Pride Month: History & Culture

In June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. This led to six days of protests and violence, as members of the LGBTQ+ community fought for their lives and their rights. It served as one of the catalysts for the gay rights movement in the United States and in other countries. Until 1966, LGBTQ+ folks couldn’t even drink in bars, as gatherings of LGBTQ+ patrons were deemed disorderly. Even still, police conducted frequent raids and continued to harass community members after it became legal. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black drag queen, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latina and transgender woman, are the names most associated with the Uprising. Both became prominent activists in the fight towards LGBTQ+ equality. The Stonewall Riots are an important turning point in United States history, and it’s necessary to remember how the LGBTQ+ community was treated and while some strides have been made, how they continue to be treated.  

For our final Pride Month post (this year!), I’ve pulled a few books related to the history of the LGBTQ+ community. From music to history to literature to film to sports, the LGBTQ+ community has been present every step of the way. Let us continue to celebrate them and continue the fight alongside them for their rights throughout the year, not just in June.  

Love and Resistance: Out of the Closet into the Stonewall Era  

“A pictorial time capsule from the pivotal days of a budding gay rights movement. Baumann, coordinator of the New York Public Library’s LGBT Initiative, presents a dramatic collection of images, drawn from the career archives of photo-documentarians Lahusen and Davies, charting the rise of grassroots gay activism from the mid-1960s to the mid-’70s. It was a time when LGBT activists took to the streets of New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New Jersey to creatively and defiantly demonstrate against intolerance and inequality and whose “vision and courage changed our world.” Lahusen was active in early lesbian solidarity organizations while Davies was best known for chronicling the feminist, peace, and social justice activism movements of the era. Their photographs, accompanied by Baumann’s commentary and descriptions, represent separate perspectives within a unified theme of LGBT equality throughout each of the book’s four sections. “Visibility” displays images of a wide variety of gays and lesbians in the primes of their careers and endeavors; “Love” celebrates the power of community and affection in the face of societal hate; “Pride” memorializes the sacred queer spaces where activism, collaboration, and solidarity flourished; and “Protest” demarcates the demonstrations and rebellion against rampant gay oppression. Iconic activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Barbara Gittings, and Ernestine Eckstein share space with gay writers, artists, performers, and media founders. Haunting and arresting, the photos illustrate a historic American era when same-sex affection was forbidden in public and considered both a mental illness and an atrocity. A literary celebration commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the epic Stonewall riots, the book is elegiac yet also provides a reflective and hopeful reminder for future generations that change, and promise can arise from struggle and sacrifice. Though the book is a reflection of a different age and struggle, it is also timely given that LGBT freedoms remain ever endangered within the current political climate. A moving queer tapestry honoring a beleaguered movement’s legacy through art, veneration, and gravitas.”  

-Kirkus Reviews January 2019 

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum 

“Pennies, glass bottles, a parking meter, and a kick line: how a police raid became a community’s symbol of freedom. June 28, 1969: the night the gay bar Stonewall was raided by the police for the second time in a week to stop a blackmail operation. What began as a supposedly routine police raid ended with over 2,000 angry, fed-up protesters fighting against the police in New York’s West Village. Bausum eloquently and thoughtfully recounts it all, from the violent arrest of a young lesbian by the police to an angry, mocking, Broadway-style kick line of young men protesting against New York’s Tactical Control Force. Bausum not only recounts the action of the evening in clear, blow-by-blow journalistic prose, she also is careful to point out assumptions and misunderstandings that might also have occurred during the hot summer night. Her narrative feels fueled by rage and empowerment and the urge to tell the truth. She doesn’t bat an eye when recounting the ways that the LGBT fought to find freedom, love, and the physical manifestations of those feelings, whether at the Stonewall Inn or inside the back of a meat truck parked along the Hudson River. Readers coming of age at a time when state after state is beginning to celebrate gay marriage will be astonished to return to a time when it was a crime for a man to wear a dress. Enlightening, inspiring, and moving.”  

– Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2015 

Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports by Cyd Zeigler 

“Outsports.com founder Zeigler gives an account of the great strides LGBTQ athletes have made in the sports world over the last 15 years. Before 2000, most professional LGBTQ athletes remained closeted for fear that revealing their homosexuality would end their sports careers. However, as the author documents in this overview, “the last decade has been colored in rainbows by young athletes…who [have] dared to be themselves.” In the 1970s, a few individuals, such as tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, came out. By the turn of the century, other professional athletes, such as baseball player Billy Bean and defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo, also did so, but only after they had retired. Not until NBA basketball player John Amaechi publicly disclosed his homosexuality in 2007 did gay athletes and the issues pertaining to them come to the fore of mainstream professional sports. In this book , Zeigler tells stories of the fears and anxieties that both college and professional athletes have faced along the path to acceptance by their teammates. He reveals how language used among otherwise tolerant heterosexual athletes to denote weakness compounds the intensity of the inner struggles of their gay counterparts. At the same time, he points to examples of straight individuals like football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin who have actively supported the gay sports movement by speaking about the need for “equality for all.” While Zeigler believes it is imperative that more LGBTQ athletes come out, he also makes clear that public outing is not justified if an individual is not ready to deal with the ensuing media exposure. Lively and provocative, the book  not only offers a much-needed perspective on what until recently has been one of the last bastions of heterosexism. It is also significant for its conscious consideration of how current developments will impact LGBTQ athletes of tomorrow. An informative, necessary work.” 

-Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2016 

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music by Darryl W. Bullock 

“Bullock’s comprehensive yet concise history of LGBT music from the earliest records in the pre-jazz age to the 21st century is an enthralling journey covering multiple genres and serves as both a cultural and sociological study of the history and impact of various artists and music styles. Bullock examines jazz, blues, country, singer-songwriters, disco, punk, and dance while traveling both the main roads and especially the byways of popular music, highlighting artists who may be unfamiliar to many, narrating a story of a community that over the decades has created original, influential, and singular music. Using dozens of sources as well as his own interviews, the author demonstrates that the story of LGBT music is both a personal and a political one, set against the backdrop of key events in the gay rights movement, which also mirrors the changing societal attitudes toward LGBT people over time. Bullock spotlights dozens of LGBT artists, examining their lives, lyrics, and struggles, both in society and within the music industry, in an entertaining narrative that will also encourage readers to seek out fascinating work that helps define a community’s rich history and heritage.”  

– Library Journal, vol 142, issue 17 

Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution by Susan Stryker  

“Covering American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today, Transgender History takes a chronological approach to the subject of transgender history, with each chapter covering major movements, writings, and events. Chapters cover the transsexual and transvestite communities in the years following World War II; trans radicalism and social change, which spanned from 1966 with the publication of The Transsexual Phenomenon and lasted through the early 1970s; the mid-’70s to 1990, the era of identity politics and the changes witnessed in trans circles through these years; and the gender issues witnessed through the ’90s and ’00s. Transgender History includes informative sidebars highlighting quotes from major texts and speeches in transgender history and brief biographies of key players, plus excerpts from transgender memoirs and discussion of treatments of transgenderism in popular culture.”

-Grand Central Publishing 

-Linnea 

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