This episode, Voices from Queerentine, is a collection of recordings from queer folk about staying connected to queer history, culture and community in a time of physical separation and isolation. This episode a song from badweatherfriend called "Trying Not To Dream"--you can hear this song and more and buy their music by following this link.
If you'd like to find out more about the Sexual Minorities Archives or see the catalogs and request a piece of media from Out Books on Wheels please follow the links below! Also below, find links to several Black-led LGBTQ Organizations to learn more or to donate this pride month!
Out Books on Wheels: https://sexualminoritiesarchives.wordpress.com/out-books-on-wheels/.
Black-led LGBTQ Organizations:
OUT OF THE ARCHIVES
Episode 3: Voices from Queerentine
Collected/Recorded: April/May 2020
SEAN (narrating an added preface):
This episode was conceived and recorded in April and May, in moments that seem different from now. Now, many people have moved quickly from quarantine for health of self and others to taking to the streets en masse for a better world in support of black lives and against police brutality and white supremacy. I wanted to highlight the murders of Breonna Taylor, a black woman and EMT in Louisville, Kentucky, and black transman Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Florida, as two murders by police that haven’t gotten any sort of formal justice or, in Tony’s case, much visibility. It’s likely his gender identity and so-called criminal record is what’s robbed his unjust death of due attention. But, many transgender folks in past and present have had to fight to survive in ways the law didn’t make space for.
As a white queer man I'm indebted to the black and brown trans folks--Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, Miss Major and others--who in decades past resisted these forces which took form in police brutality and violence towards LGBTQ+ folks--remembering that the first "pride" was a police riot and that our rights are not granted but usually come after breaking unjust laws and supporting each other deeply in the struggle. There are many ways to stay connected to the struggle this pride month but I’m sharing some links to Black-led LGBTQ Organizations in the show notes if you want to learn more or even donate!
Now I leave you to this episode…
Welcome to Episode 3 of Out of the Archives — our attempt to bring treasures of LGBTQIA+ history from the Sexual Minorities Archives to your ears and eyes—part podcast/part oral history/part experiment.
This episode, which I’m calling Queerentine, responds to the moment we’re in—where gathering in person is made less possible by the harm reduction efforts to decrease spread of COVID-19. And, while sheltering in place as much as possible for those of us that do have dwellings to shelter in, like myself, seems for the common good I find it even harder now to connect with the common—to community, to a sense of belonging and to the greater world.
This episode is a collection of voices from queer folk—from Board members of the SMEF to people in the greater community—talking about how they’re staying connected to queer history, culture and community in this time of physical separation and isolation. People name personal connections to books, the need for disability justice especially at this time in the world, and surprising connections across distances with other queer folk. The recording quality differs for each person but the words remain powerful (and, as a side note, I’ve got some better sound recording equipment and strategies in store for future episodes when we can be more easily in each other’s presence).
While the Archives remain in a restricted place of access (at least at this time of recording) I want to encourage folks to check out the Facebook page for updates on what might change in the near future. Throughout the past couple months, our resident curator, Ben, has continued offering media from the Out Books on Wheels collection that folks can pick up on-site in a no-contact, side porch drop kind-of-way. There’s more info in the show notes about how to access the Out Books On Wheels catalogs and request a book or other piece of media during this time. I for one just picked up two things recently—a VHS documentary about Audre Lorde called The Edge of Each Other’s Battles and biography by Stuart Timmons called The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement, about the life of the gay activist, Communist and Radical Faerie.
This moment reminds me how I’ve connected to a greater world in other times of isolation—whether it be it to little or no community or stuck in a psych ward—through books and other media—through lives printed in text or recorded. And, with that—I’d like to pass it on to other voices…
Hi there! My name is Samuel Edwards—I’m the board president of SMEF, Inc, which oversees the Sexual Minorities Archives, the Leslie Feinberg Library and Out Books on Wheels, and I use he/him pronouns.
The way that I’ve been connecting with queer history and culture over quarantine is by reading books to my partner—he’s quarantined in Maryland which is really far away from me in the pioneer valley, so I’ve been reading to him Gay New York by George Chauncey, which is one of my favorite books which explores faerie culture and gay male culture from the 1900s to the 1930s and kind of the foundation of what would later become a gay male culture in the US.
