Rictor Norton was born in New York on June 25, 1945. He gained a BA from Florida Southern College in 1967, and a PhD from Florida State University in 1972. His doctoral dissertation was on homosexual themes in English Renaissance literature. He worked as an instructor at Florida State University from 1970-72, where he taught a course on gay and lesbian literature in 1971, one of the earliest gay courses in the United States. He was an active member of the Gay Liberation Front from 1971-72, and was involved in campaigning for the repeal of Florida's sodomy statute.
In 1973, he moved to London, UK, where he has lived since, working as a journalist, publisher, researcher and freelance scholar. He worked as a research editor for the fortnightly London new journal, Gay News, from 1974 to 1978. He wrote articles on gay history and literature for publications such as Gay Sunshine and The Advocate throughout the 1970s, and for Gay Times later. In December 2005 he formed a civil partnership with his partner of nearly thirty years.
Norton's first book grew out of his PhD thesis on homosexuality in English Renaissance Literature. It was published as The Homosexual Literary Tradition (1972).
Norton has published academic articles in Renascence, American Imago, Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, the London Journal, etc. He has also contributed to Sex Doctors and Sex Crimes, a contributor of entries to Who's Who in Gay & Lesbian History (Routledge, 2001) and a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
His recent work includes Mother Clap's Molly House (1992; 2nd edition 2006), a history of the Molly House in England, and The Myth of the Modern Homosexual, a critique of social constructionism and the Foucauldian model of sexuality. His work My Dear Boy (1998) edits sixty sets of love letters from men to other men throughout history, from Ancient Rome to Twentieth-century America.
The Homosexual Literary Tradition: An Interpretation. New York: Revisionist Press, 1974.
Mother Clap's Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England, 1700...1830. London: Gay Men's Press, 1992.
A second edition, revised and enlarged, was published by Chalfont Press (an imprint of Tempus Publishing, United Kingdom) on October 10, 2006.
The Myth of the Modern Homosexual: Queer History and the Search for Cultural Unity. London: Cassell, 1997.
(ed.) My Dear Boy:Gay Love Letters through the Centuries. Leyland Publications, San Francisco. 1998 ISBN 0-943595-71-1
Mistress of Udolpho: The Life of Ann Radcliffe. London: Leicester University Press, 1999
Gothic Readings: The First Wave, 1764-1840. London: Leicester University Press, 2000.
(ed.) Sex Doctors and Sex Crimes: Vol. 5 of Eighteenth-Century British Erotica Part I
(ed.) Sodomites, Mollies, Sapphists & Tommies: Vol. 5 of Eighteenth-Century British Erotica Part II
Essays reprinted in Gay Roots
Gay London in the 1720s; Ganymede Raped - The Critic as Censor; Reflections on the Gay Movement; The Passions of Michelangelo; Hard Gemlike Flame: Walter Pater and His Circle; The Historical Roots of Homophobia (containing material not previously published). Ed. Winston Leyland, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, Vol. I, 1991; Vol. II, 1993.