OutHistory.org Announces LGBTQ Local Histories Contest WinnersHistorians in the News
OutHistory.org, the award-winning website on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer U.S. history, announced the winners of its “Since Stonewall Local Histories Contest” on Monday, June 28, exactly 41 years after the start of the rebellion that marks the beginning of the modern movement for LGBTQ rights and liberation.
The contest—the first of its kind—invited people from across the country to create exhibits on OutHistory.org about the history of LGBTQ life in their village, town, city, county, or state since the Stonewall riots, 40 years ago. The contest also offered five cash prizes, from $5,000 to $1,000, to the creators of the top five exhibits. The awards were provided by the Arcus Foundation, which funded OutHistory.org for four years.
OutHistory.org received over thirty exciting exhibits about LGBTQ history. One of the contest’s major goals was to draw attention to LGBTQ history in places that scholars have overlooked. Exhibits include entries about states such as Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Virginia, among others.
The “Since Stonewall” exhibits are all geographically-based, but range dramatically in subject, from one New Yorker’s memoirs, to a history of the Gay Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., an account of a long-lived gay bar in Michigan called The Flame, and a timeline of The Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund in Seattle. All the entries are listed on the site.
Professors and historians of homosexuality John D’Emilio and Leisa Meyer served as judges of the contest.
The First Place Winner
The first place prize was awarded to “Man-i-fest: FTM Mentorship in San Francisco from 1976 – 2009,” created by Meghan Rohrer, the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church, in partnership with San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society.
The exhibit documents Lou Sullivan’s transition from female to male over the course of thirty years, with evidence drawn from Sullivan’s photos and letters, as well as video footage of interviews he did with the mainstream and community press, and medical professionals. D’Emilio and Meyer praised “the exhibit’s attention to the less studied FTM transition,” and noted “the critical role of mentors in these transitions is remarkable.”
The second place winner, “Rainbow Richmond: LGBTQ History of Richmond, VA,” compiled by Cindy Bray, Program Director for the Gay Community Center of Richmond, provides a deeply textured story of the multiple challenges and triumphs that have constituted the queer history of this former capital of the Confederacy.
“Moving from a straightforward timeline of the significant moments and turning points of Richmond’s LGBTQ history,” D’Emilio and Meyer said, “this exhibit offers detailed and evocative coverage of the violence, legal battles, and activism that characterized the four decades since Stonewall and offers browsers the rare opportunity to substantively engage this vital southern LGBTQ community.”
In third place, historian Lindsay Branson’s “Gay Liberation in New York City” provides a remarkable array of sources, from an initial picture of “gay” graffiti to vivid oral history interviews and video footage of historical moments. This entry makes visitors to the site feel like they are part of the vibrant gay liberation movement in New York City during its brief heyday, while working to clarify the complex legacies of Stonewall.
“Las Vegas, Nevada” the fourth place winner documents the creation of LGBTQ communities in Las Vegas over the course of 30 years. It was created by Dennis McBride and Crystal Van Dee of the Nevada State Museum with Paul Ershler of the Lambda Business and Professional Association. “This exhibit makes clear that, while Stonewall is part of a ‘shared’ queer history, we might be better served by looking to institutions like the Reno Gay Rodeo, Le Café in Las Vegas, and the fierce local struggles to maintain these and other institutions to understand the emergence of queer Nevada” D’Emilio and Meyer declared.
In fifth place is the “Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco, California 1971-2004,” created by historian Nathan Purkiss, which documents the first registered LGBT democratic club in the nation. The exhibit draws from theAlice Reports newsletter, interviews with longtime Alice members, and the Gay Vote Newsletters of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club to provide, what D’Emilio and Meyer call, “a fascinating textual and visual journey.”
Honorable mention was given to “The Midwest’s ‘Queer Mecca’: 40 Years of GLBTQ History in Bloomington, Indiana (1969-2009),” and “LGBT Life in Iowa City, Iowa: 1967-2010.”
OutHistory.org’s founder, the pioneering gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz, hopes that the Since Stonewall Contest exhibits will be used by teachers to incorporate local LGBTQ history into high school and college courses. He also hopes that the contest will inspire others to write their local histories on the site, which, like Wikipedia, permits users to create content. As contest contributors can continue to edit their entries on OutHistory.org, and new histories are added by the public, the site’s local LGBTQ history content will continue to grow.
According to D’Emilio and Meyer, “The OutHistory.org website and the ‘Since Stonewall’ contest are critically important in bringing attention to local LGBTQ history, and LGBTQ history more generally. Without recognition of LGBTQ history on local, state, national, and transnational levels our historical narratives will remain forever incomplete.”
OutHistory.org was the co-recipient of the first Allan Bérubé Award from The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History of the American Historical Association.
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