And, I’ve also been reading to him Faeries, Bears and Leathermen by Peter Hennen which is a sociology book that does an analysis of radical faeries, bears and leather culture.”
Since the quarantine, I’ve actually been able to access more queer community and support than usual because I have an 8-year-old and I can’t really drive at night so, that makes it pretty easy that I can’t go to many things. But, since the quarantine has made everything online I’ve been able to do a lot more and it’s amazing because I can see myself becoming so much more comfortable in a lot of ways in terms of my identity because I’ve been able to have such consistent interaction with other queer people and so it has really shown me how valuable that is and how much I was really missing that in my life.
So, I really hope that when it ends I can continue to find ways to, yeah, just be around folks and get some support. I’ve doing the Wildflower group through the RLC on Zoom and also been able to go to gatherings through a group called Anti-Zionist Shabbat, which is a really queer-positive space.
And then I also have Reddit, which I usually have before the quarantine, but it’s always really encouraging to me and I can go into queer-specific Reddit and see pictures of people and hear stories of people and just feel like I’m not alone.
Hello Out of the Archives listeners! My name is Madeline Stump, my pronouns are she/her/hers and today I will be listing off a bunch of my favorite graphic novels and more traditional books or ones that I am greatly looking forward to which relate to LGBT life!
So, the first graphic novel I’ve picked is called Black, then The Pervert, Gender Queer, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, and then Angela, Asgard’s Assassin and Angela, Queen of Hell; then Motorcrush, Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Saga, and then an anthology book of various different trans and nonbinary graphic novel creators called We’re Still Here.
Now, I’ll go into the more traditional books—the first is Resilience, which is an anthology of short stories by trans assigned male at birth writers; next are two books by Kai Cheng Thom Fierce Femmes Notorious Liars and I Hope We Choose Love. Next is Redefining Realness by Janet Mock; then Whipping Girl by Julia Serrano; and then, The Remedy which is a series of short stories and poems about trans and queer individuals experiences with the medical complex. Next is Black on Both Sides which is a racial history of trans people in the US. And then, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, Terrorist Assemblages, Queer Phenomenology, A Safe Girl to Love, Queer Indigenous Studies and Nameless Woman. Nameless Woman is also an anthology which features a series of short stories by trans women of color. So, yeah, I hope this helps! Thank you very much—bye.
Hi, Vesper Moore—I use they/them pronouns. I am a mad queer brown person of color and I’m just gonna start out with this quick quote by Aurora Levine-Morales, Patty Burn and Micah Bezant—and it goes like this: “All bodies are caught in the bindings of ability, race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship. We are powerful not despite the complexity of our identities but because of them. Only universal collective access can lead to universal collective liberation. This is disability justice.”
That quote’s been very important to me in getting me through this because some of the experiences our community—the trans and queer communities at large have been facing have been folks living without a home, folks being abused, folks being mistreated at home because they’re with family members or friends or roommates that do not understand their experiences—a hold on hormones and procedures that people were looking forward to and a distance from physical supports and communities.
For myself I’ve noticed with black, brown, Asian and, you know, person of color communities that overactive racism and racial violence while going outside have substantially increased. And, we have disproportionate access to medical treatment as queer and POC communities. I think the impact now is a collective experience of pain and I think that only through this disability justice lens—this multi-layered, collective, inter-connected human lens—we can reach some type of connection and some type of way through with the thoughtfulness of every person and every marginalized group.
My name is Tanya Pearson.
One of the favorites that I revisited is The Lavender Scare by David K Johnson and I like it because I think the general, you know, public consensus is that the Lavender Scare was just sort of this offshoot of the Red Scare—so, the Red Scare being the persecution of so-called Communists and this was all spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy during the Cold War. The Lavender Scare—or the persecution of gays and lesbians in the US government—it gets sort of intertwined or with Joseph McCarthy’s history but he actually didn’t have much to do with the Lavender Scare at all. And, at that point, homophobia had become sort of state-sanctioned, so there were other government officials who kind of perpetrated this Lavender Scare but Joseph McCarthy had removed himself from that. He was suspect because he was a single guy in Cold War America. so, hey, maybe Joseph McCarthy was a big fag—who knows. But, that’s a really good book.
