Stephen Donaldson


Stephen Donaldson (July 27, 1946 – July 18, 1996), born Robert Anthony Martin, Jr and also known by the pseudonym Donny the Punk, was an American bisexual-identified LGBT political activist. He is best known for his pioneering activism in gay liberation and prison reform, but also for his writing about punk rock and subculture.  The son of a career naval officer, Donaldson spent his early childhood in different seaport cities in the eastern United States and in Germany.  At age 12, Donaldson was expelled from the Boy Scouts for consensual sexual behavior with other boys (who, as recipients, were not punished). "The disgrace triggered a family crisis, resolved by sending the boy to live in Germany, where he could be watched over by his stepmother's relatives." He continued homosexual activity, hiding it from adults.     

In the summer of 1965, Donaldson moved to Florida to live with his mother. "When Lois discovered young Robert was having an affair with a Cuban man, she decided to punish her son by outing him in letters to her ex-husband and to Columbia University, which Donaldson had planned to attend in the fall." Donaldson ran away to New York, where, he later wrote, "[T]he gays of New York welcomed me enthusiastically, offered hospitality, and 'brought me out' as a 'butch' homosexual (in contrast to the "queens"). Among the Mattachine Society members he met were Julian Hodges, Frank Kameny, and Dick Leitsch. He entered Columbia University that fall and began using the pseudonym Stephen Donaldson so he could be open about his sexuality without embarrassing his father. They both were named Robert Martin, and his father taught mathematics at Rider College in New Jersey. The surname was based on the first name, "Donald", of the baseball teammate who was his first love. His first year of college was difficult: he met no other gay students or faculty and had to move from a shared suite to a single room when his suitemates "told the college dean David Truman that they felt uncomfortable living with a homosexual." Apparently ambivalent, they offered Donaldson "great apologies and said they realized they shouldn't feel" unwilling to live with him. In the summer of 1966, Donaldson began a relationship with gay activist Frank Kameny, who had a great influence on him. He helped form the Student homophile League which was the FIRST student gay rights group in April of 1967.

Donaldson began his writing career in college by working summers "as a reporter for the Associated Press and Virginian Pilot" and writing "a regular column for the New York newsmagazine Gay Power and occasional reports for the Los Angeles Advocate" He also worked summers as a legislative intern in the offices of U.S. Representatives Howard H. Callaway (Republican, Georgia) and Donald E. Lukens (Republican, Ohio). In New York, Donaldson funded "his education by working as a hustler, first at the infamous intersection of Fifty-third Street and Third Avenue, then as a call boy through a house. He claimed to have serviced several famous clients, including Rock Hudson and Roy Cohn. After graduating from Columbia in 1970, he enlisted and served as a radioman at a NATO base in Italy with an unblemished record. After being discharged from the Navy in 1972, Donaldson moved to Washington, D.C., where he "worked as Pentagon correspondent for the Overseas Weekly. During a demonstration in 1973, he was incarcerated, refused to post bail and raped in jail numerous times. A friend, Lucy Witt, posted bond. The next morning, he became the first male prison-rape survivor to publicly recount his experiences. Further incarcerations occurred due to his activism. He also wrote prolifically while in jail, on gay activism. He died of AIDS just shy of his 50th birthday, claiming he was infected in DC when he was raped in jail.