Administrative History: LGBTQ Heritage Initiative

Return to Telling All Americans' Stories: LGBTQ Heritage Additional Resources

This administrative history of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative includes information on its establishment, list of partners, a collection of answers to commonly asked questions about the initiative and theme study, and an archive of press about the Initiative.

On May 30, 2014, then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a new theme study
(.pdf | 120kb) to identify places and events associated with the story of LGBTQ Americans for inclusion in the parks and programs of the National Park Service. Secretary made the announcement outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The theme study is part of the broader LGBTQ Heritage Initiative with the following goals:
  • engaging scholars, preservationists, and community members to identify, research, and tell the stories of LGBTQ associated properties;
  • encouraging national partks, national heritage areas, and other affiliated areas to interpret LGBTQ stories associated with them;
  • identifying, documenting, and nominating LGBTQ-associated sites as national historic landmarks;
  • increasing the number of listings of LGBTQ-associated properties in the National Register of Historic Places.
On June 10, 2014, the National Park Service hosted a scholars' roundtable about the LGBTQ Initiative. The roundtable concluded with a public LGBTQ Theme Study Panel discussion (Watch the Video | Read the Transcript).

Partners


Frequently Asked Questions and Background

On May 30, 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stood outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City and announced private funding for a new theme study to identify places and events associated with the story of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans. A few days later, on June 10, 2014, a panel of LGBTQ scholars and community activists met in Washington, DC. Much of the day, the scholars’ panel met to discuss the content and organization of the theme study; in the afternoon, several scholars answered questions at a public forum held at the Department of the Interior. Questions were solicited from the public several days before the forum, and from those present the day of. Not all of the questions could be answered during the limited time we had for the panel, but they are all important and are addressed here.

The intention of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer initiative is to be inclusive. We recognize that LGBTQ identities are very personal, and have also shifted over time (the idea of a homosexual identity, for example, dates from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century). Using terms that are recognizable today, it is not our intention to exclude those who could not, or would not, have used them. For example, many have had the word queer used against them as an insult and accompanying physical violence; yet in the 1990s, queer was reclaimed as a word of power and identity by individuals and groups like Queer Nation who played an important role in our history. As a result of the roundtable meeting in Washington, DC in June of 2014, assembled scholars recommended that the name of the heritage initiative be changed from the LGBT Heritage Initiative to the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative. Recognizing that the word queer is uncomfortable to some, the scholars wanted to acknowledge the importance of groups like Queer Nation and the reclaiming of the word, as well as to have the initiative inclusive of those who, for personal or political reasons, do not feel represented by LGBT.

Question 1: Is there an approximate number of sites the study aims to identify?

Answer: No, there is no set number of sites that the study aims to identify. While it is not part of the theme study to nominate or assess properties for the National Register of Historic Places or the National Historic Landmarks programs, examples of places with LGBTQ history and heritage will be used throughout the study to provide context. Other theme studies have been able to rely on already-listed properties as examples, but there are not enough LGBTQ historic places listed to make this approach useful.

It will not be possible to include all places with American LGBTQ history and heritage in the theme study, but we strive to represent the diversity of communities that fall under that umbrella in ways that will help communities and preservationists evaluate other LGBTQ places. Likewise, the inclusion of places in the theme study does not necessarily mean that they are eligible or will automatically be added to the National Register of Historic Places or as National Historic Landmarks. Evaluation and assessment in the form of a nomination are required first, and nominations are prepared by community members and preservation professionals.


Question 2: Once you identify a place or event of LGBTQ heritage significance, what is the process to officially declare it a National Historic Landmark? Do you predict any disproportionate push-back since the nominees are "LGBTQ" related? If so, is there a plan in place to meet those challenges?

Answer: The National Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior are fully supportive of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative, as are State Historic Preservation Offices across the country. They recognize the important role that people and events associated with LGBTQ history and heritage have played and that those places are important and represent largely untold aspects of American history. The public feedback we have received via our Planning Environment and Public Comment system (PEPC) has been overwhelmingly supportive.
Information about what is involved with nominating properties to the National Register and as National Historic Landmarks (they are slightly different processes) are available online. Both have public comment -- including statements of support -- as integral parts of the process.

PEPC
National Register of Historic Places Program Fundamentals
How Does A Property Become A National Historic Landmark?


Question 3: How will the federal government build sufficient trust within the LGBTQ community so that the full extent of LGBTQ heritage might be acknowledged and celebrated?

Answer: We understand that people may feel apprehensive about the initiative, given the difficult history between government and LGBTQ communities. Work on what has become the LGBTQ Initiative began several years ago, and support has come from members of LGBTQ communities across the country. In June of 2014, a scholar’s roundtable of LGBTQ scholars and community preservation activists met in DC. This meeting and subsequent conversations with community members have directly influenced the structure and content of the theme study. We are committed to listening to community voices throughout the theme study process and beyond via email, the online PEPC comment system, and in person. Some of those LGBTQ and allied voices come from within the NPS, where there is strong support of this Initiative. The prime consultant also identifies as queer.

