “out” during his time at Brown and who had graduated only weeks before (It was becoming possible by then to be “out” on campus at liberal Ivy League schools, like Brown, though by no means easy), marching with the school’s gay student association up Fifth Avenue. In this shot, he and Ed Miskevich, still an undergrad at Brown (Class of 1979), posed for my camera while holding the group’s banner and while I did my best to avoid anyone else I knew spotting me.


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