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Guide to the John Paul De Cecco Papers, 1923-1999
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography and Organizational Histories
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Items Removed from the Collection
  • Related Material at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John Paul De Cecco Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1923-1999
    Accession number: 2001-17
    Creator: De Cecco, John Paul (1923-)
    Extent: 135 boxes
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Abstract: This collection documents the academic life of John Paul De Cecco. It contains significant holdings relating to San Francisco State University and several programs within the university including the Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation and Research (CHEER), the Center for Research and Education in Sexuality (CERES), the Journal of Homosexuality, and the Human Sexuality Studies Program. The collection contains very few items of a personal nature.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], John Paul De Cecco Papers, 2001-17, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was donated to the GLBT Historical Society by John De Cecco on 26 June 2001. The collection originally totaled 64 cartons.

    Biography and Organizational Histories

    John Paul De Cecco

    John Paul De Cecco was born in 1925, the fourth of five children, in Erie, Pennsylvania. After graduating high school in 1943, De Cecco earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Allegheny College in 1946. After teaching in the Erie high schools for one and one-half years , he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania graduate school where he earned an MA (1949) and a PhD (1953) in European history. He worked as an instructor in the history department at the University of Detroit between 1953 and 1955. He then took a position in the Humanities program at Michigan State University. Over the next few years he began to realize that his central interest was in teaching, particularly the interpersonal exchanges between student and teacher. He decided to avail himself of the opportunities for training in educational psychology at Michigan State University and later he accepted the invitation to teach in that program.
    In 1960 De Cecco was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at San Francisco State University. During that period he published what was to become the standard textbook in educational psychology and edited several other books in the field. From 1968 to 1970, De Cecco served as a visiting professor in psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, where he conducted research on high schools, funded by the U.S. Office of Education and the Rockefeller Foundation. The research focused on how to reform civic education in the nation's high schools by attempting to democratize their governance. That research became the basis for his book on conflict and conflict resolution in the schools.
    The Stonewall riots occurred during his time in New York. This was his introduction to what was to become the modern gay liberation movement. It was also the period during which he participated in the anti-Vietnam War protests. All that, in addition to his research on civic education and the student movement on his own campus, developed in him a new political consciousness and helped to politicize his understanding of his own homosexuality. As a result of these events, by the early 1970s, his attention turned to the social science of sexuality, which for De Cecco was both an intellectual and activist enterprise. In 1975 he founded and served as director of the Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation and Research (CHEER) at San Francisco State University. Under the auspices of CHEER, De Cecco spearheaded a number of large research projects focusing on sexuality: he was the Principal Investigator for three studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (the Civil Liberties project, the Aging project, and the Sexual Assault in prisons project) and he was Project Director for two additional publicly-funded projects (the Couples project and the Lesbians Over 60 project). Meanwhile, in 1977 De Cecco was invited to assume the editorship of the Journal of Homosexuality from founding editor Charles Silverstein. As of January 2003, he continues to the edit the journal as it enters its 44th volume. In 1981, De Cecco was among the interdisciplinary group of SFSU faculty who founded the Program in Human Sexual Studies; he served as director of the Program from 1978 to 1980 and again from 1985 to1996. De Cecco also has been a prolific author, writing, co-writing, editing, or co-editing 14 books and 46 articles between 1957 and 2001.
    Since the 1970s, De Cecco earned his position as one of the senior scholars of sexuality in the United States. He has been invited to serve on the editorial boards of the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, Masculinities, the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, the Journal of the History of Sexuality, Educational Research Quarterly, and the American Educational Research Journal. He has received numerous awards and distinctions including the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Sex Research, the Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching at SFSU, a lifetime achievement award from the GLBT Historical Society, and 21 May 1997 was named "John Paul De Cecco Day" by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and the Board of Supervisors. Moreover, his biography has been included in Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History (2000) and a collection of essays, A Sea of Stories (2000), was published by Harrington Park Press in his honor. Still, with all of these honors, De Cecco has more than once found himself at the center of controversy. Among the most persistent of these controversies stems from De Cecco's service on the board of editors for Paidika: The Journal of Paedophilia and for publishing a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality on male intergenerational intimacy in 1990. Perhaps the most revealing example of his lasting impact can be found when performing a search on google.com for his name: Along with retrieving dozens of sites listing his many accomplishments, the search engine locates hundreds of sites posted by fundamentalist religious and right-wing political groups that condemn the life work of this scholar-activist.

    Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation and Research (CHEER) and Center for Research and Education in Sexuality (CERES)

    The Center for Homosexual Education, Evaluation and Research (CHEER) was founded by John De Cecco and Michael Shively at San Francisco State University in 1975. CHEER was designed to be an academically-based research center where scholars from a variety of disciplines, but predominantly from the social and behavioral sciences, could conduct research into the social, historical, and cultural aspects of homosexuality. De Cecco later noted that the Center was founded in "the heady days of Gay Liberation," so it had an activist component and sensibility rather than a strictly objective academic charge. Several research projects were initiated, conducted, and completed under the auspices of CHEER, including the Civil Liberties project (CLIB) and the Sexual Assault and Violence Education Project (SAVE).
    In 1981, CHEER changed its name and broadened its research focus, becoming the Center for Research and Education in Sexuality (CERES). A short editorial by John De Cecco in the Journal of Homosexuality explained that the change happened for three reasons: first, "the scope of the Center's research had broadened -- so that we no longer studied homosexuality only as a singular personal identity" and that "homosexuality became more decipherable as an ingredient of social and sexual relationships when viewed alongside heterosexuality, bisexuality, and even those other forms of sexuality that were also working toward detoxification and normalization"; second, the Center hoped to draw upon the resources of the then newly established teaching program called Human Sexuality Studies (HMSX); and third, the Center directors hoped that the new name and acronym would signal a move away from a campy "gay sensibility" and toward a more sober, academic research agenda. While CERES continued to provide a base for a number of research projects, the era of large government-funded research of the 1970s had passed so the Center focused on smaller projects, many of which were initiated and conducted by graduate students in Psychology and other social science departments; the Center also maintained, through John De Cecco and other faculty, a close relationship with the HMSX program and the Journal of Homosexuality. As of November 2002, CERES continues to exist, but most of its research functions have shifted to the Program in Human Sexuality Studies, under the directorship of Gilbert Herdt since 1998.

    Journal of Homosexuality

    The Journal of Homosexuality was founded by Charles Silverstein in 1974. Beginning with volume 3, no. 3 (Spring 1978), the Journal was edited by John De Cecco, however a there existed a clear continuity between the first two editors. According to an editorial by De Cecco in his first issue, the journal would be devoted to "research on human sexuality, sexual preference, and social sex-roles" -- meaning that from the beginning the editorial scope of the Journal expanded beyond homosexuality to cover gender roles and identity as well as sexuality writ large. De Cecco also made it clear that the Journal was to be an interdisciplinary enterprise and that it would include articles not only from academics but also from practitioners in the fields of social work, psychiatry, criminology, and so forth. While under the editorship of De Cecco, the Journal lived up to its goal of publishing interdisciplinary work from researchers who came from a variety disciplines and professional backgrounds. The Journal was published quarterly, yet it often appeared irregularly and a portion of its issues were published as double-issues. Many issues were edited and assembled by guest-editors who created "special issues" on topics such as theory, psychotherapy, homosexual couples, and alcoholism. A number of these "special issues" provided a forum for CHEER/CERES-based research, such as the "special issue" on lesbianism, which was guest-edited by Monika Kehoe who also was the Principal Investigator of the Lesbians Over 60 project. As of January 2003, the Journal continues to be published, but largely because of the proliferation of sexuality studies journals, it is no longer as influential in the field as it once was, with the exception of the field of empirical psychological research. Still, its relative longevity provides an interesting chronicle of the development of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender studies.

