Pride month is a perfect time to reflect on the people and events that helped us get where we are today. For many LGBTQ+ people, they never got to see their bravery and sacrifice blossom into the joyful celebrations we now have around the world. This June, you can honor their legacies and learn more about the community’s past with these six very different explorations into LGBTQ+ history.
You don’t even need to leave your house to get an excellent LGBTQ+ history lesson with the Making Gay History podcast, hosted by journalist Eric Marcus. Marcus is known for his nonfiction books including Breaking the Surface, the autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis and “Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945–1990.” The podcast is already on its tenth season and includes in-depth episodes on LGBTQ+ pioneers like Vito Russo, Bayard Rustin, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen.
Located in San Francisco’s Castro District, the GLBT Historical Society welcomes visitors to take a walk through some of the country’s most comprehensive LGBTQ+ historical exhibits. The GLBT Historical Society was the first stand-alone museum in the U.S. to focus on queer and trans history. In addition to exhibitions like “Queer Past Becomes Present” and “The Original Rainbow Flag,” the society offers online exhibits and an extensive archive that can be visited by appointment.
This famous collection of lesbian and queer women’s historical artifacts once made its home in activist Joan Nestle’s New York City apartment. In 1992, the now massive collection was moved to its current location in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The archives include videos from Dyke TV, t-shirts, buttons, letters, poems, photographs and much more. You can visit the archives by making an appointment.
Founded in 1991 by well-known Chicago entrepreneurs and publishers, Chuck Renslow and Tony DeBlase, this community archive features a “library and museum of Leather, kink, fetish, and BDSM history and culture.” Rotating exhibitions showcase artists, photographers and writers, with the newest being Mike Ruiz’ “Leather” photography exhibit. You might recognize Ruiz’ name from his work on RuPaul’s Drag Race and America’s Next Top Model. Archives are accessible online, but you must be at least 18 to view.
by Sarah Schulman
Sarah Schulman is an award-winning novelist, playwright, nonfiction writer and activist. Her latest book takes a look at the organization, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) from the early days of the HIV and AIDS crisis to the mid-90s. The book even picked up the 2022 Lambda Literary LGBTQ Nonfiction Award. Based on interviews with over 200 members of ACT UP, Schulman delves into the bold and ingenious ways the organization protested and how it shaped activism for decades to come.
Not all LGBTQ+ history is made in big coastal cities. There’s history to explore everywhere! Project Director Brice Smith and his team created the LGBT milWALKee app with includes dozens of spots all over Milwaukee with significance to the LGBTQ+ community like Sugar Shack and the uprising at the Black Nite Bar. Each spot, which are designated by wedges of cheese (it is Wisconsin after all), is clickable on an interactive map and leads to a video narrated by Aimee Gironimi. Even if you can’t make it out to Milwaukee, you can take this virtual tour from anywhere. LGBT milWALKee is available on the Mac App Store.