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Job | Assistant Professor of History, UCLA | Deadline November 1

BY ON August 30, 2017

The UCLA Department of History expects to make an appointment for a tenure track position in the history of gender and sexuality, open to any field. Appointment will be at the rank of assistant professor and begin on July 1, 2018. All candidates should have completed their PhD, in history or related field, no later than June 30, 2018.

The deadline for receiving applications and required documents is November 1, 2017. Applications will be reviewed immediately thereafter.

The department welcomes candidates whose experience in teaching, research or community service has prepared them to contribute to our commitment to diversity and excellence. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply online for this position. Documents should include a letter of application, curriculum vitae, writing sample, sample syllabi and three letters of recommendation. This position is subject to final administrative approval.

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or protected veteran status. For the complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy see: UC Nondiscrimination & Affirmative Action Policy.

Questions may be addressed to: Ann Major at ann@history.ucla.edu.

Call for Papers | Change Over Time

BY ON August 8, 2017

The journal Change Over Time: An International Journal of Conservation and the Built Environment, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, invites submissions for the Spring 2019 issue.

LGBTQ Heritage | Guest Editor: Ken Lustbader

In spite of the immense historic and cultural contributions of LGBTQ Americans, the LGBTQ community at large is among the least represented in our national, state, and local designation programs. To date, only eleven of the more than 92,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places have been listed for their primary association with LGBTQ history. This underrepresentation has prevented effective advocacy and educational opportunities, leaving potentially significant sites and histories unappreciated, uncelebrated, and potentially endangered.

Over the past five years there has been growing recognition of the importance of LGBTQ place-based history by cultural heritage professionals, historians, and advocates. Place-based heritage provides a unique opportunity to illustrate the richness of LGBTQ history and the community’s contributions to American culture. Examples include historic sites associated with arts and architecture, important social centers such as bars and LGBTQ organization locations, places related to oppression and protest, and residences of notable figures.

This issue, published in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, will explore questions related to LGBTQ cultural heritage: What are the challenges in identifying an often invisible and, at times, transient and denied history? How can historians and preservationists ensure for diverse representation of LGBTQ communities? How does one address significance and architectural integrity when recognizing LGBTQ sites that are often architecturally undistinguished and frequently altered?

We welcome contributions from US and international contexts on a range of topics: researching and documenting LGBTQ place-based sites; exploring rural, urban, and suburban LGBTQ narratives; approaches for categorization of resource types and cultural significance; challenges related to official recognition of LGBTQ-related sites; and solutions for interpretation and educational opportunities.

Submissions may include case studies, theoretical explorations, evaluations of current practices, or presentations of arts- or web-based projects related to LGBTQ cultural heritage.

Abstracts of 200-300 words are due 5 January 2018. Authors will be notified of provisional paper acceptance by 19 January 2018. Final manuscript submissions will be due mid May 2018.

Submission

Articles are generally restricted to 7,500 or fewer words (the approximate equivalent to thirty pages of double-spaced, twelve-point type) and may include up to ten images. See Author Guidelines for full details at cotjournal.com, or email Senior Associate Editor, Kecia Fong at cot@design.upenn.edu for further information.

CFP | LGBT Themes in African American History | Deadline March 1 2018

BY ON July 6, 2017

The Journal of African American History is planning a Special Issue on the connections between Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) subjects or topics and the history of African American life, culture, and politics. Over the past twenty-five years, the field of LGBT historical studies has grown rapidly, and yet up until quite recently, the scholarship has not addressed questions of race in general, or the African American past in particular. Historiographical debates over the merits of a minoritarian versus a queer methodology stimulated important conversations about modes of research and writing, but the unspoken assumptions were that the proper object of inquiry was white and that resistance against homophobia had little or nothing to do with survival in a racist culture.

The explosion of literature on the civil rights campaigns, Black Power and black radicalism, and urbanization has not expanded to document the role of black LGBT activists, organizations, or communities. Too often powerful critical tools for analyzing racial formation have not been applied to the construction of sexuality, and vice versa. This Special Issue proposes to correct the missed connections between these overlapping narratives of race and sexuality, and present cutting-edge scholarship on LGBT themes in African American history from a wide variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives, involving archival, cultural, and oral sources.

