Phase One Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site.

Phase One Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site.

Anya Forsberg

Queer America

Final Research Paper

5-10-2017

 

Phase One, a Lesbian Bar that Merits More

 

Introduction

 

The National Register of Historic Places asks that all proposed sites hold “The quality of significance in American history, … and culture is present in districts, sites, … that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association” (Quaide).

Phase One is a place that upholds all of these things. Phase one is a part of the significant history of America that is all too often swept under the rug and ignored, it has embodied and emboldened a large part of American queer history. Phase One is a lesbian bar that was open from 1970-2015, forty five continuous years of operation in Washington D.C., it was a place associated with a minority that was often hunted and vilified, this was a place for women to feel safe.

Phase One or The Phase as it was colloquially known, was the oldest continually operating lesbian bar in the United States and the oldest operating LGBT bar in Washington, D.C. (Muzzy 104). It is also heralded as the longest running lesbian bar in the country during its time. Phase 1 sits at 525 8th Street, Southeast in Washington, D.C. located one block south of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE near Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It resides on a road known as Barracks Row, directly across from the Marine Barracks, which has caused some tension over the years.

Lesbian bars have always been rarer in the LGBT community then gay bars, women have always made less money and had less safe spaces because of it. Lesbian bars were important safe spaces for women to go to, and were all the more important due to their rarity. Phase One started a large queer music and art festival known as Phase Fest, festivals are important because they help to spread art and culture to people who would not normally be exposed to this type of art. Festivals allow artists to converge and create together in a space that is excepting of their identities. Artists need safe and public places that they can show their work in, so they may gain recognition and share their art as they want it to be shared. Phase One has also supported many organizations that help and support women as well as lesbian women in the Washington D.C. area. The fact that the bar is in the Washington D.C. is not to be overlooked either, it’s the capital of our country and where our laws are made.

 

History of Phase One

 

Phase One was opened in February of 1970 by Allen Carroll and Chris Jansen. Carroll and Jansen were lovers for sixteen years, and remained close friends and business partners until Jansen’s death on August 31st, 2007. Before Phase One’s conception Jansen had been working in Johnny’s one of the first gay bars in the area. Carroll had already had some experience managing a lesbian bar called JoAnna’s, a bar at 430 Eighth St. that opened in May 1968, it was the first lesbian bar to have been opened in Washington D.C. (Robet). While JoAnna’s was the first lesbian bar, it only lasted about a decade before it shut down. In contrast Phase One was opened in 1970 and stayed open until 2015, a total of forty five years of continuous service. Phase One was known as the principal lesbian bar in the district (Muzzy 104). When Phase One was first opened up it was right next to Plus One, a gay bar that was the first to break the city’s no same-sex dancing code when owners the Henry Hecht, Donn Culver, and Bill Bickford installed a dance floor into their bar (Muzzy). Phase One also had a dance floor despite this law and many lesbians in the Washington D.C. area initially came to Phase One because of this fact. While there were other lesbian bars Phase One was regarded as the first and foremost “nice” lesbian bar. It was clean and the interior didn’t feel like a dive bar, it felt like a safe, clean, and welcoming space.

Washington D.C. before the opening of Phase One was going through the Lavender Scare, this was a time in D.C. history that the government was extremely paranoid about LGBT people and started a witch hunt for them. Anyone suspected of being LGBT was fired from their job and was blacklisted on the job market ensuring they wouldn’t be hired at all, they wanted to leave LGBT people with no income and no way to stay. The main argument the government gave for this mass firing was that LGBT personnel would be easy to manipulate and blackmail since their lives were so shameful and they held this large secret. This would make all LGBT people with any sort of clearance in the government a clear security risk, so they rescinded all LGBT people’s clearances and fired them as soon as they were suspected. Lavender Scare policies continued to be followed up until the Clinton presidency. The LGBT backlash to these policies was a phrase and movement of their own “Out Of the Closet, and Into the Streets!” (Meinke). It was more important during this time for LGBT people to have public spaces where they could be seen. Phase One helped to pave the way for more public women and lesbian oriented shops in the area. “With JoAnna’s, the Phase One, and Club Madame already on Capitol Hill, the first women-oriented shops appeared in the neighborhood, beginning with the Front Porch, followed by Lammas Books in the summer of 1973,” (Meinke). Phase One helped to open the door for the movement of more visibility of the community.

In October of 1979 a notorious incident occurred when a tear gas canister was thrown into the bar, many believed that the bar’s proximity to the Marine’s Barrack’s to be the exacerbating factor. After this incident the bar enacted a rule where unaccompanied men could not enter the bar, this only lasted for a year.

Phase One has supported over many years Capital Pride, the LGBT pride festival held each year in Washington, D.C. and the fourth largest gay pride event in the United States. Phase One has also supported and worked with local organizations such as the Whitman-Walker Clinic and the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (30 Under 30). Phase One has a history of being more than just a bar, it’s a place that women have gathered to do good work and ensure that the community they live in is bettered as well. Phase One was also known for its very popular drag shows, which at the time was rare since there was stigma against men being seen as more feminine was frowned upon and seen as giving into stereotypes. Drag queens were shunned from a lot of places at the time, but not Phase One.

Phase One’s biggest event by far though was Phase Fest, the largest queer art and music festival on the East Coast (30 under 30). In August 2007, musician Mara Levi, Phase 1 manager Angela Lombardi, and Riot Grrl, Ink organized the first Phase Fest. The three-day event hosted at Phase 1 featured local and nationwide musical acts such as God-Des and She, Nicky Click, and others which are geared towards lesbians.

In 2015 Phase One began its shut down, even though it had been struggling for a while. Lesbian pop up parties were becoming more in fashion and the area was becoming more expensive to have property in. In 2007 Jansen one of the co-owners passed away and this took a toll on the management leaving it to the other co-owner Carroll. Carroll had difficulties with keeping the bar up to date in light of these new struggles and shut down the bar for “renovations”, only he had fired all of the staff and the bar has not re-opened since. Previous Phase One manager Angela Lombardi and several others hosted a final farewell to the Phase called ‘Phasepocalypse Now’ and Lombardi was quoted saying “Basically it’s just an excuse for all of us to get together and feel we have a little bit of home even if it’s not at Phase 1,” (DiGuglielmo quoting Lombardi). A goodbye to the home this community shared for decades.

 

Arguments of the Importance of Phase One

 

Lesbian bars are a large part of LGBTQIA history, often times they were the only safe places for queer women to recede to when they needed to find a safe place and a community of women who could relate and protect one another. Queer women were not allowed safe places in the public eye, lesbian bars were a refuge from the storm and one of the only places women of this minority could be themselves and explore their own identities. A lesbian bar “permits gay identity to be validated by relationships with others, provides social space and support networks and serves as an expression of sexual and cultural identity,” (Picard). In essence lesbian bars are places where lesbians are permitted to exist.

Lesbians in the time period of Phase One were not welcomed by society, they were shunned by both their religions, their homes, and their communities so they came to lesbian bars to find all three. Religion during the first couple of decades of the Phase’s existence were a large part of people’s lives, and the widely accepted religions of America all shunned homosexuality in all forms so women came to lesbian bars to explore their new spirituality. (Cartier, Grossman) Religion is imperative “In national polls, adults who report that religion is an important part of their lives and who engage in more frequent religious participation also report greater experiences of well-being than those who are nonreligious or moderately religious in all categories except physical health,” (Cartier, Grossman). This makes a difference for lesbians as they are reported as have shorter lifespans and having worse health than their straight counterpoints. In lesbian bars women were allowed to not only explore their sexual identity, but also their personal identity. Interviewed women describe the “transformation from the inside out that are made possible by the luxury of community afforded in the space of the gay women’s bars,” (Cartier, Grossman). Studies have found that women “reframe the gay bars to reflect participants’ description of the bar as “home”—not only a social home, but a spiritual one as well,” (Cartier, Grossman).

Queer artists often need to find safe spaces to perform and share their works. Queer culture is not always accepted by mainstream society so the creation of Phase Fest gave a space for artists of all kinds to express themselves and their work to its truest extent. One artist named Kit Yan a Chinese American transgendered female to male poet wrote a work called “Badass” and performed it in two different settings once in Swarthmore and another time at Phase Fest “Yan’s distinct, and almost contradictory, performances of Badass in these two contexts—a heteronormative educational setting and a queer subcultural space—suggest that environmental constraints have a significant impact on one’s embodiment and articulation of identity,” (Luengsuraswat 9). At Swarthmore Yan was conservative and hardly emphasized their art as they read it, they were described as almost subdued. Whereas when Yan performed the same piece at Phase Fest they emphasized their words and gesticulated more and seemed more comfortable expressing themselves and their work. (Luengsuraswat) Yan only felt comfortable expressing themselves and their art fully when they were in an accepting environment. Art and culture in the queer community is a bold statement in most places, leaving artists feeling vulnerable and less likely to create or share their works. Phase Fest was one of the spaces that people from the queer community felt comfortable and safe to express their work in. Phase Fest facilitated many contributions to American culture as a whole.

Yan is not the only artist to find community and importance in Phase Fest, Nicky Clicky another performer was quoted to say it was an “empowering event”. Phase Fest and other “Festivals both reflect and contribute to social and cultural changes,” (Gibson) as well as spread their messages and art to a wider audience as it is performed in a public place for all to see. Festivals not only help to change their target audience’s opinions and cultural view, but also the people who have been newly exposed to it. Nicky Clicky herself has used Phase Fest to spread her own cultural ideas, here she describes the message of her own art and performances “For me it’s been an evolution of reclaiming my femininity and knowing that it’s valid and should be taken seriously in the queer community,”.

 

Conclusion

So now the question why Phase One, why not any other bar must be addressed. While there may be many gay bars in America, there are none that are as unique or have contributed to queer culture in the same way. Phase One may not have been the only gay bar in Washington D.C. but it was one of the handful of lesbian bars in the area. Not only that, Phase One was the longest continuously running lesbian bar in America. Washington D.C. is America’s Political hub. Movements and statements are made here every day. Phase One the lesbian bar that stood here from 1970-2015, has made a long standing statement for the LGBT community. Phase One stood firm in the Lavender Scare and the many fluctuations that Washington went through on its attitude towards LGBT people, and during this time supported many local programs dedicated to bettering the lives of women. Phase One is also the birth place of Phase Fest the fourth largest queer art and music festivals on the East Coast. Festivals are places of great cultural growth and allow artists to freely express themselves and spread their messages to wider populations. Phase One was a home to thousands of women and ensured they had a place to grow into themselves. Phase One is not just a bar, it is a long standing home for women that has created safe spaces for thousands of women to find and express themselves to their fullest extents.

 

 

Bibliography

 

 

“(4) Phase Fest – About.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

“30 Under 30 – Washington Blade.” N.p., 17 June 2008. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

 

“A Pioneer Passes.” Metro Weekly. N.p., 12 Sept. 2007. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Adler, Sy, and Johanna Brenner. “Gender and Space: Lesbians and Gay Men in the City*.”            International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 16.1 (1992): 24–34. Wiley Online   Library. Web.

 

Cartier, Marie, and Brian  R. Grossman. “‘Oh My God, I’m Home’: The Socioreligious             Significance of Gay Older Women’s Experiences of Women’s Bars Before Stonewall.”         Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 25.2 (2013): 139–159. www-tandfonline-            com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu (Atypon). Web.

 

Chandler, Michael Alison. “Street Fest Lets Gays Revel in Freedom.” The Washington Post 11            June 2007. washingtonpost.com. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Denyse Lockard PhD. “The Lesbian Community:” Journal of Homosexuality 11.3–4 (1986): 83–     95. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web.

 

DiGuglielmo, Joey. “A Murky Future for Phase 1 | Phase 1 Closed.” Washington Blade: Gay      News, Politics, LGBT             Rights. N.p., 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

DrPH, Elisabeth Gruskin et al. “Consequences of Frequenting the Lesbian Bar.” Women &          Health 44.2 (2007): 103–120. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web.

 

Ford, Elise. Night & Day Washington, DC: Night Day Cool Cities Series. ASDavis Media Group, 2006. Print.

 

Gibson, Chris. “Music Festivals: Transformations in Non-Metropolitan Places, and in Creative           Work.” Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy 123.1 (2007):            65–81. SAGE Journals. Web.

 

“In Phase.” Metro Weekly. N.p., 15 Aug. 2007. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Ingram, Gordon Brent, Anne-Marie Bouthillette, and Yolanda Retter, eds. Queers in space: Communities, public places, sites of resistance. Bay Press, 1997.

 

Krieger, Susan. “Lesbian Identity and Community: Recent Social Science Literature.” Signs:       Journal of Women in Culture and Society 8.1 (1982): 91–108. journals.uchicago.edu            (Atypon). Web.

 

Luengsuraswat, Bo. “Badass, Motherfucker, and Meat-Eater: Kit Yan’s Trans of Color Slammin’        Critique and the Archives of Possibilities.” nineteen sixty nine: an ethnic studies journal   1.1 (2012): n. pag. escholarship.org. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Mark Meinke. “The Social Geography of Washington, D.C.’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community.” 2002: n. pag. Print.

 

Miller, Dondero, and Clevenger. Homosexuals in Government, 1950. 96 vols. The Floor of the House of Representatives: Congressional Record, 1950. Web.

 

Muzzy, Frank. Gay and Lesbian Washington. Arcadia Publishing, 2005. Print.

 

Nestle, Joan. “Restriction and reclamation: lesbian bars and beaches of the 1950s.” Queers in       Space: Communities, Public Places, Sites of Resistance (1997): 61-67.

 

“Nicky Click.” Metro Weekly. N.p., 15 Aug. 2007. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

“Parade Contingents ~ Capital Pride 2009.” N.p., 9 July 2008. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Peters, Jeremy W. “The Gayest Place in America?” The New York Times 15 Nov. 2013.   NYTimes.com. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

“Phase 1 Lesbian Bar DC.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

“Phase 1 Owner Says Community Has Final Say on Bar’s Future.” Washington Blade: Gay      News, Politics, LGBT Rights. N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

“Phase in the Music – Washington Blade: Gay and Lesbian News, Entertainment, Politics and     Opinion.” N.p., 3 Nov. 2009. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

“Phasefest 2008.” N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

Picard, David, and Mike Robinson. Festivals, Tourism and Social Change: Remaking Worlds.      Channel View Publications, 2006. Print

 

Quaide, Rustin A. “Section II: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation,      National Register of Historic Places Bulletin (NRB 15).” N.p., 28 Nov. 2001. Web. 10            May 2017.

 

Raj Ayyar, and Mark Meinke. “Mark Meinke and The Rainbow History Project.” N.p., n.d. Web.            10 May 2017.

 

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“Timeline of Triumph.” Capital Pride Alliance. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

 

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Walt Whitman House Final Research Paper & Slides For LGBTQ Historic Site

William Kurach

Prof. Gieseking

Queer America

May 10, 2016

Walt Whitman’s Queer Brooklyn

Introduction

The poet Walt Whitman occupies an imposing position in the landscape of American literary history, and of American history itself. Both popularly and academically Whitman has been afforded a mythic centrality to the turbulent nineteenth century, and to subsequent shift of poetic style in America. But Whitman’s innovations, namely, the creative, philosophical and political ideals he celebrated in his expansive poetic output, were as much born out of the nineteenth century’s complicated discursive codes and expectations as they were threats to them.   Which is the locus around which Americans have understood a cultural transformation. A disharmonious and embattled America produced a young poet, and that poet in turn poetically re-produced a nation whose self-conception prized individualism and the existence of transcendental democratic comradeship. The extent to Whitman can be seen as causal in the nineteenth century’s political shifts is dubious, but Whitman’s reputation is safe as a literary figure that with the same pen defined American literature and Americanism itself.

Not incidental to Whitman’s life and work was his homosexuality. Some of his most enduring work is not only deeply homoerotic, but this homoeroticism serves a necessary function in his re-imagining of a collective America democracy. The first edition of Leaves of Grass and the Calamus cluster of future editions provide the clearest and most forceful articulations of Whitman’s homosexual political ethos. Whitman imagined affection between men in terms of “adherence,” a phrase borrowed from phrenology. He envisioned the interpersonal eros of masculine bonds as bearing the potential to bridge the fissures of an America divided by ante-bellum political and economic upheavals and the ensuing war. The centrality of homosexual love to Whitman’s poetic-democratic project was either ignored by readers during his lifetime or he was vilified for it. However, today Whitman is widely regarded both critically and popularly as a queer figure—that is, one who embodied and lived forms of gender and sexual non-normativity. I use queer because it is historically neutral and suggests connections between historical modes of sexual resistance and contemporary ones. But while never himself a part of any defined sexual community or identity, Whitman has been regarded for close to a century as a folk hero in LGBTQ circles, and as the father of a legacy of queer writers whose identities were formed and expressed through and around the discursive limits on their language and culture.

Another crucial element in Whitman’s social and cultural genealogy is the city of Brooklyn, which served as the site of his boyhood and a place to which he would return during the earliest and most productive years of his poetic career. Collectively, the poet spent 28 years of his life in Brooklyn, more than in any other place. For a year between 1855 and 1856, Whitman lived in the house at 99 Ryerson Street in the Wallabout neighborhood (today Clinton Hill). It was during this time that he published Leaves of Grass, the work considered synonymous with literary and civic legacy. In addition to this biographical and historical significance, 99 Ryerson holds the honor of being the only extant former Whitman residence in New York City.

I will argue that naming the house at 99 Ryerson to the National Register of Historic Places as an LGBTQ landmark honors the ways Whitman’s greatest literary accomplishments were born out of queer experience. Such recognition also draws attention to the alternate literary and cultural histories of LGBTQ Americans, and in making an effort to draw such histories into concert, help to demonstrate that queer history is American history. I also will argue that choosing the house on Ryerson serves to “pin down” Whitman’s life in the city onto a space. Such a landmark would allow us to consider the ways Brooklyn informed Whitman’s queer identity and his national and democratic imaginaries, as well as the ways Whitman had a hand in the historic and material organization of the city.

Literature Review

Whitman as National Bard

Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in Long Island, New York. As a young adult, he apprenticed for several newspaper printers in Long Island and too up the profession full time when he turned of age. In 1855 he self-published a book of poems, Leaves of Grass. Its first two editions were critical and commercial failures, but a third (1865) edition proved an instant and sustained success, and catapulted him to literary stardom.

Whitman is often critically and popularly regarded as the most important poet in American history. In an introduction to a 2005 edition of Leaves of Grass, literary critic Harold Bloom describes Leaves as the “Secular Scripture of the United States of America” and Whitman as “the American bard, our Homer and our Milton, [the one that] broke the new road for the New World” (Bloom vii). Whitman’s work is regarded as so important because of both his formal innovations and his boundary-exploding re-negotiations of self, identity, and nation—negotiations that happened at a time when moral and political crises threatened America’s coherence as a state.

Whitman the initial 1855 publication of Leaves of Grass begins with the radical and provocative declaration “I celebrate myself” (LG 1855). The poems made liberal use of free verse line form and were deployed a shifting and ambiguous voice that often addressed the reader directly (Killingsworth 26). Whitman’s book took as its subject an exultation of the self, grounded in a transcendentalist experience of nature (Whitman was fond of Thoreau and Emerson) and sensual bodily experience. The poems touched on matters common to working class people, a decisive step away from contemporary literary norms. Whitman was widely if not exclusively responsible for initially ushering in Modern poetry in America,  a style that focused on the patters of everyday speech and the concerns of everyday people.

Whitman’s poetic voice foregrounded the body as a site of spiritual experience and situated knowledge. Never before had a major American poet articulated such an ethics of individualism. In a third-person editorial Whitman appended to the beginning of his book, he presented himself as an “American bard at last” (LG 1855). Whitman’s poetic concerns were the concerns of the nation, his people the people of America. His poems affirmed a belief in America’s transcendental democracy and its moral destiny. Whitman’s development of a poetic voice that bled between the rugged individual and the plural democratic nation was a critical innovation that helped to produce a conception of American individualism and democracy that still governs today.

For fans and scholars of Whitman, this period just before the publication of Leaves of Grass represents a kind of mystery. It is not clear what sort of experience or concentration of skill took place that transformed Whitman, a career newspaper printer with some scattered but middling poetic output, into a man that could pull off the most stunning literary coup in American history. In an appreciation, the poet C.K. Williams expresses his perpetual amazement at Whitman’s feat:

Whitman’s craft, his skill was supreme during that first blazing burst when he was compiling the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass… there was no place he could have “learned” his craft: it evolved along with his identity, with his very self… It’s as though his actual physical brain went through some incredible mutation, as though—a little science fiction, why not?—aliens had transported him down again with a new mind, a new poetry apparatus. It’s really that crazy. (Williams 2-3)

Scholars have always struggled to explain Whitman’s sudden shift, but what is readily apparent is that while on one side we have an anxious young poet and on the other lies a cultural icon with the seeming capacity to manipulate time and space as he spins verses that aim to bridge the nation’s divisions.

Whitman and Queer Identity

Not incidental to Whitman’s life and work was his homosexuality. The poet’s letters suggest he had several affectional or erotic relationships with men over the course of his lifetime, most notably with Washington D.C. streetcar conductor Peter Doyle. Such relationships could be understood as homosocial, and organized by the affectional terms of family. For instance, Whitman would refer to his younger partner as a son or nephew, and his partner might call him “father” (Katz 219). Whitman’s nineteenth century world was predominantly homosocial in this way, and deeply emotional affective relationships between men were common, particularly during times of war and in the middle class, in which men and women occupied highly separated organized by labor (Bronski 32).

Expressing queer desire and describing homosexual physical relations as a key part of one’s poetic project, however, was not only uncommon, but a deeply controversial challenge to expectations of the sorts of relationships used to organize national identities.. Whitman’s poetic homoeroticism became an integral part of his re-imagining of a collective democratic America, particularly as a form of comradeship that had the capacity to bound the nations wounds. The first edition of Leaves of Grass features repeated references to homo- and auto-erotic acts, often in ways that blur the two:

You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my barestript

heart,

And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet (LG 1855)

Whitman manages to to foreground sexually non-normative behavior while using a fluid poetic voice. With it, he seizes a degree of evasiveness and ambiguity. The second edition’s Calamus cluster made more explicit the connections between Whitman’s homosexual ethos and his political ideals. Whitman wrote of affection between men in terms of “adhesiveness,” as defined against affection between men and women, which he termed “amativeness” (Reyonolds 247). Whitman envisioned adhesiveness as bearing the potential to bridge the fissures of an America divided by war, economic instability, and political contention. Take this excerpt:

O my comrade!

O you and me at last—and us two only;

O power, liberty, eternity at last!

O to be relieved of distinctions! to make as much

of vices as virtues!

O to level occupations and the sexes! O to bring

all to common ground! O adhesiveness! (LG 1860)

Whitman borrows from progressive political rhetoric and medical pseudo-science at once to imagine a life beyond the sexual norms and expectations of the nineteenth century, something I read as a queer form of subject assembly when presented with one’s own cultural illegibility.

The centrality of homoerotic affection to Whitman’s poetic-democratic project was ignored by many during his lifetime and for nearly century beyond it. Gay Wilson Allen’s 1955 The Solitary Singer was the fist critical biography to recognize Whitman’s homoeroticism. Robert K. Martin’s influential 1978 book The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry reads Whitman as the literary progenitor of an entire lineage of homosexual writers whose culture and self-identity was transmitted through creative indirection. He calls scholarly attempts to disprove Whitman’s homosexuality “lies, half truths, and distortions so shameful as to amount to a deliberate attempt to alter reality to suit a particular view of normality” (Martin 3). Whitman scholars have since made great strides in acknowledging the importance of the poet’s sexuality to his life and work.

