Article Series

Series: Finding Our Place: LGBTQ Heritage in the United States

In many ways, the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans have been obscured and erased. The threat of physical harm and persecution led many to live a closeted lifestyle. Historical references to LGBTQ contributions to American heritage are rare and in many examples, the prejudiced attitudes of the author are obvious. In recent years, scholars have focused on uncovering the history of LGBTQ communities and expanding our understanding of American history.

  • Chapter 1: LGBTQ Finding Our Place: Introduction

    White House bathed in rainbow lights. Photo by US Department of State.

    In many ways, the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans have been obscured and erased throughout history. In recent decades, scholarly work and grass roots efforts have focused on uncovering the hidden history of LGBTQ communities, and expanding our understanding of American history. Read more

  • Chapter 2: Expressions as Diverse as the Landscape: The Selling Building, Portland, OR

    Selling Building exterior, by Another Believer. CC BY SA 3.0

    Located at 610 SW Alder Street, the Selling Building was built in 1910 and was added to the National Register in 1991 for its historic and architectural significance. Early tenants of the building were physicians and dentists including psychologist J. Allen Gilbert who, in 1917, treated Dr. Alan Hart (nee Alberta Lucille Hart) for sexual inversion. Despite categorizing Hart's condition as pathological and abnormal, Dr. Gilbert eventually supported Hart's transition. Read more

  • Chapter 3: Expressions as Diverse as the Landscape: Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, IN

    Kinsey Institute staff. Photo from the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

    Indiana University zoologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey conducted pioneering research to challenge ideas of normativity and discriminatory laws regarding sexual behavior. Kinsey collected as broad and complete a sample of individual American sexual histories as possible through a rigorous interviewing process. The resulting research is arguably the most comprehensive, detailed, and sophisticated sex study ever conducted. Read more

  • Chapter 4: Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods

    Chicago Pride 2015; people holding rainbow sign,

    Like other minority groups, LGBTQ Americans have created communities, with professional and social networks, which allow more open queer expression and foster support of one another. Read more

  • Chapter 5: Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods: Fire Island, NY

    Western Fire Island Landscape by Jeff Pearce CC BY 2.0

    In the 1930s, Cherry Grove on New York's Fire Island became a popular place for LGBTQ New Yorkers to spend their summer vacations. Read more

  • Chapter 6: Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods: The Furies Collective, DC

    Exterior of the Furies House in Washington, DC. Photo copyright by Patsy Lynch.

    In the early 1970s, The Furies Collective began operating from a two- story row house in the Capitol Hill area of Washington, DC. Twelve lesbian feminists lived together in the house, sharing domestic work, and publishing Motive magazine and The Furies, wherein they explored the role of lesbians in society. Read more

  • Chapter 7: Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods: Pier 45, NY

    Christopher Street Pier from the Hudson River. Photo by Joe Mabel CC BY SA 2.0

    Since the 1970s, the Christopher Street Pier (Pier 45) has been a popular meeting place for drag queens, as well as gay and transgender people. The pier has been a popular social spot for decades, particularly for communities of color, despite pressure from residents and local authorities. Read more

  • Chapter 8: Collectives, Enclaves, and Gayborhoods: The Castro, CA

    Rainbow flags fly in the Castro district. Photo by Kenny Louie CC BY 2.0

    San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is known as the oldest LGBTQ enclave in the country. It began to take shape at the end of World War II when United States detention policies had displaced thousands of Japanese Americans, families were flocking to live in suburban developments, and San Francisco's urban neighborhoods were particularly affordable. Read more

  • Chapter 9: LGBTQ Artists Working in Private and in the Spotlight: Yaddo, NY

    The pergola at Yaddo. Photo by Detroit Publishing, collections of Library of Congress

    Opened in 1926 and still operating today, Yaddo is an artist's colony offering residency and creative space to working artists. Founders Spencer and Katrina Trask envisioned a haven where artists could escape the pace and pressure of capitalism and increased industrialization. Read more

  • Chapter 10: LGBTQ Artists Working in Private and in the Spotlight: Apollo Theater, NY

    Apollo Theater at night with lit marquee. Photo by Brooklyn4038 CC BY SA 4.0

    The Apollo Theater in New York is an icon of the American jazz explosion and the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century, a cultural movement, which greatly influenced American arts and literature and has significant ties to various LGBTQ communities. The Apollo became one of the most influential centers of black culture, showcasing some of the country's most popular artists and introducing new talent to the world through their infamous amateur nights. Read more

  • Chapter 11: Gender and Sexuality in Native America: Many People, Many Meanings

    Overview of Acoma Pueblo by M James Slack 1934. HABS photo

    Research indicates well over 100 instances of diverse gender expression in Native American tribes at the time of early European contact. The cultural legacy of these people was nearly erased by religious indoctrination and the imposition of laws criminalizing varied sexuality and gender expression. This erasure makes discovering and discussing such a diverse heritage difficult; in many cases, the only remaining record is that of the colonizer. Read more

  • Chapter 12: Gender and Sexuality in Native America: Pueblo of Acoma, NM

    Acoma Pueblo HABS photo

    In what is now the mesa-top Pueblo of Acoma, men with effeminate physical attributes or personal tendencies were known by many names including mujerado, qo-qoy-mo, and kokwina. They dressed and lived as women, had relationships with men, and fulfilled women's roles in the community. Much like today's queer culture, mujerados of Acoma appear to have experienced varied levels of cultural acceptance. Read more

  • Chapter 13: Gender and Sexuality in Native America: Kealakekua Bay District, HI