To help foster engagement, portions of the theme study and other LGBTQ Heritage Initiative products will be released for public comment and use as they become available, and we will be posting progress updates to the website.

PEPC Public Comment
LGBTQ Heritage Initiative (e-mail)


Question 4: What are some of the challenges you face by identifying places that have not been traditionally considered an LGBTQ historical site but now can be considered as one?

Answer: Two of the challenges we face are honoring how people identified themselves in the past and interpretation. The identities of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer are very historically and culturally specific. It would be inappropriate to foist an LGBTQ identity on those who did not identify that way. For example a woman in the early twentieth century would not have identified herself as a lesbian (first used as a noun in 1925), just as someone before the late twentieth century would not have identified using the word transgender (first appearing in 1988). The word homosexual itself was not used until the turn of the twentieth century, introduced and defined by the psychological profession. Some people, regardless of time period, also lived their lives quietly, hidden, or closeted, not identifying publicly as anything other than heterosexual. There may also be inconclusive evidence as to whether individuals were intimate with each other. It is our intent to honor and respect how people identified in their lives.

One way of addressing this, in cases where people have not self-identified, is to talk about the relationships important in their lives. While intimate behavior is often seen as a defining characteristic, many people knew they were (and are) gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer bisexual before, or without ever, having sexual relationships. In addition, there may be no specific documentary evidence of intimate relationships (see Bennett 2000 for a more in-depth discussion). One example of this is Jane Addams, founder of the settlement Hull House in Chicago (designated as a National Historic Landmark on June 23, 1965). Jane and her staff and volunteers did groundbreaking work from the late nineteenth century, helping immigrant and working class communities in the city at a time when there were very few, if any, public social services. Whether Jane identified as a homosexual is debated; what is clear, however, is that her relationships with Ellen Gates Starr and Mary Rozet Smith were primary in her life, and very important to her. There is no evidence of her relationships with men, and she never married (see Brown 2011).

Interpretation of LGBTQ history at historic sites is something that we also hope to address in the theme study. It is important to the telling of the fullness of American history and to recognizing and honoring our diversity that the deafening silence around LGBTQ lives be quieted with our voices and existence. In-depth discussions of presentation and interpretation of LGBTQ history have been published; see for example, Rupp and Freeman 2014 and Ferrentinos 2015.

Bennett, Judith M (2000) “Lesbian-Like” and the Social History of Lesbianisms. Journal of the History of Sexuality 9:1-24.

Brown, Victoria Bissell (2011) Queer or Not: What Jane Addams Teaches Us About Not Knowing. In Out in Chicago: LGBT History at the Crossroads, Jill Austin and Jennifer Brier, editors, pp. 63-76. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, Illinois.

Ferentinos, Susan (2015) Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.

Rupp, Leila J. and Susan K. Freeman (2014) Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin.



Question 5: In looking to memorialize or recognize the LGBTQ past, how do you deal with the relative recent nature of gay or queer as an identity? How do you avoid anachronistic language and concepts?

Answer: See the answer for Question 4, above, regarding challenges of the LGBTQ Initiative.


Question 6: What efforts are being made to ensure that the LGBTQ Initiative fully represents the diversity of LGBTQ history and heritage?

Answer: We are making a conscious effort to represent the wide diversity that is included under the LGBTQ umbrella, including those groups often excluded from LGBTQ history. These include bisexuals, transgender people, people of color, people from various socioeconomic backgrounds, and from areas across America that are not immediately associated with LGBTQ communities. Authors of the theme study have been provided with guidelines that specifically call for the representation of this diversity in all chapters. In addition, the theme study will include chapters providing specific contexts for groups including transgender, indigenous Two-Spirit, Latino/a, Pacific Islander, and African American individuals, and those living in rural areas.

We rely on LGBTQ community members across the country to tell us about the LGBTQ historic places important to them. Our map of locations with LGBTQ history spans the country and includes places associated with Asian Americans, transgender history, transgender people of color, bisexual individuals, African Americans, Latino/as, women, and Two-Spirit people as well as rural places. We welcome additional information about places already included, as well as new locations. They can be submitted via email (lgbthistory@nps.gov) or through the public comment (PEPC) site. We want to know about places that still exist, and which have gone (knowing about the places we have lost helps us evaluate the places that remain).

In addition, we are working to ensure that a diversity of location and events are represented. These include (but are not limited to):

Places of Resistance
Stonewall, New York City, NY: Patrons of the Stonewall Inn, tired of persistent police harassment, resisted during a raid on June 28, 1969. The resistance spilled out onto the street, becoming an uprising of thousands of people that lasted several days. It is considered a landmark moment in the struggle for civil rights.

