Elihu Burritt Library
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Victor D'Lugin Collection

Biography

Victor D'Lugin was a prominent activist in both Connecticut and Provincetown, a sharp-tongued political radical whose tenacity and brilliance helped shape gay and AIDS politics for a decade (1986-1996).

Victor was never afraid of a good fight: in fact, he picked quite a few. He took on Archbishop John Whealon when Connecticut's Catholic bishops tried to cut gays and lesbians from the state's hate crimes bill. He stared down Health Commissioner Susan Addiss, whose policy on the collection of names of HIV-positive individuals he opposed. He led the consumer takeover of Provincetown's AIDS Support Group, ousting a regime that had become numb to the true needs of those it intended to serve. And few can ever forget his one-two knockout sparring match with Rep. William Wollenberg on the State Judiciary Committee, which convinced many lawmakers to support Connecticut's landmark gay civil rights bill in 1991.

Born in the Bronx in 1945, Victor never lost his working-class, New York, Jewish chutzpah. Graduating from New York University with a Ph.D. in political philosophy, he became a champion of the rights of women, minorities and eventually, after coming out in the early 1980s, gay men and lesbians. As a professor at the University of Hartford, he inspired hundreds of students, many of whom credit Victor with shaping their political and social consciences.

Victor wasn't afraid to criticize even members of his own community, calling gay men and lesbians on our own sexism, racism, neglect of AIDS and sexphobia. Railing against the mainstream drift of the gay movement, he said, "My view is not about convincing society that we share their values, but rather, it's about transforming what those values are." In short, he made a lot of noise. He provoked. He prodded. He challenged. He helped articulate the activist goals of a movement in change. For many young gay and lesbian activists in the 1980s and 1990s, Victor was a mentor -- the moral, uncompromising absolute. Whether it was putting in context for us our rage over the gay-bashing murder of Richard Reihl in 1988 or spearheading a more militant response to Reagan-Bush inaction on AIDS, Victor left his inimitable mark on Connecticut and Provincetown politics.

Yet to those of us who broke through his reserve, his brittle arrogance, the legacy of Victor D'Lugin goes much deeper than legislative or electoral gains. We discovered a man of great insight, a superlative listener, an unconditional- if demanding- friend. Yet the demands made upon us were nothing more than the demands he made upon himself.

Victor was- first and foremost- a teacher, and not only in the classrooms of the University of Hartford, where he served as an professor of political philosophy until his retirement in 1995. Teaching was his great passion- even greater than the passion he had out in the dunes of Provincetown with a dozen other men on a starry night, and that's saying a lot. Teaching was in his blood, in his soul, in the very essence of his being, for that is the way Victor led, how he changed policy, how he ultimately made a difference.

"What I demand most in my life," he said in 1991, on the steps of the State Capitol on Gay Pride Day, the day he came out publicly as HIV-positive for the first time, "is a fundamental respect for who I am. Yet I have no right to demand respect from others unless I am prepared to give respect to others based on who they are."

The lessons were abundent, and the most important ones were about compassion and challenge. Over his desk, he kept many quotes. James Baldwin, Audre Lord, Jung and Plato. But this one, from Agnes de Mille, carried perhaps the most telling resonance: "Life is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark."

At the beginning of 1995, Victor moved to Provincetown. He loved Provincetown: there he felt more at home than anywhere else. The wind on the breakwater, the red sunsets over the dunes. For the first time, his health was being seriously affected by the virus he'd carried around in his body for ten years.

Yet his retirement was hardly an ending. "It's not enough," he told us, again and again, "not enough to change laws. It's not even enough to change minds. We need to touch hearts and souls."

And so, he leapt into the dark- as he always had. In Provincetown, he took long walks along the beach. "There's so much to be learned from the stillness," he told us. In those final months, the old rage transformed into something else. He was no longer only a teacher. He was once again a student, listening to the wind and thanking the waves.

Victor died in Provincetown on August 13, 1996, just as a whole new series of AIDS drugs appeared on the scene. Many of his longtime friends were distressed that he did not reap the benefits his activism had sown. But there was no distress for Victor. While the old warrior never wavered in his conviction that his death was the result of America's collaboration with indifference, his spirit proved mightier than even his incredible mind. He knew, finally, there was one more leap to be taken into the dark. In his last months, he had one final lesson to teach us: that all of us will die, that death is simply one part of the ingenious cycle of creation, and that, in between, comes love.