And, I love old Hollywood. May attraction to old Hollywood sort of falls in line with my attraction to just kind of camp and irreverence and John Waters-esque, queer kind of messy, dirty, rude, sometimes disgusting cinema. So, this show Hollywood—what’s interesting is that it’s sort of a reimagining of old Hollywood—like, what if actors and producers and the industry did the right thing. But, it also incorporates actual history.
So, in the first episode the sort of central place is this gas station which—this was a real place. So, there was this guy Scotty Bowers. He was a marine and he was pretty much—and I’m not, I’m only using this word because he self-described, he self-describes as a madam or a pimp to the stars. So, there was a gas station in Hollywood where closeted celebrities and Hollywood stars would go and get hooked up with a gas station attendant and what Scotty Bowers did he found dates for these closeted movie stars. He published a book about this in 2012—so his character has a part in this show.
Other actors and actresses portray real people like Rock Hudson and Vivian Leigh and George Cukor, who—he was a director but he was also—I don’t even wanna say closeted because then it was just kind of—he was out and everyone knew he was gay and he would throw these lavish parties. He was very close friends with Scotty Bowers and Scotty would bring people and it was just this kind of crazy, queer sex parties in George Cukor’s backyard. Ryan Murphy does—he does something really interesting where it’s not just a retelling of his-history it’s a reimagining of history.
The show covers all of these kind of intersections of sexuality, sexual behavior, race, class, gender and then it sort of answers those questions of, “What if producers and directors didn’t just roll over but what if they stood up to the mega-moguls and put black people in movies or put gay men in movies or allowed people to be out and, ya know, what would have happened?” So, it’s very uplifting and I can’t really watch anything depressing or too serious right now so, it’s sort of nice—I mean, I like TV and movies because I’m an escapist—I like to escape reality for a little bit, so—highly, highly recommend Hollywood. That’s all for me!
Okay. The prompt for this podcast is actually what’s given me the extra motivation to connect with a queer elder—one I’ve been meaning to reach out to for a few months now.
This past September my parents came to visit me—September also happens to be the month of my Uncle Miguel’s birthday as well as his passing. I must have been feeling some tender nostalgia because the spirit moved me to ask my mom some questions about one of my uncle’s friends who’s still alive—his name is David.
I asked my mom where David was and if she thought he’d be open to me reaching out to him. She was sure he would be and she texted him to reach out and see. He was happy to hear from my mom and open to hearing from me too.
He started sharing stories from the past by text to my mom—like a time when he and my uncle Miguel dressed in drag to go dancing at the Pyramid Club in New York City in the eighties. He shared about how they dance on top of the bars and about a scary time when they were being followed by threatening men. Hearing these bits made me feel like I’d finally have an opportunity to learn about my uncle from people besides my mom and my sister and to maybe hear what his queerness meant to him.
Well, huh, I finally reached out to David last Thursday and it was an experience—I think it was probably for both of us. I got to ask him a few questions about my uncle and hear his recollection of the past. It was powerful to learn that Todd, who I’ve only heard of referred to as a friend by my mom, was in fact one of my uncle’s boyfriends.
It felt like a beautiful moment of queer genealogy even if it was also a little overwhelming to navigate the awkwardness of a full-blown text conversation with a man I haven’t seen since I was eight—and I’m just about to be 31.
He ended our text conversation by offering—“I love you and we’ll talk soon.” “You don’t have to love me yet, unless you already do, but I’ve known you and loved you your whole life. So, I love you and I’ll check in soon.”
I’m wondering where the beginning of this kind of strange, kind of tender connection will go and grateful that in spite of all the chaos that is COVID-19 I finally made the choice to reach out to David.
Thanks so much to—in order of appearance—Samuel, Gazit Chaya, Madeline, Vesper, Tanya and Leo for sharing your words! And, I look forward to helping bring you more conversations and stories from the SMA and beyond this year.
Please check out the Sexual Minorities Archives website for more general info, ways to donate and to sign up for our e-newsletter. Check the SMA’s Facebook page for updates on access to the Archives as well as any upcoming online events.
The music for this episode is from a song by badweatherfriend, from Brattleboro, VT. You can find their 2019 album you’re fine to preview and buy on Bandcamp. As one more offering for this Queerentine episode I want to give you the full version of “Trying Not To Dream” in this time when the future seems uncertain but many of us are still creating, connecting or just outright surviving in spite of the odds.