Dr. Les K. Wright was born Leslie Kirk Wright in 1953 in Syracuse, New York to Clark and Jeaneen Wright of East Syracuse, New York. Ten years later his family relocated to the rural dairy farming community of Preble, New York, in central upstate New York in the eastern Finger Lakes region. He attended Heman Street Elementary, then Homer Central Elementary, Junior High, and Senior High school in Homer. On his seventeenth birthday the Wright family relocated, once again, to Homer, New York. He spent his senior year as a Rotary International High School exchange student where he was an Unterprimaner (twelfth-year) student at the Neusprachliches Gymnasium in the North Rhine-Westfalian industrial city of Mülheim-an-der-Ruhr, West Germany. During that year he make educational trips to Berlin, Rotterdam, Paris, and Rome, Italy, and returned to the US in time to graduate with the class of 1971 from Homer Central High School.
Dr. Wright was awarded a four-year National Merit Scholarship and a New York State Regents Scholarship to attend the State University of New York at Albany, where he majored in Comparative Literature, with concentrations in German and Russian literatures and languages. He served on the editorial staff of Phoenix, the SUNY Albany literary magazine, and joined Beta Phi Sigma social fraternity, and was elected president of that organization his senior year in college. He elected to participate in the SUNY-Würzburg Academic Year Abroad program in his senior year. The recipient of a Vollstipendium (full scholarship) from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität, he majored in German, English, and Russian philologies there. He came out as a gay activist while in Würzburg, a Franconian city of great importance during the Middle Ages, and joined the gay activist organization WüHSt, or Würzburger Homosexuelle Studenten Verein. He then returned briefly to the US to graduate cum laude from SUNY Albany in 1975.
Dr. Wright began his post-baccalaureate studies in fall 1975 at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in the Baden-Württemberg university town of Tübingen, West Germany, located in the heart of Swabia in the Neckar River valley between the Black Forest and the Swabian Alb. While at Tübingen, he majored in American Studies and minored in German and Russian, and earned a Magister Artium. He co-founded Exempla, a Tübingen literary magazine, and continued his gay activism as a member of the iht, or Initiativgruppe Homosexualität Tübingen.
During these years he made extended trips to Sweden, Netherlands, Great Britain, and France. He taught English as a Second Language at the Deutsch-amerikanisches Institut in Tübingen, served as research assistant to Dr. Bernard Drubig of the English Linguistics program, and freelanced for various gay publications. Hearing the siren call of gay liberation in the US, he decided to take a leave of absence from graduate studies and relocated to the Castro District of San Francisco, California in 1979.
In 1981, Dr. Wright returned to the academy and pursued an M.A. in Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. During his Master’s years he taught German language at UC Berkeley, and specialized in German, Russian, and Comparative Literature, completing his degree in 1984. In 1984 he was Program Director of English as a Second Language for the Pacific American Institute on the campus of CSU Northridge in the greater Los Angeles region. During another break in academics, he worked as the Philatelic Sales Manager for Jacques Minkus Stamps in Emporium-Capwell’s flagship store on Market Street at Powell Street in downtown San Francisco. During that time he co-founded the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, and served on that board ex officio as newsletter editor. He served as a peer counselor at Eighteenth Street Services, specializing in serving clients with dual diagnosis and HIV/AIDS, and served as a telephone volunteer at San Francisco Suicide Prevention.