Michael Bronski charts a key link between Whitman’s poetic articulations of queer masculinity and the work of Carpenter and Symonds, British sexologists who developed a theory of “eros” similar to that of Whitman’s democratic comradeship (Bronski 81). Symonds wrote to Whitman directly and asked if Whitman allowed that his proposed comradeship might lead to “semi-sexual emotions and actions” between men (Reynolds 198). Whitman explicitly denied this suggestion, and claimed to have fathered six children, a claim widely considered false and sometimes read as a joke (Katz 220). Whitman’s ideas no doubt contributed to emerging discourses and public awareness of a defined homosexual subjectivity, but Whitman himself never admitted publicly endorsed homosexual life. Whitman instead only allows us to read him through his poetry and his correspondence.

Contemporary critics are more careful in assigning Whitman to categories such as “gay” which are not historical for mid nineteenth century America. Instead, we can read Whitman’s powerful and creative negotiations of non-normative gender and sexual identity as attempts to conjure up new form American citizenship, a standard that is essentially democratic. This body of work represents a fundamentally queer literary and political legacy, one that aims to reshape terms of citizenship as well as the terms of statehood in ways that challenge power.

Whitman became a part of what Gerard Koskovitch calls a “folk historiography” for LGBTQ people in the 20th century. He points to Blair Niles’ 1931 novel Strange Brother, in which a homosexual character is given a copy of Leaves of Grass before leaving for New York City. Whitman’s poems have been reprinted in LGBTQ publications such as one, found as easily in in a 1960 Boston Mattachine Society newsletter and as in a 1957 copy of Swiss gay magazine Der Kreiss. (both excerpts described an ideal “city of friends” populated exclusively by men—LG 1860).

Whitman and his works are still understood as an important part of American LGBTQ legacy today. The recently erected New York City Aids Memorial is floored by stone paved with inlaid excerpts from “Song of Myself.” The piece’s artist, Jenny Holzer, described the poem as  “a beauty from a man in full and glad possession of his body” (Harris). The memorial encourages visitors to use an app which allows one to hold up a smartphone camera to the poem to see other text by visitors and queer artists digitally overlaid. The pride of place Whitman plays in this monument gestures at the ways he is considered an important and deeply meaningful part of queer culture, and that the literary strategies he developed for the expression of the body remain relevant to today’s continuing queer struggles to claim physical and cultural space.

The Brooklyn Bard

Whitman spent 28 years of his life living in Brooklyn, including the earliest years of his childhood and his earliest years as a poet. Brooklyn proved without a doubt the most formative place for the young poet, who himself is often referred to as the “poet of place” (Allen 165) Whitman saw Brooklyn as an intermediate between the civilization and culture of Manhattan across the East River, and the rural lands of Long Island. Whitman saw Long Island as his natal home, the place he wrote about fondly and repeatedly as “Paumanok.” Manhattan, on the other hand, was the place Whitman frequently travelled to in order to absorb culture such as theater and music, as well as to travel to distributors and publishing houses later on in his career. For Whitman, Brooklyn represented a harmony between the authentic rural origins of the American nation and the economically volatile, socially diverse modernity of the city. His poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” sees him on the waters between the two, exclaiming, “Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!” (LG 1855). Brooklyn became Whitman’s poetic surrogate for the nation itself (Reynolds 32). The city also held symbolic import to Whitman as the site of the Battle of Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War, a turning point in the conflict in which his grandfather had fought (45). Leaves of Grass features a tripartite reference to three sites of intense national significance to Whitman: Mount Vernon, Saratoga, and Wallabout bay, in Brooklyn (LG 1855), where the British had kept prison ships and in whose memory which Whitman later helped establish a memorial.

Brooklyn provided a space for Whitman to develop his detailed and unique understanding of what and who constituted America. It was an industrial and shipping and it existed in a state of continuous growth throughout Whitman’s life. A city of around 20,000 people in Whitman’s youth, by 1855 it boasted 140,000 (Hugh). From 1860-1890 it was the third largest city in America. The rapid growth was sustained by European immigrants, and by 1847 Brooklyn was two thirds German. The 30s to the 50s saw enormous development, particularly in the factory districts near the water, which brought even more workers in (Hughes 14).

Brooklyn was home to a number of churches of various faiths. Because Whitman’s father was not religious, Whitman attended two different Sunday schools and several churches (Reynolds 34). This can be read as a source of the boundary-burring spirituality Whitman engages in his poems to make sense of his embodied experience. Brooklyn’s religious diversity also got Whitman hooked on the sermons of Quaker preacher Elias Hicks and the orator Henry Ward Beecher (Hughes 15). Such opportunities allowed Whitman to develop a sense of and appreciation for orality, an instinct he would incorporate into his formal poetic style.

Other forms of local diversity provided opportunities for Whitman’s personal and intellectual development. Brooklyn had as many as 1432 slaves among a population of 4,500 in 1812 (Allen 53). When Slavery was abolished in 1827, most blacks were segregated to the cramped ferry district. Reynolds points out that “largely in response to these disturbing conditions, African-Americans entered political and cultural life in ways that manifested independence and sometimes militancy” (Reynolds 47). Black fraternal organizations, churches, and abolitionist groups co-existed in a political and socially vibrant Brooklyn. Whitman later earned praise for his portrayal of black people from Langston Hughes and Sojourner Truth, even though his own feelings about abolition and race often proved problematic (48). Brooklyn also was home to the Brooklyn Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, one of the earliest higher education institutions for women (47). This social and gender diversity gave Whitman a rich palette to draw from his self-imposed challenge to poetically reform the national order.

The southernmost side of Brooklyn is Coney Island. This entertainment district became known in the nineteenth century as a place for working class men to cruise and as a hotbed of gender and sexual non-normativity (Ryan). Between this sexual economy and the working class and naval communities of West Brooklyn, Whitman did not shortage of waterfront spaces to solicit or offer sex and companionship. As historians we may only surmise what sort of diverse experience offered by Brooklyn Whitman actually tried let along incorporated into a political worldview, but it seems beyond coincidence that abundance Brooklyn’s heterogeny and abundance of varied humanity corresponded to Whitman’s poetic celebration of precisely such a community, but on a national scale.

Whitman’s upbringing and life amid the working class of Brooklyn, a microcosm of his America, led to him to a particular poetic self-presentation: “I Walt Whitman: an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos” (LG 1855). “Rough” was a pejorative for working class amidst the middle and upper classes, and so Whitman’s conscious identification with a particular margin of American society simultaneously placed him in its symbolic center (Whitley 156). Whitman sought to give voice to the mechanics and the laborers, often to the reproach of his actual audiences (a great irony and complication of Whitman’s poetic persona is that his work never reached the working man he wrote for, nor did it ever directly cause the sexual revolution he suggested).

At the age of 27, Whitman landed a job as the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Times. He held several such jobs over the extent of his adult life in Brooklyn, and became an active member of the community, writing frequent editorials about the city. He wrote in the Times in 1848 that “if there ever existed a city whose resources were undeveloped, whose capabilities were misunderstood, and undervalued, it is Brooklyn” (Brasher 146). Whitman also played a substantial role in the establishment of Fort Greene Park, and of the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument which stands there today (Hughes 22). Whitman shaped Brooklyn in much the way that it shaped him. This lived relationship to Brooklyn as space informed and inflected the shifty and strategic expressions of individual and collective identity that formed the basic of his queer poetic voice.

Site History: The House at 99 Ryerson

The house at 99 Ryerson Street is a three and a half story wooden building with a resided vinyl facade. It appears to have been built during the 1850s with the false facade extension being added sometime in the twentieth century (Myrtle Report 18). Walt Whitman moved into the house on Ryerson in May of 1855 (Whitman and Holloway 88). On May 15, Whitman walked into the office of the clerk of the South District Court of New York and asked him to provide the wording required to print a copy write notice for a new book of poetry, Leaves of Grass (Feinberg 91). The clerk registered the copyright then and there. Whitman printed the book at the Rome Brothers’ print shop at Cranberry and Fulton streets (Hughes 178), setting the type himself between the brothers’ commercial jobs. Whitman published Leaves of Grass either the day before or the day after the fourth of July of that year (Loving 178). The book sold poorly, but Whitman sent copies to Emerson, Longfellow, and Whittier. On July 21st, Whitman received a letter sent to the house on Ryerson. It was from Emerson, who wrote what Reynolds refers to as “the Gettysburg address of American literary commentary” (Reynolds 342). Emerson’s most famous line: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start” (341). This is Whitman’s first major moment of recognition, praise for saying “incomparable things incomparably well.” One other major thing is recorded as having happened there, the visist of Emerson’s friend Mocure Conway, who described the house as “one of a row of small wooden houses with porches, which all seemed occupied by mechanics” (Berman 101). By “mechanics,” Conway vaguely means working class tradesmen, i.e. something coded similarly to Whitman’s beloved “rough.” Not much else is recorded as having happened at 99 Ryerson house before Whitman moved out in May of 1856, and into the house on 77 Classon Ave (Whitman and Holloway 88).

99 Ryerson is privately owned and rented out as several apartments. The house is only infrequently mention in literary or local history blogs or tours. In 1995 with the publication of Reynolds’ Walt Whitman’s America, New Yorker writer Paul Bernman identified the Ryerson house as the last extant Whitman residence. He notes that it lacks historical status, and tells the story of the printing house at Cranberry and Fulton Whitman printed Leaves at. During the early sixties, facing its demolition, many community leaders and college student organized a campaign to save it (Berman 99) Interestingly, the organizers had mistakenly identified it as Whitman’s home while he was printing Leaves. Berman calls the rediscovery of the Ryerson house a second chance to preserve and honor a tangible connection to Whitman. A 2005 local historical neighborhood preservation committee’s report, produced by Columbia professor Andrew Dolkart, identified the Ryerson house as Whitman’s and marked it as a candidate for preservation, but the organizational effort fell apart shortly afterwards.

A survey of internet accounts of visits to the house suggests many, even local residents, are unaware of the building’s significance. Whitman enthusiasts are known to make enthusiastic pilgrimages to the site, however. A repeated desire expressed by the visitors in most every blog or article is the desire to feel moved by the presence of Whitman, to be touched somehow by his ghost. 76 year old Darrel Blaine Ford, a man who has visited all of Whitman’s homes, explains that “I stood in front of the house once, but got very little feeling for him” (Poetry). On the contrary, a Columbia English professor Karen Kerbiener was allowed in to tour the house when she and her students stopped by for a visit and reported an almost religious experience, writing “I felt the solidness and soundness of the construction as I grasped the generous wooden banister and climbed the good-sized stairs.  Walt is here.  In the floorboards, the doorknobs, the old float-glass window panes.  And in our faces as we passed through this magical place” (Karbiener).

Arguments for Inclusion

While the house at 99 Ryerson is self-evidently loaded with meaning for Whitman fans, I will argue that it is loaded with information and perspective for all Americans, particularly if it were to be recognized as an LGBT landmark.

Pinning Down the Poet of Place

Walt Whitman is a toweringly important figure in American literary history. With Leaves of Grass, Whitman single-handedly ushered in the nation’s first seismic shift in literary style. He is considered the father of American poetry, and remains an outsize influence on poetry internationally. The place that Whitman published his masterwork is naturally a sensible place to honor his life and contributions as a literary figure.

In addition, 99 Ryerson is the only remaining Whitman residence in New York. It would be irresponsible to not preserve the site of a one of the American history’s most richest and most treasured literary breakthroughs. Naming the Ryerson house to the NHRP would concretize Whitman’s place amidst a city and a community that seems to have lost touch with enormity of his legacy and the weight his ghost holds in American culture.

Such a move would allow us to pin down the version of Whitman that published the first edition of Leaves, the Walt that had the most to say about identity, our American condition, Brooklyn, and sexuality. The Ryerson house provides us with an opportunity not to fossilize, simplify, or sanctify Whitman as a cultural and literary figure, but rather to preserve him in all his richest specificity and contradiction.

Whitman’s Queer Legacy

A critical element of this specificity is Whitman’s queerness. To ignore the way Whitman’s queer life and work were a key component of what made his literature valuable is to misread Whitman’s life, to sanitize literary history, and to erase queer history. For a hundred years the sexless reading of Whitman defined the literary and intellectual discourses of American culture. Today, our standards of inclusion are greater and understanding of history’s processes and participants more complex. Recognizing LGBT history is about honoring the validity and situated knowledge  of minority/non-normative experiences. Queer literary culture, whether we imagine it as Martin’s homosexual poetic tradition or as Koskovitch’s folk historiography, should be considered no less valuable or informative than what’s been taught in schools for decades. Such historiography seeks to recover erased voices from the past and to imagine an epistemologically equitable future. As is demonstrated by Whitman’s inclusion in the AIDS monument and the its app’s “layering” of queer texts atop one another, LGBTQ Americans have a rich history formed in part by superimpositions and identifications across time and place. A Whitman landmark could  recognize the meanings Whitman’s work has accumulated in and around queer histories of resistance.

Honoring Whitman also allows us to correct sexual histories in ways that can prove educational and encourage understanding of the history of sexuality in America. Leila Rupp suggests in “Teaching LGBTQ History and Heritage” that teaching such sites and their accompanying histories in schools makes students aware of the ways gender and sexuality are historically contingent and socially produced. This has the potential to make them not only better historians, but more prone to question naturalist sexual discourses they themselves may struggle with (Rupp 3). A way for students to examine Whitman, she suggests, might be to have students consider photos of men from the Civil War against accompanying homosocial letters or poems (6).

Loraine Hutchins argues that recognizing historical figures like Whitman as part of queer history can function to make bi-sexuals more visible as members of the LGBT community. While this sort of argument may appear to be a mapping of a contemporary identity formation onto an historical subject, Hutchins instead suggests that such bi-visibillity really means the recognition that no one is fully gay or straight, that no sexual identities are absolute or entirely binary. A Whitman landmark would draw attention to the processes of reading historical subjectivity with accuracy and sensitivity, and would give Whitman’s life and work the space to continue unsettling the binaries it first troubled over a hundred years ago.

Brooklyn

Pinning down a queer Whitman in Brooklyn would allow a formal recognition of Brooklyn’s formative effects on Whitman life, work, and his accompanying conceptions of democracy. Brooklyn was Whitman’s home, and it represented his cherished microcosm of America. When Whitman wrote “I contain multitudes” in the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the multitudes of Whitman’s transcendent democracy were those of Brooklyn. Whitman’s deep respect for the working class and his political dimensionality on issues of race and gender emerged from his participation in a vibrant waterfront social economy, one which allowed him space for queer relations.

In his article surveying the Ryerson house, Paul Berman points out that often historical homes faced with changing surroundings lose the spirit or environmental context that made them compelling spaces for their historical figures and communities. Berman writes that the Ryerson home of 1995 actually gives him a sense of continuity with the neighborhood during Whitman’ss time. It is primarily working class, its streets still name Revolutionary war heroes, it is still the home of immigrants (Berman 203). Berman overstates the extent of local ethnic and racial diversity during Whitman’s time, and Berman’s parallels of working class life across time without regard for how changes occurred (especially with the extent of gentrification today) strike me as vaguely condescending. But Bernman’s essential point is persuasive. It is namely, that by recognizing continuities in the way space produces identity and informs citizenship, we can connect meaningfully to the “ghosts” or legacies of the Americans that reckoned with the same forces over a century ago. The richness of Whitman’s relationship to space and the sublimely expressive imaginaries he produced in response allows us to feel his ghost in Brooklyn because it was Brooklyn that made him who he was.

Conclusion

Whitman’s queer identity and Brooklyn’s native diversity led Walt Whitman to conceive of a transcendent democracy that emerges from out of the heterogeny of communities. This is an idea that intimately resonates with the project of LGBTQ history—that of recognizing and drawing strength and knowledge from difference, not reducing it. The fact that these insights of Whitman’s emerged out of the cultural geography of Brooklyn and the relational ethics of queer experience is of immense historical importance. Recognizing geography in addition to identity challenges us to consider the ways they are co-produced. I might summarize this case for 99 Ryerson thusly: the fact that in 1855 a man’s queer experience of space became a celebrated cultural discourse of democracy, and came to define national values, in essence came to define space itself in America, is one of the most moving testaments to the power and the insight of queer experience I have ever encountered. Landmarking Ryerson recognizes queer lives as a constituent parts of the larger truth of American life, and makes it know that queer history is American history.

Proposed Plaque Text

This is the house in which Walt Whitman lived while he completed and published his seminal book of poetry, Leaves of Grass. Whitman’s free-form style ushered in a new age of poetic experimentalism, and the text is a defining document in the history of American literature. Leaves of Grass’s celebration of transcendent democracy proved influential amidst the turbulent negotiations of American self-image that raged across the nineteenth century. Whitman’s place in Brooklyn featured importantly in his intellectual development. Working class men and women of this neighborhood inspired Whitman’s populist poetic declaration: “I contain multitudes,” an assertion that the American democracy drew its strength from difference. His moving poems blurred the lines between self and other, individual and community, heterosexual and homoerotic, and they earned him an important place as a literary and spiritual forefather of LGBTQ movements of the twentieth century. Whitman’s poetic insight, born of queer experience, proved a defining force in the intellectual and cultural history of the United States.

Bibliography

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Aspiz, Harold. So Long! Walt Whitman’s Poetry of Death. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004. Print.

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Brasher, Thomas L. Whitman as Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970. Print.

Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2011. Print. ReVisioning American History.

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Ryan, Hugh. Hugh Ryan on the Queer Histories of Brooklyn’s Waterfront. N.p. Audio Recording. New York Public Library Podcast.

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—. “AN OLD BROOKLYN LANDMARK GOING.” Whitman Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

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Reading Guide: Queer Life Online and On the Map

Reading Guide

Sofia Safran

Spring 2017

Author: Shaka McGlotten

Title: “Black Data.” In No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies

Year: 2016

Other bibliographic details: ed. E.P. Johnson, 262-286. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  1. Where or what in time-space is the study’s object? What is the work’s spatial scale and scope?

The study is within the realm of the internet, particularly in the United States. It focuses on the effects of the internet, technology, surveillance, and the overall effects of big data on queer black communities.

  1. What is/are the work’s key question(s)?

 

How does data turn black lives into commodities?  How can we think of race as technology? Why doesn’t the government want us to be able to hide behind anonymity and opacity online?

  1. Who is the announced and/or implied audience for the work?

 

I think the implied audience for the work is people interested in privacy and surveillance, as well as people who identify as black and queer (who are more disproportionately affected by these issues than others).

  1. What are the work’s structure and style?

The work is structured with several clear sections that explain the existence of black data and the complicated interplay between race and technology. McGlotten introduces the subject by explaining black data, black Twitter, and their roles in the Black Lives Matter movement. They then go on to explain the “masks” that people such as Obama use to hide truths and themselves from everyone else, particularly in the political realm.

  1. What method(s) does the researcher use, if noted?

The researcher largely makes their argument through cultural analysis of the implications of “reading,” “throwing shade,” and performative masks on black data and privacy/opacity. They also analyze a music video, “Google Google Apps Apps,” which explains the effects of gentrification on the black queer community in San Francisco.

  1. What problems and issues are posed?

The text addresses the issue of commodification of black lives through the use of technology and big data. It also speaks about the issues faced by the black and black queer communities, as well as the rest of the country, surrounding the problem of governmental and personal transparency/opacity.

  1. What are the arguments? In other words, how does the writer use the theory, method, and evidence to propose answers (or make claims)? (List 3-5)
    • Assigning financial and numerical value to black lives is nothing new, but technology is making it easier to commodify them. This is possible in part because race is a form of technology
    • People’s performative masks do not necessarily mean that they are hiding; they can also be used as a means of protection and armor
    • Companies in the data business have been further marginalizing queer blacks by gentrifying them out of the spaces which they have already claimed
  1. What evidence does the writer use? Why do these examples (stories, visuals, graphs) stand out above others?

The writer uses anecdotes about author Baratunde Thurston and his explanation of black life online (particularly on Twitter). Evidence also includes a music video by a black queer group, DADDIE$ PLA$TIK, and their experience with gentrification due to big tech companies, as well as a video called Fag Face Mask that responds to the effects of technological profiling on queer men.

  1. What ideas and/or assumptions serves as the writer’s guide to action?

The writer assumes that black queer practices, or “black data” can provide valuable insight on the effects of surveillance and technology on people and places.

  1. What is the role of the external actors such as the state or institutions, and how are they defined?

The author examines the external actor of tech giants such as Google and Twitter and the effects of both their technologies and gentrification on black queer lives and spaces. The tech giants are defined as threats to black queers due to their heavy roles in gentrification and surveillance.

 

  1. What works for you? What does not? Why?

I agree with McGlotten that surveillance is becoming scarily and increasingly present in our lives. McGlotten also suggests that the effects of this are seen far more easily by people of color, people who identify as queer, and people who are both. I agree with this as well, and I think that more privileged groups of people (both the ones who are causing these issues and the ones who are affected by them to a lesser degree) need to become aware of the issues in order to move ahead and solve them (or at the very least lessen them).

New Vocabulary

Term Definition (in your own words)
Digital Divide

 

 

 

Black Data

 

 

Reading

Shade

The gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access
 

 

 

A response to the call of big data that offers analytic and political orientations around black queer studies and the effects of network culture and surveillance on black queer culture and life.

 

 

An artfully delivered insult.

Disrespectful behaviors or gestures that are either subtly or not subtly communicated.

 

 

Significant Authors or Texts mentioned (list significant authors or texts discussed)

Author/Text Significance
 Giorgio Agamben and Emmanuel Lewis 

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari

Shoshana Magnet and Simone Browne

People’s ethical encounters with one another are conditioned by our faces.
 

Faces are a racist regulating function, and “faciality” determines what faces can be recognized or tolerated by society.

Biometric technologies reproduce social stereotypes and inequalities by relying on false ideas surrounding race (such as association of particular facial features with particular races).

 

 

Black Boxes (sections you do not yet understand)

Description                                                                              Page number(s)

N/A

Questions (That occur to you as you read):

  • What is the definition of race? What is the definition of technology?
  • What does transparency/opacity mean for the general public? What does it mean for queer blacks specifically?
  • With the scientific basis for biometrics of queerness, how difficult might passing become? What are these biometrics based on and how do they work?
  • How can digitally logging our movements and virtually every technologically mediated interaction be an advantage that the government wants? Why doesn’t the government want us to hide behind anonymity and opacity?
  • How does facial recognition software reinforce the concept of race as technology? Is there a better way to do it than one that reinforces racial stereotypes?

 

One sentence summary of reading:

Race and technology are heavily linked in a way that is detrimental, particularly for queer blacks.

