Familiar Faces, Hidden Lives

The title of Howard Brown’s posthumously published 1976 autobiography captures the prevailing experience of LGBTQ people born to a certain era: Familiar Faces., Hidden Lives.

In early 1991, in the early stages of researching the gay past of my hometown of Flint, I met Al Kerr, an 86-year-old local travel agent who had, in the late 1950s, lent his mimeograph machine for the Detroit chapter of the Mattachine Society to print its newsletter.

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The Silences of Leo Janas

The first issue of the pioneering magazine ONE hit newsstands in January 1953.

Begun by an offshoot group of the Mattachine Society, ONE bravely offered “the homosexual viewpoint” to its readers, addressing such topics as gay bars, blackmail, and same-sex marriage during the conformist and repressive McCarthy Era.  In 1958, the Supreme Court upheld the right under the First Amendment for ONE to publish and to be distributed through the mails.  Thereafter, mere discussion of homosexuality in the U.S. could no longer be deemed obscene.

Among those on the staff of ONE were former Michiganders W. Dorr Legg and Irma Wolf.

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My Path to Queer Remembering (3 of 3)

The most recent leg of my path to queer remembering involved my training as a professional historian.  Age 42, fresh from finishing my B.A. at the University of Michigan, I landed at Yale to pursue a Ph.D.

My leap of faith into grad school was kind of an all-or-nothing proposition, swim or sink and all that.

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My Path to Queer Remembering (2 of 3)

In beginning to research the gay history of my hometown of Flint back in the late 1980s, I realized I needed a grasp of the queer past of Michigan and the United States.

For the U.S., I devoured whatever books I could find, which then consisted of Gay American History and the Gay/Lesbian Almanac by Jonathan Katz, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities by John D’Emilio, and Surpassing the Love of Men by Lillian Faderman.  A bibliography by Jennifer Terry, “Locating Ourselves in the History of Sexuality,” in a new quarterly called Out/Look, suggested more books to read and provided another beacon of encouragement.

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My Path to Queer Remembering (1 of 3)

My path to queer remembering started with simple curiosity.

From ninth grade through the early years of my first stab at college, I worked at the Flint Public Library.  In one of my jobs there, I staffed the Clerk’s Desk, which involved retrieving bound magazines from basement storage, helping people with microfilm readers, and sometimes taking ID for certain publications that might be stolen.  One such publication was Continue reading “My Path to Queer Remembering (1 of 3)”

We Were Everywhere

“We are everywhere!”

The banner, carried by participants in the 1979 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, conveyed a claim of ubiquity that has been a recurrent message among LGBTQ people and our allies in the decades since.

Yes, we can be found in every walk of life, from doctors and lawyers and teachers and artistes to sales clerks and mechanics and fast food workers.  Some live open lives of wild flamboyance, others remain deeply closeted about their sexuality.

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