Leslie Kirk Wright (born January 27, 1953, in Syracuse, New York) is an American author, literary scholar, gay historian, and gay activist.
He was born to a working-class family and raised in East Syracuse, New York, until 1964, when the family moved to nearby Preble, New York. He graduated from Homer Central High School in 1971 after spending his senior high school year in Mülheim-an-der-Ruhr as an exchange student. He attended the State University of New York at Albany as a National Merit Scholar, and gradually came out as a gay man. Prior to receiving his B.A. in comparative literature at SUNY Albany in 1975, Wright spent his senior college year at the Universität Würzburg on a full scholarship, where he was involved with Würzburger Homosexuelle Studenten and became a gay left activist. He continued studies at the Universität Tübingen, where he was involved with the Initiativgruppe Homosexualität and earned a master’s degree in American literature in 1977. During these years in West Germany, he came out into the leather subculture community in Munich and authored articles for gay periodicals, including GPU News (Milwaukee), Schwuchtel (Berlin), and Revolt (Stockholm).
In 1979 Wright relocated to the Castro District in San Francisco. In 1981 he found sobriety and was infected with HIV. He served as a peer counselor for dual-diagnosed and AIDS-infected gay men at Eighteenth Street Services in San Francisco from 1986 to 1989, was active in other AIDS support groups, and volunteered on the AIDS Nightline at San Francisco Suicide Prevention. In 1985 he was a founding member of the San Francisco Bay Area Gay and Lesbian Historical Society. He was an active member of the San Francisco Gay History Project, which included organizers Allan Bérubé and Jeffrey Escoffier, as well as Gayle Rubin, Estelle Friedman, and others (1984-1992). Following his involvement with the Men’s Resource Center (2000-2005), where he facilitated the gay men’s support group, he became a member of the Billy Community, a heart-centered gay men’s community in Northern California.
Wright enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley in 1981, where he studied comparative literature and completed both an M.A. (1984) and a Ph.D. (1992) (Avital Ronell, dissertation director). He received a Netherlandic Studies fellowship during his final year of coursework. In 1992 he founded the Bear History Project, which would ultimately lead to his editorship and co-authorship of The Bear Book (1997) and The Bear Book II (2000) as well as his curating the “Bear Icons” art exhibition in Boston, Provincetown, Manhattan, and Washington, D.C. (2000-02). A member of the Gay and Lesbian History on Stamps study group of the American Philatelic Society, he served a one-year term (2001-02) as chair of the American Historical Association’s Committee on Lesbian and Gay History. Following his involvement with the Men’s Resource Center (2000-05) in Amherst, MA, where he facilitated the gay men’s support group, he became a member of the Billy Club, a heart-centered gay men’s community in Northern California.
As a graduate student, Wright taught German and Russian languages and literatures as a visiting instructor at Hamilton College (1988-89). In 1988 he was a Fulbright/DAAD fellow at Cornell. In 1993, he was employed as an assistant professor of English and Humanities at Mount Ida College, where he advanced to an associate professorship in 2000. From 2005 to 2010, he held an adjunct appointment in English at Diablo Valley College, followed by an adjunct appointment in German at the OLLI program in Eureka from 2010 to 2012. He also taught high school German in Eureka during 2010-12, earning a high school teaching credential at Humboldt State University in 2012.
In 2013 Wright moved to Cortland, New York. He has served as board vice chair of SAGE Upstate (Syracuse) and on the Advisory Board of the Cortland LGBT Center.