LGBTQ Bookstores RIP

Yesterday, December 31, 2018, marked the official last day* for Common Language Bookstore in Ann Arbor.  In November, owners Keith Orr and Martin Contreras announced they were closing up shop at the end of the year.  In mid-December, Between The Lines hosted a farewell party to thank Martin and Keith for their years of devotion, keeping the store open long after most other queer bookstores in the country have gone out of business.

For the first time in more than four decades, Michigan has no LGBTQ bookstore.

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Giving a Rat’s Ass about LGBTQ History, 2018 edition

My grandfather loved to tell stories of yesteryear.  In conversation, he would often ask “Why should I give a rat’s ass?” as if out of the blue.  Although I was never sure if his salty language came from growing up in Michigan’s Thumb or from working in Flint’s factories, I came to understand his storytelling as a significant means of conveying personal values, culture, and history to his grandkids.

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Barb Remembers

“These are not numbers, but people I loved and cared about,” Michigan State alum Jon Nalley wrote in a 1991 affidavit, explaining that his ACT UP civil disobedience grew from the loss of twelve college friends to AIDS.  Michigan LGBTQ Remember featured these twelve individuals for World AIDS Day last year.

For 2018, the site and this blog commemorate twelve other Michiganders lost to HIV/AIDS, all from Metro Detroit, who are specially remembered by Barbara Murray: Anthony Caputo, Chester Cislo, James Drain, Jeff Kucharsk, Tom Bartley, Jim Proffitt, Doug Pizzala, Tim Warner, Jim Beates, Scott McCready, Robin Ware, and Dan Stoepker.

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My Coming Out Story

In late 1991 or early 1992, I took training to be part of the speakers’ bureau for the Lesbian-Gay Male Program Office, now called the Spectrum Center, at the University of Michigan.

It was a rigorous weekend of sharing and self-reflection conducted by Billie Edwards and Jim Toy.  The final project for the half dozen or so of us in attendance was to draft, refine, and practice our Coming Out Story, a narrative of how we came to see ourselves as gay or lesbian (bi and trans experiences were not yet fully on the radar).  The stories we crafted would serve as the bases for visiting classes.  In the early 1990s, in many instances, we remained novelties for straight people.

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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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Why Obituaries?

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 and suggests a strong interest in the obituary as a means of remembrance.

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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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