Compton’s Cafeteria, San Francisco, CA: In August, 1966, tired of persistent police harassment, discrimination, and marginalization, patrons of Compton’s rioted.

Chief Plenty Coups (Alek-Chea-Ahoosh) House, Pryor, MT: In the late 1880s, federal Indian agents tried to force two-spirit people to wear male clothing. While many acquiesced to Bureau of Indian Affairs agents’ insistence that Native American cultures conform to a Western binary gender system, Chief Alek-Chea-Ahoosh instead told BIA agents to leave the reservation.

Places of Loss
Jose Theater, San Francisco, CA: Founding location and first home (from 1987-2001) of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

UpStairs Lounge, New Orleans, LA: On June 24, 1973 an arsonist started a fire at this gay bar, resulting in the deaths of 32 people, including several members of the local Metropolitan Community Church who were visiting the bar after services.

Places of Protest
Julius’ Bar, New York City, NY: On April 21, 1966 members of the Mattachine Society went to Julius’ Bar and staged a Sip-In. Announcing they were gay, they ordered drinks; at the time, it was illegal for bars to serve homosexuals. The Mattachine Society successfully challenged the liquor rule in court, and a new era of licensed and legally operating gay bars began.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco/Oakland, CA: On the morning of January 31, 1989, activists from Stop AIDS Now or Else held a sit-in on the Golden Gate Bridge, blocking rush hour traffic while they handed out flyers insisting that AIDS was of concern to everyone. This was the only sit-in to take place on the bridge; in 1990, Congress passed a law making it a felony.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA: From 1965 to 1969, site of the Annual Reminders, a picketing of Independence Hall by a coalition of homophile groups. They were protesting that not all Americans shared the same rights.

Places of Community
Pride Center of the Capital Region, Albany, NY: Opened in 1970, the Pride Center of the Capital Region is the oldest continuously-operating LGBTQ community center in the country, still at their original location.

31 Street Bookstore, Baltimore, MD: Established in 1973 and closed in 1995, the 31 Street Bookstore served as a focal point for the Baltimore lesbian feminist community, including holding readings and other events and serving as an information clearinghouse.

Gay Neighborhoods across the country: Past and present, these are urban places where LGBTQ people came together to live, work, shop, and play where they could be themselves. These include the Gayborhood of Philadelphia; the Castro in San Francisco; the Village in New York City; the Central West End in St. Louis, MO; Dupont Circle in DC; German Village in Columbus, OH; and Boystown in Chicago.

Places of Leisure
Guerneville, CA: Originally an historic logging town in the Russian River Valley that in the 1970s, became a vacation and weekend destination for LGBTQ San Franciscans.

Bars across the country: Bars and clubs have been important locations of community, leisure, and organizing for LGBTQ Americans. Some of the longest running gay bars include the Double Header in Seattle (opened in 1934); Cafe Lafitte in Exile in New Orleans (opened in 1933); and the White Horse Inn in Oakland, California (from 1933). Phase One in DC, one of the longest-operating women’s bars opened in 1970 and remains in business.

Webster Hall and Annex, New York City, NY: Webster Hall was famous in the 1910s and 1920s as the location of masquerade balls that attracted the city’s bohemian population. Nicknamed the “Devil’s Playhouse,” the early twentieth century gay and lesbian community felt welcome to attend the balls in drag.

Places of Organizing
Fort Shelby Hotel, Detroit, MI: In 1958, this was the location of the founding meeting of the Detroit chapter of the Mattachine Society, the first LGBTQ organization in Michigan.

Furies Collective House, Washington, DC: The Furies Collective of lesbian separatist women lived in and published their influential newspaper, “The Furies,” from this location between 1971 and 1973. Members of the Furies Collective went on to found Olivia Records, Diana Press, and other important organizations.

Glide Memorial Church and Office, San Francisco, CA: Both Vanguard, the first LGBTQ youth organization, and the Council on Religion and the Homosexual were founded here (1965 and 1964, respectively).

Places of Culture
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe, NM: Hastiin Klah, Navajo two spirit or nadleehi, was instrumental in the founding of the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in collaboration with Mary Wheelwright.

Apollo Theater, New York City, NY: The Apollo Theater served as an important showcase for black performers from the 1930s, including many, like Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, and Little Richard, who were LGBTQ.

Sinister Wisdom Headquarters, Charlotte, NC: Sinister Wisdom, the oldest surviving lesbian literary journal, was founded here in 1976.

John Rechy House, El Paso, Texas: Home of gay Mexican-American author, John Rechy whose “City of Night” broke many literary inhibitions about telling gay stories.

Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY: Yaddo was founded by Spencer and Katrina Trask as an artist colony on their estate in Saratoga Springs. LGBTQ artists and writers, including Patricia Highsmith, Langston Hughes, Aaron Copland, and Truman Capote have spent time here as artists in residence.

