LGBTQ Diaries

For historians of the LGBTQ past, having access to a personal diary is akin to striking gold.

The surviving diaries of Charles Tomlinson Griffes add enriching detail to Gay New York by George Chauncey.  Diaries of Anne Lister and Mary Benson were invaluable sources for Intimate Friends by Martha Vicinus.  The extensive diary of Carter Bealer proved indispensable to understanding the early gay geography of Washington, DC in A Queer Capital by Genny Beemyn.

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Censored Art, Censored Lives

In 1990, two years after the first National Coming Out Day, I came out for the first time in print.  I was terrified.

The venue was a small publication called briX, published by the Greater Flint Arts Council.  As “a collection of art and ideas,” briX included poetry, short fiction, essays, and the brilliant one-panel cartoons of local artist Patrick Hardin.

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Bring Out Your Dead

October 11th marks the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.

That first NCOD in 1988 is seared in my memory because Charlotte, Ginny, Rob, and I painted The Block in Flint with a giant pink triangle in a bit of small-scale renegade activism.  My 24-year-old gay self felt like I was doing something to fight hometown homophobia.

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Finding Jerri Daye (2 of 2)

My 17-year quest to find Jerri Daye reached its fruition on February 16, 2012.

Such build-up and anticipation often end in a stinging disappointment.  As a child of the original Star Wars, I still feel the let-down at The Phantom Menace and Jar Jar Binks—with apologies to Jar Jar Binks fans.

Meeting James Pascoe, a.k.a. Jerri Daye, was anything but disappointing.

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Finding Jerri Daye (1 of 2)

My 17-year quest to find Jerri Daye began in May 1995, when I interviewed Betty Leonard, manager of the State Bar in Flint from 1958 to 1985.  Betty was showing me her photo albums, including one fabulous Polaroid of two female impersonators flanking bar owner Melva Earhart.

One of the impersonators looked spot-on like Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Did I mention the photo was fabulous?

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Before a Live Audience

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer elders convey truths that letters (typed and handwritten) cannot, that yellowing news clippings cannot, that fading photographs cannot.

When LGBTQ elders share stories from their lives, their eyes flash with emotion.  Their faces show the idiosyncrasies of personality.  Their voices sometimes express joy, sometimes pain, sometimes anger, and, yes, sometimes sexual nostalgia.

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Remembering Beth Brant

When writer Beth Brant died on August 6, 2015, she left behind a loving family and a vibrant literary legacy documenting her life as a Native American lesbian.  A mother, grandmother, and longtime Melvindale resident, Brant is remembered as a pathbreaking lesbian author, poet, essayist, editor, lecturer, and literary activist.

Due to the lack of availability of her books, however, Brant’s legacy has risked being forgotten.  Many of her works have fallen out of print.  A new copy of one title is currently offered on Amazon for nearly $1,500.  For someone whose public life centered on words, finding new generations of readers is key to being remembered.

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By Their Own Hand

I probably met Brian McKinney only once, but his death more than thirty years ago still haunts me.

I recall lingering at the bus stop in downtown Flint while in high school in the early 1980s as an achingly lonely gay boy, watching for him.  He was a student at the barber college on Saginaw Street and, with lilting hair dyed blond and green, dared to be visibly queer at a time when being queer and being visible were unfathomable in my hometown.

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Giving a Rat’s Ass about LGBTQ History, 2017 edition

My grandfather, who in conversation would often ask “Why should I give a rat’s ass?” as if out of the blue, loved to tell stories of yesteryear.  Although I was never sure if his salty language came from growing up in the Thumb or 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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