Notes on other readings:

Size Matters to Lesbians Too: Queer Feminist Interventions Into the Scale of Big Data

Jen Jack Gieseking

  • Lots of labor is necessary for lesbians to confront their invisibilization
  • Big data is valid through “masculinist, racist, and heteronotmative structural oppressions,” it also creates a “false norm” to which marginalized groups can’t measure up
  • Most data collected on LGBTQ people in history has been used to “pathologize and stigmatize”
    • we saw this in the previous reading and in our conversations about AIDS in the 80s
    • Professor Gieseking’s data from the Lesbian Herstory Archives takes up 789 KB data
      • that’s 0.000789 GB and depending on the iPhone you have, you have anywhere from 16, 64, 128 GB of storage
      • It’s also .789 MB and the smallest app on my phone, Apple Wallet, that I don’t use is 1.4 MB. Facebook is 833.3 MB
  • “Big data must instead be sized up through its mythos, measurements, and pace of accumulation”
  • Scale of data must be read within context of the time it was produced, which makes sense
    • how was it produced and which groups have the largest amount of data?
  • “Scale is socially constructed through political and economic processes that contribute to the processes of uneven geographical development”
    • What does this mean? How can scale be socially constructed?
    • Maybe socially constructed in the meanings of points on the scale, like local being smaller than national or global?
  • “The global and the intimate” -> intimate is simultaneously global and local, global is also intimate
  • “data is both political and personal”
  • Assembly and examination reinforce racism, heteronormativity, sexism, ableism, and ageism– how?
  • Big data is not new–it has always been collected in archives. The difference now is that it’s digital/ easily accessible and easily shareable
  • Datasets must be read with historical contexts in mind
  • 17 types of organizations in the LHA, and reading all of the text associated with them allowed comprehensive reading that mere text analysis of “big data” would have missed
  • “If this is the largest amount of archival material on the history of LGBTQ organizing in the history of the global city of NYC, is LGBTQ history really that big?”
    • I think yes, but much is lost and not well documented due to fear and marginalization

Queer OS

Kara Keeling

  • LGBTQ cyberculture and new media play a big role in LGBTQ people’s lives
    • their contributions to new media are important
  • more attention is paid to conceptualizations of “the digital” than to actual interfaces
  • technology and race often discussed, sometimes in conjunction with queer theory, but never just queer media studies
  • Queer OS: “taking historical, sociocultural, conceptual phenomena… to be mutually constitutive with sexuality/media/information tech, making it impossible to think about them in isolation.”
  • Thinking about “queer” as an operating system larger than ones in computers
  • How does US facial recognition influence Unix, an operating system??
  • Everyone in class had difficulty comprehending content of the article

 

The Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Final Research Paper & Slides For LGBTQ Historic Site

The Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Final Research Paper & Slides For LGBTQ Historic Site

 

Sofia Safran

Professor Gieseking

AMST 409 Queer America

Final Paper

Due May 10, 2017

 

Setting the Kitchen Table and its Place in History

 

Introduction

 

In her book Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, author Audre Lorde wrote of the inequality among disenfranchised people and people in power: “Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world.”[1] In Lorde’s eyes, this education came about through the spread of ideas through books. However, with a largely white and male dominated publishing industry in the 1980s, it was difficult to get the ideas and voices heard from those of disenfranchised groups, such as people of color, women, those belonging in the LGBTQ community, and those who provided intersectional combinations of the three. How, then, could education—and eventually equality—occur?

To address these issues, Lorde, along with author and activist Barbara Smith, created the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, a lesbian feminist press that published only works by women of color. Because of its devotion to intersectionality, commitment to social justice, promotion of voices of marginalized groups such as lesbian women of color, and its legacy in the publishing industry today, I argue that Kitchen Table and the site of its founding are important and should become a historic site.

 

Kitchen Table: A History

 

The history of the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press is scattered. Even the in most seemingly comprehensive accounts of Kitchen Table’s beginnings, important dates and other details are lost in the midst of a longer explanation for the Press’ intentions and actions. In 1980, poet Audre Lorde told author Barbara Smith, “We really need to do something about publishing” while they were both in Boston on Halloween for a poetry reading.[2] By “publishing,” Lorde was referring not only to the American publishing industry as a whole, but also the smaller Women in Print movement.

At this time, racism and homophobia in the publishing industry, as well as the Women in Print movement, were clear. The Women in Print movement sought to unite feminist presses and booksellers alike in order to better spread feminist ideals to the public. However, these feminist ideals were largely white and straight. Smith explains that she and other feminist and lesbian of color writers “knew [they] had no options for getting published except at the mercy or whim of others–in either commercial or alternative publishing, since both [were] white dominated.”[3] In addition to rarely being published, Smith also notes that even published works by women of color (including African American, Native American, Latina, and Asian American women) were “barely noticed by literary and academic establishments, let alone by the general reading public.”[4] Therefore, it was necessary to diversify the movement by giving disenfranchised yet intersectional lesbian women of color an avenue through which they could share their ideas and be noticed.

While the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press was formed in the fall of 1980, it was not officially announced until 1981. The announcement of the Kitchen Table was seen as the high point of the 2nd Annual National Women in Print Conference, a gathering at which feminist publishers and booksellers held panels and discussions about feminist issues in the publishing industry.[5] Additionally, it was not until two years later in the spring of 1983 that the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press began its publishing operations with an edition of Cheryl Clarke’s Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women, which had originally been self-published by the author.[6] [7]

When Kitchen Table was founded, it had “no start-up capital… no significant grants by major foundations. No corporate donations of equipment. No wealthy patron in the wings.”[8] Additionally, the nonprofit press was not only founded by Smith (who did all of her work for no pay), but also operated in her home with a “paid staff that never numbered more than three.”[9]

Despite their minimal funds and lack of staff, the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press prospered throughout the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s. Kitchen Table published fifteen works from 1983 until 1992, including works by Audre Lorde herself (such as I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities), and Mitsuye Yamada’s Desert Run: Poems and Stories. [10] Additionally, Kitchen Table also published Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzalúa’s anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, a text that they picked up from Persephone Press after they were forced to close in May 1983 due to the financial hardships associated with running an independent lesbian feminist press.[11] At this time, it was not uncommon for independent presses in the market in which Kitchen Table and Persephone were operating to go out of business. Due to the market’s niche with the smaller group of people active in the feminist movement rather than the general population as a whole, business was more difficult. The closure of Persephone Press allowed Kitchen Table to pick up and continue publishing some of their books—bettering their own business.

According to author Kristen Hogan, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’ dedication to women of color helped to keep them afloat. She notes that Matt Richardson, a representative for Kitchen Table at the American Booksellers Association (ABA) Convention in 1993 explained that the conversation then among feminist publishers and booksellers was, “Let’s talk about our survival, and not, our survival depends upon having an accountability around race and racism.”[12] For Kitchen Table, Richardson continued, “If we suddenly lost an antiracist focus, then our publishing would be in danger. Our economic survival depended upon being clear about that in ways that theirs [white feminist bookstores] didn’t.”[13]

Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press continued printing and selling texts by lesbian women of color with the help of a network of volunteers until 1994. It was then that Smith began to collaborate with Jamie M. Grant of the Union Institute Center for Women, expressing her “need to develop Kitchen Table into an independent, fiscally sound nonprofit.”[14] Grant, a white lesbian activist, was fully aware of the importance of race in Kitchen Table’s functioning: “Kitchen Table’s strength has always risen from the foundation that its work is defined by women of color, for women of color. As a in a predominantly white-led institution, I understood that our role would be to preserve that strength by providing access to whatever avenues of support we could find.”[15] Grant was optimistic about this new structure, noting that her goal was to usher Kitchen Table “safely into the next century,” and that support from the Union Institute had already tripled its capacity.[16] Unfortunately, however, this endeavor was ultimately unsuccessful and the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press did not make it to the next century—it ceased operations a year later in 1995.[17]

 

Topics and Trends in Literature

Within my research on the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, several topics appeared frequently throughout the literature. First and foremost, there was a distinct emphasis on Kitchen Table’s commitment to social justice. Next, and in conjunction with that, was their dedication to making sure that lesbian women of color’s voices were heard and able to empower other disenfranchised women. Lastly, these trends are explored in their relationship with Kitchen Table and its place in the Women in Print movement as a whole.

The Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’s commitment to social justice in its publishing endeavors are mentioned to some extent in the majority of my sources, but can most be clearly seen in the piece “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves.” This statement from The Black Scholar speaks out against the confirmation of African American Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. It details his confirmation as a disservice to African Americans in the United States, as he was accused of sexually harassing an African American professor named Anita Hill.

The statement claims that his appointment would both be used to “divert attention from historic struggles” for African Americans and further the country’s legacy of not taking “the sexual abuse of Black women seriously.” [18] While perhaps not written by the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the statement contains a footnote that it is available to order as a poster published and distributed by Kitchen Table. Because the Kitchen Table sold it as a poster, it is evident that the Press supported the statement’s sentiments, and it gives an insight into the Press’ political leanings and the varieties of publishing work that they did.

Social justice is also extensively covered in Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Uses of Anger.” While the co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press never mentions the nonprofit organization outright in her essay, it is easy to see its fundamental ideals for social justice and racial equality in her writing. Lorde notes, “Women responding to racism means women responding to anger, the anger of exclusion, of unquestioned privilege, of racial distortions, of silence, ill-use, stereotyping, defensiveness, misnaming, betrayal, and coopting.”[19] She explains that she has seen time and time again the implication that “racism is a Black women’s problem, a problem of women of Color, and only we [black women] can discuss it.”[20]

Thus, it is here that we see her motivation for helping to create Kitchen Table: to use the press as a tool to respond to and fight against racism, to give women whose voices might not otherwise be heard the chances to speak out. She notes, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any of you.”[21] With this in mind, the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press becomes an even stronger means of freeing women of color from their shackles through the use of print.

Through this printing of feminist literature, and subsequent distribution to feminist bookstores, the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press not only allowed lesbian women of color’s voices to be heard, but also allowed disenfranchised women around the world to hear them. “By ensuring easy accessibility of feminist literature,” Hogan explains, feminist bookstores and publishers (such as Kitchen Table) provided “the necessary theoretical ballast for feminist action.”[22] Furthermore, she notes that in the case of “Third World Countries,” it was the duty of publishers such as Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press to make their “feminist literature affordable, so that the fledgling feminist movements in most of these countries can acquire greater momentum than they would otherwise be able to do.”[23]

The themes of social justice and empowerment through allowing disenfranchised voices to hear each other and be heard at all are echoed in the literature that discusses the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’ place in the Women in Print movement. Lootens praises the movement, mentioning that feminist presses’ (such as Kitchen Table) “work exists in the context of an activist movement; if there were no such movement, nobody would buy the books” and that “the Women in Print movement is not only surviving but expanding”[24] because of this.

Meanwhile, other literature points to the Women in Print movement’s pitfalls. Grant notes the racism in the movement, explaining that while “white feminist communities have eagerly taken up the books of the press… and yet barely noticed the years of personal sacrifice and unwaged work by women of color that have sustained this resource.”[25] Smith, on the other hand, ties the movement’s success and shortcomings together when she explains that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press” and that this is “even truer for multiply disenfranchised women of color who have minimal access to power… except what we wrest from an unwilling system.”[26]

 

Discussion: Arguments for Site Inclusion

The site of the founding of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press should be a historical one for two main reasons. First, without the establishment of Kitchen Table, the state of diversity and inequality in American publishing would not be as diverse as it is today. Second, Kitchen Table, unlike other defunct lesbian feminist presses of the time, lives on through the work of other individuals in the present day. Last, Kitchen Table also allowed for the initial and continued publication of feminist texts and feminist authors who are still read today.

Unfortunately, when looking at the statistics, it is clearly visible that diversity in publishing is still a major issue. Of the Top 100 Bestsellers of 2016, people of color wrote 16 books. Of those 16, only 4 were written by women—all of whom were straight.[27] With this, it is not unreasonable to conclude that marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ women of color, are not getting their voices and heard by the American public nearly as loudly as the other 84 straight white cisgender authors on the list.

In an NPR article from 2016, novelist Angela Flournoy (a woman of color) commented on this issue. When asked about “the extent to which writers of color are asked in interviews about publishing’s diversity gap,” she responded, “I think it’s an undue burden for the writer of color that’s just trying to get people to care about their book as much as other people’s books, to then also be the one to have the answers.”[28]

The statistics are there to provide concrete evidence of the lack of diversity. In 2014, Publisher’s Weekly, a magazine targeted at those in the literary industry, conducted a survey on salaries and demographics in the publishing industry. The survey found that 89 percent of participants identified as white.[29] In 2015, publisher Lee & Low Books responded to this by starting an increasingly well-known study on staff diversity in the publishing industry, known as the “Diversity Baseline Survey.” The findings here reinforced the harsh lack of diversity: of the over 40 publishers and review journals that participated, 79 percent of people in the industry as a whole identified as white. Furthermore, of those same people, 88 percent identified as heterosexual, 78 percent identified as cis-women, and 21 percent identified as cis-men. [30]

While Flournoy points to the inequality in race, Author and activist Sarah Schulman, who identifies as a lesbian, discusses the inequality for the LGBTQ community. In an interview with Andrea Freud Lowenstien, she explains that despite being published in the “mainstream press,” her sexuality causes her to be seen as “a deviant person” rather than a “valued” one. She notes, “Reviews that I now get say things like ‘This isn’t a gay book, this is a universal book.’ That’s called a good review; because if it was a gay book, there’d be something wrong with it. How I have experienced … my life… and how all the people who I love… have experienced … their lives, is not a valid perspective in the mainstream world.”[31] Although this interview took place in 1990 when Kitchen Table was still up and running, we can see from the aforementioned statistics that the sentiments still greatly apply to the industry today.

Why is there so much disparity in the publishing industry? Shulman revisited the issue of LGBTQ inequality in publishing in her 2007 article, “The Invisible Lesbian.” She explains that conservative culture of the 1990s created a pushback to the work done to bring “modern lesbian literature” to the “cultural inroads” by Kitchen Table and other lesbian feminist presses, as well as the feminist and lesbian movements as a whole, in the 80s.[32] Schulman also notes that “niche marketing,” which arose in the 90s, “continues to keep lesbian literature from being considered an integrated part of American letters.”[33]

In terms of racial inequality in the industry, Publisher’s Weekly points to the “entrenched leadership that includes few people of color, low starting salaries and unpaid internships that together discourage minorities from applying to entry-level jobs, and not enough effective outreach to minorities.” However, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press provided the beginning of the long process of diversification in the publishing industry by acknowledging that while women of color are disenfranchised, their voices deserve to be heard just as much as anyone else’s—and we would be much further behind than we currently are if not for their work and the inspiration they provided to future generations.

While Kitchen Table ceased operation in 1995, its legacy clearly continues today—specifically through publicist Kima Jones and an organization called Kitchen Table Literary Arts. Jones is a queer woman of color and the owner of a publicity company. According to NPR, she is “an expert in culturally specific marketing.” Her company, Jack Jones Literary Arts, attempts to give writers from disenfranchised groups a leg up: “the agency partners exclusively with writers who have been historically underrepresented in publishing.”[34] With a 95% of her clients being writers of color, it is a business model much like that of the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

The Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’ legacy continues additionally through an organization known as Kitchen Table Literary Arts. The organization that honors Kitchen Table in name and mission: their website explains that they “work to discover and develop new poets, writers, and readers through workshops, seminars, and showcases that investigate the intersections of our past and present voices by featuring the work and experiences of contemporary women of color writers and poets.”[35]

Finally, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press deserves recognition as a historic site because of its contributions to the corpus of LGBTQ and feminist literature. The aforementioned and highly influential This Bridge Called My Back is currently in its fourth edition, and, according to professor and author Teresa de Lauretis, expanded the intersectionality within the feminist and Women in Print movements by making “available to all feminists the feelings, the analyses, and the political positions of feminists of color, and their critiques of white or mainstream feminism.”[36]

 

 

Conclusion

With the state of diversity in publishing still being an issue today, it is important that we recognize the women who spearheaded the effort to diversify it. The Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press’ commitment to bringing diversity and intersectionality to publishing, particularly with lesbian women of color, helped to bring the industry to the point at which it stands today. As is clear, however, from recent statistics, their mission is not yet complete. In order to continue this mission, as well as bring recognition to the particularly marginalized and silenced group of Black lesbians, it is important to recognize the space in which they got their start.

While we do know that Kitchen Table was conceived in Boston and moved to New York several years later, more research must be done in order to decide where exactly to place its historical monument. I believe that the marker should be in Boston, and with the help of Barbara Smith, the correct location can be found. Should the marker become a reality, I propose the following as its inscription:

 

Welcome to the birthplace of the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. You may be surprised to hear it, but you are standing near an important site in LGBTQ history. It was here in 1980 that Barbara Smith and Audre Lorde decided to “do something about publishing,” to ensure that straight and lesbian women of color’s voices were no longer silenced because they did not have the virtue of being spread to wide audiences via a mass medium. This was part of a wider movement, the Women in Print Movement, which called to bring more women into the highly male publishing industry. Notable works published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press include This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, and Audre Lorde’s I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities. An entirely volunteer run operation with minimal capital, Kitchen Table worked tirelessly for fifteen years, before it shut down operations, to fight for diversity in the United States publishing industry. While they were successful at planting the seeds, this is unfortunately a problem still faced today.

 

 

Bibliography

“African American Women In Defense of Ourselves.” The Black Scholar 22, no. 1/2 (1991): 155–155.

 

Baker, Jennifer. “First Diversity Baseline Survey Illustrates How Much Publishing Lacks Diversity.” Forbes. Accessed May 1, 2017. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferbaker/2016/01/26/first-publishing-diversity-baseline-survey/.

 

Bianco, Marcie, and Nathaniel Frank. “Can Sarah Schulman Win Mainstream Success With The Cosmopolitans?” Slate, March 17, 2016. http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2016/03/17/sarah_schulman_s_novel_the_cosmopolitans_should_win_her_mainstream_success.html.

 

Grant, Jaime M. “Building Community-Based Coalitions from Academe: The Union Institute and the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Transition Coalition.” Signs 21, no. 4 (1996): 1024–33.

 

Ho, Jean, and owner of publicity company Jack Jones Literary Arts. “Diversity In Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too.” NPR.org. Accessed April 30, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/08/09/483875698/diversity-in-book-publishing-isnt-just-about-writers-marketing-matters-too.

 

Hogan, Kristen. The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

 

“Kitchen Table Women of Color Press | Lesbian Poetry Archive.” Accessed May 5, 2017. http://www.lesbianpoetryarchive.org/node/87.

 

Lefevour, Mary Kay. “Persephone Press Folds.” Off Our Backs 13, no. 10 (1983): 17–17.

 

Loewenstein, Andrea Freud, and Sarah Schulman. “Troubled Times: Andrea Freud Loewenstein Interviews Sarah Schulman.” The Women’s Review of Books 7, no. 10/11 (1990): 22–23. doi:10.2307/4020814.

 

Lootens, Tricia. “Third National Women in Print Conference.” Off Our Backs 15, no. 8 (1985): 8–26.

 

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. The Crossing Press Feminist Series. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984.

 

———. “The Uses of Anger.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, no. 25 (1/2) (n.d.): 278–85.

Low, Jason T. “Where Is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey Results.” Lee & Low Blog, January 26, 2016. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/01/26/where-is-the-diversity-in-publishing-the-2015-diversity-baseline-survey-results/.

 

Milliot, Jim. “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2015: A Younger Workforce, Still Predominantly White.” PublishersWeekly.com, October 16, 2015. /pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/68405-publishing-industry-salary-survey-2015-a-younger-workforce-still-predominantly-white.html.

 

“Mission.” The Kitchen Table  Literary Arts Center. Accessed May 1, 2017. http://www.kitchen-table.org/mission.html.

 

Moraga, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Expanded and rev. 3rd ed. Women of Color Series. Berkeley, CA: Third Woman Press, 2002.

 

Noble, Barnes &. “The Top 100 Bestsellers of the Year.” Barnes & Noble. Accessed May 10, 2017. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/b/the-top-100-bestsellers-of-the-year/_/N-1p4d?page=2.

 

Schulman, Sarah, and Marissa Martinelli. “The Invisible Lesbian.” Slate, October 31, 2007. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/book_blitz/2007/10/the_invisible_lesbian.html.

 

Smith, Barbara. “A Press of Our Own Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 10, no. 3 (1989): 11–13. doi:10.2307/3346433.

 

Teresa deLauretis. “The Technology of Gender.” Feminist Communication Theory: Selections in Context, 1987, 221.

 

[1] Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Crossing Press Feminist Series (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1984).

[2] Barbara Smith, “A Press of Our Own Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 10, no. 3 (1989): 11.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Tricia Lootens, “Third National Women in Print Conference,” Off Our Backs 15, no. 8 (1985): 23.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Kitchen Table Women of Color Press | Lesbian Poetry Archive,” accessed May 5, 2017.

[8] Jaime M. Grant, “Building Community-Based Coalitions from Academe: The Union Institute and the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Transition Coalition,” Signs 21, no. 4 (1996): 1022.

[9] Ibid. 1023.

[10] “Kitchen Table Women of Color Press | Lesbian Poetry Archive,” accessed May 5, 2017.

[11] Mary Kay Lefevour, “Persephone Press Folds,” Off Our Backs 13, no. 10 (1983): 17

[12] Kristen Hogan, The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). 92.

[13] Ibid. 93.

[14] Jaime M. Grant, “Building Community-Based Coalitions from Academe: The Union Institute and the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Transition Coalition,” Signs 21, no. 4 (1996): 1024.

[15] Ibid. 1027.

[16] Ibid. 1023.

[17] Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Expanded and rev. 3rd ed, Women of Color Series (Berkeley, CA: Third Woman Press, 2002).

[18] “African American Women In Defense of Ourselves,” The Black Scholar 22, no. 1/2 (1991): 155–155.

[19] Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger,” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, no. 25 (1/2) (n.d.): 278.

[20] Ibid. 279.

[21] Ibid. 285.

[22] Kristen Hogan, The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). 122-3.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Tricia Lootens, “Third National Women in Print Conference,” Off Our Backs 15, no. 8 (1985): 22.

[25] Jaime M. Grant, “Building Community-Based Coalitions from Academe: The Union Institute and the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Transition Coalition,” Signs 21, no. 4 (1996): 1024.

[26] Barbara Smith, “A Press of Our Own Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 10, no. 3 (1989): 11.

[27] Barnes & Noble, “The Top 100 Bestsellers of the Year,” Barnes & Noble, accessed May 7, 2017

[28] Jean Ho, “Diversity In Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too,” NPR.org, accessed April 30, 2017.

[29] Jim Milliot, “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2015: A Younger Workforce, Still Predominantly White,” PublishersWeekly.com, October 16, 2015

[30] Low, Jason T, “Where Is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey Results,” Lee & Low Blog, January 26, 2016.

[31] Andrea Freud Loewenstein and Sarah Schulman, “Troubled Times: Andrea Freud Loewenstein Interviews Sarah Schulman,” The Women’s Review of Books 7, no. 10/11 (1990): 22–23

[32] Sarah Schulman and Marissa Martinelli, “The Invisible Lesbian,” Slate, October 31, 2007.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Jean Ho, “Diversity In Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too,” NPR.org, accessed April 30, 2017.

[35] “Mission,” The Kitchen Table  Literary Arts Center, accessed May 1, 2017.

[36] Teresa deLauretis, “The Technology of Gender,” Feminist Communication Theory: Selections in Context, (1987). 221.

Esta Noche Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site

Esta Noche Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site

 

Summary

Esta Noche is nationally significant space under the NRHP criterion because it was the first gay bar in San Francisco that catered to Latino patrons. This is significant to gay Latinos everywhere, who have historically faced multiple discriminations for being both gay and not white. This Site not only provided a safe space for gay Latinos, but also functioned as a place where gay Latinos could network, organize, and host fundraisers for health clinics, AIDS and lower income populations in the Mission district of San Francisco.

Esta Noche was founded by Anthony Lopez and Manuel Quijano in 1979. The duo was tired of the discrimination that gay Latinos faced in the predominantly white Castro district of San Francisco. Gay Latinos in the Castro would often have to show several forms of ID to enter the bars, were charged higher prices for their drinks and could even be thrown out just because they were not white.  Lopez and Quijano wanted to open Esta Noche so that gay Latino men would have a safe space to network, socialize, and enjoy themselves without having to worry about discrimination or their safety.

Lopez and Quijano’s vision for a Latino gay bar became a reality when they sold their home to acquire the funds needed and found a space that they could afford; an old hotel lobby that had been turned into a bar located at 3079 16th and Mission St.[1] This space was a former “rough-and tumble straight bar whose clients were not pleased by the change.”[2] Despite harassment and threats by some of the former patrons, Esta Noche endured, and over time became a community institution where working-class Latinos could feel at home.

Over time, Esta Noche expanded its reach into the community and became more inclusive, becoming a safe space for not only gay Latinos but those who identified as bi, transgender and questioning as well. This inclusion was important to the LGBTQ Latino community, as it helped to make transgender Latinos and drag queens more visible in Latino space, and would help the bar to become well known for its inclusive atmosphere.