Topics and subject matter constituting the intersection between African Americans and LGBT historical inquiries could include: 1) African American family, youth, and LGBT issues historically; 2) the impact of religion, and notions of respectability, masculinity, and femininity on the construction of black LGBT identity; 3) the connections between Civil Rights and Gay Rights and between Black Power and Gay Liberation; 4) African American communities and the AIDS epidemic; 5) LGBT subjectivity in African American film, music, and entertainment; 6) the contribution of LGBT African Americans to the hair, fashion, commercial art industries, as well as the performing arts; 7) political and economic interactions between African Americans and LGBT social justice organizations; 8) the historical encounter between black LGBT actors and the state, the military, or prison systems; 9) the impact of urbanization, including segregation, crime and violence, policing, and sex work on black LGBT lives and organizations.

Essays should be no more than 35 typed, double-spaced pages (12 point font), including endnotes. The JAAH uses the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition (Chicago, IL, 2010) for citations. Guidelines for manuscript submission are published in the JAAH and on the JAAH website; for inquiries the email address is: vpf1019@aol.com. Submitted essays will be peer reviewed. Your cover letter should include the title of your essay, name, postal address, e-mail address, and phone number. Your essay should begin with the title of the essay and should NOT include your name. Please send three (3) hard copies of your manuscript to:

Dr. Kevin Mumford, Guest Editor
c/o V. P. Franklin, Editor,

The Journal of African American History
University of New Orleans
Department of History
2000 Lake Shore Drive
New Orleans, LA 70148

H/T: Nicholas Syrett, CLGBTH

Prizes | CLGBTH Audre Lorde and Gregory Sprague Awards | October 1 Deadline

BY ON June 29, 2017

The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History will award the Audre Lorde and Gregory Sprague prizes in 2018.

The Audre Lorde Prize will be awarded to an outstanding article on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer history published in English in 2016 or 2017. If an article is scheduled to be published after the October 1st submission deadline but before the end of 2017, nominees may submit page proofs. Learn more here.

The Gregory Sprague Prize will be awarded to an outstanding published or unpublished paper, article, book chapter, or dissertation chapter on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer history completed in English by a graduate student in 2016 or 2017. Learn more here.

Questions can be addressed to prize committee chair, Emily Skidmore.

2018 Prize Committee:

* Emily Skidmore, Texas Tech University, Emily.skidmore@ttu.edu

* Abram J. Lewis, Northwestern University, abram.lewis@northwestern.edu

* Linda C. Velasco, San Francisco State University, lvelasco@mail.sfsu.edu

Emailed submissions must be sent by 11:59pm (Pacific time), 1 October 2017.

Winners will be announced at the Committee on LGBT History’s annual reception at the 2018 American Historical Association conference in Washington, DC.

Grants | William Nelson Cromwell Foundation | Due July 11 2017

BY ON June 20, 2017

In 2017, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation will make available a number of $5,000 fellowship awards to support research and writing in American legal history by early-career scholars. Early career generally includes those researching or writing a PhD dissertation (or equivalent project) and recent recipients of a graduate degree working on their first major monograph or research project. The number of awards made is at the discretion of the Foundation. In the past several years, the trustees of the Foundation have made five to nine awards. Scholars who are not at the early stages of their careers may seek research grants directly from the Foundation.  For more information, see the Grants page at cromwellfoundation.org.

Application Process for 2017

The Committee for Research Fellowships and Awards of the American Society for Legal History (ASLH) reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the Foundation. (The Cromwell Foundation was established in 1930 to promote and encourage scholarship in legal history, particularly in the colonial and early national periods of the United States. The Foundation has supported the publication of legal records as well as historical monographs.)

Applicants should submit a description of their proposed project (double-spaced, maximum 6 pages including notes; include a working title), a budget, a timeline, and a short c.v. (no longer than 3 pages). The budget and timeline can be part of the Project Description or separate. (There is no application form.) Two letters of recommendation from academic referees should be sent directly to the Committee Chair via email attachment, preferably as .pdf files. Applications must be submitted electronically (preferably in one .pdf file) no later than midnight July 11, 2017.

Successful applicants will be notified by early November. An announcement of the awards will also be made at the annual meeting of the American Society of Legal History.

This announcement was originally posted at H-Net by Joanna Grisinger.

Radio Free Qtopia

BY ON October 24, 2016

rfq-logo-largeAround the world, LGBTQ people stand at a pivotal moment, simultaneously winning historic victories for political rights and cultural inclusion and facing a tremendous backlash. Conflicts over LGBTQ rights have drawn unprecedented attention in recent years, seemingly pitting the West against Russia, Africa, and the Middle East. But why now? Why are these conflicts erupting now, if LGBTQ people have “always” been here and if anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence are particularly egregious in societies that have been “always” homophobic?