Places of Science
Dr. Alan L. Hart Home and Practice, Boise, ID: Dr. Alan L. Hart (nee Alberta Lucille Hart) lived and practiced here from 1933 to 1948. He was a specialist in tuberculosis treatment and in 1937 became the state's Tuberculosis Control Officer. He established Idaho's first TB screening clinics and pioneered the use of X-rays in detecting the disease, saving thousands of lives.

Rachel Carson House, Silver Spring, MD: Environmentalist Rachel Carson, known for her book, “Silent Spring,” lived here from 1956 until her death in 1964. Between 1952 and 1964, she had an intimate relationship with a woman during her summers in Maine.

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ: Mathematician, artificial intelligence pioneer, and code-breaker Alan Turing attended Princeton University for his PhD from 1936-1938, after which he returned to England. In the 1950s, Turing (who was gay) was charged with gross indecency, and avoided prison by agreeing to drug treatments (essentially medical castration). He died of cyanide poisoning in 1954.

Places of Tragedy
Matthew Shepard beating site, Laramie, WY: Matthew Shepard, a gay student, was brutally attacked on October 6, 1998 for being gay and died six days later. His beating and death focused worldwide attention on hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals and spurred action towards hate crimes legislation.

Otherside Lounge, Atlanta, GA: The Otherside Lounge was a lesbian bar opened in 1990. On February 21, 1997 a pipe bomb exploded in the bar, injuring five people, and a second bomb was found in the parking lot. The man found guilty of the bombing of the Otherside Lounge was also responsible for bombing the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Rita Hester House, Allston, MA: Rita Hester's murder in her own apartment on November 28, 1998 has never been solved. Her killing inspired the founding of the Transgender Day of Remembrance held annually on November 20 to remember all those who have died of transphobic hate.

Places of Celebration
Banneker Field, Washington, DC: From 1991 to 1999, the annual Black Lesbian and Gay Pride event was held at Banneker Field. Organized in 1991 to raise funds for HIV/AIDS support in the black community, it was the first African American Pride festival in the nation.

Cambridge City Hall, Cambridge, MA: This is the location where, on May 17, 2004, the first marriage application was legally issued to a same-sex couple in the United States.

Map of Places with LGBTQ History
LGBTQ Initiative(e-mail)
PEPC


Question 7: Will the NPS be offering any grant programs to support research and preservation of LGBTQ historic sites?

Answer: At this time, there are no grant programs through the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative to support research and preservation of individual LGBTQ historic sites. In 2014, Congress made $500,000 available to states through the Historic Preservation Fund (managed by the NPS) to expand inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups in the National Register of Historic Places. Two of the successful grants were to Kentucky and New York for LGBTQ projects (NPS 2014; Lavers 2014). It is possible that this grant program will continue into the future.

Funding for LGBTQ preservation is available from other sources, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, state and local governments and historic trusts, and private foundations. In many cases, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places or designated as a National Historic Landmark are required for applying for preservation funds through both state and private organizations. Your Tribal or State Historic Preservation Office or your Certified Local Government may be able to provide assistance.

Historic tax credits for the preservation of historic sites are also available. Information on federal tax incentives is available via the NPS website. Contact your local government and State, Tribal, or Federal Historic Preservation Office for information on state- and local-level tax credit programs that may be available in your area.

Federal Tax Incentives
Historic Preservation Fund
List of SHPOs
List of THPOs
List of FPOs
Certified Local Governments
National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Park Service (NPS) (2014) Secretary Jewell, Director Jarvis Announce $500,000 in Matching Grants to Support Diversity in National Register of Historic Places (.pdf | 145kb). October 2, 2014

Lavers, Michael K. (2014) LGBT Groups Receive National Park Service Grants. Washington Blade October 3, 2014.


Question 8: How can I get involved with the LGBTQ Initiative?

Answer: We are thrilled at how many people want to get involved with the LGBTQ Initiative. Information about the Initiative is available online. We have prepared a list of ways to get involved and support the Initiative that also includes resources and other information. It is available via the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative website. You can also contact us directly at lgbthistory@nps.gov.

LGBTQ Heritage Initiative
Get Involved


Question 9: How can groups and individuals get in touch with the scholars from the June 2014 event and those working on the LGBTQ theme study?

Answer: A list of individuals who were present for the scholars’ roundtable in June 2014 and those writing pieces for the theme study is provided on the LGBTQ Initiative website. People are welcome to contact those responsible for the theme study at the NPS directly at lgbthistory@nps.gov

Writers Authors Scholars


Question 10: How will the theme study be disseminated?

Answer: The theme study and other products of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative will be made available online. Chapters of the theme study will be released as they are completed; we hope you will use them. Once all the chapters of the theme study are finished, they will be made available as a complete volume. You can keep up with what is available via the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative website.

