My focus on obituaries as the basis of a website that aims to remember LGBTQ Michiganders might seem a bit macabre. This is certainly not the intention. While death and loss may be one undeniable undertone, the growing popularity of sites such as legacy.com and tributes.com suggests a strong interest in the obituary as a means of remembrance.
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.
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.
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 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.
My friend Julie came to visit me in Lansing last summer. She was in the midst of nine months “on the lam” to rescue their dog Tiberius from hateful neighbors in suburban Maryland. She was living in Saginaw for the time being, in the house where she grew up, and was nearer than she’d been in a couple decades. I relished getting to see her more often, Continue reading “Inspired to Queerly Remember”