Maurice Sendak's parents never knew he was gay

May 10, 2012

It was pure coincidence that Maurice Sendak died on the same day that North Carolina voters approved an amendment to their state constitution banning gay marriage. And the same day that Joe Biden was in the hot seat for his comment over the weekend that he is "comfortable" with marriage equality.

One wouldn't know from reading The Sun's appreciation that Mr. Sendak was gay. He lived with his partner, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, for 50 years until Glynn's death in 2007, according to a 2009 article in the New York Times. In that article, Sendak said he never told his parents: "All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy," he recalled. "They never, never, never knew."

He also acknowledged that his career as a writer of children's books would have been hurt if it had been known he was gay when he was in his 20s and 30s.

In a 2011 interview with NPR host Terry Gross, Mr. Sendak said "finding out that I was gay when I was older was a shock and a disappointment. I did not want to be gay. It meant a whole different thing to me — which is really hard to recover now because that's many years ago. I always objected to it because there is a part of me that is solid Brooklyn and solid conventional and I know that. I can't escape that. It's my genetic makeup. It's who I am."

Why do we pass laws that isolate, demean and shame people for something so utterly personal? It's no surprise that gay teens are bullied. No surprise that Maurice Sendak had to hide part of his identity from his parents — and from his readers.

In that often emotional NPR interview, Sendak also said: "I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more. What I dread is the isolation. There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die. But I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready."

Elisabeth Hoffman, Clarksville

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