Monday, January 2, 2012
A Modern Man
When one of our friends told us he was gay I said, "I would be so disappointed if one of the boys..." and before I could finish he said, "was gay." "No. Was gay and felt like he couldn't tell me."
Ten years later what strikes me is that there is a need for any telling at all. That the gender of the person to whom you are attracted is news.
Born in 1922, interior designer Melvin Dwork, grew up in Kansas City. I have no idea if there was a discussion or not, but he notes that his family took his homosexuality in stride. This is remarkable not only for its day, but for this city where coming out stories of forty and fifty year old married men are not uncommon even now.
As a few local designers have done, he loved the Nelson, attended the Kansas City Art Institute and furthered his design education at Parsons. He enlisted for service in the U.S. Navy's Hospital Corp during WWII.
Upon suspicion of his homosexuality, the Navy confined Dwork to the Brig for a month, breaking his confinement only for interrogation and psychoanalysis. The Navy eventually released Dwork from service with an undesirable discharge. He returned to New York and Parsons allowed him to attend on scholarship.
Seventy years later, after decades of work, the Pentagon changed the status of his discharge from undesirable to honorable and reinstated his benefits.
Filmmaker, Mike Jacoby, is making The Undesirable, a film of Dwork's story. Much work has been done, but they are still raising money to complete the production. I have made a small donation and I am inviting you to donate, too.
Dwork has had a successful and celebrated career in design. His work has been featured in nearly every major shelter magazine and the New York Times. He has been a member of the AD100 and Interior Design magazine's Hall of Fame. That should be his story. Being persecuted for being gay shouldn't be anyone's story. If we tell these stories enough, maybe they won't be.
More information on The Undesirable, here. To donate, here. And, my latest piece in Spaces KC profiling Dwork is here.
Top two images from House & Garden, next, via Blue Remembered Hills, the New York Times image of Dwork's apartment follows, then one from The Peak of Chic.