    The place where Captain Cook died by Stanislaus Darondeau, 1836. From the Honolulu Museum of Art

    On their many voyages to the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook and his crew became familiar with the aikane, a select group of men who had sexual relations with the king and other ali'i, or royals. Several journal entries from their extended stays at Kealakekua Bay describe the openness of these relationships. Read more

  • Chapter 14: Gender and Sexuality in Native America: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, CA

    Photo of Alcatraz Island, early 20th century, from the collections of the Library of Congress

    West-central California has been home to Native populations for many thousands of years. Two of these, the Miwok and the Ohlone were the primary inhabitants of San Francisco Bay's northern and southern peninsulas. Research indicates that both of these tribes recognized gender identities beyond they typical Western conception of male/female. Read more

  • Chapter 15: LGBTQ Activism

    rainbow flag

    Over the years, queer activism has taken many shapes. Private organizations have formed to support community members and take up political causes; artists, writers, and speakers disseminate their ideas on civil justice through every medium imaginable. On some occasions, like the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn, oppressive, discriminatory circumstances ferment to a bursting point and acts of unintentional activism become the catalyst for a broader movement for civil rights. Read more

  • Chapter 16: LGBTQ Activism: The Henry Gerber House, Chicago, IL

    Exterior of the Henry Gerber House, Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Thshriver CC BY SA 3.0

    In 1924 Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights, the first gay rights organization in the United States. While he was in the Army, Gerber was stationed in Coblenz, Germany. While there, he experienced a more open homosexual community than in America. After his return to the U.S. in 1923, Gerber distanced himself from what he saw as a disorganized, politically unaware gay subculture, choosing instead to live in relative anonymity in a boarding house in Chicago, Ill. Read more

  • Chapter 17: LGBTQ Activism: The Dr. Franklin Kameny Residence, DC

    Dr. Frank Kameny House (exterior), DC. Photo by Farragutful, CC BY SA 3.0

    Working from his home in Northwest Washington, DC, Dr. Frank Kameny applied the ideas of the burgeoning civil rights movement to challenge and change negative perceptions of homosexuality and to fight discriminatory public policy. Read more

  • Stonewall National Monument

    Chapter 18: LGBTQ Activism: The Stonewall Inn, New York City, NY

    Stonewall Inn, New York. Photo by Daniel Case CC BY SA 3.0

    Probably the most well-known event in the struggle for LGBTQ rights, the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City brought the issue of queer rights into the spotlight. It helped to build solidarity among queer groups that were ready to take a stand against police harassment and violence. Read more

  • Chapter 19: LGBTQ Memorials

    AIDS Memorial Grove entrance by Luis Villa del Campo, CC BY 2.0

    Throughout history, humans have created memorials as a way to celebrate, remember, and perpetuate our most valued stories. They come in all conceivable shapes, sizes, and materials, including buildings, bridges, statues, tattoos, performances, and charitable foundations, just to name a few. This small selection of memorials celebrate the lives and actions of queer Americans and their allies while bringing awareness to issues that threaten queer communities. Read more

  • Chapter 20: LGBTQ Memorials: The Names Project and the AIDS Quilt

    AIDS Quilt fills the National Mall. Photo by National Institutes of Health.

    With over 48,000 panels, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is a visual and tactile tribute to the lives lost to HIV and AIDS, illnesses which have disproportionately affected gay communities for many reasons, including inadequate education of a closeted community, stigmatization, and inadequate treatment. Read more

  • Chapter 21: LGBTQ Memorials: National AIDS Memorial Grove, San Francisco, CA

    Flowers at the AIDS Memorial Grove. Photo by Saopaulo1, CC BY SA 3.0

    The National AIDS Memorial Grove began as a community effort to recognize the devastating loss of life from the AIDS epidemic, and an effort to create space for remembrance and grieving. Read more

  • Chapter 22: LGBTQ Memorials: Matthew Shepard Memorial, Laramie, WY

    Arts and Science Building, U of Wyoming. Photo by Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress

    On the University of Wyoming campus, a memorial bench honors one individual, Matthew Shepard who was targeted and killed for being gay. Read more

  • Chapter 23: LGBTQ Memorials: UpStairs Lounge Arson Attack, New Orleans, LA

    Upstairs Lounge Fire headlines, Times Picayune, June25, 1973

    On June 24, 1973, thirty-two people were killed when a meeting of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) members and friends was attacked by arson in this New Orleans lounge. In the aftermath of the horrific event, survivors and church members suffered rejection and homophobic ridicule from police, community members, and neighboring churches. Read more

  • President's Park (White House)

    Chapter 24: LGBTQ Memorials: Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain, DC

    Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain from the collections of DC Public Library

    In 1913, a memorial fountain was dedicated at President's Park in memory of two United States officials who drowned on the RMS Titanic. Francis Millet, who served on the Commission of Fine Arts and took part in the design of the National Mall, and Archibald Butt, a Major in the U.S. Army and a presidential military aide, were popular, well-respected men. Read more

  • Chapter 25: LGBTQ Finding Our Place: Epilogue

    Mr and Miss Academy wave to the crowd. Photo by Tim Evanson CC BY SA 3.0

    LGBTQ heritage stories come from every region and every walk of life. There are shared experiences and there are vast differences, based on many factors including religion, ethnic background, and socio-economics. Issues of safety and acceptance can become further complicated when you are part of an ethnic minority and, like the early days of organizing and activism, shared experiences are still bringing people together. Read more

  • Chapter 26: LGBTQ Finding Our Place: Information and Bibliography

    This series comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education. Read more