Introduction to the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative Theme Study

By Megan E. Springate
Sally Ride inside of the Space Shuttle Challenger
In orbit high above the Earth, America’s first female astronaut, Sally K. Ride, monitors flight status from the pilot’s chair of the Space Shuttle Challenger, June 1983. It was not until Ride’s death in 2012 that her 27-year long relationship with another woman, Tam O’Shaughnessy, was made public.

Lynn Sherr, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).

Invisibility is a dangerous and painful condition… When those who have power to name and to socially construct reality choose to not see you or hear you.... when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game with mirrors. – Adrienne Rich[1]

The National Park Service (NPS) is committed to telling the stories and histories of all Americans. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Heritage Initiative is part of this commitment. This theme study, a core component of the initiative, is a starting point for telling LGBTQ histories in the NPS, not the end of the process. Included here are a summary history of the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative; a review of LGBTQ places on the NRHP and designated NHLs; the importance of the initiative; the organization of the document; methodological considerations; and a conclusion of important themes and connecting threads. Read more » [PDF 2.4 MB]

[1] Adrienne Rich, “Invisibility in Academe (1984),” in Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979-1985 (New York: WW Norton & Co., 1986), 199.

The views and conclusions contained in the essays are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Part of a series of articles titled LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History.

Last updated: October 10, 2016