Kentucky LGBTQ Historic Context Narrative

Outline map of Kentucky with rainbow overlain
LGBT flag map of Kentucky.

By Fry1989. CC-BY-SA-3.0.

The Kentucky lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) heritage context provides a broad historical overview of LGBTQ people and history in Kentucky and offers guidance in identifying historic sites and sources.

The report includes discussion about the role of race, religion, rurality/regionalism, and privacy in studying LGBTQ history. It provides a slice of Kentucky's rich LGBTQ history, looking at several specific people, places, and events as part of the larger story. It spans the years from the pre-contact era through colonization and into the late twentieth century, focusing on the years after World War II.

Until the mid-twentieth century, LGBTQ life in Kentucky was heavily closeted, and some aspects of its past still are cloaked in mystery. The newness of Kentucky’s queer history as a field of study requires a fresh and critical reading of official documents such as government reports, newspaper coverage of scandals, letters, diaries, and medical case histories—relatively few of which were available locally to this research team. We can assume from scientific studies of sexuality that queer Kentuckians have lived here (as elsewhere) as long as any people have. Yet this narrative offers more detail and flavor on the World War Two and postwar era because developments associated with wartime migration and socialization became the basis for a central element of LGBTQ history—that is, LGBTQ people’s formations of distinct communities among themselves and their corresponding forging of a social movement for full equality. That movement became visible, in the view of many historians, in June 1969 with the uprisings at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, and is still in progress.

Tracking the places associated with all of these developments demands a certain reorientation to the meaning of historic places—a celebration of what was once either denigrated or seen as devoid of meaning, if you will. For much of their history, LGBTQ people in Kentucky and beyond it were castigated, not free to express themselves authentically, and in fact were typically encouraged to conceal, suppress, or alter their true selves.

The Kentucky lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer historic context was funded in part by an Underrepresented Communities Grant via the State, Tribal and Local Plans and Grants Division of the National Park Service.
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    Tags: kentucky lgbtq

    Last updated: November 15, 2023