The Live entertainment featured at Esta Noche included salsa dancing, comedy shows, and most famously drag shows.  As one reporter described watching a drag show featuring Selena “Looking around the space, the spirit felt snatched from a dream, one of inclusion and celebration and diversity, the primary tenets of San Francisco.”[3]  Esta Noche became the self-proclaimed “drag home” to the now famous drag queen Persia, who first performed her song “Google Google Apps Apps” on the stage of Esta Noche.[4] , [5]  In addition to the live entertainment, Esta Noche was featured in the HBO television series titled “Looking”, a show about a group of gay friends living in San Francisco.[6]

Despite the publicity that came from being featured on TV, and the efforts of the “Save Esta Noche” fundraiser put on by the queens of San Francisco drag queens, Esta Noche closed its doors for good in 2014 due to the inability to pay the increased property taxes. The loss of the bar is seen as another victim of the gentrification that is so widespread in San Francisco, and especially in the Mission district due to the influx of “technology workers and the popularity of Airbandb”.[7] While the gentrification of the mission may be responsible for Esta Noche and other small community businesses to disappear, the legacy of the bar does not need to be and cannot be forgotten.

Esta Noche should be preserved as a national historic landmark so that future generations will be able to appreciate an accurate history of LGBTQ spaces. National recognition of Esta Noche is especially important because it would help to diversify LGBTQ history so that it is not whitewashed, as many feel the legacy of Stonewall has become.[8]  From its beginning Esta Noche was able to eliminate the discrimination and exclusion that gay Latinos faced from both outside and within the LGBTQ community of San Francisco, and should be noticed for that accomplishment.

 

Detailed History of the Site

Early History:

Esta Noche was located on 3079 on the corner of 16th and Mission street. The building that was to become Esta Noche was originally:

built in the late 1800’s as a single-story brick building, making it one of the oldest developed parcels in the City. Its original use is unknown, and the brick structure was leveled in the 1906 earthquake.  Rebuilt as a 3-story wood-frame building after the quake, the property became the Hotel Rondel, named after the alleyway to the east. It operated as a place of lodging and brothel until The Great Depression, when it was shuttered. When the economy recovered, the property became a simple hotel and stayed that way until it was sold and renamed the Sincere Hotel. In 1976, there was a fire that gutted the top two floors of the hotel, and there are still bits of char at the top of these steps left in place for history. Rather than rebuild the two burned floors the owner removed them and converted the remaining structure to a commercial space, becoming Esta Noche.[9]

 

The History of Esta Noche

In the 1970’s Gay and Latino activists of GALA (Gay Latino Alliance) succeeded in becoming a visible powerful organization, who called the mission district their home.[10]  The founders of the Gay Latino Alliance were concerned that their lives as gay and lesbians took place in a “predominantly white gay context.”[11]  In an attempt to create a space that was not the traditional white gay bar in san Francisco, Anthony Lopez and Manuel Quijano, both GALA members, decided to sell their home and open a bar. The duo saw the need for a safe gay Latino space, and opened Esta Noche, the First Latino Gay bar in San Francisco.

Esta Noche became a reputable safe space for gay Latino men to go without having to worry about facing the discriminations that many gay men of color had encountered in the white gay bars in the Castro, let alone the discrimination within their own ethnic community.  At Esta Noche, gay Latino men were no longer harassed, called racial slurs, and forced to show several forms of identification just to enter. They did not have to worry about their ethnic community being unaccepting of their sexuality. They now had a place where gay Latinos could feel safe and accepted.

Although Esta Noche was well known for its variety of vibrant entertainment, it was not just the lively drag shows or comedy bodega nights that made Esta Noche and important part of the community. It was also a space where LGBTQ people could gather, organize and host fundraisers for health clinics, people with AIDS, and other lower income groups. It was a place that took great pride in caring for its Latino community, and celebrated the culture of the people in the surrounding Latino neighborhoods. As a result of these contributions to the community, in 2006, Esta Noche was nominated as one of the organizations to be considered for the San Francisco Pride Marshals, an honor presented to individuals or organizations within the LGBTQ community who have attempted to create change and usually are local heroes who have fought for LGBTQ rights over the years.  When being interviewed during his nomination Lopez remarked “The need for a welcoming space has not changed. Some people of color still feel out of place in the Castro but the Esta Noche club welcomes those who have been turned away.”[12]

When a spike in property taxes threatened the bar’s future , the LGBTQ community launched several efforts to try and raise funds.  Despite efforts of the Queens of San Francisco Drag Queens, Heklina and Anna Conda, to hold a show dedicated to raising funds at the door and donating all of the proceeds to keep the bar afloat, as well as the creation of a crowd funding website, the money needed to stay open could not be raised in time, and the bar was sold. Esta Noche has since been renovated and turned into a club that a reporter for the SF Weekly called “another swanky cocktail bar geared toward 20-somethings with disposable income.” A much different venue than the drag bar that catered to gay Latinos.

Sadly, this is yet another victim of the gentrification that is happening in the Mission District in San Francisco and across the US, and the entire LGBTQ community as well.

In October of 2014, The drag queens of Esta Noche returned to the stage but just for one night. “Under the direction of famed Mission artist Rene Yañez, drag queens from the infamous bar mount Las Chicas de Esta Noche: Living la Vida Evicted   a show that promises to keep “the spirit of Esta Noche alive by doing these events,” said Lulu Ramirez, a drag queen who had hosted shows for seven years before the bar closed.”[13]

Ramirez, who arrived in san Francisco from el Salvador when only the age of 18 says Esta Noche felt like the first place she could safely feel gay and connect with her Latino heritage. “It was the place I was like: ‘Oh my God, they’re playing music in Spanish!’” said Ramirez. “But it was not just the music, it was also the men holding hands. It felt like home.”[14] While Esta Noche is no longer occupying a commercial space, it is still alive in spirit.

 

Trends in the Literature

While researching Esta Noche and its impact on the gay Latino community, one of the main themes that stood out was the overwhelming amount of struggle that was expressed by gay Latinos.  Through the lens of intersectionality, it is clear that “gay Latinos have been faced with a “triple stigma and oppression” because they are “not fully accepted in the gay community because of their ethnicity, rejected by their community of origin because of their sexual orientation, and discriminated by the majority culture because of their ethnicity and their sexual orientation.”[15]  In order to fully understand the importance of Esta Noche, it is essential to understand this dichotomy.

To begin with, gender roles in Latino cultures are very well-defined and expected. Males are to follow “Machismo” culture, the “socially constructed, learned and reinforced set of behaviors comprising the content of male gender roles in Latino society. Females are expected to adhere to “Marinasmo” culture, the traditional and culturally prescribed role of woman, which derives from Maria, mother of god and virgin in the catholic church.[16] These strictly defined gender roles in many Latino families combined with the strict teachings of Catholicism are largely to blame for the lack of LGBTQ acceptance within Latino community, increasing the difficulty of Latino individuals in shaping a “gay identity.”[17]  In addition to the pressure of gender roles in the Latino community, those gay Latinos who choose to come out to their loved ones have to worry about the consequences. They must be prepared to face rejection, however “abandoning their communities and families of origin appears to be the only alternative available for some Latinos who want to openly express their sexuality”.[18]  

In addition to the familial, cultural and spiritual pressures from home, gay Latinos are also faced with navigating life in society as a gay minority, where race and class are factors. While San Francisco is considered the “Gay Mecca,” the neighborhoods of San Francisco have very different characteristics.  While the Mission District in San Francisco is known for its Latino population, the neighboring Castro district has the reputation for being predominantly gay and White.  Joel Engardio’s 1999 articleYou Cant Be Gay Youre LatinoA gay Latino identity struggles to emerge, somewhere between the macho Mission and Caucasian Castro” came out in the SF weekly in 1999. This article describes the struggles of Miguel, a waiter from Mexico who moved to San Francisco so that he could be out of the closet. Engerdio writes about Miguel’s struggles:

In the Mission, Miguel feels at home as a Latino. But he must deal with the same religious, family, and machismo influences that he knew in Mexico, and that denounce or ignore his existence as a homosexual. The Castro excites Miguel as a place where his sexuality is accepted. But he encounters a mostly white, sometimes racist community there, and wonders if he will have to give up being Latino in order to be gay.[19]

 

Miguel goes on to explain that even when he is enjoying gay nightlife in the Castro, he still doesn’t feel like he has found a safe space. Engardio explains “In the Castro’s overwhelmingly white gay bars, Miguel can feel as invisible as the woodwork. And he is leery of the white guys who come on to him. “I hate being a fetish,” Miguel says. “They don’t see you as a person. Just an object — Latin meat.”[20]

It is important to explore the depth and scope of the discriminations and complexities that gay Latinos face to fully appreciate the importance of the second theme in the literature: the importance of Esta Noche to the gay Latino community. Bars have always been important in serving as a safe space in gay culture. An article that appeared in the Guardian,  written by a white gay man,  affectionately described gay bars as “a halfway house, a leap towards building the home that calls you, a little but not much different from the one you came from. A home built on love.”[21]

For gay Latinos, Esta Noche was nothing like the home that they come from: It was better, because at the bar they do not face rejection and disapproval from their families and their culture.  It is the place where they could be gay and Latino at the exact same time and not have to compromise who they were.

Esta Noche was the place where race and ethnicity were not an issue. It was a place where Gay Latino men could be around other people who understood their struggles, and identified with them. In Esta Noche there was an equality of culture and a collective understanding that need not be articulated, as it could just be understood.  In Joel Engardio’s article titled “You can’t be gay, you’re Latino”, he interviewed a young man named Gustavo who came to San Francisco to escape his small Mexican town on the Texas border where he was assaulted as a teen for walking with his gay friend.

When Gustavo hangs at Esta Noche, his only worry is having enough money to cover his drinks – or his bets on the latest soccer match playing on the bar TV. It is a comfortable, safe place where everyone seems to know Gustavo’s name. He often befriends new immigrants who shyly wander in, introducing them to the regulars. There are campy drag shows, but not all the clientele at Esta Noche consists of men in dresses. Gustavo and his friends like meeting other “regular” gay Latinos, and they love the mix of over-the-top gay and certifiably macho that coexists at Esta Noche. [Gustavo says] “it’s the most fascinating place in the world,… probably the only gay-drag-sports bar around.[22]

 

Esta Noche was literally and figuratively miles away from the discrimination that Gustavo faced in Mexico. This is an example the importance of Esta Noche. For Gustavo, it provided him with a space to be himself. To enjoy drag shows and sports. To be Gay and Latino at the same time in the same space among others who were just like him. The Bar was able to create a space where there was multi-faceted similarity among patrons that was impossible to find anywhere else.

Danial D’Addario explains

equality means the right to one’s own space, and gay bars provide
a separateness, a freedom from scrutiny, that’s available virtually nowhere else in the culture. Unlike members of marginalized ethnic or religious groups, gay people rarely grow up surrounded by family members who react in their image. There is no mother tongue to describe their experience of life, no tradition to bind them to the world. Gay bars are where gay people have historically found one another to learn that language and invent those traditions. Being gay is not a religion, but a space for people to come together to celebrate who they are in the face of life’s obstacles could be compared to a church.[23]

 

D’Addario ‘s comparison of the gay bar being like a church is an important one, as it illustrates the similarities of those spaces for gay men: both are safe, special, and sacred. The time spent there is cherished, and important, it is the place where critical life moments take place, such as finding a partner, or making a friend.

The trends found in researching Gay Latinos have often described the gay Latino experience as one of shame from family and culture, rejection from society and denial of their own sexualities and desires.  However, the first Latino gay bar in the mission district of San Francisco, Esta Noche, served as a safe haven where all aspects of a gay Latino life could be celebrated.  While Esta Noche is no longer a physical destination, it should be recognized for contribution to the Latino  LGBTQ community and LGBTQ history.

 

Arguments for the Site’s Inclusion:

In 1979, Esta Noche, the first Latino gay bar in San Francisco, opened its doors. This bar provided a space for LGBTQ Latinos to socialize and be socialized. It was a space to watch drag performances and enjoy comedy shows. Beyond the entertainment, Esta Noche was a safe space. Bars and nightclubs have often become safe spaces for LGBTQ people to gather and to be free to be themselves without scrutiny or fear. Greggor Mattson wrote in his article about homonormative gay place making that bars “were the most important cultural institution where newly ‘out’ men were socialized, interpersonal contacts were made, social isolation was alleviated, and community art exhibitions, charity auctions and political meetings were held.”[24] For LGBTQ Latinos, a group that had faced a trifecta of discrimination, Esta Noche provided that space. Journalist Paul Flynn wrote in an article in “The Guardian” explaining that in gay bars “there is a shared vocabulary, built partly around disposition but also the raw necessity to pass on the things that school couldn’t teach you and that church refuses to.[25]  He goes on to write “after the coat-check, you are the majority, not the minority. It is a feeling both strange and new. Because it is essentially a mating ground, it can be cruel and pernicious, but that hardness is dealt out on equal terms.”[26]  Gay bars are more than just a place to dance and have fun they are places to learn about and understand yourself. They are places to find your people, to feel acceptance and to feel at home.

Esta Noche became a powerful example of how gentrification can impact even the most well-loved spaces in a community when the neighborhood saw a rise in property taxes and the bar was unable to stay afloat. Despite an effort to raise the funds through crowdsourcing and a benefit show[27] the first Latino gay bar in the Mission district had to shut its doors.

One common concern that has been evident throughout all of my research is the fear of gentrification erasing this history. Esta Noche was renovated and turned into an upscale nightclub. Emmanuel Hapsis expressed his anger about the bars closing in a piece for KQED titled “Esta Noche to Close. Nothing is Sacred.” In it he shares his feelings of loss at the bar’s closing and writes that “this feels like a tipping point, if not for the entire city, then at least for the LGBTQ community.”[28]  He goes on to question what the future holds: it could be a future where

some start-up will buy your building and turn your studio apartment into an arcade for its millionaire employees. Or maybe this is when a movement of underdogs rises up to stop San Francisco from becoming a gated community packed with slick new lofts and Teslas. Only time will tell which direction we’re headed, but one thing is for sure: time is running out.[29]

 

There is definitely a sense of urgency to try and slow down the disappearance of these well-loved spaces.

Once a space is lost to gentrification, the community is faced with the problem of accurately memorializing that space. When writing about the gentrification in the mission district and the displacement of the Latino community and their spaces, Nancy Mirabal calls the memorials put in place “embedded in a re-scripted historical memory of space and time… they cull safe memories and operate as historical anecdotes ready for tourist consumption.”[30]  While these places are extremely important to LGBTQ history, difficulties arise with memorializing spaces like bars and clubs because these spaces have a history that could be considered overtly sexual.  However, omitting the sexual nature from the historical record would make the memorial to them inaccurate.  Daniel Hirsch’s article published in the “Mission Local” addresses this very issue. He writes “perhaps for a community as diverse as the queer one, no single effort can fully capture the complexity of a history that has long been on the margins. Plaques and texts will inevitably fall short.”[31]  He goes on to discuss that the “participants from the original 1969 [Stonewall] riots protested again—this time not to make history, but to shape the telling of it .”[32]  I feel that this is the key to memorializing LGBTQ spaces, finding a way to commemorate the history accurately and honestly regardless if it makes some people feel uncomfortable.

The gentrification of San Francisco’s mission district has had a negative impact on the Latino LGBTQ community, and the history of the original Queer and Latino spaces are at risk of being forgotten.  There are plenty of sources to identify why this has happened and to prove that the Latino LGBTQ community wants to commemorate the importance of such spaces. The next step is to identify the right way to preserve the memory of spaces like Esta Noche. Queer history is a rich and complex history, and it should not be simplified.  In Daniel Hirsch’s “Mission Local” piece, he quotes a professor of psychology at Alliant International University as saying “a lot of gay kids come into my class and they don’t know their history… the first gay history book written didn’t have the words ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic’ anywhere in it.”  The next step is finding ways to commemorate LGBTQ history so that the past is accurately preserved.

And while it may be difficult to preserve LGBTQ history in a way that does not offend some for the overt sexual nature of that history, it is also important to realize how this history is being remembered, as well as why.  For example,

In 2006, openly gay Joe D’Alessandro was appointed president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also started a marketing initiative, now in its fourth year, targeting gay and lesbian travelers, with colorful images of the Castro on the agency’s home page and the tagline ‘Gay Capital of the World’ as the link to gay- and lesbian-themed events that even non-gay travelers might enjoy while visiting San Francisco.[33]

Isn’t this just “Pink washing”? and is this for the benefit of the LGBTQ community or for the benefit of tourism revenue? While LGBTQ spaces need to be recognized for their importance in LGBTQ and also American history, is it appropriate to push an LGBTQ agenda just to make money? This is something to consider when thinking about how LGBTQ spaces are chosen to be commemorated. should not be inclusive only to the spaces that will bring in revenue, but spaces that will enhance LGBTQ history.  Esta Noche fits that criteria.

 

Conclusion:

Esta Noche, the First Latino Gay bar in San Francisco was forced to close its doors in 2014, after 34 years. This bar did not close its doors due to lack of business or community interest. In fact, if one were to locate the bar’s old Facebook page, it would be clear immediately that this was a well-loved venue by the Latino LGBTQ community across the United States. Esta Noche’s closing can be directly correlated with the gentrification of the Mission district in the city of San Francisco. The loss of this space, as well as the evidence of loss felt by the community, provide us with these powerful questions: what is the importance of bars to the LGBTQ community, and what does it mean to the community when they disappear? with the support of  many first person accounts that articulate the importance of Esta Noche to the Latino community, the impact that the bar had on those who attended for many years and the impact of the loss and how it was felt by all LGBTQ Latinos all over the country. I have found that while we cannot make these spaces return, we can preserve their existence by not letting them become forgotten It is through commemoration of these spaces that their importance to LGBTQ history can be remembered. This is why I believe that Esta Noche deserves to join Stonewall, in being recognized for its historically significant place in LGBTQ history.

Anthony Lopez and Manuel Ouijano, saw the need for this safe gay Latino space and sold their house to buy the bar that would fill that void by creating a reputable safe space for gay Latino men to go and not have to worry about facing the discrimination that many gay men of color had encountered in the white gay bars in the Castro, let alone the discrimination within their own ethnic community.  At Esta Noche, gay Latino men were no longer harassed, called racial slurs, and forced to show several forms of identification just to enter. They did not have to worry about their ethnic community being unaccepting of their sexuality. They had their own protected space.

Although Esta Noche was well known for its variety of vibrant entertainment, it was not just the lively drag shows or comedy bodega nights that made Esta Noche and important part of the community. It was also a space where LGBTQ people could gather, organize and host fundraisers for health clinics, people with AIDS, and other lower income groups. It was a place that took great pride in caring for its Latino community, and celebrated the culture of the people in the surrounding Latino neighborhoods. As a result of these contributions to the community, in 2006, Esta Noche was nominated as one of the organizations to be considered for the San Francisco Pride Marshals, an honor presented to individuals or organizations within the LGBTQ community who have attempted to create change and usually are local heroes who have fought for LGBTQ rights over the years.

When a spike in property taxes threatened the bar’s future, the LGBTQ community launched several efforts to try and raise funds.  Despite efforts of the Queens of San Francisco Drag Queens, Heklina and Anna Conda, to hold a show dedicated to raising funds at the door and donating all of the proceeds to keep the bar afloat, as well as the creation of a crowd funding website, the money needed to stay open could not be raised in time, and the bar was sold. Esta Noche has since been renovated and turned into a club that a reporter for the SF Weekly called “another swanky cocktail bar geared toward 20-somethings with disposable income.” A much different venue than the drag bar that catered to gay Latinos.

Sadly, this is yet another victim of the gentrification that is happening in the Mission District in San Francisco and across the US, and the entire LGBTQ community as well. In researching this site, I have encountered many different personal accounts of LGBTQ individuals experiencing the loss of their important spaces, and sharing their own sadness at the fact that this is becoming normalized. These are more than just places to socialize. They are places to become socialized, to feel free to be who you are, and to feel safe doing it. The most common issue that is discussed is commemorating these spaces so that they do not lose their importance in LGBTQ history because they played such an impactful role.

The closing of Esta Noche is a perfect example of how gentrification effects not only the LGBTQ community, but also its history. The vanishing of queer spaces in the Mission district is troublesome, as it will arguably lead to a younger LGBTQ generation that is not in touch with its own history. Recognizing queer spaces is important to commemorate queer history as well as to prevent collective memory loss. Spaces like Esta Noche need to be remembered and celebrated for their contribution to the gay and Latino communities. The research that I have done supports that there is a need to preserve these spaces in the collective history of the LGBTQ community in an effort to not forget the progress and the hardships that have been encountered in the past. Discrimination, and more currently, gentrification have made LGBTQ individuals feel that there was not a space for them in this country. By gathering a well-documented history of important LGBTQ spaces like Esta Noche and preserving the integrity of such spaces through commemoration, we can avoid this collective memory loss. This is why Esta Noche should be included as a national Historic Landmark.

 

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[1] Roque Ramirez, Horacio N. 2003. “”That’s My Place!”: Negotiating Racial, Sexual, and Gender Politics in San Francisco’s Gay Latino Alliance, 1975-1983.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 12 (2): 224-258.

[2] Hua, Vanessa. “Mission mainstay.” SFGate. November 12, 1999. Accessed May 01, 2017. http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Mission-mainstay-3198889.php

[3] Hapsis, Emmanuel. “KQED Public Media for Northern CA.” KQED Public Media. February 27, 2014. Accessed February 27, 2017. http://www.kqed.org/.

[4] “Esta Noche Back, But Just for Tonight.” MissionLocal. October 24, 2014. Accessed May 08, 2017. https://missionlocal.org/2014/10/esta-noche-back-but-just-for-tonight/.

[5] Cramer, Laura Jaye. “Drag Queens Say Farewell to Mission Institution Esta Noche.” SF Weekly. January 15, 2017. Accessed May 08, 2017. http://archives.sfweekly.com/exhibitionist/2014/03/18/drag-queens-say-farewell-to-mission-institution-esta-noche.

[6] Ramos, Iván A. “The Dirt That Haunts: Looking at Esta Noche.” Studies In Gender & Sexuality. 16, 2 (April 2015): 135-136. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2017).

[7] Pogash, Carol. “Gentrification Spreads an Upheaval in San Francisco’s Mission District.” The New York Times. May 22, 2015. Accessed April 30, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/us/high-rents-elbow-latinos-from-san-franciscos-mission-district.html?_r=0

[8] Thrasher, Steven W. “LGBT People of Color Refuse to be Erased after Orlando: ‘We have to elbow in'” The Guardian. June 18, 2016. Accessed May 07, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/18/orlando-latino-lgbt-media-whitewash.

[9] About.” Bond Bar. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://www.bondbarsf.com/about/

[10] Roque Ramirez, Horacio N. 2003. “”That’s My Place!”: Negotiating Racial, Sexual, and Gender Politics in San Francisco’s Gay Latino Alliance, 1975-1983.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 12 (2): 224-258.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Szymanski, Zak. “Time to vote for SF Pride marshals.” Bay Area Reporter. March 2, 2006. Accessed May 08, 2017. http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=620

[13] Hirsch, Daniel. “Esta Noche Back, But Just for Tonight.” MissionLocal. October 24, 2014. Accessed May 10, 2017. https://missionlocal.org/2014/10/esta-noche-back-but-just-for-tonight/

[14] Ibid.

[15] Marsiglia, Flavio. 1998. “Homosexuality and Latinos/as.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 8 (3): 113-125.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Contreras, D. Unrequited Love and Gay Latino Culture: What Have You Done to My Heart? New York, US: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 30 April 2017.

[18] Marsiglia. “Homosexuality and Latinos/as.” 113-125.

[19] Engardio, Joel P. “You Can’t Be Gay — You’re Latino.” SF Weekly. May 09, 2017. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://archives.sfweekly.com/sanfrancisco/you-cant-be-gay-youre-latino/Content?oid=2136378

[20] Engardio, Joel P. “You Can’t Be Gay — You’re Latino.” SF Weekly. May 09, 2017. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://archives.sfweekly.com/sanfrancisco/you-cant-be-gay-youre-latino/Content?oid=2136378.

[21] Flynn, Paul, and Alexis Petridis. “‘There is a Pulse around every corner’: why gay clubs matter.” The Guardian. June 13, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/13/pulse-gay-clubs-matter-transformed-lives-orlando-shooting.