This coming January, I am launching Radio Free Qtopia, a new podcast dedicated to boosting the signal and preserving the stories of LGBTQ changemakers working on the front lines of the global culture wars over sexuality and gender. I hope you’ll consider supporting this project by making a donation here.

Almost immediately after I began transitioning from my academic career to one advancing the human rights, inclusion, and security of sexual and gender minorities across the globe, the urgency of a useable queer history became glaringly obvious. It is easy enough to roll one’s eyeballs, for example, when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared his country had no homosexuals or when numerous African political leaders claim homosexuality is “un-African.” But the historian – and especially changemakers on the ground – will be quick to note how of the 70+ countries that still criminalize same-sex sexual behavior, the vast majority are former European colonial possessions whose current-day sodomy laws are the direct product of 19th-century imperialism.

Moreover, those mindful of how the past shapes the present will note the challenge facing queer changemakers all around the world: though sexual and gender diversity has existed in some form or other in most human societies, the dominant constructions of sexual orientation and gender identity and the movements that articulated the demands for liberation and full citizenship rights based on those constructions did emerge in the West. Put more simply: when self-identified LGBTQ people and groups wave rainbow flags at Pride celebrations in Moscow and Mumbai, in Kampala and Kingston, they are using language and symbols that did indeed develop in Europe and North America.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” William Faulkner once wrote. Through Radio Free Qtopia, I am deeply excited to share the stories of the remarkable activists, artists, teachers, health workers, NGO staff, and other people making the world more queer-inclusive, to explore the interplay of past and present in their work, and to build an archive that preserves these narratives and makes them accessible for the duration. I’m currently in talks with funders and institutions to ensure the long-term viability of Radio Free Qtopia, but your support will help get the podcast up and running – thank you!

Ian Lekus is the LGBT Thematic Specialist atAmnesty International USA. Beginning in January 2017, he will be the host/producer @Radio Free Qtopia. He has a Ph.D. in History from Duke University, and is the author of Queer and Present Dangers: Sexuality, Masculinity, and the Sixties (forthcoming from UNC Press). You can follow him on Twitter @ianlekus.

Making Lesbian History Possible: A Proposal

BY ON June 6, 2016

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Mildred Tolbert, Agnes Martin, ca. 1954

Today’s guest blogger is Sarah Schulman, a writer, activist, and Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at College of Staten Island. Her most recent novel is The Cosmopolitans (New York: The Feminist Press, 2016.) Read about it in Slate.

“To forbid something is to make it unforgettable.” – Adam Phillips

At the OutHistory.org conference in New York in May, I heard two of my favorite historians, Marcia Gallo and Nan Alamilla Boyd, confirm that the problem of “identity categories” has become a significant obstacle to researching, documenting and analyzing the history of lesbian lives, politics, culture, experiences, and feelings. Both of these fascinating scholars use oral history as a foundational practice for their work, which to date has focused on the 1950’s and 60’s. They found that in talking to those who produced and lived these histories, the word “lesbian” was complex, problematic, had divergent meanings, and was a source of both attraction and refusal. This problem of the elusiveness of “identity categories” is one reason that documentation of lesbian history from the 1970’s onward has been seen as a kind of swamp into which few trained and seasoned historians wish to sink.

Certainly these confusions pervade most of our social institutions and conversations. While many of us rely on our definitions to ground our perspectives, and some of us rely on negating definitions to do the same, it is clear from the not-functional divisions of books for Lambda Literary Awards to the endless list of letters at the end of queer organizational mission statements, that we need definition. And yet the current cataloguing system has become obstructive. The focus on what categories mean, and why we do or do not want to be in them, has brought some essential documentation and grappling with historic events, emotions, and actions to a screeching halt. For lesbian history in particular, there are so many reasons to abandon ship: no other movement in American radicalism has been so mocked; the subjects, themselves, promise grief to the enterprising scholar. And, I think, most importantly, the psychological, emotional and relational complexities, conflicts, and deprivations are a necessary but very difficult centerpiece of events and how they unfold.

What is to be done?

