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Crossing the Barriers

Crossing the Barriers: The Autobiography of Allan H. Spear

Allan H. Spear
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 472
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  • Book Info
    Crossing the Barriers
    Book Description:

    Perhaps best known for coming out as openly gay during his first term in the Minnesota Senate, Allan Spear had a long and distinguished career as a historian and senator. He passed away in 2008, leaving his memoir slightly incomplete. A stirring afterword by John Milton completes his story, chronicling Spear’s accomplishments as a politician and activist during his final years.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7536-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
    Barney Frank

    Allan Spear is one of the great unsung heroes of the LGBT movement in the United States. He is well known in Minnesota, where he served as president of the state Senate, an extraordinary accomplishment for an openly gay man that has only rarely been matched in the years since his tenure. But his very important role in the fight for LGBT rights is far less known throughout the nation than it should be. I believe there are two major reasons for this.

    The first is Allan’s personality. He was a man of enormous courage and a fierce passion for...

  4. 1 A DIFFICULT CHILD, 1937–1954
    (pp. 3-34)

    My mother adored me and I doted on her. Yet she told me once later in her life, “Allan, you know you were a very difficult child to raise.” It wasn’t that I was a troublemaker. To the contrary, I was a little mama’s boy who had a hard time cutting the apron strings. I did well in school, was the teacher’s pet, and did not have the physical prowess to get into fights with other children. What made me difficult was that I didn’t fit the mold. I didn’t like the things that small boys in midcentury America were...

  5. 2 BRIGHT COLLEGE YEARS, 1954–1958
    (pp. 35-68)

    Northwestern University is situated on one of the loveliest college campuses in the United States. It stretches for more than a mile along Lake Michigan, with the lake as its front yard and the elegant suburb of Evanston behind it. Northwestern occupies a unique position as the only private university in the Big Ten. It has many of the features of large midwestern state universities—big-time college football, an active fraternity-sorority system, and a reputation for good times and parties. But it also has a selective student body, a strong faculty, and highly regarded professional and graduate programs. It was...

    (pp. 69-100)

    My year at Harvard Law School was the most frustrating of my life. Within the first two months, I had lost interest in my classes and decided that I did not want to be a lawyer. At the time, I thought legal studies just did not appeal to me and that I had made a mistake in going to law school. But years later, as a legislator in Minnesota, I served on the Judiciary Committee and ultimately became the first nonlawyer ever to chair that committee. I found legal issues fascinating. In retrospect, I think that I could have become...

  7. 4 BECOMING A MINNESOTAN, 1964–1967
    (pp. 101-134)

    John Blum was right. When I stepped off the plane at Minneapolis– St. Paul International Airport on March 5, 1964, it was “damn cold.” But the welcome was warm. I was met at the airport by a young faculty couple, Bob and Gene Berkhofer, who took me to their house for wine and cheese and conversation. I was immediately struck by the difference in Bob Berkhofer’s position as a junior faculty member at Minnesota and the junior faculty I knew at Yale. Bob was thirty-two years old, still a year or two away from tenure, but he advised and taught...

  8. 5 LOVE, WAR, AND POLITICS, 1967–1969
    (pp. 135-168)

    I spent the winter and spring of 1967 putting the final touches on my dissertation. In the process, I learned a great deal about how to prepare a manuscript for publication as I did it all myself. I decided that in the time it would take to get the manuscript in shape for a professional typist, I could do my own typing. I was a pretty fast typist; my parents had insisted that I take typing in high school and, even though I was one of the very few boys in the class, I never regretted it. When the page...

  9. 6 CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY, 1969–1972
    (pp. 169-210)

    My National Endowment for the Humanities grant to begin the research for a second book had ended in September 1969, so even before the election I was back teaching at the university. With my defeat, I now had to reconcile myself to being a full-time professor for the foreseeable future, certainly not a dire prospect. The real question was whether I could continue as a productive scholar, with the commitment of time and energy that entailed, or whether I would now be constantly distracted by politics. I wrote to the NEH at the conclusion of my grant, fulfilling the endowment’s...

    (pp. 211-258)

    As I entered the new year, although I had become a player in the DFL Party, I had no realistic prospect for election to public office. And despite the stirrings of a gay rights movement in Minnesota, I had remained aloof, still deeply closeted to family and friends and without contacts within the emerging gay community. Both of these aspects of my life would change dramatically in 1972. I would take advantage of an opportunity to run for the state Senate and begin a twenty-eight-year career as a political official. And I would begin the process of coming out that...

    (pp. 259-308)

    I began my dual-track career as a politician and an academic when the legislature convened on January 2, 1973. Prior to that year, the legislative session had been limited constitutionally to 120 days, meeting every two years between January and the third week in May. But a constitutional amendment approved in 1972 allowed those 120 days to be spread over two years. Sessions would still end in May, but they would be held annually rather than biennially. Legislators would remain part-time employees, but the commitment would be significantly greater than it had been in the past. I had always intended...

    (pp. 309-356)

    I returned to the legislature in January 1975, prepared to play a more open role in the effort to pass gay rights legislation. Steve Endean and I, however, decided that it would still be best strategically for Nick Coleman to be the chief author of the human rights bill. For me to take over the bill now would give credibility to the very idea I was hoping to dispel— that I would become simply the “gay senator.” Moreover, as majority leader, Nick gave the issue a legitimacy that it still sorely needed. In the House, the chief author would be...

    (pp. 357-396)

    When I insisted that I was a legislator who happened to be gay rather than a gay legislator, this was not just political rhetoric. I honestly saw myself as a person with a wide range of interests and many causes with which I identified. In this I clearly differed from many gay activists, including my friend Steve Endean, who saw gay rights as the major focus of his life. And yet, between 1972 and 1978, my effort to forge a gay identity was so emotionally intense that it always seemed at the center of my consciousness. My personal coming out,...

    (pp. 397-410)

    There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line as she tried to absorb that her client could live on one side of the street but not the other. Soon she understood the rules and kept me busy looking at appropriate houses. The nicest parts of the district, around the lakes, were out of my price range. The precincts just south of downtown were dominated by apartment buildings and offered few singlefamily homes. There were affordable houses in the district and within a few weeks I had discovered the one I wanted: a Victorian, built in...

    (pp. 411-434)
    John Milton

    Allan Spear began work on his autobiography in late 2005 and had completed five chapters by September 2007, when he, Lee and Marcia Greenfield, Kathy O’Brien and her husband, Jeff Loesch, and Allan’s partner, Junjiro Tsuji, traveled to Ireland. He had the manuscript on that trip and invited them to read it. According to Marcia Greenfield, his friend and former staff aide in the Senate, he gave her chapters 6–9 in February 2008, just prior to undergoing heart surgery. From March of that year until his condition worsened in late summer, he finished chapter 10 and wrote seventeen pages...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 435-456)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 457-457)