We encourage community members, local history groups, bloggers, app makers, others to share and use the information in the theme study. We would like to hear and see what you’ve done with it; let us know!

LGBTQ Heritage Initiative Website
LGBTQ Heritage Initiative (e-mail)


Question 11: Are any of the scholars involved historians of the Bisexual Rights movement? Do any identify as bisexual?

Answer: The involvement of scholars and community members in the LGBTQ Initiative is an ongoing process. Individuals involved with the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative identify across the LGBTQ spectrum, including bisexual. Regardless of identity, we are committed to not erase bisexuals from our history (bisexual erasure is a process that includes denying someones bisexual identity by identifying them as homosexual when with a same-sex partner or heterosexual when with an opposite-sex partner). This includes discussion of the Bisexual Rights movement in the theme study and representation of properties associated with bisexual history and heritage and with people who self-identified as bisexual and those who had relationships with both men and women (but who may not have identified as bisexual). Several locations already on the map are associated with bisexual history and heritage; they include the following:

Bisexual Resource Center, Boston, MA: Originally known as the East Coast Bisexual Network when founded in 1985, the Bisexual Resource Center advocates nationally for bisexual visibility and support.

Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY: Attendees at the 1972 Friends General Conference annual meeting at Ithaca College issued the Ithaca Statement on Bisexuality, the first public declaration in support of bisexuality.

Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Bloomington, IN: Based on thousands of interviews going back to 1938, Dr. Alfred Kinsey cataloged the wide variety of human sexual expression in the United States. His research showed that sexuality fell on a continuum, ranging from strictly heterosexual at one extreme to exclusively homosexual at the other extreme, with a range of bisexuality in-between. He and his researchers also recognized asexuality as a sexual expression.

Lammas Crafts and Books, Washington, DC: The place where Loraine Hutchins did much of her research for the important bisexual manifesto, “Bi Any Other Name.”

Mission High School, San Francisco, CA: The First National Bisexual Conference was held at this location in 1990.

Hattie McDaniels House, Los Angeles, CA: The home of Oscar-winning African American actress, Hattie McDaniel, a discreet bisexual woman who counted Broadway and film star Tallulah Bankhead among her lovers. In addition to being the first black actor to win an Oscar (for her portrayal as Mammy in Gone with the Wind), McDaniels successfully organized resistance to a whites-only policy in her neighborhood. In 1945, a judge ruled that blacks could not be excluded from the Sugar Hill neighborhood.

More research by community members interested in writing nominations for the LGBTQ Initiative will determine if any of these places are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or as National Historic Landmarks.

Map of places with LGBTQ History


Question 12: Some sites historically important to the LGBTQ community are already owned and managed by the Federal government. Will an interpretation plan be included in the LGBTQ Initiative?

Answer: The theme study will include a chapter on interpreting LGBTQ historic sites and one on teaching LGBTQ history and heritage. In addition, we have provided technical assistance to staff at a number of National Park Service units about incorporating LGBTQ history and heritage into their site interpretation.


Question 13: Will already designated National Historic Landmarks and places on the National Register of Historic Places be given recognition as sites for LGBTQ history, in addition to establishing new places in these programs?

Answer: One of the goals of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative is to encourage amendments to nominations to reflect important LGBTQ history and heritage at places already listed on the National Register and as National Historic Landmarks. At least one nomination amendment for a National Register property has been written and is currently being evaluated. We have also been contacted by community members interested in writing nomination amendments. Assistance is available online, and through your local State Historic Preservation Office/Tribal Historic Preservation Office/Federal Preservation Office (if on federal land) or regional National Historic Landmark Office.

How to write an amendment
List of SHPOs
List of THPOs
List of FPOs
Regional and National NHL Contacts


Question 14: Are there any federally owned sites that might be considered for National Monument designation?

Answer: There are already a handful of sites with LGBTQ history that are National Monuments and National Memorials. The official recognition of this history varies; we hope that the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative will encourage recognition and interpretation of our heritage at these and other locations. It is possible that other locations suitable for National Monument or National Memorial designation are identified by the theme study and/or community members.

Two of these locations, Fort Caroline National Memorial and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, are associated with Native American two-spirit people. Native American two spirits were male, female, and perhaps intersexed individuals who combined behaviors of both men and women with traits and social roles unique to their status in what amounted to third and fourth gender roles. Referred to as berdaches in the anthropological and historical literature, contemporary Native Americans prefer the term two-spirits.

Fort Caroline National Memorial, FL: Fort Caroline memorializes the short-lived French presence in 16th century Florida, including aspects of exploration, survival, religious disputes, territorial battles, and first contact between American Indians and Europeans. In 1564, Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere and Jacques Le Moyne established Fort Caroline on the banks of the St. John River. They described at least two encounters with two-spirit Timuca Indians, who lived in the area. In one case, a two-spirit Timuca provided water to a group of suffering Europeans as they traveled across the land; in the second case, a two-spirit Timuca served as an emissary from the Timuca leader.