"The moment we cease to hold each other," Victor had said, quoting James Baldwin that scorchingly hot day on the steps of the state Capitol five years earlier, "the moment we lose faith in one another, the darkness engulfs us and the light goes out." Then he added: "The moment I let a friend hold my hand, the light engulfed me."

Yes, Victor D'Lugin changed gay politics in Connecticut. But more importantly, he changed all of us who knew him. -- William J. Mann and Timothy Huber

Collection

Gift of William Mann and Timothy Huber

PUBLISHED WRITINGS:

'The Defining Issue: Why This Election is a Turning Point for Queers ' And Why There's No Turning Back Now,' Metroline, October 29, 1992

'The New Militancy: One Man's Enpassioned Defense of Civil Disobedience,' Metroline, March 9, 1990 (photocopy)

'On Credibility: The Differential Treatment of Women and Men in the Law' (original draft) published in Duke, L.L. (ed.) Women and Politics: Have the Outsiders Become Insiders (NY: Prentice-Hall, 1992)

'Power and Passion,' Provincetown Positive, July 1994 (three copies) 'Refusing to Die Quickly or Quietly,' Metroline, April 1, 1993 (a version of the speech presented at the CT Gay Pride Festival, 1991).

'Society Condones Homophobia,' op-ed, The Hartford Courant, June 16, 1988

'The Trouble With Angels Are Our AIDS Service Organizations Fighting for Our Lives or Nurturing Us into Death?', Metroline, March 2, 1995

'We Cannot Choose to be Integrated into a Burning House,' Invert: The Journal of Gay and Lesbian Sensibility, Winter 1991. (photocopy)

"D'Lugin Connects Jung and Politics" by Maura Sullivan, The Informer, November 10, 1983

"Leap After Leap" by William J. Mann and Tim D. Huber, The Hartford Advocate, August 22, 1996

UNPUBLISHED WRITINGS:

TEXTS OF SPEECHES

April 25, 1990 'The Transformation of Human Values: Some Lessons from the African-American, Women's and Gay & Lesbian Civil Rights Movements' -- University of Hartford Humanities Center Public Lecture Hartford, CT (two copies)

April 11, 1992 'Different Voices, One Community' -- Conference, New London, CT

July 3, 1994 'Thirteen Years and Still Counting' -- speech given Provincetown, MA

September 3, 1996 'Some Implications from Passing the Connecticut Gay/ Lesbian Rights Bill' -- Annual Meeting, American Political Science Caucus, Chicago, IL

"Talking Points for Speeches", January 4, 1996 Provincetown, MA April 17, 1996 (final public speech) Provincetown, MA

ARTICLES

'C.G. Jung: Alienation and Individualism' (undated, circa 1985) 'C.G. Jung and the Reemergence of Community' (undated, circa 1985)

NOTES FOR PROJECTED BOOK
Musings on what a book on gay studies should be (January 5, 1996)

Outline for proposed book (fall 1995)

Folders of quotes, notes, interviews, and articles, labelled 1-19, intended to form basis of sections in projected book

PROFILES OF VICTOR D'LUGIN

'D'Lugin Talks Politics of Women's Studies, Theory' by Marlene Karp, The Informer (student paper of University of Hartford), February 25, 1988 (two copies)

'Leap After Leap,' by William Mann and Tim Huber, The Hartford Advocate, August 1996 (original draft)

Pride = Power, program for CT Gay Pride 1992, with photo and bio of Victor D'Lugin

'Sharing Other Perceptions' by Dolores Voyna-McGuinness, Evex (Fordham University publication), September 19, 1977

'Teaching and Doing,' The Journal-Inquirer (Manchester, CT) August 15, 1996 (posthumous)

OBITUARIES

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Bay Windows, August 15, 1996

Provincetown Advocate

Provincetown Banner

The Hartford Courant, August 13, 1996, 'Prominent Hartford AIDS Activist Dies' by Frances Grandy Taylor