A few weeks after the conference I read a gorgeously written biography of the iconic and reclusive painter Agnes Martin by art historian Nancy Princenthal, winner of The National Book Critics Circle Award this year. The author was respectful of all Martin’s dimensions, eccentricities, impulses and shifts in feeling and ideas. She recorded conflictual statements and claims by Martin about her own life and experiences without judgment, embracing these complexities as an organic part of her creative imagination and emotional lens. Nuance, complexity, contradiction, vagueness, ambivalence, confusion and dislocation were all seen as elements worthy of record and relevant to understanding her life and, more importantly her artwork, and their inter-connections.

There was one arena, though, in which variation, levels and counter-indication were deemed too difficult to articulate: Martin’s emotional and sexual feelings and actions towards women. Even though there was a clear resonance between how Martin lived and described, or withheld and obscured, her emotional and sexual interiority and exteriorization with the ways she lived and made art, the author enthusiastically delved into art practice, while sidelining desire and the emotions of erotic feeling. Yet Princenthal’s reasoning was not the usual blindness or ick-factor when it comes to a historic figure’s sexuality. Instead, she evoked the problem of identity categories as the reason to sideline these themes in the artist’s life. Princenthal documents instances in Martin’s life where the artist said that she was “not a lesbian,”“not a woman,” and that she was “a man”. Certainly that is all important, and can bring a lot to understanding Martin’s lived erotics and repressions. Instead the author uses this information to downplay the role and importance of Martin’s relationships, and non-relationships, with women.

Right away, on page 11 of Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art (Thames and Hudson, 2015), Princenthal writes:

Martin’s romantic attachments, if that is the right term – she was not given to sentiment and preferred living alone – were largely with other women. But she refused the label lesbian (as she did the term feminist when it was applied to her). In her life, as in her work, renunciation was as important as embrace.

But, what about the renunciation of embrace? Isn’t that also filled with meaning and therefore with history? The “romantic,” which I would define as the spark of opening, are experiences that can come to dominate an imagination: artistic, political, intellectual, emotional and certainly sexual. Both the recognition of open-heartedness, of connection, of the pleasure of knowing each other, as well as the refusal to allow the real to develop, the shutting down, the rejection of pleasure- all of these experiences are significant in the lives of human beings, and particularly of artists. They produce aesthetics. Artistic voice, after all, expresses the contested and resists repression. Repression, similarly, is a resonant key to the question of lesbian, queer, bisexual, and trans existence, even in our contemporary moment: repression of information, of feeling, of knowledge, of existence, of potential and risk. And when examining a self-described “hermit” like Agnes Martin, aloneness also has a specificity in lesbian, queer, bisexual, and trans life, whatever those words mean to you.

Whether Martin was a lesbian, a woman, and/or a man does not mean that feelings, desires, longings, refusals, experiences, conversations, silences, actions and repressions with women are not deeply and fundamentally relevant to her history. And the content of those experiences, and refusals of experience, are more important than the question of Martin’s sexual or gender category.

Later, on page 51, Princenthal drops, in an aside, that when Martin went to live and work in New Mexico in the 1940’s, she found a culture in Taos where noted collector and saloniste Mabel Dodge Luhan, (though married to a Native American man,) was “among the many women at the time in Taos (and Santa Fe) to have had romantic relationships with other women, as did O’Keefe.” My eye falls on the word many. And of course the name O’Keefe. Where can I read that book? Or does this not matter because the word “lesbian” is not operational?

At this point I would like to make a radical proposal: that we temporarily forget about who calls themselves a lesbian; why, or why not. Instead, I propose that we look into the emotional, psychological, economic, political, intellectual, artistic, sexual, daily and life long experiences of women who allowed or refused the embrace. The conversations that did happen and did not. The words permitted, and those uttered without permission. The invitations refused and accepted. The fears. The imaginations, erotic and projected. The walks in the woods, the fucking, the pleasure of the company acknowledged and refused. The meals, the conversation, how and what conversations provoked, the actions, the artworks, the articles, books, tears, orgasms realized/failed/imagined/remembered, caresses, tendernesses, the refusals of tenderness, kisses that were and should have been, and how this moved the earth, the culture, the society or even just one or two people’s small lives. I propose that we call this whatever we want to call it, but that we not let it fall by the wayside, because when those of us creating queer history and culture display a reluctance to go deeper and transcend the artifice of restrictive thinking, the mainstream representations are handed a convenient model of hesitant obscuration. Lesbians give each other meaning in private, and it is too easy to keep the secret. It doesn’t have to be clean, neat, safe, compartmentalized, or expected. Show it all and let the chips fall where they may.