[22] Engardio, Joel P. “You Can’t Be Gay — You’re Latino.” SF Weekly. May 09, 2017. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://archives.sfweekly.com/sanfrancisco/you-cant-be-gay-youre-latino/Content?oid=2136378.

[23] D’Addario, Daniel. 2016. “The Gay Bar As Safe Space Has Been Shattered.” Time. 187, no. 24: 38. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 30, 2017).

[24] Mattson, Greggor. 2015. “Style and the Value of Gay Nightlife: Homonormative Placemaking in San Francisco.” Urban Studies 52 (16): 3144-3159.

[25] Flynn, Paul, and Alexis Petridis. “‘There is a Pulse around every corner’: why gay clubs matter.” The Guardian. June 13, 2016. Accessed April 01, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/13/pulse-gay-clubs-matter-transformed-lives-orlando-shooting

[26] Ibid.

[27] Burke, Tanner. “From concept to market with crowdfunding.” Indiegogo. May 2013. Accessed February 27, 2017. https://www.indiegogo.com/.

[28] Hapsis, Emmanuel. “KQED Public Media for Northern CA.” KQED Public Media. February 27, 2014. Accessed February 27, 2017. http://www.kqed.org/

[29] Ibid.

[30] Mirabal, Nancy Raquel. 2009. “Geographies of Displacement: Latina/os, Oral History, and the Politics of Gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District.” The Public Historian 31 (2): 7-31.

[31] Hirsch, Daniel . “R-Rated and Ephemeral: Spinning LGBT History.” MissionLocal. July 18, 2014. Accessed February 27, 2017. http://missionlocal.org/2014/07/r-rated-and-ephemeral-spinning-lgbt-history/.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Boyd, Nan. 2011. “San Francisco’s Castro district: from gay liberation to tourist destination.” Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change. 9 (3): 237-248.

 

The Atlantic House Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site

The Atlantic House Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site

Presentation:

https://www.slideshare.net/secret/IsSSuryLg1Tine

Paper:

A Place, A Landmark, A Haven: Why the Country’s Oldest Gay Bar Should Be a National Landmark

The Atlantic House

“No attitude of pretense here. A bar where everyone is welcome, gay, lesbian, straight, CD, whatever. Stop by and enjoy the experience!”

This quote is displayed on The Atlantic House’s website, a gay bar that may be the oldest in the nation. It is a space within a town that has a rich and complex history, though one that is notorious for welcoming people of different sexual identities and social classes. The A-House, as it is called, is home to three distinct bars within the club for socializing, flirting, drinking, and dancing (The A-House, 2017). It has been frequented by playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and jazz musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. All of these individuals are now considered to be iconic and celebrated national figures. Beyond this, however, The Atlantic House is known for its long-standing purpose as a safe space and a means of visibility that has historically been very difficult to come by for members of the LGBTQ community. In fact, until 1973, to be gay meant to have a psychological disorder (Gieseking 2017). Gay men were policed, bars were raided, people were jailed, and, in some cases, the names of the “offenders” were listed publicly, thus destroying families, reputations, and careers.

In this paper, I argue that The Atlantic House should be memorialized as a historical monument for its many contributions to numerous marginalized groups in American society – many of whom are now sources are national pride. In addition to it being a haven to gay men who were ostracized, policed, mistrusted and maltreated in almost every other space in society, the A-House was a stomping ground for many of America’s most well-known artists. It is also the center and embodiment of a historically accepting town, one that is steeped in a nationalistic identity as the first landing spot of the Mayflower’s pilgrims who were fleeing relgious persecution.

This paper will therefore first be a discussion of the importance of gay bars, and how they allowed for gay men to make friends, lovers, and build a family of support, particularly when it was illegal for them to publicly and openly embrace their sexualities. From there, the idea of the “gay lifestyle” will be discussed. It is a term used to describe how emerging subsets of gay men were trending in terms of their vacation and leisure activities in the 1970s (Hilderbrand 2013, 377). I will then explore the unique geography of Provincetown, one of the largest gay-friendly tourist towns in the US, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Finally this paper will highlight how the gay bar, The Atlantic House, is at the center of this established group of people and important geographical locale and should therefore be memorialized.

It can never go forgotten how much the gay community was – and still is – a marginalized and oppressed society in many forms. As previously stated, being gay was considered to be a psychological disorder until 1973 (Gieseking 2017). Anti-gay therapies – such as shock therapy – still exist today. Another form of this mental marginalization was the erasure – or lack of acknowledgement – of gay history. Devall Williams writes, “With the exception of some attempts to create a liberation movement for gay men in Germany before 1920, gay men were without a social history until the 1960s. They were treated as individual deviants, sinners, criminals or psychopaths.” (Williams, 1979, p. 180). In addition, he calls the gay community an “impoverished culture” without the resources, acceptance, and spaces afforded to others who maintained a more heteronormative lifestyle.

In Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s documentary adaptation of Vito Russo’s book, “The Celluloid Closet”, the topic of visibility in particularly as it was discussed on the big screen was particularly important. The adoption of the Hays Code in 1930 barred “sexual perversion” – as displays of homosexual behavior was called – in films, leaving gay men and women with few people to “mirror” or see themselves in. Films prior to the Code were not much better; although some films featured gay characters, they were often objects to be laughed at, feminine, and silly. Conversely, the abolishment of the Hays Code in 1968 did not improve the visibility situation. In films in the 1970s and 1980s, gay characters were first the villains – killing people or otherwise asking as deviants – or later, the victims of horrible crimes (Epstein & Friedman, 1995). Still, in the media and on the big screen, to be gay was to be an “other”.

As a result, throughout history, gay bars have been important locales in the gay community as establishments where gay men are free to be themselves, to be seen, and to not be alone. While they sometimes served “as starting places for meeting people or getting to know a city”, they were also places where gay men could discover their sexualities in an accepting environment – particularly when it was illegal to do so (Hilderbrand 2013, p. 386). As previously stated, being gay was considered to be a psychological disorder until 1973 (Gieseking 2017). Devall Williams cites Nancy Achilles when he writes, ““The gay bar, as Achilles (1967) illustrated, was a central institution of gay social worlds,” (180).

Though Joan Nestle was speaking about lesbian bars in her piece “Restriction and Reclamation: Lesbian Bars and Beaches of the 1950s”, the sentiments were the same. “Silenced and policed, we congregated in allotted spaces…what could not be controlled was what enforced the creation of these spaces in the first place – our need to confront a personal destiny, to see our reflections in each other’s faces and to break societal ostracism with our bodies. What could not be controlled was our desire,” (Nestle 1997, 61). At this time, it was illegal for people of the same-sex to even dance with each other, but these “allotted spaces” offered temporary safe havens to people who were otherwise horribly ostracized.

Gay bars cannot be discussed without talking about other spaces of hookup culture – or cruising – in the gay community. One prominent place was in public bathhouses. “In the Western world, the gay bathhouse plays a significant role in the lives of men who engage in ‘anonymous’ sex with other men. Bathhouse culture and sex are characterized by relative anonymity, non-verbal discourse, and de-personalized social rituals,” (Haubrich, Myers, Calzavara, Ryder, & Medved, 2004, p. 19). While in some ways these spaces provided a specifically gay space – men came there to cruise and were usually successful – it was not the same type of social, warm community as a bar. Bathhouses were less of a space for making friends as they were for getting off. Additionally, they could be quite dangerous. One reason for this was that casual, anonymous, and oftentimes unprotected sex lead to STDs, particularly HIV/AIDS. The disease resulted in the tragic deaths for thousands of gay men – among other people – due to lack of government support, research, medical care, and knowledge about prevention. Another was that these spaces were commonly used for drug and alcohol use in large quantities, in addition to always being on the lookout for police interference. In a paper which interviews former bathhouse managers, he explained that “his staff was trained on how to handle customers who passed out because of alcohol or drug overdose: revive him and get him out of the door and onto the street rather than calling police or paramedics,” (Hudson, Ashley, & Okhuysen, 2009, p. 136).

George Chauncey also writes extensively about this topic, particularly discussing the harassment and policing gay men experienced and continue to experience particularly in public spaces. In the 1920s and 1930s, there were “formal anti-gay regulations” (Chauncey, 1996, p. 226). In this time – as in others – gay men had to be particularly careful about where they “came out”. One of the safest ways to do so was in public spaces because there was a greater sense of anonymity there. If they all congregated in one space, it would be quickly marked as a “gay place”. If they spread out, however, police and harassers would be less likely to find them. In New York City, “the city’s streets and parks served as vital meeting grounds for men who lived with their families or in cramped quarters with few amenities, and the vitality and diversity of the gay street scene attracted many other men as well. Streets and parks were where many men – ‘queer’ and ‘normal’ alike – went to find sexual partners, where many gay men went to socialize, and where many men went for sex and ended up being socialised into the gay world,” (Chauncey, 1996, p. 227). Just like the bathhouses, however, this anonymity did not solve everything. Just as anti-gay proponents wanted to look for gay men in particular places to hurt them, gay men needed spaces to feel safe that were also places that were permanent and community-oriented. At a certain point, for some people, it is not enough just to search and wander. At some point, people need a home and visibility.

Fortunately, by the 1970s, gay tourism had reached a point where a small subset (primarily wealthy, white men) could travel together. Numerous publications took note of this trend, portraying these travels as “sex vacation[s]” (Hilderbrand, 2013, p. 377). They also offered columns on “sex advice, health, hygiene and grooming, food, fashion, travel, and fiction,” (Hilderbrand, 2013, p. 373). The magazine – starting with one called Queen’s Quarterly (QQ) and resulting in at least two more spin-offs – was surprisingly lacking in political and current event news. This was unlike most gay publications at the time. However, it could be argued that this was a means of “normalizing” the gay lifestyle by expanding topics of readership. In a world otherwise filled with activism, danger, sadness, fear, and political tension and oppression, perhaps reading about topics like “sex vacations” and “grooming” was a means of escapism. It also perhaps assumes the purpose of highlighting another aspect of the gay life beyond the horrors of oppression and harassment, and bringing “normal” or routines of everyday life for some gay men to public awareness.

This increased visibility around the “gay lifestyle” was also effective because there was an emerging population of people that were shaping to be a new consumer group (Hilderbrand, 2013, p. 370). One such form of this was the advertising of gay tours. However, though it was a vast societal change to have gay men be recognized as a consumer group for which to gear these experiences towards, what was even more notable was the visibility. As Devall writes, “the acceptance of these tours by the travel industry and the diversity of tours offered illustrates the general process of proliferation of specialized touring and the movement of a stigmatized, deviant group of men into an acceptance in some social circles as an ‘alternative lifestyle’.” (Devall, 1970, p. 191)

This lifestyle, however, was “not simply a world of sex or eroticism” (Devall, 1979, p. 181). There were other forms of leisure and ways to form close connects and friendships within the community. The lifestyle included sports leagues, gay tourism, nude beaches, drag shows, and – the pinnacle of early gay public culture – gay bars. All of these activities and experiences – through different – culminated in one common goal: the ability for “some men to ‘come out’ in a gay self and social identity, to develop acquaintance with other gay men and learn the rules of the games, ”(Devall, 1979, p. 188). In interacting with other gay men in a accepted space, men could learn that they were not alone in their sexual identity. They could see the styles and mannerisms of other gay men, learn how to flirt and socialize, and to figure out their own personal and sexual identity within this community.

This idea of community is particularly established in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts town of Provincetown. The town has a multifaceted history both as a nationalist conservative symbol, and, in contrast, continues to be a site of social development as it fosters both a gay and bohemian community. Provincetown was, in fact, where the Mayflower carrying the pilgrims who were fleeing religious persecution in England in November of 1620.. They signed their governing document, the Mayflower Compact, in Provincetown’s harbor. In around 1680, the land was officially settled as a permanent site by white colonizers, less than thirty years after the native Wampanoag peoples had been pushed out. The town grew from there and established itself particularly as a fishing and whaling port. In 1798, an establishment called Pease’s Tavern was built. It would later be renamed to be called the Union House, and then The Atlantic House, as it is known today (I Am Provincetown, 2015).

There are numerous travel logs written about Provincetown due to the town’s beauty and social scene. It is the last town at the end of Cape Cod, and features sand dune walks, oceanfront views, miles of beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore, and all forms of boating activities. Due to its remote location, it geographically functions as an excellent space for privacy, particularly gay men looking to escape their heteronormative lives or the busyness of nearby Boston.

Provincetown has “60 galleries, 170 restaurants and cafes and dozens of inns, bed and breakfasts, and hotels are within walking distance” (Austin 2011). Many families visit the town during the summers, though the tourist economy is primarily supported by gay and lesbian tourists (Gross, 1999). A large part of the attraction to the town is the art and galleries it features, because Provincetown has a long history of artist’s colonies. They are described as “permissive places where artists can let down their hair, paint or write with less worry about critics, and socialize with like-minded people” (Austin 2011).

This community included contemporary artist John Dowd, abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, painter Robert Motherwell, playwright Tennessee Williams, painter/teacher Charles Hawthorne, modernist painter Jackson Pollock, painter/teacher Selina Trieff, playwright Eugene O’Neill, painter Franz Kline, author Norman Mailer, modernist painter Mark Rothko, and writer Jack Kerouac. One particular reason for this vast collection of creatives was that World War I made it dangerous for American artists seeking training to visit Europe. As a result, beginning in 1915, many flocked to Provincetown. In addition to its beauty and isolation, the town featured the Cape Cod School of Art which was opened in 1899 by Charles Hawthorne, which drew in people from the northeast. In addition to the inspiration afforded to them by the oceanfront and dune scenery, “They were drawn to the tip of Cape Cod by Provincetown’s pure northern light, the raven-haired exoticism of its Portuguese fishing population and, perhaps most importantly, cheap rent,” (Gross, 1999).

The inclusivity that the colonies promoted also fostered a community that was less heteronormative that most other places at the time. The privacy that the far-off beach town provided geographically coupled with the lack of societal judgment resulted in the beginning of a flourishing LGBT community. Anthony Bourdain, famous chef and best-selling author describes the town as “a wonderland of tolerance” on his Emmy-winning show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (White & Hegarty, 2014) . In an episode where he visits Provincetown, he reminisces about the first time he visited the town, saying, “1972, washed in a town with a headful of orange sunshine and a few friends. Provincetown, a wonderland of tolerance, long time tradition of accepting artists, writers, the badly behaved, the gay, the different. It was paradise,” (Bourdain, 2014).

In this episode, Bourdain also visits the esteemed Atlantic House. “Provincetown was always gay-friendly, in my time and way, way before my time,” he says. “And this place, the Atlantic House, known always and forever by locals and visitors alike as the A-House, is America’s oldest operating gay bar. Everybody has come through these doors, so to speak. Most notably, naked and frolicking Tennessee Williams,” (Bourdain, 2014). This statement is backed by some of The Atlantic House’s wall decor. Prominently displayed in the bar – and on their website – is a picture of the playwright in the nude on one of Provincetown’s nude beaches, also considered to be a gay cruising spot (The A-House, 2017).

The A-House, originally opened in 1798, is arguably the United States’ oldest gay bar (The A-House, 2017). Though other gay bars exist around the country – even in other famous beach locales like Fire Island – The Atlantic House has many diverse features that make it unique. Called the “ground zero of Provincetown night life”, its clientele primarily includes gay men, though all are welcome (Gross, 1999). As a club, it welcomes many groups of people with its three bars. This is a feature that is unique to the A-House, as few gay bars – existing or not – have so many different spaces within them. The “Dance Club” is open every day, year-round for all people to come to dance to music provided by a longstanding DJ. David LaSalle is a resident of Provincetown who is a Billboard reporter and has DJed at the A-House for 29 seasons. Another bar, the “Little Bar” is more meant for drinking and conversing. It is clear that here is where support networks are formed because the website says that it is “a local hangout, so don’t be surprised if the whole room breaks into song at any moment” (The A-House, 2017). The last bar – the “Macho Bar” – is a leather bar that is meant for cruising, a historically important part of gay bar culture. Additionally, the A-House is famous for its theme parties every Friday night, in addition to its daily opening. This is a rare occurrence, as most bars – gay or straight – only have one or two special nights a week. There are even cash prizes for people wearing the best costume (The A-House, 2017). This multifunctionality of the many different bars and events allows for a greater mix of patrons; there is something for everyone. This is perhaps why The Atlantic House has been successful – and continues to be – for so long, while so many other gay bars across the country have been forced to close. The history of the gay man is oftentimes a very sad, difficult one, fraught with marginalization, oppression, loneliness, and disease. It is therefore so imperative that places like The Atlantic House for something that is vital for all of humankind – fun.

From a physical location standpoint, it is landmark for whom it served and welcomed. For one, the barstools in the establishment are well known because Pulitzer Prize-winner Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill both fell off of them (Austin, 2011). Secondly, O’Neill’s Provincetown house collapsed due to beach erosion so it cannot be visited or commemorated. However, it is definitively known that he was a frequent patron at the Atlantic House. The place where he sat is even famous. In this way, the Atlantic House is a monument to O’Neill in a way that no other place in Provincetown can ever be (Gross, 1999). The A-House therefore stands as more than just a long-standing bar; rather, it is a historical locale. The gay bar – and the gay tourism that its patrons buy into – also existed as a means of saving the town. As Karen Christel Krahulik writes in her book, Provincetown: From Pilgrim Landing to Gay Resort, the once-thriving fishing town is declining. However, tourism is now what keeps Provincetown afloat. By attracting tourists to its bars, restaurants, hotels, and beaches, the acceptance of the gay community is actually what now preserves this historical town. Without gay culture, the site could potentially deteriorated and been forgotten (Maynard, 2006).

Another key value of The Atlantic House that makes it unique is its ownership and artwork. The club’s former owner, Reginald Cabral, was a descendent of Portuguese immigrants, as are many Provincetown residents since these people comprised much of the town’s former large fishing community. Cabral was a family man who loved harboring artists, writers, and gay men in his establishment. In his obituary, it says that, in addition to educating people about Provincetown’s whaling and arts histories, “ he was just as passionate about preserving Provincetown’s reputation for openness. As the proprietor of a lively bar that drew many writers, painters and gay customers, Mr. Cabral had a vested interest in Provincetown’s vaunted tolerance of offbeat lifestyles…” (Thomas, 1996). Figures like this are what made The Atlantic House such a long-operating establishment. There was care and consideration for the customer, as well as pride in its location.

Cabral was also known for his art collections and charitable donations. In his obituary, it says, “Mr. Cabral, who donated so many evenings of Atlantic House proceeds to so many charities that he seemed lucky to have anything left over for himself, nevertheless always seemed to have enough to buy art or literary memorabilia,” (Thomas, 1996). Additionally, when the young, poor artists that frequented The A-House could not pay their bar tabs, Cabral would accept some of their artwork as payment. In this way, the establishment turned into as much a museum as it was a bar, with art decorating the walls.

However, these were no ordinary, unknown pieces of art. The people frequenting The Atlantic House were men like Mark Rothko, Tennessee Williams, and Robert Mapplethorpe. As it pertains to Mapplethorpe, Cabral was apparently “quite proud that he was buying Robert Mapplethorpe photographs long before anyone had heard of Mr. Mapplethorpe, or indeed before Mr. Mapplethorpe began taking the controversial photographs that made him notorious,” (Thomas, 1996). The establishment is therefore associated with a number of themes – multiple forms of socialization for the gay community, a historical monument, an art museum, and a philanthropic establishment.

Today, the town of Provincetown is a wealthier – and oftentimes whiter and cis-tourism generated space – so there may be less leniency in terms of how to pay bar tabs. However, it is still a family owned and operated business. Cabral’s daughter April now runs the A-House, keeping the establishment in her family for over 75 years. In her interview on Bourdain’s show, she says “My father during that time, he had Billy Holiday appeared, he had Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, all the big names of jazz,” (Bourdain, 2014). All of these people – O’Neill, Williams, Mapplethorpe, Simone, Fitzgerald, Holiday, and many more – are highly successful and celebrated American artists. They were also forms of outcasts for some time when they were first developing their identities, but now, they help to define our artist national identity, just as the pilgrims – also outcasts in their own regard – helped to define America in their own right. There seems to be no coincidence that Provincetown has attracted so many outcasts of varying definitions of the word – bohemians, those fleeing religious persecution, and those fleeing persecution as a result of their social and sexual identities.

This concept of inclusivity is not just one that was important in the past. It is just as imperative today. Early in the morning on Sunday, June 12, 2016, there was a shooting and hostage situation in the Orlando gay bar, Pulse, on their Latinx night. Marked as the deadliest mass shooting ever to occur in the U.S., the devastating incident resulted in the death of 50 people with 53 others marked as injured. Vigils for this tragedy were held around the world – in places like Australia, South Korea, London – as well as all around the United States. A survivor of the hate crime, Angel Colon, is quoted by CBS News as saying that it was “A life changing event…when you go to a place like Pulse it your safe zone as a gay person,” (CBS News, 2016). This is a sentiment utter by countless other people in the LGBTQ community. “For many non-heterosexual people, gay bars help us find our way. They are often the most accessible safe spaces available,” (Pacific Standard, 2016).

This is why a gay bar like The Atlantic House needs to be commemorated. For the gay men who have lived such painful, persecuted lives. For the gay men of the future who have the possibility to live more accepted lives. The spaces where gay men could be true to their identities, accepted, loved, and belonged need to be celebrated just as much as the places of activism and persecution need to be remembered.

The Atlantic House has provided that vitally important, fun space for at least fifty years. It is the perhaps the oldest gay bar in the United States in one of the United States’ oldest towns. It is a historical landmark for its heritage of accepting artists who are now sources of great American pride before they were famous. It opened its doors to marginalized peoples – not only gay men, but all members of the LGBTQ community – before it was socially acceptable to do so. It has been in the care of a family who genuinely loves their customers. It’s former owner, Reginald Cabral, was charitable and lenient. He understood his role to be both a preserver of a historical landmark for heteronormative American history in addition to homosexual American history.

If the United States acknowledges and honors this National Historic Landmark Nomination as a part of their National Parks Department, they could help to alleviate some of the historical erasure gay men have faced throughout history. The acknowledgement could be another form of permission – in addition to the legalization of gay marriage – for people to legally be true to their identities, without fear of government oppression. It would also be an acknowledgement that places of warmth and fun are just as important as places of oppression and difficulty, particularly for a marginalized community. What better place to acknowledge this than in a unique, successful establishment in one of the United States’ more important towns, where the original soon-to-be American outcasts first set foot?

 

 

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“Provincetown Gay & Lesbian History.” Visit-provincetown. 2017. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://www.visit-provincetown.com/gay-and-lesbian-history-of-provincetow/.

 

“Provincetown History: Timeline – Dates At Glance.” I am Provincetown ~ History: Provincetown Timeline. 2015. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://www.iamprovincetown.com/history/timeline.html.

 

Standard, Pacific. “The Symbolic Importance of Gay Bars – Pacific Standard.” Pacific Standard. June 14, 2016. Accessed May 01, 2017. https://psmag.com/the-symbolic-importance-of-gay-bars-f79d8b68c73f.

 

Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. (1996, Aug 22). Reginald cabral, 72, who tended provincetown’s past, dies. New York Times Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/docview/430626849?accountid=14405

White, Marian, and Peter Hegarty. “Anthony Bourdain Visited These 6 Massachusetts Restaurants on ‘Parts Unknown'” BostInno. November 10, 2014. Accessed May 09, 2017. http://bostinno.streetwise.co/2014/11/10/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown-massachusetts-episode/

 

Shoreham Hotel Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site

“Psychiatry is the Enemy Incarnate”: Lesbian and Gay Activism and the American Psychiatric Association

https://www.slideshare.net/secret/N6UKF7qL1YSzvT

Lori Puopolo

Professor Jack Gieseking

American Studies 409

10 May 2017

Declaring War against American Psychiatry: Gay and Lesbian Activism from 1950-1973

 

Introduction

            I argue that the gay and lesbian activist protest at the 1971 American Psychiatric Association conference at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders should be historically recognized as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender historic site. Although it was not the first protest to depathologize homosexuality, let alone against the APA, it was where gay and lesbian activists officially declared war on the association. Radical activists already had saw psychiatry and psychiatrists as their enemies; now they were publicly using such rhetoric in the faces of psychiatrists.