Governors Island, NY: From 1794 to 1966, the US Army called Governors Island home. Included in the site’s online interpretation is the story of Henry Gerber’s time stationed there in World War II. While there, Gerber was subjected to beatings, blackmail, and other harassment because he was gay. He spent weeks held in the guardhouse, even though no evidence of illegal behavior was found. Gerber was honorably discharged in 1942. He is best known for founding the Society for Human Rights in Chicago in 1924.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, MT: This place memorializes the US Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indians’ last armed efforts to preserve their way of life. In June of 1876, 263 soldiers, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer, died fighting several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. A ledger drawing done after the battle shows Cheyenne two-spirit people (he’emane’o) leading the Cheyenne victory dance.

Muir Woods National Monument, CA: Home to spectacular old-growth redwood forests, Muir Woods is also home to Druid Heights, an artists’ retreat co-founded circa 1954 by Elsa Gidlow. She was the author in 1923 of “On a Grey Thread,” believed to be the first book of openly lesbian poetry published in the United States. Gidlow also wrote several other books, including her autobiography (1986) that openly represented lesbian lives and experiences. She lived at Druid Heights until her death in 1986.

National AIDS Memorial Grove, CA: Located within Golden Gate Park, the AIDS Memorial Grove was opened in September of 1991. It was designated a National Memorial by act of Congress in November 1996, becoming an affiliated area of the NPS. From the official website, “Most memorials are built after the struggle is over. This battle rages on and we cannot wait, lest any one of our loved ones lost to AIDS be forgotten.”


Question 15: Are there any plans (or interest in) adding an international perspective to the National Park Service (NPS) LGBTQ Initiative and, if so, how might that be achieved?

Answer: At the heart of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative are the National Historic Landmark and National Register of Historic Places programs, which focus on significant historic places and properties here in the United States and its territories. Although we recognize that international LGBTQ histories are also important in our increasingly globalized world, because of the nature of the Initiative, the broadening of it to include international locations is beyond our scope.


Question 16: While honoring past LGBTQ contributors to our National Parks’ founding and development, how can the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the NPS work in the future to increase diversity and recognition of influential LGBTQ researchers and preservationists?

Answer: The NPS is committed to increasingly representing the diversity of America in its workforce. The park service also hosts the Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program, giving diverse undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to experience working in cultural resources/historic preservation at the NPS. In the context of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative, the theme study will include a section recognizing LGBTQ preservation and preservationists.

NPS Workforce Diversity
Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program


Question 17: Beyond telling a national story, do cultural sites within the NPS contribute to the physical, mental and social health of minorities?

Answer: Yes. Studies show that when positive portrayal of populations (including LGBTQ, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos) are excluded from popular narratives (like cultural sites, television shows, museum exhibits, and textbooks), members of those groups suffer lower self-esteem (see, for example, Gomillion and Guiliano 2011; Gross 2001; McKee 2000). Seeing oneself as part of the story, as part of history, is important to feeling part of a society. In addition, inclusion of minorities in popular narratives helps increase awareness and acceptance of diversity in broader society.

Gross, Larry P. (2001) Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America. Columbia University Press, New York City, New York.

Gomillion, Sarah C. and Traci A Giuliano (2011) The Influence of Media Role Models on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity. Journal of Homosexuality 58:330-354.

McKee, Alan (2000) Images of Gay Men in the Media and the Development of Self Esteem. Australian Journal of Communication 27(2):81-98.



Question 18: What locations are you considering? How will the importance of Title IX be recognized as a vehicle for empowering women?

Answer: As part of the LGBTQ Initiative, we have been mapping places of LGBTQ history and heritage submitted to us by the public. You can see these places at the Places with LGBTQ Heritage page. Places on the map are not necessarily eligible for inclusion on the National Register or as National Historic Landmarks; they require research and evaluation according to certain criteria, and the preparation of a nomination form. We rely on the public to nominate properties, either written by themselves or by hiring professionals familiar with the process. Obtaining the consent of the owner of the property being considered for nomination is an important first step to the process; without their permission, locations will not be considered. More information and assistance on preparing nominations is available online and from your local State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), or Federal Preservation Officer (FPO; if on federal land).

Title IX is part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It states, in part, that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” It has played an important role in empowering girls and women --including those identifying as lesbian, queer, or bisexual -- in education, sports, and many other areas. Only recently has Title IX been interpreted to provide protection against some instances of anti-LGBTQ bullying (Scariano et al. 2012) and to provide protection to transgender individuals (GLSEN 2014).

