LGBTQ Heritage Theme Study

The cover of LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History with rainbow dots on a white background
The cover of the publication LGBTQ America

Designed by Beth Pruitt

Theme Study Contents

LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History is a publication of the National Park Foundation for the National Park Service and funded by the Gill Foundation. Each chapter is written and peer-reviewed by experts in LGBTQ Studies. For more information on the theme study, please read the LGBTQ Theme Study Fact Sheet. To preview all chapters at once, visit the series home page.

The theme study is too large for us to host as a single document. It is available here as individual chapters, or as two documents: Volume 1 [PDF 14.1 MB] and Volume 2 [PDF 15.8 MB].

Front Matter [PDF 1.6 MB]

Introduction: The chapters in the Introduction section give context to the rest of the theme study. This is the context for the contexts, as it were. This section gives background on the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative, defines terms commonly used throughout the theme study, provides information on how the theme study fits in within the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks programs, and provides a broad social history of LGBTQ in America. What you read in this introductory section will resonate throughout the rest of the theme study.

Preserving LGBTQ History: The chapters in this section provide a history of archival and architectural preservation of LGBTQ history in the United States. An archeological context for LGBTQ sites looks forward, providing a new avenue for preservation and interpretation. This LGBTQ history may remain hidden just under the ground surface, even when buildings and structures have been demolished.

Inclusive Stories: Much of the existing scholarship on LGBTQ history in America focuses on white, middle-class, largely male, urban communities. These are important histories, but for structural and cultural reasons, they have become the main story (dominant narrative) that people think about when they think about LGBTQ history. Authors of the theme study were asked specifically to broaden their narrative to include other communities that fall under the LGBTQ umbrella. Inclusion, however, isn’t enough to describe the geographic, economic, legal, and other cultural factors that shaped these diverse histories. In response, we commissioned chapters providing broad historical contexts specifically for two-spirit, transgender, Latino/a, African American, and Asian American communities (as well as those who live in Rural areas, presented in the Places section of the theme study). These chapters, read in concert with the chapter on Intersectionality, serve as examples of how limiting an exclusive master narrative is and how rich a multi-faceted narrative is when considering the full history of the United States.

Themes: The chapters in this section take themes as their starting points. They explore different aspects of LGBTQ history and heritage, tying them to specific places across the country.

Places: Unlike the Themes section of the theme study, this Places section looks at LGBTQ history and heritage at specific locations across the United States. While a broad LGBTQ American history is presented in the Introduction section, these chapters document the regional, and often quite different, histories across the country. In addition to New York City and San Francisco, often considered the epicenters of LGBTQ experience, the queer histories of Chicago, Miami, and Reno are also presented. In addition, a chapter on rural LGBTQ heritage challenges the oft-implied assumption that LGBTQ history is an urban one. Finally, an archaeological context describes ways of accessing and thinking about important LGBTQ history that may remain hidden just under the ground surface, even when buildings and structures have been demolished.

Legacy: People engage with history in many ways, not just through reading books and reports. The chapters in this section are designed as resources for NPS interpreters, museum staff, teachers, professors, parents, and others who do applied history work and who wish to incorporate LGBTQ history and heritage into their programs, lessons, exhibits, and courses.

Appendix A: Places Identified in the Text [PDF 2.3 MB]

Index [PDF 1.7 MB]

Last updated: October 31, 2016

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