The 1970 convention in San Francisco was the first direct attack on the APA. It was also where gay and lesbian activists centralized their efforts on a common foe (Bayer 1981). For Irving Bieber and many other psychiatrists, this was the first time that they had experienced direct confrontation with the people they were characterizing as less than human (Bayer 1981). The outrage and guerilla tactics utilized at the convention were carried over into the D.C. protest the following year.

The protest speaks to the amount of power that social movements had over the medicalization and demedicalization of social conditions in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1970s, mental health professionals were seen as one of the entities with the most power over whether someone had a medical condition (Conrad 2005). Today, using a movement to effect a change within psychiatry would be more difficult, since a greater distribution of power now resides in pharmaceutical and insurance companies (Conrad 2005).

Protests at APA conferences expatiated getting homosexuality removed from the DSM. By this time, sexologists, like Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker, had conducted their own research that countered the oppressive frames upheld by psychiatrists (Katz 1976; Drescher 2015). However, many therapists were not reading their work (Bayer 1981). Disruptive politics had a bigger effect on changing therapists’ perceptions of homosexuality by confronting their complicity in homosexual oppression.

Whereas gay and lesbian activists in the 1950s and early 1960s tried to educate professionals to eradicate homosexual oppression, more radical endeavors emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. New organizations like the Gay Liberation Front criticized older organizations like the Mattachine Society for being too nice to psychiatrists. At the D.C. protest in particular, Frank Kameny declared war against the American psychiatry. Psychiatrists had for decades advocated for “treatments” like aversion therapy, castration, electroshock therapy (Katz 1976). Radical activists wanted gay men and lesbians to define homosexuality for themselves while at the same time calling out psychiatrists for perpetuating homophobia and heterosexism.

Radical efforts expedited the process to remove homosexuality from the DSM. Activists placed psychiatrists under pressure to organize panels at APA conferences, meetings with committees, and eventually the final vote needed to remove homosexuality from the DSM. Although sexual behavior socially defined as deviant was still classified as a disorder in the DSM-III, being gay or lesbian, by itself, was no longer considered as a disorder after the 1973 vote.

 

History of the site

            In 1970, gay and lesbian activists protested at the annual APA conference in San Franciscio. Under pressure by activists, psychiatrist Kent Robinson advocated that they get a panel at the following year’s protest in D.C. However, activists did not want just a panel (Bayer 1981). By this time, activists were engaging in disruptive politics and did want to get rid of the momentum that such politics brought (Bayer 1981). Therefore, activists wanted to engage in another protest.

Frank Kameny had gone to the Gay Liberation Front chapter in Washington D.C. to organize the protest. By this time, Kameny had been removed from Mattachine Society D.C., which he founded, due to his radical approach to politics. The Gay Liberation Front had been using “zaps” to counter psychiatric perceptions of homosexuality. Activists attended with picket signs the lectures of professors who spoke negatively about homosexuality (Bayer 1981). Now, the Gay Liberation Front was organizing a protest to be held at an APA conference.

            The protest took place May 3rd, 1971 at the Shoreham Hotel (Blumenfeld 2016). One of the activists had placed a crack in a doorway to allow the Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society, and Gay Activists Alliance to sneak into the site where they wore T-shirts and carried signs that said “Gay is Good” and “Psychiatry is the Enemy” (Blumenfeld 2016). Also taking part in the protest was the Gay May Day collective who had recently protested on May Day in an attempt to shut down the government (Blumenfeld 2016). At the same location was the panel titled “The Lifestyle of Homosexuality”. At the panel were Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Jack Baker, who was the first out gay student body president at the University of Minnesota (Blumenfeld 2016).

 

Literature Review

For several hundred years, psychiatry has served as a means of social control (Brown 1990). Throughout the twentieth century, it has determined who may live in the “real world’ and who is isolated and sent to asylums; who has a job; who is healthy; who is normal. Psychiatry’s oppressive actions against homosexuality is a continuum of homosexual oppression by Western societies. Religious institutions were the first demonize same-sex behavior and punished with castration those who had sex with members of the same sex (Katz 1976). Legal and then psychiatric institutions adopted pathologizing attitudes towards homosexuality and saw castration as appropriate for punishing homosexuality (Katz 1976).  Other “treatments” included aversion therapy, electro-shock therapy, and marriage (Katz 1976).

Psychiatrists framed homosexuality in one of three ways: mental disorder, sexual immaturity, or normal variation (Drescher 2015). Since homosexual was at first a medical term (Katz 1995), it is not surprising that psychiatrists first framed it as a mental disorder (Drescher 2015). By the mid-twentieth century, most psychiatrists had accepted this frame (Drescher 2015). The first psychiatrist to see homosexuality as a disorder was Richard von Kraft-Ebing (Drescher 2015). Other prominent psychiatrists, like Sandor Rado, Irvine Bieber, and Charles Socarides, would later adopt this frame (Drescher 2015). In 1952, the DSM-I defined homosexuality as a disorder (American Psychiatric Association 1952). Homosxuality would not be removed from the DSM until 1973. The psychiatric legitimization of homosexuality as a mental disorder served as a basis upon which to justify its criminalization.

If psychiatrists did not see homosexuality as a disorder, then they most likely saw it as a sexual immaturity. The idea behind this thinking is that homosexual behavior is associated with childhood. Similar to framing homosexuality as a frame, these psychiatrists thought that a child would eventually “grow out of it”. A homosexual adult would be seen as having stunted growth mentally. Sigmund Freud is one of those most well-known for holding this kind of thinking. However, he thought that homosexuals could change their sexuality only if they wanted to.

. Some gay men and lesbians looked toward any of the frames as a lens through which to better understand themselves. Others saw the harmful effects of these frames and rejected the pathologization that such frames constructed of homosexuality. Gay men and lesbians developed shame for their sexualities and went to mental health professionals to admonish their guilt. Psychiatrists would respond by worsening the shame and guilt that their patients had. It would take years for patients to develop an affirmation for their sexualities.

            A minority of social science researchers saw homosexuality as normal or innate. Alfred Kinsey was one of the first of such researchers to conduct a study that showed that homosexuality was more common than many people believed. The one-in-ten statistic that he developed is still used today, although more recent research suggests that his statistic is an underestimate.  Evelyn Hooker’s work also combats oppressive frames of homosexuality. Her study of homosexual men found no differences in characteristics between homosexual men and heterosexual men.

Early homophile societies focused on promoting social life or educating U.S. society about homosexual oppression. One of such organizations was the Mattachine Society. Formed in 1950 in Los Angeles, the Mattachine Society was focused on creating a homosexual subculture (Bronski 2011).  In terms of activism, they were initially concerned with police entrapment. Later, the Daughters of Bilitis were founded. This organization of lesbians brought in an analysis that included their oppressions as both a homosexual and a woman (D’Emilio 1983). The two organizations used the publications OUT Inc. and The Latter to publish articles that educated other gay men and lesbians about their oppression. Consciousness-raising groups were created. Information was presented to lawyers and mental health professionals to debunk myths. The goal was to convince professionals that homosexuality was not a disorder, but a normal variation. For example, the Mattachine Society volunteered some of its members to participate in Hooker’s study that concluded that homosexual men were no different than heterosexuality men when various characteristics were compared (D’Emilio 1983).

Initially, homophile organizations were reluctant to attacking psychiatry for its part in perpetuating homosexual oppression. There was no precedence to use as a model for how to combat psychiatric oppression. Organizations like the Mattachine Society were more focused on gay rights, such as ending sodomy laws and police entrapment. Frank Kameny tried to get the Mattachine chapter in Washington D.C. to commit to focusing attention on psychiatry’s role in homosexual oppression. With great struggle, the D.C. chapter publicly stated in 1965 that it would

Then, homophile organizations learned of the upcoming APA conference in San Francisco. Activists had heard about who would attend. Psychiatrist Irving Bieber especially sparked interest in gay and lesbian activists to disrupt the conference since his work in particular had a substantial impact on U.S. perceptions of homosexuality. How Ronald Bayer describes it, up to the time of the conference was when gay and lesbian activists identified a common foe (Bayer 1981).

More radical, direct-action campaigns emerged following the Stonewall Riot of 1969. Organizations like the Gay Liberation Front were more focused on mass protests, whereas older homophile organizations saw education as the primary way to achieve equality. The Gay Liberation Front saw such organizations, including the Mattachine Society as hampering rather than effecting social change.  The chapter in California in particular was criticized for asking for respect, rather than demanding it. To Gay Liberation Front groups, discussions that organizations like the Mattachine Society had with mental health professionals gave too much power to them over the definition and perception of homosexuality. Frank Kameny also believed that mainstream gay and lesbian activists treated psychiatrists too much as experts and that activists needed to see themselves as the experts. The Gay Liberation Front was often criticized for its intersectional framework, being critiqued by The Advocate for not focusing solely on gay rights but also on anti-capitalism and other systems of oppression.

Radical activists participated in disruption politics to combat oppressive rhetoric of homosexuals. Picket lines occurred in lectures of professors who denounced homosexuality. Protests occurred at television programs such as at the taped interview of Marcus Welby (D’Emilio 1983). For radical groups, any opinion that oppressed homosexuality was not tolerated.

Through protest, gay men and lesbians were defining their own sexuality. Psychiatrists, particularly heterosexual psychiatrists, had too much power over the definition of homosexuality. Psychiatric resistance had a scarcity of gay voices. Activists from outside the discipline needed to change how homosexuality was perceived; that meant challenging the discipline that had declared itself to be “experts” on this “disease” or a “phase”. Although they had adopted a definition initially crafted by psychiatrists, they were still advocating for participation in everyday life, which meant getting their sexuality out of the DSM.

 

Discussion

The D.C. protest helped lead to the 1972 panel and protest in Dallas, Texas. Radical efforts at this site held less of a presence. Rather, the significance of this site is due more to the fact that gay psychiatrists used the space to provide their insights from occupying two seemingly oppositional social positions. At the panel were Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and psychiatrist Dr. John Fryer (Drescher 2015). At the panel, Fryer went by Dr. Anonymous to protect his identity and career since psychiatrists were fired for being gay (Clendinen 2003; Blumenfeld 2016). Wearing a mask, he asked that psychiatrists listen to gay and lesbian activists who were advocating that homosexuality be removed from the DSM (Blumenfeld 2016). No other gay psychiatrist at the time had (Clendinen 2003).

The protests alone were not enough to achieve this goal. Following the protests was a lengthy process within American psychiatry that eventually led to its removal. In the end, the Board of Trustees of the APA, none of whose members were psychiatrists, voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM.

Frank Kameny and Larry Littlejohn tried to start the final process at the 1971 D.C. protest when they talked with Kent Robinson about having a meeting with the APA Committee on Nomenclature (Bayer 1981). The activists were denied access. However, the Gay Activists Alliance protested at the Association for the Advancement of Behavioral Therapy in New York in 1972 (Bayer 1981). At the protest was Robert Spitzer a member of the committee who, after watching the protest and hearing demands by activists, allowed gay and lesbian activists to speak with the committee.

Although homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, psychiatrists continued to pathologize non-heterosexual behavior and gender non-normativity. For example, the same version of the DSM from which homosexuality was removed was the same one in which transsexuality, and transvetic fetishism were added. In other words, psychiatrists still maintained a heterosexist understanding of sexualities and any challenge to heteronormativity as a problem in itself. Conrad (1992) refers to medicalization as declaring a non-medical non-problem to be a medical problem. Therapeutic endeavors, argues social worker and co-author of the SOC-7 Arlene Lev (2004), should embrace a collaborative model with patients and work to strength patients. Yet, diagnosing socially defined deviant behavior and identities was never meant to strengthen powers but rather to maintain the social order.

 

Conclusion

The protest at Shoreham Hotel was the beginning of the end of the pathologization of homosexuality. Gay and lesbian activists officially declared war on the American Psychiatric Association. The site also was where activists first tried to start the final administrative processes necessary to depathologize homosexuality. Although Frank and Kameny as well as other radical activists wanted gay men and lesbians to have most of, if not complete control over, how the United States would define homosexuality, they engaged in efforts to demand, rather than ask, that psychiatrists see them as human beings.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

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American Psychiatric Association. 1980. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2nd ed. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

American Psychiatric Association. 1987. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd ed. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Bayer, Ronald. 1981. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Billings, D. and T. Urban. 1982. “The Socio-Medical Construction of Trannsexualism: An Interpretation and Critique.” Social Problems 29(3):262-282.

Blumenfeld, Warren J. 2017. “How Homosexuality Stopped Being a Disease.” LGBTQ Nation. Accessed February 27. http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2016/06/homosexuality-stopped-disease/.

Bronski, Michael. 2011. A Queer History of the United States. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Brown, Phil. 1987. “Diagnostic Conflict and Contradiction in Psychiatry.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 28(1):37–50.

Brown, Phil. 1990. “The Name Game; Toward a Sociology of Diagnosis.” The Journal of Mind and Behavior 11(3/4):385–406.

Brown, Phil. 1995. “Naming and Framing: The Social Construction of Diagnosis and Illness.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 34–52.

Burke, Mary C. 2010. “Transforming Gender: Medicine, Body Politics, and the Transgender Rights Movement.” Ph.D., University of Connecticut, United States — Connecticut.

Chauncey, George. 1982. “From Sexual Inversion to Homosexuality: Medicine and the Changing Conceptualization of Female Deviance.” Salmagundi 58(59):114-146

Collins, Patricia H. 2000. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Rev. 10th anniversary ed. New York: Routledge.

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Conrad, Peter. 2005. “The Shifting Engines of Medicalization.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 46(1):3–14.

Conrad, Peter. 2008. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Conrad, Peter and Kristin K. Barker. 2010. “The Social Construction of Illness Key Insights and Policy Implications.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51(S):S67–S79.

Conrad, Peter and Joseph W. Schneider. 1992. Deviance and Medicalization: From Badness to Sickness. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Conrad, Peter and Valerie Leiter. 2004. “Medicalization, Markets and Consumers.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 45:158–76.

D’Emilio, John. 1983. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Devault, Marjorie L. 1996. “Talking back to Sociology: Distinctive Contributions of Feminist Methodology.” Annual Review of Sociology; Palo Alto 22:29–50.

Dewey, Jodie M. 2008. “Knowledge Legitimacy: How Trans-Patient Behavior Supports and Challenges Current Medical Knowledge.” Qualitative Health Research 18(10):1345–55.

Dewey, Jodie M. 2015. “Challenges of Implementing Collaborative Models of Decision Making with Trans‐Identified Patients.” Health Expectations: An International Journal of Public Participation in Health Care and Health Policy 18(5):1508–18.

Dewey, Jodie M. and Melissa M. Gesbeck. 2017. “(Dys) Functional Diagnosing: Mental Health Diagnosis, Medicalization, and the Making of Transgender Patients.” Humanity & Society 41(1):37–72.

Dreschler, Jack and Dan Karasic. 2005. Sexual and Gender Diagnoses of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): A reevaluation. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Drescher, Jack. 2015. “Out of DSM: Depathologizing Homosexuality.” Behavioral Sciences 5 (4): 565–75.

Blumenfeld, Warren J. 2017. “How Homosexuality Stopped Being a Disease.” LGBTQ Nation. Accessed February 27. http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2016/06/homosexuality-stopped-disease/.

Clendinen, Dudley. 2003. “Dr. John Fryer, 65, Psychiatrist Who Said in 1972 He Was Gay.” The New York Times, March 5. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/us/dr-john-fryer-65-psychiatrist-who-said-in-1972-he-was-gay.html.

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Freidson, Eliot. 1970b. Profession of Medicine. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead.

Fryer, John. 1972. “Speech of ‘Dr. Henry Anonymous’.” Paper Presented at the Annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Dallas, May 1972.

Harding, Sandra. 2009. “Standpoint Theories: Productively Controversial.” Hypatia 24(4):192–200.

Hauser, Renate. 1994. “Kraft-Ebing’s Psychological Understanding of Sexual Behavior.” Pp. 210-230 in Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Science: The History of Attitudes to Sexuality, edited by R. Porter and M. Teich. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Hirschfeld, Magnus. 1991. Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross Dress. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

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Johnson, Austin H. 2015a. “Normative Accountability: How the Medical Model Influences Transgender Identities and Experiences.” Sociology Compass 9(9):803–13.

Johnson, Austin H. 2015b. “Beyond Inclusion: Thinking Toward a Transfeminist Methodology.” Pp. 21–41 in Advances in Gender Research, vol. 20, edited by V. Demos and M. Texler Segal. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Jutel, Annemarie. 2009. “Sociology of Diagnosis: A Preliminary Review.” Sociology of Health and Illness 31(2):278-299.

Katz, Jonathan. 1976. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. New York, NY: Crowell Company.

Katz, Jonathan. 1995. The Invention of Heterosexuality. New York: Dutton

Kraft-Ebing, Richard von. 1892. Psychopathia Sexualis, with Especial Reference to the Contrary Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Legal Study. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis and Co.

Krafft-Ebing, Richard von. 2006. “Psychopathia Sexualis.” Pp. 21-27 in The Transgender Studies Reader, edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York and London: Routledge.

Lev, Arlene I. 2004. Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Serano, Julia. 2007. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Serano, Julia. 2013. Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.

Smith, Dorothy. 1990. The Conceptual Practices of Power: Toward a Feminist Sociology of Knowledge. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.

Spade, Dean. 2003. “Resisting Medicine/Remodeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal 18(1):15–37.

Spade, Dean. 2015. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stoller, Robert. J., Judd Marmor, Irving Bieber, Ronald Gold, Charles W. Socarides, Richard Green, Robert L. Spitzer. 1973. “A Symposium: Should Homosexuality be in the APA Nonmenclature? American Journal of Psychiatry 130(11):1207-1216.

Stone, Sandy. 1991. “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.” Pp. 280-304 in Bodyguards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity, edited by J. Epstein and C. Straub. New York, NY: Routledge.

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Reading Guide: Homonationalism

Reading Guide

Pedro Bonilla

Spring 2017

 

 

Author: Dean Spade

Title: “Administrating Gender.” In Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law

Year: 2015

Other bibliographic details: Durham, NC: Duke University Press

 

  1. Where or what in time-space is the study’s object? What is the work’s spatial scale and scope?

The study is within the US and starting from the declaration of the War on Terror. The study seems to focus on the obliteration of trans individuals from the public sphere in which they are unable to be as equal as cisgender when their identities are put into question, denied, health care, and separated from others in sex-segregated sectors.

 

  1. What is/are the work’s key question(s)?

What impact did the War on Terror have on trans politics? How does the notion of Population Level Programs play into Trans politics? And what how does categorizing people work as a key method of control? How may it be harmful to trans only?

 

  1. Who is the announced and/or implied audience for the work?

I believe the implied audience is for trans people and policy-makers. Trans need to understand the struggles they will have to face when transitioning in which they would have to advocate and work on lobbying local, state, or federal congress. This is also meant for policy-makers so that they can create reform and integrate trans in the US society and end discrimination.

 

  1. What are the work’s structure and style?

The writer first provides readers with a brief introduction on how population level programs work and its purpose to society is. The writer also explicitly makes his argument that, in theory, categorization works, but, in practice, it is impossible. He further categorizes his paper with three main focal points: health care, identity documentation, and sex-segregated facilities.

 

  1. What method(s) does the researcher use, if noted?

The researcher makes his argument persuasive through the contexts of the War on Terror in which there was an automatic increase of policing. This affected trans lives from transitioning or being productive in society because of the constant oppression of legal restrictions, placed on them.

 

  1. What problems and issues are posed?

As mentioned, the issue relate to health care, identity documentation, and sex-segregated facilities. Importantly, the writer mentions intersectionality, of which undocumented, colored, and working class trans individuals would encounter more struggles than, let’s say, Caitlyn Jenner.

 

  1. What are the arguments? In other words, how does the writer use the theory, method, and evidence to propose answers (or make claims)? (List 3-5)
    • Rather than fixing policies to assimilate trans life, people must resist and understand the trans exploitation as well as the concept of maldistribution.
    • “Deemphasizing law reforms more broadly, an ensuring that law reform is not the primary demand of our movements” (Spade, 155).
    • The writer proposes that trans and non-trans individuals identify common issues and work on them together, so no one life is greater than the other.

 

  1. What evidence does the writer use? Why do these examples (stories, visuals, graphs) stand out above others?

The writer uses data collection and management-focused programs in relations to driver’s licensing, Social Security benefits, and taxation. Spade provides readers with many statistics.

 

  1. What ideas and/or assumptions serves as the writer’s guide to action?

The writer assumes that those in power ought to reform oppressive laws while working with non-trans. I believe that the write assumes this, in order to develop a convention among trans and non-trans while maintaining peace, and not reprimanding one party over the other.

 

  1. What is the role of the external actors such as the state or institutions, and how are they defined?

Some external factors, in this paper, include public institutions and the federal government. The public institutions are what allow sex-segregated facilities, making homeless shelter, health care, and accommodations, rather rare. The federal government is what allows such discriminatory acts because it does nothing to protect trans lives; therefore, the writer proposes that there be law reforms to finally fix such issue.

 

  1. What works for you? What does not? Why?

I agree with Spade about both trans and non-trans individuals having to work together to create legal reforms. I only desired that the writer proposes that there be intersectionality within the trans lives so that not one race is treated better over the other.

New Vocabulary

Term Definition (in your own words)
 

Trans Politics

 

 

 

Population-Level Programs

 

 

 

 

Gender data collection that governs spaces and determines whose a citizen and who would acquire resources

 

 

 

Created to address the issues of the people, which would provide the government with data and analysis on distributing resources appropriately, so that all individuals can prosper under protection and security

 

Significant Authors or Texts mentioned (list significant authors or texts discussed)

Author/Text Significance
 Mitchell Dean

 

 

 

 

James C. Scott

 

 

 

A description of Foucault’s analysis of government that is useful for thinking about the multiple locations of the production of sex classification standards and the incoherence of sex classification systems.

 

A work that shows how gathering information and creating population-level programs using such information is what defines the modern nation-state.

 


 

Black Boxes (sections you do not yet understand)

Description                                                                              Page number(s)

 

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions (That occur to you as you read):

 

  • What impact did the War on Terror have on Trans Politics?
  • To what extent does heteronormativity and homonormativity play in degrading trans politics?
  • In relations to gender classification, is the issue harder for white trans than colored trans? If so, then to what extent?

 

 

 

 

 

One sentence summary of reading:

 

Trans politics is greatly affected by the theoretical framework of population level programs that categorizing citizens by gender; however, trans are unable to acquire resources for protection and security when they are prevented or made harder from obtaining identity documentations, health care, and accommodated facilities.

 

 

 

 

Freewriting (Recommended.  A short, or long, response to what you have read focusing upon anything you would like.)

The notion of categorizing citizens for the sake of distributing resources is rational in a theoretical lens. However, it is impractical because of heteronormativity in which oppressing trans is acceptable because they do not fit in the notion of “normal.” I writer suggests that both trans and non-trans work together so that not one party is greater than the other. I agree with this suggestion, but it would be hard for privet enterprise to make such a convention. This brings up the issue of neoliberalism. This essay would have been more persuasive if the writer were to implement neoliberalism and how it affects trans politics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Guide

Pedro Bonilla

Spring 2017

 

 

Author: Michelle Billies

Title: Low Income LGBTGNC (Gender Nonconforming) Struggles Over Shelters as Public Space

Year: 2016

Other bibliographic details: ACME: International Critical Geographies 14 (4): 989-10007

 

  1. Where or what in time-space is the study’s object? What is the work’s spatial scale and scope?

The study that Billies uses to discuss on the topic of low income LGBTGNC is a survey conducted in NYC to provide readers with an understanding of struggles in relations to health care, homeless shelters, income, and public assistance.

