facebook twitter

Conclusions

Over the last several years, I have come to the conclusion that my oral history interview transcripts could be a valuable internet-based resource for others interested in LGBT history. I decided to begin with narrators who have died. (This helps explain why the first several interviews that I posted were with men, since more of my male narrators had died when I began posting the interviews.) My intention for the future is to ask permission of living narrators before adding their transcripts to this site. The transcripts posted on this site are edited versions of the originals. There are several reasons for this. There are different schools of thought about how to do oral history transcripts. At one extreme, some oral history practitioners indicate every "um," "oh," sound, and pause in their transcripts. At the other extreme, some produce a heavily edited version of the original. My original transcripts fell somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, indicating each "um," "oh," and "you know," as well as laughter, sounds indicating assent, and repeated words. I learned in doing my original transcripts that most of us, in our spoken language, not only use many "ums" and "you knows" but also routinely repeat words and regularly construct long sentences in which we interrupt ourselves repeatedly and begin new sentences before we have finished the last ones. Some of my narrators were quite disturbed when I showed them my original transcripts, fearing that I would be publishing long excerpts of the unedited transcripts in my book, which was never my intention. Still, I got the strong sense from the conversations that ensued that most of my narrators would prefer that I edit the transcripts to remove "ums," "you knows," and repeated words. I have done so, and I have also occasionally edited the original transcripts for purposes of clarity and comprehension.

As you will see, each transcript is preceded by a short account of how I came to interview the particular individual and a reproduction of the biographical information that I obtained before the taped component of the interview began. I also use these brief introductions to note any other significant information that I think would be useful to readers, including information about when and how the individual died, where further information can be obtained, and whether I think there are reasons to have any concerns about the accuracy of the information conveyed in the interview. I strongly encourage readers of these transcripts to consult with other primary and secondary sources to obtain other perspectives on the stories shared in these interviews. At times, the information and interpretations conveyed are at odds with the information and interpretations presented in other sources (including other interviews, printed sources from the period under discussion, or published work by me or other scholars). All sources of historical information should be read with a critical eye; oral histories are not an exception to this rule. Readers should keep in mind that in each interview transcript they are encountering one person's interpretation at a particular moment in time, one person's memories of events that may have occurred many years earlier, and one person's way of telling a story. Some experts in oral history argue that oral histories tell us more about the period when the interview takes place than they do about the period being discussed. I certainly agree that the intervening years greatly influence how we remember the past. For example, the rise of feminist ways of thinking and speaking in the 1970s may well have influenced the stories my narrators tell about the 1950s and 1960s. For these and other reasons, I have adopted the practice of thinking of my oral history narrators as experts looking back on the past. In my published work I try to signal this understanding through the tenses that I use. For example, in my published work I might say that in our interview Barbara Gittings notes that in the 1950s she went to gay bars dressed as a boy. In any case, these interview transcripts are now available for multiple uses. I ask only that readers use these transcripts with care, consideration, and respect. I remain deeply grateful to my narrators for spending time and sharing their stories with me and I hope you will be appreciative as well.