Princenthal mentions that among the women who had romantic attachments to other women in Taos was Betty Parsons, who later opened a gallery in New York. Princenthal writes that when Parsons’ gallery represented Agnes Martin (along with other clients like Jackson Pollack), Agnes and Betty lived together in Betty’s studio in NYC for a year. Nothing further. She quotes from different sources, some saying that a sexual relationship between the two would have been impossible. Others, like Betty’s assistant Jack Tilton, felt sure that they did allow the embrace. Certainly that the one lesbian gallerist was the person who first showed the work of Agnes Martin, implies some kind of openness, some kind of love. And it is fair to imagine that had there been no Betty Parsons, it is possible that no man ever would have shown Martin’s work. But despite the living together, despite the testimony of Tilton, despite the investment in each other’s dreams and visions, Princenthal just isn’t sure. “In the long interview conducted with Parsons for The Archives of American Art in 1969,” Princenthal writes, “Agnes Martin’s name does not come up.” But, that is so lesbian, to pretend we never loved, to erase the attraction, to deny the opening because of complexities of historical, emotional and psychological reasons that I wish our historians would help us articulate and unravel.

She goes on to discuss some other “friendships”, one with artist Lenore Tawny of whom Agnes wrote: “There is an urgency that sweeps us up, a originality and success that holds us in wonder.”

An elusive Greek woman artist, twenty years younger, with one name, Chryssa, is alluded to in Martin’s New York Times obituary, as the reason she left New York to live alone on a New Mexico mesa. But Princenthal thinks that was instead a relationship of professional assistance on Agnes’s part. Yet, I would say to Princenthal that if lesbian artists don’t help each other, it is hard to know who is going to help us. And if we love someone’s work, there is more possibility for …romance. Without the lesbian identity, there was still the romance. As Agnes Martin wrote:

When you’re in life-drawing, you’re really thinking of all the women you’ve ever seen, and all the gestures they’ve ever made. That’s what brings life into the drawing….It’s just your real self.

The Punchline: decades past, I had a lesbian literary agent named Diane Cleaver, who died over twenty years ago. Diane was very old school. “I’m out,” she once told me. “But I am not out and about.” At her memorial service, the only person who said the word “lesbian” was a straight writer. Diane once told me that Betty Parsons and Agnes Martin were lovers, but that Betty dumped Agnes for Greta Garbo, and this was the catalyst for Agnes’s great depression.

This could easily be untrue, of course. Not being an historian, I have no way of confirming or denying. But being an artist, I was able to embed this piece of wish/knowledge into a scene in my novel The Cosmopolitans, where Earl, the Black, gay working-class protagonist, stumbles home from a day at the meatpacking plant. He runs into a good looking Black actor, Frank, now employed as a chauffeur for a beige Bentley parked outside of Betty Parson’s gallery, carrying a mysterious passenger. Miss Parsons emerges, slips into the back seat and Frank drives the shining chassis away. “Who was that?” asks a young Irish girl on the way to run her mother’s errands. “That was Frank,” the smitten Earl replies. “That was not Frank,” a drag queen from the adjacent Hotel Albert corrects him. “Honey, that was Greta Garbo. Dot vas Ninotchka.”

Second Punchline: I was in residency at the Yaddo artist’s colony and shared the summer with an 83 year-old painter named Buffie Johnson. Buffie was blind at this point but still painting “spheres.” She told me that she had had three husbands, one of whom died of AIDS, and two girlfriends, Jane Bowles and Patricia Highsmith. “Wow, Buffy” I said. “They both were so difficult, they must have been tough girlfriends. Were they really that bad?” “Oh,” she assured me in her Katherine Hepburnesque upper-class trill. “They were horrible.”

Anyway, I once visited Buffie at her home on Greene Street, where her front door was a sculpture made by Louise Nevelson (who also said she was not a lesbian, lived with a woman for the final 26 years of her life, who- after Nevelson’s death- sued her family for “palimony.”) Buffie told me about the time, when she was young, that Georgia O’Keefe came to her studio. “She looked at my paintings and said, ‘Ah those are….’” And then Buffie faltered “What word did she use? What words did she use? It was a twenties word…ah yes, keen. She said my paintings were keen.”

