June 2019 was the best LGBTQ Pride Month ever. The level of media coverage was unprecedented, and several excellent shows were aired. All in all, I was blown away and thrilled for our history to be so widely shared.
Coming out in 1979 sparked a life-long interest in gay history. I realized while doing the research for No Good Deed and Happy Independence Day that the history I’d gleaned from magazines, books, and the grapevine was more than a little incomplete. Documentaries aired during Pride Month filled in even more blanks.
The Lavender Scare (PBS) is an excellent overview of gay history in the United States. Homosexuals have been around forever, but didn’t emerge as a social group until early in the 1900s. The Lavender Scare explains how gay communities emerged in urban centers as well as the impact of the federal ban on hiring implemented in 1953. The interviews were a highlight for me, especially Frank Kameny, the founding father in the struggle for equal rights and a minor character in No Good Deed.
Rebellion! Stonewall (MSNBC) provides an overview of 1960s gay life in NYC leading up to the Stonewall riots. Life was particularly difficult for members of the the trains community who were subject to arrest if he or she didn’t have on three gender-appropriate articles of clothing. Interviews, photographs, and reenactments show what happened in late June 1969.
These documentaries and most of what I’ve read about LGBTQ history focus on New York (#1 for population in the 1950 Census), Washington DC (#9 in 1950), and San Francisco (#11). Philadelphia (#3) and Los Angeles (#4) are mentioned. What was going on in Chicago (#2), Detroit (#3), Baltimore (#5), Cleveland (#7), Saint Louis (#8), Boston (#10) and other big cities?
Illinois repealed its sodomy laws in 1963 — six years before Stonewall. How that monumental occasion came about is a mystery, at least to me. No doubt, there are folks in Chicago who know. I’m guessing there were tings happening in big cities across the country as well and hope those stories are collected and shared — before it’s too late.