AWARDS

Bill Sabella Memorial Award for AIDS Activism, Metro Awards, 1993 (glass plaque)

The Harvey Milk Award, the National Gay & Lesbian Health Association, to Victor D'Lugin 'in recognition of his skills in establishing coalitions for Lesbian and Gaycivil rights in legislative and public arenas,' June 20, 1995 (given in Minneapolis)(plaque)

Legislative Electoral Action Program, Award of Recognition for efforts to pass gay rights bill, December 7, 1991 (framed certificate)

State of Connecticut, AIDS Leadership Award, December 3, 1991 (in manila envelope)

Taft Institute, Class of 1986, thank you plaque

MISCELLANEOUS

'The Art of Living,' photographs by Victor D'Lugin on living with HIV, exhibited December 1, 1993, World AIDS Day, at the Provincetown Art Association

Eulogy delivered by Timothy Huber at Victor D'Lugin Memorial Services, Hartford, CT and Provincetown, MA

Eulogy delivered by William Mann at Victor D'Lugin Memorial Services, Hartford, CT and Provincetown, MA

'Fashioning a Benefit: Gay Community Gets All Dressed Up for a Cause,' The Hartford Courant, May 24, 1992, article by Mary Otto, photos and quotes of Victor D'Lugin

'The Hartford Politically Correct Police,' humorous note given by friends upon Victor's move to Northampton, Mass.

Invert: The Journal of Gay & Lesbian Sensibility, Summer 1992. 'Laws of Desire,' article by William J. Mann, Boston Phoenix, January 1995, quotes from Victor D'Lugin

Metroline, March 22, 1991, photo and quotes from Victor D'Lugin in story, 'Hearing on Gay Rights Called Promising Start'

Metroline, May 3, 1991, photo and quotes from Victor D'Lugin in story, 'How the Gay Rights Bill Was Won'

Metroline, June 21, 1991, Victor D'Lugin on cover for Gay Pride

Metroline, February 16, 1995, quotes from Victor D'Lugin in story 'Laws of Desire'

Metroline, March 16, 1995. (two copies) 'One of the Girls Who's One of the Boys,' article by William J. Mann,The Advocate, February 27, 1990, photo of Victor D'Lugin

'Perfect Bound,' article by William J. Mann, Frontiers, January 13, 1995, quotes from Victor D'Lugin

Preview, University of Hartford 1984 Orientation magazine, dedicated to Victor D'Lugin

Provincetown Positive, August 1995 Provincetown Spirit Mask Portrait Project: Testimony in Exile, photo and poetry of Victor D'Lugin

Gold pin with Menorah on Black Onyx

Gold charm with Menorah - Written on back "Concourse Chapter B'nai B'rith 1969

Pin with Palm Tree and pyramid on purple background

Fraternity Pin -Phi Sigma Delta and Phi Alpha Eta

Diploma - Stuyvesant High School, June 1963

Diploma - Macomb's J. H. S. 82 Bronx, June 22, 1960

Celebrate Victor! Celebrate Teacher! [Program], April 15, 1995 (2 copies)

Connecticut Forum Program, May 22, 1993

Boy Scouts Plaque - The Order of the Arrow for his service to Troop and Post 213 Bronx - 4/28/61

Eagle Scout Certificate, May 2, 1959

Plaque - In Grateful recognition of services rendered to Boy Scouting - Troop 213

Eagle Scout Award - Pin

Scrap Book - 23 pages of photographs, articles, etc. Troup 213 The Bronx, 1959-1963

VIDEOTAPES

Speech at CT Gay Pride 1991 - Victor comes out publicly as HIV-positive

Connecticut Forum - Bushnell - Victor, Larry Kramer, Mary Fisher, etc.

"We Believe" - 6/26/88 TV program Victor, Pat Leffler, Carla Obiaga, Nancy Buckwalter discussing Richard Reihl murder

Victor D'Lugin memorial program September, 1996

AUDIOTAPES

"Advocacy from Personal to Political" presenter - Victor D'Lugin

Sv 10/15

Victor's New London Speech

Gay Pride Rally '91, Speech 15' 50" w/intro.

 

 

 

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