National Register Fundamentals
List of SHPOs
List of THPOs
List of FPOs

Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) (2014) “U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance Clarifying Title IX Protrections for Transgender Students” Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, April 29, 2014

Scariano, Anthony, Christopher Clark, Abbe Fletman, James A. Reeder, Jr., and Monica Llorente (2012) Title IX Liability for Anti-Gay Bullying: An Overview. Presented at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting, August 2012



Question 19: Are there any sites, landmarks, etc under this LGBTQ theme that can be expected in Massachusetts?

Answer: Like other parts of the country, Massachusetts has a rich LGBTQ history. Properties already listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NR) or as National Historic Landmarks (NHL) with LGBTQ heritage (though not mentioned in the nomination) include the following; these may be good candidates for nomination amendments:

Cambridge City Hall (an NHL): This is the place where the first marriage license was legally issued to a same-sex couple in the United States.

Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House (an NHL): Home designed and built by Henry Davis Sleeper, a gay man who was an antiquarian, collector, and one of America’s first interior designers.

Provincetown Historic District (on the NR): A gay presence in the resort town of Provincetown dates from the beginning of the twentieth century, when an artists’ colony developed here.

Dune Shacks within the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District (on the NR): The dune shacks were built in the early 19th century as survival huts for shipwrecked sailors. In the 1960s, a shack culture developed, attracting well-known artists, writers, and poets, many of whom were gay.

Community members and allies have provided us with information about places with LGBTQ history and heritage. These places, some of which may be eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places or as National Historic Landmarks, can be explored via an online map. This map is regularly updated as we find out about more LGBTQ places; you can submit information via the web or email.

LGBTQ Heritage Initiative
Map of places with LGBTQ History
Tell us about your community’s LGBTQ historic places
LGBTQ Heritage Initiative (e-mail)


Question 20: Have you considered the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places or a National Historic Landmark? It's the site of what's considered the single largest gay mass murder in U.S. history.

Answer: While the National Park Service oversees both the National Register of Historic Places and the National Historic Landmarks programs, it does not nominate places for inclusion. Nominations are instead prepared by community members or preservation professionals. The NPS and local State, Federal and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices are available to provide technical support and assistance to people writing nominations at any stage of the process -- from initial inquiry to final review. We are in communication with a community researcher who is interested in preparing a nomination for the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, as well as researchers interested in preparing nominations for other LGBTQ historic places.

List of SHPOs
List of THPOs
List of FPOs
NPS contacts for NHL nominations


Question 21: Would you consider putting the “gay corner” at Historic Congressional Cemetery in southeast DC on the landmarks list? It contains the grave site of Leonard Matlovich, the first openly gay service member of US military and other gay rights activists.

Answer: The Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, owned by Christ Church, Washington Parish and administered by the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, is already a National Historic Landmark. In addition to Leonard Matlovich, several gay rights activists including Barbara Gittings and Dr. Franklin Kameny are buried in the “gay corner.” Congressional Cemetery may be the first cemetery in the world with an LGBTQ section.

This is an example of a place where an amendment to add the important LGBTQ history of a place to an existing nomination may be appropriate. A monument to LGBTQ veterans is planned (Chibbaro 2014).

Congressional Cemetery LGBTQ Community Walking Tour (opens a .pdf)
Chibbaro Jr., Lou (2014) Design Announced for LGBT Veterans Memorial in DC. The Washington Blade August 13, 2014.


Question 22: The Department of the Interior is about to begin the rehabilitation of the last wing of the DOI building. Given that these architectural changes are likely to endure for decades, will there be unisex restrooms to provide equal accommodation for all employees and visitors?

Answer: While this is outside the scope of the LGBTQ Initiative, we have forwarded this question on to those working on the rehabilitation of the DOI building.


Question 23: How is the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative Funded?

Answer: The LGBTQ Heritage Initiative is being privately funded with donations made via the National Park Foundation (NPF), including a large donation by the Gill Foundation. The NPF is the official charity of America’s national parks. The National Park Foundation has an agreement with the National Park Service to produce the theme study and other products associated with the Heritage Initiative. You can help support the LGBTQ Initiative by donating via the National Park Foundation, and earmarking your donation for the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative.

National Park Foundation


The LGBTQ Heritage Initiative In the News

February 7, 2016. PODCAST: Nevada’s LGBT Archives. By Bob Conrad. This is Reno.

January 26, 2016. Kentucky LGBT Heritage Initiative Looking for Stories and Artifacts Before 1980. By Sara Havens, Insider Louisville.

January 20, 2016. Honoring Home of DC’s Furies. By Lou Chibbaro, Jr., The Washington Blade.

October 28, 2015. VA Department of Historic Resources Cataloging LGBTQ Historic Places. By Amydavid, GayVA.

September 26, 2015. LGBTQ Activists Find Their Park at Women’s Rights. Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

September 20, 2015. Campaign Seeks National Park to Honor Stonewall Riots. By Chris Johnson, The Washington Blade.

