LGBTQ publishing icon, the editor and author Michael Denneny, died on April 12. He was 80.
For 35 years as an editor at Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, and Crown Publishing, Denneny championed LGBTQ writers and stories as one of the first openly gay editors working at major publishing houses.
Denneny published a broad range of groundbreaking fiction and nonfiction, including And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange, and Critical Path by Buckminster Fuller, and other defining works by writers J. California Cooper, G. Gordon Liddy, Susan Fromberg Schaffer, Edmund White, Holly Woodlawn, and Divine. Denneny was also a founder of, and contributing editor at, the gay literary mag Christopher Street, which was instrumental in publishing gay literature from the 1970s through the 1990s.
"Quite simply, by supporting work by his peers; by creating Stonewall Inn Editions at a major publishing house; by developing talent as fiction/cofounding editor at Christopher Street magazine; and by publishing Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On which told the rest of the world what we already knew—that we were dying and our government, spiritual, and even some community leaders did little to nothing before it was too late, he was a hero," wrote editor Ira Silverberg in an Instagram post paying tribute to Denneny. "I didn’t love everyone, or book on Michael’s list. Stonewall Inn Editions wasn’t radical enough for me. But now, I see it through a different light and understand fully that without editors/publishers like Michael, regardless of their aesthetics, who take a position at the start of a crisis, who demand that the voices of an underserved and dying community be heard, we are heard too late, if at all."
Denneny was the author of three books: Lovers: The Story of Two Men (Avon Books, 1979); Decent Passions (Alyson Publications, 1984), and On Christopher Street: Life, Sex, and Death After Stonewall (University of Chicago Press, 2023). He also co-edited the anthologies The Christopher Street Reader (Perigee, 1984) and First Love, Last Love (Putnam, 1986).
Born in Pawtucket, R.I., Denneny studied at the University of Chicago under Hannah Arendt and joined the student protest movements of the 1960s. He also served as editor at the University of Chicago Press until he moved to New York in 1972.
Denneny is survived by his brother, Joseph Denneny of Charlotte, N.C., as well as by his nephew, nieces, and cousins.
This article has been updated for clarity.