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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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 legacy.com and tributes.com 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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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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