 

  1. What is/are the work’s key question(s)?

Hoe does Neoliberalism affect LGBTGNC lives?

 

  1. Who is the announced and/or implied audience for the work?

The implied audience for the work is the LGBTQGNC community so they can learn in depth about their struggles and the need to reform laws, and urban administrators.

 

  1. What are the work’s structure and style?

This word provides readers with many statistical accounts on oppression, in relations to space. How the writer structured her writing was by defining important key words such as paradoxical spatial, then arguing the mal-effects of neoliberalism on homeless shelters and LGBTGNC lives.

 

  1. What method(s) does the researcher use, if noted?

By providing a definition of paradoxical spatial, readers can apply its meaning to the statistics that evaluates the measure of struggles that LGBTGNC people encounter. Also, this is applied to homeless shelters. Therefore, the understanding of this reading is well put.

 

  1. What problems and issues are posed?

Because of neoliberalism, private enterprise exploit color people, undocumented immigrants, LGBTGNC, et cetera, by increasing policing in public spheres, which reduces their presence, making way for hetero- and homonormativity.

 

  1. What are the arguments? In other words, how does the writer use the theory, method, and evidence to propose answers (or make claims)? (List 3-5)
    • The amount of homelessness in the LGBT community must be made visible, so rather than having a PRIDE march, implement the struggles LGBTGNC people encounter so the awareness spreads.
    • Neoliberalism must be put into an end when it affects the lives of people to the extent of being denied healthcare and protection and security. This shall be done by exploiting its flaws such as not ensuring freedom for all people when some people are being denied health care or housing.
    • The writer does mentioned that “[N]ot only were shelters reconstructed as a ground for collective organizing, but the homeless LGBTGNC contingent challenged the neoliberal conversion of Pride from gay protest to gay consumption (Bell and Binnie, 2004), confronting homonormative urban space as it was being constructed” (Billies, 15).

 

  1. What evidence does the writer use? Why do these examples (stories, visuals, graphs) stand out above others?

The writer uses three types of charts that surveyed Low Income LGBTGNC through demographics, public benefits, and taker housing. Evidently, readers can evaluate the forms of struggles to examine government and nonprofit institutions,

 

  1. What ideas and/or assumptions serves as the writer’s guide to action?

The writer assumes that neoliberalism is the faulty to the denial of homeless shelters, healthcare, identity documentation, and, ultimately, access to public spaces. Neoliberalism must be exploited to demonstrate its systematic flaws towards individuals, and that it only serves well to the rich and powerful who are mainly white, mid and high-income, men.

 

  1. What is the role of the external actors such as the state or institutions, and how are they defined?

In this writing, the role of the public institution is oppressing LGBTGNC with the use of neoliberalism that allows high policing in public areas.

Paradoxical Spatial: addresses multiple violence, queer practices  of resisting and confronting sexual and gender norms while “transgressing” and “subverting” disciplining  process of race and class

  1. What works for you? What does not? Why?

I disagree with the writer’s proposition that LGBTGNC construct gender space rather than entering a preexisting landscape of normative racialized masculinity. Even though the mistreatment on LGBTQGNC community is meant to exploit neoliberalism faulty, the people’s attitudes within public institutions, such as homeless shelters, remain unchallenged. Rather, they perpetrate more oppression by beating LGBTGNC individuals who do not fit into the institutional norms, and public institutions continue to prevent an sort of equality among LGBTGNC and heteronormative/homonormative individuals.

New Vocabulary

Term Definition (in your own words)
 Neoliberalism

 

 

 

 

Paradoxical Spatial Freedom

 

 

 

 

 A modified version of capitalism that strictly enforces private enterprises. In practice, this economic system exploits minority groups. In this case, the minority group is LGBTGNC and people of color—to be explicit.

 

It addresses multiple violence in which queer practices  of resisting and confronting sexual and gender norms while “transgressing” and “subverting” disciplining process of race and class, and space is theorized in different perspectives—undocumented immigrant, people of color, LGBTGNC, low-income—in order to find common issues and reform them so that it respects all parties, not just one.

 

Significant Authors or Texts mentioned (list significant authors or texts discussed)

Author/Text Significance
 

Mitchell, 2003; McArdle, 2011

 

 

 

Bell and Binnie, 2004; Lefebvre, 1991

 

 

 

 The rise of neoliberal urbanism follows the collapse and withdrawal of urban industry and ensuing capital flight in the 1970s, of which profit making in the neoliberal urban economy has become hooked to expanding middle and upper class public space and the elimination of “diverse” space.

 

Homonormative process works as heteronormative process in which a selective group of people are allowed to prosper economically in a given setting under the guise of neoliberalism. This form of representation depoliticized and desexualized the gay community of a given setting.

 


 

Black Boxes (sections you do not yet understand)

Description                                                                              Page number(s)

N/A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions (That occur to you as you read):

  • How does homonormative play the role in preventing the actual truth that neoliberalism has on low income LGBTGNC community?
  • What is the purpose of the 2010 survey demographic data?

 

One sentence summary of reading:

 

The 2010 survey of low income LGBTGNC exploits neoliberalism principles such as freedom and economic prosperity, and which serves as visibility to policy makers and the LGBTGNC of the injustice imposed on the community, so that awareness can spread.

 

 

Freewriting (Recommended.  A short, or long, response to what you have read focusing upon anything you would like.)

 

Queering public space is to exploit neoliberalism principle of freedom and economic prosperity. Hetero- and Homonormative individuals and ideals are given protection and security under the guise of “white-washing” minority groups. Certain minority ideals are kept if and only if it serves for the economic purpose to white people. I agree with this concept. What I disagree with is the concept that LGBTGNC queer public spaces, when oppression is so strong to the point that they are beaten, killed, and exploited. Personally, queering space is to grasp attention by policy makers, in order to reform accommodations for LGBTGNC individuals.

Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen Final Research Paper & Slides for LGBTQ Historic Site.

Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen’s Lesbian Activism

Pedro Bonilla

Queer America

Professor Gieseking

10 May 2017

 

Site: Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen home, 21st and Locust Streets, Philadelphia, PA.

“As a teenager, I had to struggle alone to learn about myself and what it meant to be gay.  Now for [48] years I’ve had the satisfaction of working with other gay people all across the country to get the bigots off our backs, to oil the closet door hinges, to change prejudiced hearts and minds, and to show the gay love is good for us and for the rest of the world too. It’s hard work—but it’s vital, and it’s gratifying, and it’s often fun!” –Barbara Gittings

 

Introduction of the Site:

            Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen home is located at 21st and Locust Streets, Philadelphia, PA.  This home is eligible to be an LGBTQ historic national site.  In relations to the criteria for evaluation, this home consists of significance in American history through its association with Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen and with their LGBTQ civil rights movement.  As well, the integrity of the location, of which it has been dedicated as “Barbara Gittings Way.”

This home has been recognized and honored for Gittings and Lahusen’s gay civil rights advocacy.  This is the home that both lesbian activists Gittings and Lahusen resided throughout their dedicated years of fighting for LGBTQ equal rights.  On October 1st of 2012, Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla dedicated Locust Street between 12th and 13th street, of which the home is located at, as “Barbara Gittings Way.”[1]  This signified Gittings’ greatest achievements towards American history on positively impacting the LGBTQ community.

The “Barbara Gittings Way” dedication launched an Equality Forum’s LGBT History Month of each day honoring “Gay Pioneers,” including her.  This nonprofit organization coordinates LGBT History Month, documentaries, and education, in relations to LGBT civil rights.[2]  The Equality Forum also successfully petitioned the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for a historic marker that honors Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and “Gay Pioneers” for beginning the LGBTQ civil rights movement in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, from 1965 to 1969.[3]

In relations to honorary recognition, both Gittings and Lahusen were given dedication with the Matlovich’s plaque in Chicago’s Legacy Walk.[4]  This commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Coming Out Day on October 11th of 2012.  The Matlovich’s plaque recognized their contributions on LGBTQ individuals by making history and culture.

These dedications serve to introduce Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen’s achievements, of which their lesbian activism took a hard and changing stance on the LGBTQ civil rights movement.  I discuss their home as their revolutionary accomplishments. “[Gittings] was one of the rare people in the homophile movement—before Stonewall—who took a militant stance….And she not only took a militant stance, but she was in the forefront,” said David Carter, the author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.[5]

I propose that Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen’s home be made an LGBTQ historic national site.  Doing so would respectfully recognize and honor their lesbian activism that has influenced the LGBTQ community with empowerment, and changes to institutional oppression.  Their works are unaware, even by the LGBTQ community, because, as lesbian women, they were considered “second-class citizens.” I will, therefore, discuss on their greatest achievements to signify the home.

 

Detailed History of the Site:

            Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) and Kay Tobin Lahusen (1930- ) were gay civil rights activists for forty-eight years in the United States.  They were lesbian partners, until Gittings’ death of breast cancer at age 74.  They resided in Pennsylvania, throughout their many years of fighting against the institutions from and further oppressing LGBTQ individuals.   Kay Tobin Lahusen is the first openly gay American woman photojournalist, and Barbara Gittings was greatly known as the mother of the LGBTQ civil rights movement.  Both lesbian women were strongly courageous women who achieved in changing certain institutions from considering homosexuality as a wrongdoing.  They also paved the way for LGBTQ individuals to live their lives freely without any sort of stigmas placed on them by institutions that, at the time, would have affiliated them as sexual deviant, mentally-ill, and immoral.

In 1958, Barbara Gittings founded the New York Chapter of the Daughter of Bilitis (DOB) that was a first national organization for lesbians.  Soon, Gittings became the editor of the DOB’s monthly lesbian magazine called The Ladder, and it succeeded from 1963 to 1966. [6]  This magazine was a turning point for lesbians, in particular, because Gittings purposefully began to include politics and LGBTQ-related issues, and Lahusen tactically empowered lesbian women through her photography of what a lesbian woman looks like.  This achievement brought about a national community among lesbians and channeled LGBTQ awareness and advocacy.

Lahusen began her involvement with, what was considered in the pre-Stonewall period, the homophile movement.  She is responsible for numerous famous pre-Stonewall photographs, depicted in The Ladder.  One of which is Gittings picketing at the second annual Reminder Day picket in front of Independence Hall on July 4th of 1966.[7]  This marks a contribution to the lesbian magazine by popularizing it among the lesbian community and demonstrating the essence to fight for LGBTQ civil rights.  Significantly, Lahusen suggested to Gittings to add the subtitle “A Lesbian Review,” in order to aim a specific audience; in this case, the lesbian community.[8]  In 1966, Gittings was dismissed as editor of The Ladder.  The reason used was that she failed to submit the editions on time; however, the primary reason was that she adopted a militant stance, of which she included political activism against the government’s oppression on the LGBTQ community.[9]

Gittings and Lahusen were dedicated activists well before the outburst of the Stonewall Riot in 1969.  Although many scholars and LGBTQ members would consider the Stonewall Riot to be the start for gay civil rights, the groundbreaking was actually the July 4, 1965 demonstration at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.  Barbara Gittings and, professional partner, Frank Kameny led this annual demonstration from 1965 to 1969 in hopes of spreading the awareness of LGBTQ oppression and the need for legal protection under the guise of equality.  As well, Kay Lahusen contributed her work by photographing the events for the sake of historically recording, what was known as, the homophile movement or the gay civil rights movement.

This marked the gathering of various people from different cities to picket in front of Independence Hall and the liberty bell. And, “the first time gays and lesbians demanded equality, not just compassion or tolerance.”[10]  During the 1960s, there was nearly 200 gay activists and 40 picketed at Independence Hall in 1965, which is seen as the largest demonstration for gay equality at the time, said Malcolm Lazin, chair of the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration.[11]  Hence, Gittings initiative with the picketing became an idol in the essence to fight for equality, not just tolerance.  Along with Kameny, she was able to help people realize the need to change the institution, including the usage of The Ladder, channeling the annual reminders to the lesbian readers.

During the early 1970s, one of the institutions that both Gittings and Lahusen lobbied was the American Library Association (ALA) from no longer categorizing homosexuality as sexual perversion, and enforcing the production of gay positive literature.  Gittings was not a librarian, yet she joined the, already established organization, Gay Liberation Task Force (GLTF) and served as the coordinator for sixteen years.[12]  She was responsible for the creation of a first ever gay bibliography, along with members from the GLTF.

Gittings had her committee (GLTF) release newsletters about their mission—homosexuality no longer categorized as sexual perversion—and produced short write-ups about their activities in making their voice heard, of which they always included the following quotation: “Catalog librarians declare that 15 million gay Americans refuse to be called Sexual Aberrations.”[13]  One of the successful activities that made their mission heard by the ALA was the “Hug A Homosexual” booth at 1971 ALA annual conference in Dallas.[14]  This tactic was to make homosexuals visible and to demonstrate that they are harmful and just as human as any heterosexual.  As a result, “In the last days of the conference, we got both the Council (the elected policy-making body of ALA) and the general membership to pass our gay resolution.”[15]  One of which was opposing employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[16]

By the fall of 1970, she and the TGFL met and annotated a first ever gay bibliography.   This collection of literature was called The First Gay Book Award and it was spread in Dallas’ ALA annual conference.  There were 4,000 copied made in order to reach the level of recognition.[17]  Once they got the pro-gay resolution, they started to publicize ALA events, in relations to fighting for gay equal rights.  Importantly, many areas of expertise such as religion and law required a brief overview of homosexuality; therefore, Gittings and the GLTF conducted categorizations.

Another institution that both lesbian activists fought against was the American Psychiatry Association (APA).  Their mission was to no longer label homosexuality as a mental disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).  Frank Kameny began this need of institutional change and both Gittings and Lahusen and worked alongside.  Except for Lahusen, they served as part of the panel in the APA’s 1972 annual conference.  Successfully, the APA eliminated the notion of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1987.

Gittings, along with a group of gay activists, disrupted the APA convention in San Francisco, in 1970.  She accused the profession to be prejudicial against homosexuals and, through her words, she said, “Stop talking about us and start talking with us.”[18]  This implied that heterosexuals ought not to discuss on the topic of homosexuality when they are not one themselves; therefore, a homosexual is a source to which will serve well over the topic.  This disruption, as a result, had the APA hold its first ever panel called “Lifestyles of Non-Patient Homosexuals” in Washington DC.

Gittings took a further step with her activism and held exhibit, such as “Gay Love: Good Medicine”, about homosexuality, at APA annual conferences, to doctors who were trained to think that homosexuality was a disease.[19]  In 1972, both Gittings and Frank Kameny, who publicly declared war on APA, served in the panel in its annual conference in Dallas.  Importantly, the idea of having a gay psychiatrist speak in the panel was both Gittings and Lahusen’s.  Gittings was able to persuade John E. Fryer, under the conditions that he would speak in a disguise and be named Dr. Anonymous because, in 1972, one can be dismissed from their profession on the basis of sexual orientation.[20]  Consequently, in 1973, the APA held a convention to vote on the question of whether homosexuality is a mental disorder or not, and the results were as followed: 5, 854 psychiatrists voted to remove it from the DSM and 3, 810 voted to retain it.[21]

 

Trends in Literature:

In this section, I will touch upon trends, in relations to Gittings and Lahusen’s greatest achievements.  These trends will serve as knowledge on the basis of emphasizing the importance of their works and reasons towards recognizing and honoring their home, by making it an LGBTQ historic national monument.

In Rodger’s Streitmatter’s Lesbian and Gay Press, he connects The Ladder as an act of resistance, suggesting it to be considered as a militant magazine.  The reason is that it displayed defiance on the dominant social order in the mid-1900s.  It did so by “promoting public demonstrations, reporting from a gay perspective and fighting back against the establishment media.”[22]  This form of militant publication encouraged lesbian women to demand equal rights for homosexuals rather than to just be tolerated.  Streitmatter also provides an analysis of Gittings and Lahusen’s strategies towards building a unified and vocal lesbian community.  One of the strategies was Lahusen’s approach of publishing photographed lesbian women, so that readers have a sense of what lesbian women appeared to be—happy, strong, and diverse.  Another strategy, as mentioned, was when Gittings added the subtitle “The Lesbian Review” to specifically aim the lesbian community.  This allowed Gittings to channel political advocacy and LGBTQ related issues, as well as making the word “lesbian” no longer unspeakable.

Lesbian activism was the means “to respond to and stop violence against gays and lesbians.”[23]  In Valerie Jenness and Kendal Broad’s Antiviolence Activism and the (In) Visibility of Gender in the Gay/Lesbian and Women’s Movement, both writers make a connection of gay-lesbian activism with the concept of feminists uncovering the amount of sexual abuse of women.  They signify the need of data record, which serves as a guide towards uncovering fact and will serve as the realism of abuse imposed on the LGBTQ community.  Jenness and Broad mention that gay-lesbian activism is prevalent because of the high number of unreported hate crimes.  They also mention that violence imposed on homosexuals is the essence of gay-lesbian activism in sponsoring anti-violence projects, in order to protect people from violence “while simultaneously attempting to change the conditions that lead to such violence.”[24]  In regards to Gittings and Lahusen’s lesbian activism, the tactic, the advocacy, and the public education campaigns are all acts of committing antiviolence activism, which allowed them to peacefully lobby the ALA and APA.

Significantly, Gittings and Lahusen were independent women who worked to fight for LGBTQ civil rights, while educating the lesbian community about homosexuality and their rights.  In Lenelotte von Bothmer and Michel Vale’s Women and Politics, they provide an understanding of “A woman’s situation in politics [as] a peculiar kind of isolation.” [25]  In other words, women in politics or activism are unsupported and discouraged by the neoliberal, patriarchal society; especially, in the 1960s, because they were seen as “second-class citizens.”  They did not fit in the notion of heteronormativity, of which they were non-males, non-heterosexuals, and non-middle income householders.  Hence, both writers also discuss on the ease that men had in politics, of which they were expected to take responsibility for the public good, rather than of women.  In relations to Gittings and Lahusen, both lesbian women encountered obstacles, perpetrated by the oppressors—in this case, the ALA and APA.  It is important to note this concept because both independent, lesbian women worked twice as hard than men did to get their voices heard, while encouraging the lesbian community to fight alongside.

The lesbian advocacy at a feminist lens touches upon the intersectionality of being a woman and a lesbian.  Rather than having men to fight for gay equal rights, not gay and lesbian’s, Gittings and Lahusen took on the approach of lesbian feminism.  By definition, it is “a variety of beliefs and practices based on the core assumption that a connection exists between an erotic and/or emotional commitment to women and political resistance to patriarchal domination.”[26]  The different experiences and views embody lesbian feminism in which lesbians and heterosexual women of different class systems and colored backgrounds all unite to fight for intersectional equality.  This type of activism, although unstated by Gittings and Lahusen themselves, is what made their achievements, towards having institutions no longer referring homosexuality as a mental disorder and categorizing it  as sexual perversion, possible.  If we take into account of gay men doing what Gittings and Lahusen did, then the privilege and rights would have been given to men only.

The topic of lesbian identity is worth mentioning, in relations to the essence of gathering support over a social issue.  According to E.M. Ettorre’s Lesbians, Women, and Society, lesbian identity is a “‘counter-identity’ which challenges directly a society based on male-oriented heterosexual relations.”[27]  Lesbian women know that their lives would differ from everybody else’s in terms of struggling to prosper economically and gain equality.  Importantly, lesbian women are seen lesser than heterosexual women because the institutional norm is for women to have sexual relations with men, not of the same-sex.  I want to raise this notion to demonstrate how much Gittings and Lahusen have gone with their activism.  Already, they were seen down upon, and I would argue that, if they were gay men, they would have achieved equality a lot sooner.

Jack Gieseking’s LGBTQ Spaces and Places provide readers with an understanding of public vs. private sectors, in relations to gender.  “Since the late nineteenth and throughout the twentieth century, most gay, bisexual, and queer men were largely unable to occupy private spaces alone together with the result that their ‘privacy could only be had in public.’”[28]  Lesbian women and transgender people, on the contrary, were often associated with private spaces.  This aspect is key to understanding the importance of Gittings and Lahusen’s accomplishments; especially with the editorial of The Ladder.  Lesbian women were not much unaware of the LGBTQ oppression, occurring throughout the United States.  It can be said that they were uneducated to the extent that they accepted homosexuality as a mental disorder, and feared to have their voices heard.  Gittings and Lahusen channeled the political and social issues in this lesbian magazine, of which lesbian women were more aware of the issues occurring and were convinced to channel their voices in the public spaces.  Gittings encouraged lesbian women to publicly demonstrate, and empowered them as independent and strong lesbian women—no longer to have the need to depend on men in office.

Another trend to discuss on is the generational political activism.  Young citizens tend to choose to politically express themselves and express their voices through particular organizational structures, such as social media, journalism, holding political office, lobbying, et cetera.[29]  Because the forms of political activism have evolved, there is a distinct generational shift, of which young citizens do not partake into political or social advocacy, but, rather depend on the older generation to do the “physical work.”  Gittings and Lahusen were of the young generation, when they first started their activism.  They did not depend on the older generation; rather they took initiative in the pursuit of social justice.  In addition, there are new social movements that young citizens choose to be in, mainly because the “goals of new social movements often focus upon achieving social change through direct action strategies and community-building, as well as by altering lifestyles and social identities…”[30]  This suggests that, at the time Gittings and Lahusen were fighting for LGBTQ civil rights, many were in support of the movement because of their encouragement to fight for equality and identify their social identities as part of the LGBTQ community.

 

Discussion: Arguments for the Sites Inclusion:

Throughout this excerpt, I presented readers with Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen’s greatest accomplishments that have positively influenced the LGBTQ community.  I argue that their home be considered an LGBTQ historic national site.  Although those accomplishments may not have been done in the home, the home is associated with these special events that have shaped LGBTQ history as part of American history.  This site is meant to be recognized and honored through Gittings and Lahusen’s lesbian forty-eight years of lesbian activism.  My argument will be framed in the sense of understanding what the LGBTQ community would be without these lesbian women’s dedication to changing certain institutions and initiative activism in general.

The Ladder was an important component to the national organization called The Daughters of Bilitis.  It served as a communication base to the lesbian community by channeling information about LGBTQ political and social-related issues.  Lesbian women were empowered and, therefore, devoted to act on public demonstrations and no longer depend on the protection of male politicians.  I must say that Gittings shifted this lesbian magazine to a militant stance, which was one of the reasons for her dismissal.  Though, we should not take her dismissal as a an act of failure, but rather as an act of resistance against the oppressive institutions, of which Gittings did not let herself be tamed under a patriarchal society.  Lahusen’s suggestion to Gittings on having actual footage of lesbian women displayed on the front cover of the magazine and subtitled “A Lesbian Review” all made the unity of lesbian women easier and even possible.  Without their works on The Ladder, lesbian women most likely would not have shifted from being in the private space to the public space.

Gittings was responsible for the start of fighting for LGBTQ equal rights, rather than just tolerance of what one is.  She took on the role, along with Frank Kameny, to organize annual reminders in picketing in front of Independence Hall.  Their pictures were taken by not only Lahusen, but also by government officials.  This brought about fear, not knowing what the government would do with those pictures or any relevant information about Gittings and Lahusen, because, at the time, there was no legal protection for LGBTQ individuals.  Nonetheless, the picketing was a brave act of defiance that has been commemorated in a reenactment on July 4th of 2015, as part of the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Ceremony.[31]  Hence, without this initiative, would LGBTQ individuals have stood up for themselves against the government, under the guise of equality?

The American Library Association is one institution that Gittings and Lahusen strongly lobbied.  I argue that without their activism in this association, homosexuality still would have had been categorized as sexual perversion, which builds the stigma that homosexuality is immoral.  Gittings brought to the table creative and tactical ideas such as the “Hug a Homosexual,” which drew attention to the ALA in passing the gay resolution.  I want to also mention that Gittings, along with members from the Gay Task Force Liberation, was responsible for the creation of a first ever gay bibliography, called the First Gay Award.  Therefore, without their works in the ALA, would there ever have been a gay bibliography that consists of positive gay literature?  Individuals would find books on homosexuality in the abnormal psychology, which makes a difference when wanting to learn more about your community.  Instead of learning, though, one is building hatred towards oneself under the guise that homosexuality is immoral, sinful, and sexual deviant.