    Human Sexuality Studies Program (HMSX)

    The Human Sexuality Studies Program was approved by the Chancellor of San Francisco State University in 1980 but the Program dates its beginnings to 1968. In that year, several SFSU faculty members began teaching courses in human sexuality; in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s the number of sexuality courses expanded as did the number of departments in which the courses were taught. The disparate activities of SFSU faculty began to coalesce around 1978 when a group of professors gathered together and began developing an interdisciplinary minor in human sexualities. The proposal was completed in 1979 and the minor was approved in 1980. By 1982, human sexuality courses were added to the general education requirement and enrollments increased remarkably, particularly in the notorious, popular, and challenging "Variations in Human Sexuality" course, which was taught by De Cecco and attracted hundreds of students each semester. In 1992 a new minor in Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Studies was approved and in 2001 a graduate Master's degree program in Human Sexuality Studies was approved.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection documents the academic life of John De Cecco along with portions of the scholarly lives of several of his colleagues. The period covered ranges from 1974 through the end of the 1990s. The vast majority of the collection, however, dates from 1974 to 1982; very little material from the late 1980s and the 1990s is included in this collection. Moreover, the collection contains materials relating the De Cecco's academic life, but very few items in the collection can be considered personal documents or artifacts. The strength of the collection is to be found in the research files, which contain hundreds of interviews and questionnaires on the topic of sexuality, and in the administration files of the Journal of Homosexuality. The collection includes: correspondence, memos, financial documents, manuscripts, reports, research proposals and applications, interviews, questionnaires, journals, slides and photographs, and audio and video tapes.
    The files arrived at the GLBT Historical Society in a state of partial order, partial disorganization. The main research files of the various research collections (such as SAVE and CLIB) mostly were intact and thus preserved according to the principle of original order. However, the general administrative files of CHEER/CERES, the Archive of Homosexuality, the Journal of Homosexuality, and the teaching files were received in a rather disorganized condition and were reorganized according to standard archival practice.
    The research files deserve special attention. John De Cecco served as Principal Investigator or Project Director for five projects in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Several of these projects were well funded and, as a result, generated a large amount of data. The most significant elements of this data are the hundreds of interviews, questionnaires, and in-depth research files which provide a great deal of information on discrimination against homosexuals in institutional settings, the relationship between aging and sexuality, male-male sexual assault in prisons, homosexual couples, and lesbians who were born prior to 1920.
    Also of interest in the collection are the many files relating to the establishment and administration of academic departments, programs, journals, and research entities. In addition to earning tenure in San Francisco State's Psychology Department, De Cecco headed-up CHEER/CERES, the Human Sexuality Studies Department, and the Journal of Homosexuality. In the correspondence, financial, operational, and other administrative files associated with those programs one can gain a detailed understanding of the inner-workings of academia. In this vein, files shed light upon the funding and de-funding of research projects, the process by which articles are selected for peer-reviewed journals, the practice of networking among colleagues, and the conflicts of personality that occasionally appear. It also should be mentioned that the administrative materials relate to programs and research dealing with the topic of sexuality (and homosexuality in particular) during a period in which the scholarly legitimacy of that topic was a contested terrain.
    Additionally, researchers with interest in the following individuals will find abundant material in this collection: Michael Shively, Stuart Kellogg, Sal Licata, Monika Kehoe, and Pat Califia.
    Overlap exists in the collection because, for example, portions of many research projects (such as the CLIB and the Lesbians Over 60 series) were published as special issues in the Journal of Homosexuality and several student research projects (found in the Teaching series) were inspired by faculty research (such as the SAVE project).