But now that I learn from Princenthal that not-lesbian O’Keefe had women lovers like many women in Taos and Santa Fe, and I know that not-lesbian Buffie did too, I start to wonder about who told Georgia O’Keefe to go check out young Buffie Johnson, and why Georgia bothered to support this unknown woman painter. And I, based in my own artist’s life, know it had something to do with the lesbiannesss of these not lesbians, which is also a force of history and of culture. The romance, the special surprise of openness, and what it produces, whether we want it or not, is worth noting.

Ebola, HIV, and the Politics of Contagion

BY ON October 29, 2014

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  By Jim Downs

At a recent dinner party, a friend explained that she refused to travel to  Paris because of the fear of Ebola. Another friend chimed in and said that he declined going to a social event because a friend of a friend had a relative who had just been to Africa. And the list goes on of people who, in some form or another, fear contracting Ebola.

Throughout American history, there are dozen of cases of hysteria surrounding the apparent outbreak of an epidemic, from recent fears over Asian bird flu to fears of cholera outbreaks in the 19th century. But the question of fear needs to be contextualized, not just in terms of alleviating Americans’ paranoia (as Shepherd Smith recently did on Fox News), but rather by thinking about how various populations within the nation have consistently lived under a threat of infection.

For gay Americans, the very act of sex — the most human act that leads to the creation of life — meant death for generations of gay people. The outbreak of HIV in the early 1980s has left gay people on high alert for the last 30+ years. Many gay men continue to live with the threat of contracting an epidemic every time they engage in sex, whether it is with a lifetime partner or a one-night stand. Sex could lead to death, be it because sometimes condoms break or because someone is unaware of his status.

The fear of Ebola, thus, tells us more about one’s social status and, dare I say, privilege, rather than about the disease itself. For many gay men, who have lived amid HIV “outbreak” for the last thirty years, the threat of Ebola perhaps has not rattled them as much as their heterosexual counterparts.

More to the point, when HIV broke out, the federal government did not react with the alacrity that it is today with Ebola — in fact, they denied it. When HIV began to spread, the media did not show images of medical professionals wearing space-age hazmat suits; rather, it continued to show images of emaciated victims dying of the disease. And when HIV broke out, gay people did not have the privilege of concocting far-fetched scenarios at dinner parties in which they could potentially imagine the threat of coming in contact with an epidemic; rather, HIV had already infiltrated their communities, came into their homes, and took away their family and friends — there was no “what if.”

The threat of Ebola provides a peek into the politics of contagion. For many gay Americans, going on a date often leads to a conversation about epidemic diseases. That Ebola now compels other Americans to consider the threat of a contagious virus suggests how fortunate they have been. Instead of sounding off an alarm of hysteria, they might just want to listen to how the other half lives.


 

Jim Downs is an Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Connecticut College. He is currently completing More Than Just Sex: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation (Basic Books), and is the author of Sick from Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering (Oxford U.P., 2012). Follow Jim Downs on Twitter.

Many thanks to the Huffington Post for allowing us to republish this essay.

35 Years after the First National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

BY ON October 22, 2014

pinby Leila J. Rupp

It’s been thirty-five years since the First National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, making it an appropriate moment to evaluate where the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement is now. In 1979, just 10 years after Stonewall, 2 years after Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign, and 1 year after the murder of Harvey Milk, more than a hundred thousand people gathered in Washington to demand equal rights for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. I went to the 1979 march with my lover, now my legally wedded “wife” (a term I never use, although I appreciate the in-your-faceness of it when used by others). We stayed in the apartment of my first woman lover (the relationships still overlapping a bit) so it was a very 1970s event in the personal as well as political sense.

But that’s another story. What really matters about the thirty-five years since that march is how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. We hear a great deal these days about what has changed: gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, same-sex couples rushing to the altar, positive representations of queer people in the media. But the official demands of the march—passage of a comprehensive lesbian/gay rights bill in congress, issuance of a presidential executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, repeal of all anti-lesbian/gay laws, an end to discrimination in lesbian mother and gay father custody cases, and protection of lesbian and gay youth—remain mostly unmet.

ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, if signed into law, might have satisfied the first demand. ENDA finally passed in the Senate last fall, but it is now losing the support of gay organizations because of the broad religious exemptions with the potential to gut the bill, given the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. President Obama signed an executive order adding transsexuals to those federal employees already protected on the basis of sexual orientation, and banning discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual identity by companies with federal contracts, going somewhat beyond the second demand. As for the other three—well, anti-gay laws remain on the books, lesbian mothers and gay fathers still can’t count on a fair deal, and no one has yet figured out how to “protect lesbian and gay youth from any laws which are used to discriminate against, oppress, and/or harass them in their homes, schools, jobs, and social environments,” as the final march demand put it.