July 16, 2015. An Inclusive America Should Mean Inclusive National Parks. By Nidhi Thakar, Roll Call: Beltway Insiders.

July 15, 2015. My Old House. By Shirley Baugher [owner of the Henry Gerber House], Chicago Now.

July 10, 2015. LGBTs and the National Parks. By Alex Panisch, The Advocate.

June 26, 2015. Gay Rights Weren’t Born Just Yesterday. By Deborah Woodell, Philadelphia Daily News..

June 26, 2015. The LGBT Historic World, Mapped. By Sarah Prager, Huffington Post

June 24, 2015. CAP Analysis Finds that Presidents Have a Stronger Record than Congress in Creating National Parks and Monuments that Reflect America’s Diversity. By Tom Caiazza, Center for American Progress

June 23, 2015. After Hearing and Quick Vote, Stonewall Now Has City Landmark Status, Protection. By Andy Humm, Gay City News

June 21, 2015.Henry Gerber House Named as a National Historic Landmark. By Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune

June 21, 2015. Gay Pride 2015: Stonewall Inn, Historic LGBT Site, Awaits Landmark Protection in Pro-Development NYC. By Christopher Zara, International Business Times

June 20, 2015. Chicago’s Henry Gerber House Designated a National Historic Landmark. San Diego LGBT Weekly

June 19, 2015. Activists Work to Give Official Designation to Historic LGBT Sites. By Erin Clarke, Time Warner Cable News NY1

June 19, 2015. Chicago’s Henry Gerber House Designated National Historic Landmark. Windy City Times

June 18, 2015. No Geysers or Smokey the Bear, but Stonewall Could be a Park. By Lincoln Anderson, The Villager

June 16, 2015. Sites of Resistance: Mapping LGBTQ History with New York City Preservationist. By Allison Miller, AHA Today: A Blog of the American Historical Association

June 12, 2015. Bet You Didn’t Know Our National Parks Are Gay! By Ed Salvato, Man About World

May 26, 2015. How a Preservation Grant Will Retell Kentucky’s LGBT History. By Jacob Ryan, WKMS

May 21, 2015. CA LGBT History Project Launches. By Matthew S. Bajko, The Bay Area Reporter

May 14, 2015. Find Your Park. By Steve Lee. LGBT Weekly

April 23, 2015. Online Extra: Political Notes: All but two US states included on LGBT historic sites map. By Matthew S. Bajko, The Bay Area Reporter

April 22, 2015. Meet the Gay Ranger Who Is Helping Make the National Park Service a Little More Queer. By Alex Panisch, Out

April 14, 2015. Harvey Milk’s Former Castro Camera Store Could Land on National Registry of Historic Places. By Tamara Palmer, NBC Bay Area

April 14, 2015. NCLR’s Kate Kendell Honors Gay Pioneer Barbara Gittings. By Winnie McCroy, Edge Media Network

April 4, 2015. National parks encourage LGBTs to come out and visit. By Matthew S. Bajko, The Bay Area Reporter

April 1, 2015. Mary Lambert Backs National Park Service #FindYourPark Campaign with New Slam Poem. Curve

February 28, 2015. Chicago’s Henry Gerber House On Its Way to Becoming Historic Landmark. By Dennis Hinzmann, Out

February 17, 2015. Henry Gerber, the Gay Rights Pioneer You Probably Never Heard Of. By Tammye Nash, Dallas Voice

February 13, 2015. Historic Home of Gay Rights Pioneer Inches Closer to National Historic Landmark Status. By Patrick Sisson, Curbed Chicago

February 9, 2015. Gerber House to be Considered for National Landmark Status. By Matt Simonette, Windy City Times

December 2, 2014. National Park Service wants History to Include Gay Rights History. By Justin McDuffie, Cronkite News Online

November 6, 2014. Philadelphia to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Landmark Gay Protests. By Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade

October 8, 2014. LGBT Groups Receive National Park Service Grants. Washington Blade

September 1, 2014. LGBT Historic Sites Garner Park Service’s Attention. By Matthew S. Bajko, Bay Area Reporter

Summer 2014. Untold Stories. By Rona Marech, National Conservation Association

June 19, 2014. Op-Ed: What a Busload of Mormon Boy Scouts Says About LGBT History. By Eliza Byard, The Advocate

June 11, 2014. Gov’t Considers LGBT Historic Sites for Designation. By Chris Johnson, Washington Blade

June 2, 2014. National Park Service’s LGBT History Initiative Has Special Significance, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Notes. By Karen Matthews, Huffington Post

May 30, 2014. National Park Service Launches Initiative to Identify LGBT Historic Sites. By Zack Ford, ThinkProgress

May 29, 2014. With New Initiative, National Park Service will put LGBT Sites on the National Map. By Soraya Nadia McDonald, Washington Post


Return to Telling All Americans' Stories: LGBTQ Heritage Additional Resources

Last updated: February 9, 2017