The statewide LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group Equality Michigan, also known as EQMI, made an embarrassing gaffe last month when it used the wrong photo to identify organization founder Henry Messer in promoting a key annual fundraiser. Instead of Messer, the promotion showed his partner of 62 years, Carl House. EQMI then exacerbated its mistake by again identifying House as Messer at the event itself.
I met Wade Richards thirty years ago this month at the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Although our friendship lasted just seven years, it left a strong imprint, one indelibly entwined with the march itself and how the event rippled in collective and individual ways.
I knew criminal court cases could be a gold mine for researching LGBTQ history. I did not know such records were so vulnerable.
As I recounted in an earlier blog post, my path to queer remembering started in the late 1980s with looking into old gross indecency and sodomy cases at the Genesee County Court House, unkind clerical staff and all.
Last month I received some feedback about Michigan LGBTQ Remember that caught me off guard.
The message came from Leonard Graff, who was a key and pioneering activist in the Gay Liberation Movement at Michigan State University in the early 1970s. Leonard expressed appreciation for the project, then shared his deep dislike for the Q at the end of LGBTQ.
It’s back to school time and I am in teacher mode.
One of the ways I have prodded students over the past several years to understand how historians study the past is to have them analyze primary sources. Put simply, primary sources are documents of some sort that provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence. Examples include personal journals, legislative hearings, census records, emails, newsletters, photographs, and oral histories.
So far as I can remember, the first gay funeral I ever attended was for Ralph Wilson.
I knew dear Ralph from the University of Michigan-Flint, where he was one of the few semi-out gay students on campus in the early 1990s. He got a job with the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project in Ferndale after he graduated and was killed in a freeway accident driving home from the Timesquare nightclub.
Remembering Michigan’s LGBTQ past needs to take into account its queer expats.
Born here, these former Michiganders ended up elsewhere. Some fled to escape family rejection or local hostility or sexual boredom. Others moved away in pursuit of new kinship or some semblance of local tolerance or sexual opportunities. Some left early on in their lives. Others resettled in retirement.