And that’s the demand I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as a historian and California resident. Not so much about protecting students from oppressive laws, but about what, if anything, they know about Anita Bryant, Harvey Milk, Stonewall, and marches on Washington. California’s Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Responsible (FAIR) Act, signed into law in 2011, is the nation’s first legislation requiring public schools to teach about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans alongside those marginalized by gender, ethnicity, race, and disability. This in contrast to Tennessee, for example, where the state legislature has considered a Classroom Protection Act, known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which would prevent teachers from talking about sexual orientation and even require them to notify parents if they suspect children might be queer.

Given the bullying that goes on in the schools and the high rate of suicide of queer youth, does education matter? You bet it does. When four gay or bisexual students in the Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota, school district committed suicide and the school district’s gag order prevented staff from talking about issues of sexual orientation, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, supported by the Justice Department, filed and won a lawsuit against the school district. The suit cited a California climate study that showed that any mention of queer people or issues increased student safety and improved the climate for queer students. Robert King, a teacher at Palisades Charter High School in southern California, tells a story about the impact of including LGBT content as part of one day’s lecture on civil rights movements. He was talking about Stonewall when a student, Jack Davis, raised his hand and came out to the class. His classmates applauded, got up out of their seats, and hugged him. In an essay published later, Davis wrote that he had been “looking for a way to come out to everyone,” and the mention of Stonewall gave him the opportunity. Walking out of class, the “weight of the world seemingly lifted from my shoulders … and I was ecstatic.”

If the mere mention of Stonewall in part of one lecture on one day can mean so much, just think what a transformed curriculum, not just in California, but across the country, could do. That would go a very long way toward crossing at least one of the demands from 1979 off the list.

 Leila J. Rupp is Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and coeditor, with Susan Freeman, of Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, published in the Harvey Goldberg Series from the University of Wisconsin Press.

OutHistory.org Welcomes You To Our New Blog!

BY ON May 27, 2014

Just in time for LGBT History Month, OutHistory.org is pleased to announce the creation of its new blog. It will operate under the cheerful supervision of Co-Director Claire Bond Potter. What can you expect to find here in the coming months?

  • Announcements. Are you having a conference, an event to honor a colleague, a talk, a performance or an exhibit that you would like to advertise to the OutHistory community? A prize competition? Send it to us with a short write-up and preferably an image, and we will be pleased to post them here.
  • Calls to action. Is there something concerned community and scholar-activists ought to know about? Perhaps this is a community center that needs help, a documentary film that needs funding, an archive that requires support to be processed and preserved  properly, an art collection that is looking for a home, or a women’s/gender/sexuality/feminist/queer studies program that is suffering from university budget cuts? Are you launching an oral history project that you want people to know about? Send it in.
  • Historical commentary on contemporary events. OutHistory.org is a history site, so even though many things happening right now benefit from historical context and discussion, they don’t warrant a whole exhibit (at least not yet.) However, one of the things blogging does best is to seize a piece of headline news and tell you what that event means when put in context; or why it represents a sharp break with the past.
  • New Book Notes. We don’t review books on OutHistory, but we do want people to know about them. After publication on the blog, the book will be transported to our Book Shelf section (now under construction), where it can be easily accessed.
  • Interviews and Conversations. These will sometimes be in video and sometimes in print, but they will always be interesting.
  • Historical resources. Short posts on a collection where LGBT material showed up unexpectedly, or that is unusual in some way, are particularly ideal — but if you have an idea, we want to know about it.
  • Great historians writing short pieces just for you. We are putting together our blogging team now, but right now we have tentative commitments from some wonderful writers, as well as me, Tenured Radical, who will be cross-posting as well as posting content exclusive to OutHistory.org.

So what should you do? Send us stuff! Volunteer to be on our staff of rowdy bloggers! We promise:

  • That we will never post work that is not clearly and accessibly written;
  • That we will maintain this blog as a place for respectful commentary. Trolls, sock puppets and other bearers of misery will be banned from our comments section.
  • That we genuinely want contributions from a range of readers. It is best to contact us in advance if you are writing something special to submit to OutHistory.org, but if it is written already, less than 2000 words, and you can’t figure out what to do with it, send it!
  • We will always respond to you.

For now, write us with your ideas at this address, and we’ll see you in October!