Gittings work on the APA influenced the change from removing homosexuality as a mental disorder under the DSM.  Gittings was responsible for recruiting the gay psychiatrist, named Dr. John E. Fryer.  This started the discussion on the homosexuality, which then initiated the APA to have a first ever committee to talk upon the topic.  In 2006, Gittings, along with Frank Kameny, received the APA’s first annual civil rights award.

Gittings and Lahusen’s activism has already been given dedication for the impact that it has on the LGBTQ community and in American history.  In the 2005 APA’s fifty-eight Institute on Psychiatric Services, Gittings was given the APA’s first John E. Fryer, M.D., award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to LGBTQ mental health.[32]  And, in 2012, the City Council of Philadelphia voted on approving the dedication of the intersection of Gittings and Lahusen’s home as the “Barbara Gittings Way.”  Furthermore, Gittings and Lahusen were honored and recognized with the Matlovich’s plaque in Chicago’s Legacy Walk.  These recognitions are to be taken into consideration when deciding on whether or not to dedicate the home as an LGBTQ historic national site.  They received these dedications for their contribution on the LGBTQ community that has enriched American history.

 

Conclusion:

Thus, Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen fought for gay civil rights movement because they strongly believed in the notion of being treated equal, regardless on anyone’s sexual orientation.  They are considered to be “gay pioneers” or idols who have enriched American history by changing institutions, such as the American Library Association and the American Psychiatry Association, from oppressing American people.  Their forty-eight years of lesbian activism earns them the strong consideration of honoring and recognizing their home as an LGBTQ historical national site.  It is not just a simple plaque, but a representation of their works that has positively influenced the LGBTQ community.  They paved the way for LGBTQ individuals to live without the harsh stigmas of what it meant to be a homosexual and to live with dignity and respect.  Barbara Gittings was and Kay Tobin Lahusen is a strong LGBTQ idol, whose work will live on through American history and in remembrance of those who fought alongside.  In honoring and recognizing their home, Americans will be aware of the works of two independent lesbian women.  Their lesbian feminism touched upon intersectionality and prevented patriarchy from further oppressing LGBTQ individuals.

        

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Avery, Dan. “Activists Will Reenact Historic 1964 Gay Rights Protest At Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.” LOGO News. July 03, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.newnownext.com/activists-will-reenact-historic-1964-gay-rights-protest-at-philadelphias-independence-hall/07/2015/.

 

“Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs 1855-2009 [bulk 1963-2007] D.” Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs. Accessed May 5, 2017. http://archives.nypl.org/mss/6397#controlaccess.

 

“Barbara Gittings.” Barbara Gittings | LGBTHistoryMonth.com. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com/barbara-gittings?tab=biography.

 

Barbara Gittings, Gay in Library Land: The Gay and Liberation Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years (Delaware: McFarland, 1990).

 

“Barbara Gittings Residence Historic Marker Dedication.” Event – Barbara Gittings Residence Historic Marker Dedication | Equality Forum. 2017. Accessed May 08, 2017. http://www.equalityforum.com/event/barbara-gittings-residence-historic-marker-dedication.

 

“Barbara Gittings, the mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.” Lesbian News. February 20, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.lesbiannews.com/barbara-gittings-a-lesbian-and-activist/.

 

Bothmer, Von Lenelotte and Vale, Michel. “Women and Politics.” International Journal of Sociology 8, no.3 (1978). https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/20629781.pdf

 

Burton, Neel. “When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder.” Psychology Today. September 18, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201509/when-homosexuality-stopped-being-mental-disorder.

 

“Collection Info.” Gittings, Barbara and Kay Tobin Lahusen Papers • Collection • LGBT-RAN. Accessed May 10, 2017. https://www.lgbtran.org/Collection.aspx?ID=185.

 

Dan Avery, “Activists Will Reenact Historic 1964 Gay Rights Protest At Philadelphia’s Independence Hall,” NewNowNext, July 03, 2015, http://www.newnownext.com/activists-will-reenact-historic-1964-gay-rights-protest-at-philadelphias-independence-hall/07/2015/.

 

Ettore, E.M. “Lesbians, Women, and Society.” London, Boston, and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul (1980).

 

Faderman, Lillian. “The Gay Revolution. The Story of the Struggle.”  (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

 

Fox, Margalit. “Barbara Gittings, 74, Prominent Gay Rights Activist Since ’50s, Dies.” The New York Times. March 14, 2007. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/obituaries/15gittings.html.

 

Gallo, Marcia M. “To Barabara Gittings, 1932-2007). Thank You.” Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 14, no. 3 (2007). http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=25a340ca-7bde-4b82-a51b-a5101294d61b%40sessionmgr104&vid=0&hid=113&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWNvb2tpZSxpcCx1aWQmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZlJnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#AN=509836205&db=brb.

 

Gittiings, Barbara. “Gay Liberation: From Task Force to Round Table.” American Libraries 30, no. 11 (1999). http://ej4da6xn7z.scholar.serialssolutions.com/?sid=google&auinit=B&aulast=Gittings&atitle=Gay+liberation:+from+task+force+to+round+table&title=American+libraries+(Chicago,+Ill.)&volume=30&issue=11&date=1999&spage=74&issn=0002-9769.

 

Gittings, Barbara. “Show and Tell.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health 12, no. 3 (2008). http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/19359700802111742?needAccess=true

 

Jen Jack Gieseking. “LGBTQ Spaces and Places.” National Park Foundation (2016). www.nps.gov/subjects/tellingallamericansstories/lgbtqthemestudy.htm.

 

Jenness, Valerie and Broad, Kendal. “Antiviolence Activism and the (In) Visibility of Gender in the Gay/Lesbian and Women’s Movements.” Gender and Society 8, no. 3 (1994). https://www.jstor.org/stable/189713?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

 

Keehnen, Owen. “The Legacy Walk (Chicago).” Glbtq Inc. (2015). http://www.glbtqarchive.com/arts/legacy_walk_chicago_A.pdf.

 

Martine, Del and Lyon, Phyllis. “Daughters of Bilitis and the Ladder that Teetered.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 5, no.3 (2001). http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/doi/pdf/10.1300/J155v05n03_13?needAccess=true.

 

McDonald, Natalie Hope. “Barbara Gittings Way to Be Dedicated.” GPhilly, Septemeber 12, 2012.

 

MD Drescher, Jack. “Honoring Barbara Gittings.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health 12, no. 3

(2008). http://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/19359700802111775?needAccess=true.

 

Miller , Faderman, and Tobin Wicker. “Barbara Gittings (1932- ).” PBS. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/outofthepast/past/p5/gittings.html.

 

Naples, Nancy A. “Community Activism and Feminist Politics.” Organizing Across Race, Class, and Gender. Myra Marx Ferree, University of Connecticut (1998).

 

Rubick, Margaret. “The Women Who Took On the APA.” Margaret Rubick. Accessed May 10, 2017. http://www.margaretrubick.com/press-articles/the-women-who-took-on-the-apa/.

 

Streitmatter, Rodger. “Raising a Militant Voice in the 1960s.” Lesbian and Gay Press 12, no. 2 (2013). http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08821127.1995.10731716.

 

 

 

[1] McDonald, Natalie Hope. “Barbara Gittings Way to Be Dedicated.” GPhilly, Septemeber 12, 2012.

[2] “Gay Pioneers,” EqualityForum.com, accessed April 27, 2017, http://www.equalityforum.com/organization.

[3] Ibid

[4] Owen Keehnen, “The Legacy Walk (Chicago),” glbtq Inc. (2015): 1

[5] Margalit Fox, “Barbara Gittings, 74, Prominent GAY Rights Activist Since ‘50s, Dies,” The New York Times, March 15, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/obituaries/15gittings.html.

[6] Marcia M. Gallo, “To Barbara Gittings, 1932-2007: Thank You.,” Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 1, no. 3 (2007): Biography Reference Bank Select (509836205).

[7] “Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs 1855-2009 [bulk 1963-2007] D.” Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs. Accessed May 5, 2017. http://archives.nypl.org/mss/6397#controlaccess.

[8] Margaret Rubick, “The Women Who Took On the APA,” Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 19, no. 2 (2017).

[9] Ibid

[10]Dan Avery, “Activists Will Reenact Historic 1964 Gay Rights Protest At Philadelphia’s Independence Hall,” NewNowNext, July 03, 2015, http://www.newnownext.com/activists-will-reenact-historic-1964-gay-rights-protest-at-philadelphias-independence-hall/07/2015/.

[11] Ibid

[12] Barbara Gittings, Gay in Library Land: The Gay and Liberation Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years (Delaware: McFarland, 1990), 9.

[13] Ibid, 4.

[14] Marcia M. Gallo, “To Barbara Gittings, 1932-2007: Thank You.,” Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 1, no. 3 (2007): Biography Reference Bank Select (509836205).

[15] Barbara Gittings, Gay in Library Land: The Gay and Liberation Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years (Delaware: McFarland, 1990), 9.

[16] Barbara Gittings, “Gay Liberation: From Task Force to Round Table.” American Libraries 30, no. 11 (Dec 19999).

[17] Barbara Gittings, Gay in Library Land: The Gay and Liberation Task Force of the American Library Association: The First Sixteen Years (Delaware: McFarland, 1990), 7.

[18] Jack Drescher MD, Honoring Barbara Gittings (Routledge, 2008), 297.

[19] Miller, Wicker Tobin, and Fadermana. “Barbara Gittings (1932- ).” PBS. Accessed May 08, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/outofthepast/past/p5/gittings.html.

[20] Jack Drescher MD, Honoring Barbara Gittings (Routledge, 2008), 297.

[21] Burton, Neel. “When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder.” Psychology Today. September 18, 2015. Accessed May 08, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201509/when-homosexuality-stopped-being-mental-disorder.

[22] Rodger Streitmatter, Raising a Militant Voice in the 1960s, (Boston, London: Faber and Faber, 1995), 143.

[23] Valerie Jenness and Kendal Broad, Antiviolence Activism and the (In) Visibility of Gender in the Gay/Lesbian and Women’s Movement, (1994), 408.

[24] Ibid, 418.

[25] Lenelotte von Bothmer and Michel Vale, Women and Politics, (Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 1978), 108.

[26] E.M. Ettorre, Lesbians, Women, and Society, (London, Boston, and Henely: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980),  58.

[27] Ibid 34

[28] Jen Jack Gieseking, LGBTQ Spaces and Places, 14-3.

[29] Pippa Norris, Young People & Political Activism: From the Politics of Loyalties to the Politics of Choice?, (Massachusetts: Harvard University), 1.

[30] Ibid, 7.

[31] Dan Avery, “Activists Will Reenact Historic 1964 Gay Rights Protest At Philadelphia’s Independence Hall,” NewNowNext, July 03, 2015, http://www.newnownext.com/activists-will-reenact-historic-1964-gay-rights-protest-at-philadelphias-independence-hall/07/2015/.

[32] Margaret Rubick, “The Women Who Took On the APA,” Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 19, no. 2 (2017).

Literature Review and Edited Topic Proposal

Literature Review

Walt Whitman occupies an imposing position in the landscape of American literary history, and of American history itself. Whitman’s life and work are that of a man produced by the social, political, and cultural forces of the 19th century. But more impressive than Whitman’s prodigious skill at observation and synthesis are his efforts to remake America, to bridge its divides and to suggest the potential for a nation that draws strength from its diversity, that exalts a democratic siblinghood. Both popularly and academically Whitman has been afforded a mythic centrality to the turbulent American 19th century, and to the nations emerging poetic style. He is the locus around which Americans have understood a cultural transformation. A disharmonious and embattled America produced a young poet, and that poet in turn produced a nation with a self-image that prized individualism, as well as a belief in the transcendental power of democracy.

Not incidental to Whitman’s life and work was his homosexuality. Some of his most enduring work is not only deeply homoerotic, but this homoeroticism is a deeply integral part of his re-imagining of a collective democratic America. The first edition of Leaves of Grass and his Calamus cluster provide the clearest visions of Whitman’s homosexual political ethos. Whitman conceived of affection between men in terms of “adherence,” a phrase borrowed from phrenology, which he envisioned as bearing the potential to bridge the fissures of an America divided by war, economic instability, and political contention. The centrality of homosexual love to Whitman’s poetic-democratic project was ignored by many during his lifetime and for nearly century beyond it. Robert K. Martin’s influential 1978 book The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry reads Whitman as the literary progenitor of an entire lineage of homosexual writers whose culture and self-identity were transmitted through creative indirection. He calls scholarly attempts to disprove Whitman’s homosexuality “lies, half truths, and distortions so shameful as to amount to a deliberate attempt to alter reality to suit a particular view of normality” (Martin 3). Whitman scholars have since made great strides in acknowledging the importance of the poet’s sexuality to his life and work. Contemporary critics are more careful in assigning Whitman to categories such as “gay” which are not historical to his era. Instead, we can read Whitman’s powerful and creative negotiations of non-normative gender and sexual identities as central and transformative to a new American citizenship. This body of work is a fundamentally Queer literary and political legacy, one that has inspired generations of Americans of all stripes, queer and non-queer, writers, historians, and readers alike.

Another important element in Whitman’s social and cultural genealogy is the city of Brooklyn, which served as the site of his boyhood, a place to which he would return during the early and productive years of his poetic career. Collectively, Whitman spent 28 years of his life in Brooklyn, more than in any other place. Notably, Whitman published Leaves of Grass when living in the house at 99 Ryerson in the Clinton Hill neighborhood.

Whitman spent the years of his childhood from 1823-1835 living in the city. David S. Reynolds described the material conditions of this period in his book Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography. Reynolds paints the Brooklyn of the 1920s as a primitive place compared both to what we today imagine to be the conditions of the early 19th century, and also to the congested and heavily populated city Brooklyn would become (the 4th-largest American city by 1850). The Brooklyn of Whitman’s childhood was built around series of dirt roads, and sanitation was poor. Reynolds situates Brooklyn as a crucial intermediate space between the civilization and culture of Manhattan, the city on the other side of the East River with which Brooklyn existed in a state of contention until their eventual joining in the late 19th century, and the rural lands of Long Island. Whitman saw Long Island as his natal home, the place he wrote about fondly and expressively as Paumanok, as in the 1856 poem of the same name. Manhattan was the place Whitman frequently travelled to absorb culture such as theater and music, as well as to travel to distributors and publishing houses later on in his career. Brooklyn, for Whitman represented a mediation between the authentic rural origins of the American nation and the economically volatile, socially diverse modernity of the city. His poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” sees him on the waters between the two, exclaiming, “Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!”

Brooklyn is the place that Whitman apprenticed to the newspaper printer Alden Spooner from 1832-1835, learning the trade that would become his own. Reynolds also credits some of the diversity of Whitman’s poetic subjects to the diversity of Brooklyn itself, which provided a fertile political environment for the young poet to develop in. Brooklyn was the site of one of the nation’s first institutions of higher education for women, the Brooklyn Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, founded in 1830. It also was home to a sizable black population, most concentrated in the ferry district, as well as substantial abolitionist activity including several newspapers. Reynolds posits that “Whitman’s sympathetic portraits of blacks in Leaves of Grass, which would win praise from the likes of Sojourner Truth and Langston Hughes, can be profitably viewed against this background of the African-American presence in Brooklyn” (Reynolds 48).

Whitman returned to Brooklyn in the 1950s after a time living in Long Island and Manhattan, and began working at a series of newspapers, most prominently as the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Whitman wrote extensively about the history of Brooklyn in editorials and articles published in the Eagle and other local newspapers. One article, “An Old Brooklyn Landmark Going,” reveals the rich and emotive ways he conceived of Brooklyn’s history as bound to its space, musing, “What a tale indeed could that old building tell!”  He describes the history of a local building soon to be torn down. Perhaps fancifully, he attributes to the house visits from important historical figures: several U.S. presidents, Henry Clay, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Quaker preacher Elias Hicks. He writes of the elections and democratic meetings that would take place at the hall, the country lanes that surround it, and the people that built and maintained, people who were of “ of the true and original Hollandic stock that laid the foundation of Brooklyn and Kings county.” Whitman comes across as someone dedicated to telling the walls’ tale on their behalf, to honoring and preserving the history of place.

In 1855, the same year he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman lived at 99 Ryerson. The five year period directly before this event is somewhat of a mystery to Whitman scholars. Whitman scholar Laren Larbiener says, “It’s an incredibly mysterious time for all of us… What is he doing? How did this happen? He drops out of sight, does some carpentry, and for those five or six years, he’s just, you know, living in Brooklyn, working and writing. This is not a rich neighborhood—it’s working-class or tougher. It could affect a lot of people to know that Whitman was slaving away here, doing his manual labor and writing this book that changed America” (Poetry).

The house there is currently unmarked. The original wood facade of the building has been overlaid by cream vinyl siding. A 2006 Poetry magazine article notes that few local residents know or recognize the place as connected to the poet. It quotes Darrel Blaine Ford, a Whitman impersonator and enthusiast who has visited every place Whitman visited, and who recounts encountering Whitman’s birthplace as a child, “I was nine years old, and I rode my bike farther than I’d ever ridden it before. I came into this quiet valley and saw a shabby and aging cottage with a small metal plaque that said ‘Birthplace of Walt Whitman.’ It was such a powerful experience that I remember everything about that day,” he says. “It’s important to attach your feelings to a place. Places are important. The word ‘home’—whatever it looks like—will always provide comfort to us footless wanderers” (Poetry). Fords experience of Whitman’s Brooklyn home is very different. He says he stood in front of the house, but “got very little feeling from him.” In an editorial in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Whitman scholar Thomas H. Benton writes similarly of visiting the sites and artifacts of Whitman’s life, recounting having the opportunity to touch some preserved strands of the poet’s beard as a sort of religious experience. Benton argues that even formal scholarship is motivated on some level by a sort of spiritual experience that comes from the distance of the past. The spaces connected to history provide access to that which we wish to know. In this way, the house at 99 Ryerson can be thought of a such a totem in Whitman’s history, a tangible connection to a section of his past scholars know all too little about.

Updated Proposal

I’m intrigued by the challenge of making a case for the Walt Whitman house in Brooklyn for several reasons. First, I am an English Literature and WMGS double major, and so more than just representing an intersection of my interests, the projects presents the challenge of integrating a literary-historial analysis with a historical and cultural framework provided by queer and LGBT studies. The paper requires establishing the centrality of Whitman’s queerness to his work, his conception of America, and his place in American cultural history. The paper also requires a careful analysis of Brooklyn as a space that produced the poet, and as a space that had a hand in inspiring the diversity and egalitarianism of his politics.

I’m excited by the argument that Whitman’s homosexuality or, as Robert K. Martin conceives it, his “homotextuality.” Whitman’s sexuality is not a side note or merely one way of reading his work, but rather a central and meaningful part of his work and its place in American culture. Martin calls efforts to minimize Whitman’s homosexuality “lies so shameful as to amount to a deliberate attempt to alter reality to suit a particular view of normality” (Martin 1). Michael Bronski argues that Whitman’s homosexuality represented a “conflation of sexual freedom and citizenship” that drew from transcendentalism in its conception of natural relationships (80). Bronski argues that not only does Whitman’s sexual politics represent a central way of thinking about same-sex relationships in the nineteenth century, but also an important link in LGBT history. According to Bronski, Whitman’s expressions of same-sex love as constitutive of a discrete but relational identity directly inspired the work of Carpenter and Symonds in the late century that resulted in the conception of “homosexuality” as it is known today. It seems to me that the fact that arguably the most quintessentially American poet is also essentially homosexual is worthy of formal recognition. Queer experience (defined broadly as anti-heteronormative) and queer art are not niche, to be considered critically and historically in a bubble, but rather just as “universal” as any of our timeless treasures of sexually normative literature.

I am also interested in Whitman’s contested literary and cultural afterlife as a homosexual/queer figure in American culture. This involves doing some archival work, and to a crtical analysis of the scholars and scholarship that reclaimed Whitman’s homosexual identity in the seventies and eighties. I am also interested in what reclaiming Whitman’s queerness has represented to LGBTQ Americans in the years since?

Whitman published Leaves of Grass shortly after moving to the house at 99 Ryerson Street. The poet Glynn Young argues that

“it is in ‘Song of Myself’ in Leaves of Grass… that one can see the sights, sounds and people of Brooklyn. And Whitman identifies with all of them—the butchers, the runaway slaves, the carpenters, the farmers, the printers, the spinning-girls, the machinists, the deckhands, the reformers, the young wives (and the old), the canal-boys, and more.” (Young)

Whitman’s Brooklyn has two key areas of influence on his life and career: first as a boyhood home, where he spent the early years of his printing apprenticeship, and second as the home to which he would return to begin his poetic career. I intend to look at correspondence, contemporary accounts, and biographical material to develop, in coordination with his literary work, as best a sense I can of the way Brooklyn shaped Whitman’s life and art. Brooklyn existed for Whitman as a microcosm of the cultural and geographic tensions of 19th century America. Its social and political diversity, as well as its location between the rural Long Island (a mythical and personal space for Whitman) and the industrialized, urbanized Manhattan mean that critical attention to Brooklyn as a space that produced the poet and contributed meaningfully to his articulation of a new America is an important task in understanding the poet’s work. I also hope to explore how the sexual geography of New York might have enabled or denied Whitman space to live a queer life.

The house at 99 Ryerson is unmarked, and as such Whitman’s life in the neighborhood mostly unacknowledged. I feel very strongly that Whitman’s queerness must not be erased, no matter how biographically slippery a figure he is. Naming the house at 99 Ryerson, the center of the most vibrant part of his life and career, to the NHRP could serve to tangibly connect the generations of Americans enraptured by his life and work to the man himself, and to the period of his life directly before the publication of Leaves of Grass that has proven somewhat of a black box for historians and biographers. It was in his time at the Ryerson house that Whitman made this aesthetic and personal changes that bridged the space between the young printer and the poetic pioneer that ushered in a new American literary ethos.

Acknowledging Whitman’s home as not only a critical site in his life, but as a meaningful one for LGBTQ history, would serve both to honor his legacy and to reinvigorate the historical project of studying and celebrating queer American lives of the past.

Bibliography

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Benton, Thomas H. “A Professor and a Pilgrim.” Chronicle of Higher Education 11 Aug. 2006: n. pag. Chronicle of Higher Education. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.

Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States. Boston: Beacon, 2011. Print.

Chauncey, George. 1996. “Privacy Could Only Be Had In Public.” In Stud: Architectures of Masculinity, Ed. Joel Sanders, 224-67. Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.

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Schmidgall, Gary. Walt Whitman: A Gay Life. New York: Plume, 1998. Print.

Shively, Charley. Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman’s Working-class Camerados. San Francisco, Calif: Gay Sunshine, 1987. Print.

Shively, Charley, ed. Drum Beats: Walt Whitman’s Civil War Boy Lovers. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine, 1989. Print.

Somerville, Siobahn B. 2007. “Queer.” In Keywords for American Cultural Studies, Eds. Burgett and Hendler, 217-221. New York: NYU Press.

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Whitley, Edward Keyes. American Bards: Walt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Press, 2010. Print.

Whitman, Walt. “Brooklyniana; A Series of Local Articles, Past and Present.” 3 June 1861. The Walt Whitman Archive. Gen. ed. Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price. Accessed 18 March 2017. <http://www.whitmanarchive.org>.

Whitman, Walt. “An Old Brooklyn Landmark Going.” 10 October 1861. The Walt Whitman Archive. Gen. ed. Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price. Accessed 18 March 2017. <http:// www.whitmanarchive.org>.

Young, Glynn. “Walt Whitman in Brooklyn: Newspapers and “Leaves of Grass” -.” Tweetspeak. Tweetspeak Poetry, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.