In 1985 Dr. Wright began his doctoral studies at UC Berkeley, expanding his philological range with coursework in French, Latin, and Dutch. He taught First-Year Composition in the Comparative Literature Department for four years. In the summer of 1986 he traveled throughout Europe, to Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Britain and France, and, while subletting an apartment in the Marais district, completed a French summer language course at the Sorbonne, Université de Paris. He presented numerous conference papers on the topics of AIDS, gay politics, and Foucaultian analyses of social Otherness, including “AIDS Discourse: A Disease of the Other,” at the Free University of Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1987. In 1988-89 he was hired as a full-time Visiting Instructor to teach German and Russian language and literature at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. In the summer of 1989 he was a Fullbright Fellow in the DAAD Disease and Sexuality in German Culture summer program at Cornell University under Dr. Sander Gilman, presenting a paper on “Fascist Sexuality and Homophobia in Germany.” He was awarded a University of California Regents Fellowship in Netherlandic Studies in 1990-91, and was honored with an Outstanding Graduate Instructor Award in 1992. Between 1990 and 1992, he wrote and defended a dissertation on “The Chiasmic Bind: Comparative Studies in Contemporary Gay Male Subjectivities” under the direction of Dr. Avital Ronell, and completed his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1992.
In 1993 Dr. Wright accepted the offer of a full-time, tenure-track position in English and Humanities at Mount Ida College, a four-year, proprietary private college in west suburban Boston, Massachusetts. He won tenure in 1999 and served as Chair of the English Department in 2003-04. He developed specializations in film history, cultural studies, and aesthetics. Among his signature courses were “Foucault for Beginners and Others,” “Literature of Death and Dying,” “Aesthetics for Visual Arts Majors,” and two film courses, “Introduction to Film” and “Cultural Diversity in American Film.” He served as faculty advisor to the Film Club, the Gay/Straight Alliance, and Pointblank, the campus literary magazine. For several semesters as adjunct faculty he taught junior-year and graduate-level courses on Human Sexual Diversity in the Health Science Department of Worcester State College. In 2003 he began volunteering as a peer counselor at the Men’s Resource Center of Western Massachusetts in Amherst and has been an occasional contributor to Voice Male, that organization’s newsletter.
In 1994 Dr. Wright founded the Bear History Project in Boston, later Fitchburg, Massachusetts and in the course of that project’s first ten years edited two volumes of bear cultural history—The Bear Book (1997) and The Bear Book II (2000), both published by Haworth Press—and curated four related art shows, known as Bear Icons & Beyond—in New York City (1999), Boston (2000), Provincetown (2001), and Washington, DC (2002). These, in turn, led to numerous speaking engagements at New England colleges and numerous articles in the academic, gay, and popular press. He advised several bear history film projects, most importantly the work of film documentarian Dan Hunt, including a segment on PBS’s In the Life series and the feature-length documentary Bear Run. Due to the rapid expansion of the Bear History Project, he established The Nashoba Institute of Non-Hegemonic Men and Masculinities and developed a board of directors for this 501(c)3 organization, edited the online cultural journal Verisimilitude, and went on a speaking tour that took him all across the Northeast and to Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida, Dallas, Texas, and San Francisco. He was the founder of the Montachusett Area (Monty) Bears in north central Massachusetts and a co-founder of the Provincetown Bears with John Burrows and Dave Thompson. Dr. Wright’s personal papers, including all of the Bear History Project archives through 2010, are on permanent repository in the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University.
In 2005 Dr. Wright resigned his tenured position at Mount Ida College to return to his beloved adopted hometown, San Francisco. For the next two years he wrote film reviews on a full-time basis for Arthur Lazere’s website CultureVulture.net. Since Arthur’s untimely passing, he has continued to review films on an occasional basis for the new publisher Michael Simpson. In 2007 he began teaching Composition courses at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California. In 2007 he also found his way to The Billy Community and Billy Foundation, a “heart-centered gay and queer men’s intimate community” based in Santa Rosa, California, and has served on its board ex officio as grant writing portfolio holder and has served in numerous other capacities, including as Gathering Co-Coordinator. He moved to Eureka, California in August 2010, and earned a Secondary Education Credential in German, English, and Russian at Humboldt State University in June 2012.
After a year in Palm Springs, California Dr. Wright currently resides in McGraw, New York (Cortland County), where he shares a house and eight cats with his sister. He working on a book of memoirs.
Cornell University campus, looking northwest over Cayuga Lake