    The collection is divided into 13 series:
    1. CHEER/CERES Administrative
    2. Civil Liberties and Sexual Orientation Project (CLIB)
    3. Problems and Adaptations of Aging Heterosexual and Homosexual Men and Women (AGING)
    4. Sexual Assault in Prisons Project (SAVE)
    5. Social Sex-Role Stereotyping Project (SSRS)
    6. Social Sex Roles in Dyadic Relationships (Couples)
    7. Lesbians Over 60 (Lesbians 60+)
    8. Heterosexual and Homosexual Identities Book Project
    9. Miscellaneous Research Files
    10. Journal of Homosexuality (JOH)
    11. Teaching
    12. Personal Papers
    13. Audio/Visual

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Gay men

    Items Removed from the Collection

    Items removed the collection came from three main sources: 1) CHEER/CERES subject files; 2) the abandoned Archive of Homosexuality project; and 3) personal papers that were collected within the archive project (including the Terry Mangan Papers, the William Roosen Papers, and the Sal Licata Papers).
    The items removed totaled about five cartons and included the following materials:
    • Artifacts: Items removed include matchbooks from bars, political and playful buttons, and calendars. These items were placed in the GLBTHS Ephemera Collection.
    • Books: Most of the books removed came from the Archive of Homosexuality; these include gay male paperbacks (pulps) from the 1960s, pamphlet books and essay reprints, chapbooks, and erotica; also a thesis on theater readings was removed. A portion of these items were placed in the GLBTHS Paperback Pulp Books Collection while the rest were deaccesssioned.
    • Catalogs: These materials came from the Archive of Homosexuality; the catalogs included listings from bookstores/mail order houses, leather or fetish catalogs, or general mail order catalogues. These items were removed and re-filed in the GLBTHS Ephemera Collection under catalogs.
    • Clippings: Newspapers ( San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and others like student newspapers); Magazines (mostly mainstream like Time and Newsweek but some from the 1950s and 1960s from literary magazines). The vast majority of the clippings were disposed of, but those articles that are not indexed in newspaper indices (such as advice columns and Herb Caen columns) were accessioned to the GLBTHS vertical subject files.
    • Ephemera: These single-sheets of paper were removed mostly from the Archive of Homosexuality; the ephemera is dominated by documents relating to 1970s gay politics (especially San Francisco-based politics and opposition to Proposition 6) but documents relating to social services (mostly brochures), nightlife, culture, and other geographic areas (especially Denver, New York City, Toronto, and Los Angeles) also are represented. Also removed were a number of guidebooks and directories (including the only known copy of the Lavender Baedeker from 1967). The ephemera files, which total about 2 cartons, have been re-filed in the GLBTHS Ephemera Collection.
    • Magazines: Most of the magazines removed from the collection originally were found in the Archive of Homosexuality; the magazines cover the period 1965-1985, from the homophile (such as ONE and Vector) to the contemporary period; also collected among the magazines were the newsletters of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organizations, art and poetry journals, lesbian/feminist publications, male erotica/pornography, and non-gay periodicals with significant gay content. The magazines and newsletters have been removed and accessioned to the GLBTHS Periodical Collection.
    • Photographs: 24 photographs, most all black and white, male erotica and nudes were removed and accessioned into GLBTHS's Willie Walker Erotica Collection.
    • Posters and T-shirts: The dozen posters and the two t-shirts removed dealt with politics, cultural events, and male bar culture, but not with anything related specifically to the De Cecco Papers. These items were removed and accessioned to the GLBTHS T-shirt and Poster Collections.
    • Unpublished Essays and Reports: These materials were from a variety of locations within the DeCecco collection although the items removed had no direct bearing on the CERES/CHEER research; items included: unpublished conference papers, government or NGO reports and documentation, and bibliographies. Some have been re-filed in the GLBTHS vertical files.

    Related Material at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

    Title: Roger Austen Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: 1985-01
    Title: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Studies Program, San Francisco State University
    Identifier/Call Number: 2001-13
    Title: Michael Shively Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: 1999-57