GRID. Oscar Wilde. Act Up. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Know Your Gay History

photo credit//stonewallnma.org

Pride month is literally around the corner. June brings with it all the parties and parades. If I had a dollar for every Pride float I have danced on…I would probably have $11 dollars or so. Good times! But Pride also brings with it the want and need to celebrate our collective queer history. To remember those that came before us. Their struggles and their fights paved the way for us to live openly and proudly. Those rights many marched for decades for us to have are once again under attack in this country. In a corrupted Supreme Court, the three most recent Judges were appointed by a President who lost the popular vote by 3 million and was impeached twice. So today in 2022 Pride still matters; maybe more than ever. 

I hope this is not news to anyone reading this but the modern-day gay rights liberation movement began on June 28, 1969, when the patrons in the Stonewall Inn fought back in response to a police raid. The raids were commonplace on gay and lesbian bars in the area, Greenwich Village. But have you ever heard of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives?

Related: Documentary brings the voices of Stonewall to life 

An organization dedicated to chronicling the entirety of gay history. I have always loved learning about our history and was more than a little shocked in researching this article having no idea that an archive of gay history existed. The museum and archives are not connected to The Stonewall Inn itself. According to their website, 

“However, we have no direct link to the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969. When we were founded in 1972, the founder Mark Silber used the name “Stonewall” to recognize the fight for LGBTQ liberation that began at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. It was a name with meaning then and it has become nearly synonymous with gay liberation efforts since that time.”

The Stonewall Museum and Archives is one of the largest gay archives in the United States housing over 27,000 titles. The main library is located in Fort Lauderdale. Past exhibitions include Days Without Sunshine – Anita Bryant’s Anti-Gay Crusade, “Oh, Mary!” That’s So Camp! and  The Big Picture: Gay Movie Posters 1953-1978. Currently, there is an exhibition titled simply, Queer History,

“Drawing on Stonewall’s vast archive of over six million pages of materials, including many serials and publications, we look at a time when it was illegal for gay people to congregate together. We see how in the 1950s the first gay civil rights movement developed, and many people found ways to communicate, network, and support each other. We see the impact of the 1960s cultural revolution on LGBTQ rights which led to the Stonewall uprising in 1969.”  

Curated by Hunter O’Hanian the exhibit continues to document queer history from immediately after the Stonewall Riots up to the Supreme Court recognizing the right to marry and prevention of discrimination based on sexual orientation. (If the current Supreme Court has its way we might very well be fighting for this right again.) When I spoke with O’Hanian he explained that the exhibit includes “the publication The Bachelor from 1937. It also talks about early publications like The Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis.” The exhibit is located in the Cotilla Gallery and runs through June 4th.

Also currently on exhibit, and also curated by O’Hanian is Voices From OutWire. In the 1990s the OutWire conferences played a pivotal role in shaping LGBTQ literary culture.

“In this exhibition, we look at excerpts from some of the speeches and presentations from the conferences and pair them with contemporary writers working in similar styles. It demonstrates how contemporary queer literature has been shaped by the prescient and inspiring words of these leaders of LGBTQ literature in the late 20th century.”

Now if you can’t get to Fort Lauderdale in the next few days or weeks to see these exhibits the SNMA brilliantly chronicles decades and decades of important moments in queer history at In Plain Sight. According to curator O’Hanian In Plain Sight is, “the largest web-based gay history site out there.” What he really likes about it is that “everything is treated equally. Both the negative and positive aspects. It truly is factual-driven. We don’t play favorites with anyone.”

In Plain Sight is broken up into ten separate categories including Art, Literature, Memorials & Monuments, and Milestones. Many categories begin in the 1800s giving us the opportunity to learn aspects of queer history that might have not gotten the attention or publicity of other more ‘famous’ dates. 

 

Upcoming exhibitions at SNMA include Early Gay Gatherings and Sean: The Artist. So if you are in the Fort Lauderdale area head to SNMA for a “good queer read.” And if you live further away before you head to a rooftop Pride party or a drag brunch with your posse take a look at In Plain Sight, brush up on your gay history and regale your friends with how knowledgable you are. Make it a game, quiz your friends (in a fun not this was not homework kind of way!) the loser buys around a round of drinks! Happy Almost Pride month Instincters.


{**This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.​}

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