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LGBTQ History at the 2016 OAH Annual Meeting

OAH-2015-Annual-Meeting-BLACKThe OAH 2016 Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island features an array of sessions, tours, and opportunities for people interested in LGBTQ history. Here are some highlights.

John Hay Library Tour: LGBTQ Archives: Friday, April 8, 1-3pm. Limited to 30 people. Cost: $25. 

Tour of the John Hay Library and an introduction to the broad range of LBGTQ collections. The John Hay Library, the library for Special Collections at Brown University, has a sustained history of collecting LGBTQ materials including publications including a substantial collection of gay pulp fiction and the records of movement organizations and individuals such as the John Preston Papers, the Scott O’Hara Papers, and the On Our Backs Archive.

LGBTQ Social Hour at the Dorrance Bar: Friday, April 8, 5:15-7pm.

Meet at the Dorrance Bar, 60 Dorrance Street, a short walk away from the convention center, for networking.

New Directions in LGBTQ Public History: Saturday, April 9, 1:45 pm-3:15 pm

Almost from its inception as a field, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/ Queer (LGBTQ) history has been intertwined with public history as researchers created slideshow presentations, archives, and small exhibits about the history of LGBTQ experiences. Since then, people have created LGBTQ museums, cultural institutions have put up exhibits about topics on gender and sexuality, and most recently the National Park Service has embarked on several initiatives to incorporate LGBTQ history into its sites and programs. This roundtable will consist of public history practitioners and academics, who will discuss recent developments in the field, how public representations of this history have changed, and the complicated narratives of inclusions that have often accompanied them.By incorporating LGBTQ history into their narratives, museums, libraries and historic sites are stretching the boundaries of what the public considers important events, sites, and agents of change. Steven Fullwood will speak from his experience on the initiative In the Life, a collection of black LGBT oral histories from StoryCorps that will be housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This collection of hundreds of recordings and related programming will make available to the public and to researchers the often-overlooked stories of grassroots leaders in black LGBTQ communities. Similarly, Megan Springate, a researcher with the National Park Service, will discuss how the NPS is redefining the landscape of history by initiating a project to designate sites around the country as significant in LGBTQ history. By designating new sites as historically significant, the NPS is recognizing the leadership of a new set of people in the national narrative. Finally, Susan Ferentinos will speak from her experience writing the book Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites, the first guide of its kind. She will offer her thoughts on the ways that cultural institutions are breaking new ground and daring to bring the history of gender and sexual variance into mainstream institutions.The roundtable promises to be an exciting discussion of these new trends and the ways that they fit into a broader context of LGBTQ history-making. At the beginning of the session, each panelist will discuss the projects that they have worked on and will offer observations about the ways the field has changed and the major issues public historians face as it moves forward. The session chair will then facilitate a conversation between the audience and panelists.

Chair: Anne Parsons, University of North Carolina at Greensboro


  • Susan Ferentinos, Public History Consultant
  • Steven Fullwood, New York Public Library
  • Megan Springate, NPS LGBTQ Heritage Initiative

Leading the Sexual Counterrevolution: Conservative Responses to Sexual Liberalism: Friday, April 8, 9-10:30am

During the 1960s and 1970s, sexuality became a key site of struggle as movements on the left began to challenge sexual norms and the male-breadwinner model. The sexual revolution spurred a conservative response that emphasized the ideal of the traditional family and the promise of national rebirth through a return to traditional family values. The historical literature on conservatism tends to present the movement’s response to questions of sexuality in monolithic terms, ignoring its variations. However, the movement that has come to be known as the New Christian Right was never a singular entity, but rather has always been a loose coalition of politically and religiously diverse organizations, grassroots movements, and prominent voices. Though men like Barry Goldwater, and later Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson often stand in as representative leaders of the New Right, they were not its only leaders. Analyzing negotiations of leadership within the movement can help us to better understand its structure, its diversity, and its politics.This panel looks at leadership within the New Christian Right in three distinct contexts: nationally prominent female leaders, pro-life activism within churches, and anti-gay ballot initiatives in the American West. Emily Johnson’s paper examines the vital roles that nationally prominent women played in building and sustaining support for the New Christian Right in the 1970s and 1980s. Building on recent scholarship that has emphasized conservative women’s contributions at the grassroots level, Johnson asserts that women were also national leaders of this vital political movement. Jennifer Holland provides a different perspective on leadership, examining how pro-life activists turned churches into sites of political transformation. Holland’s paper demonstrates that individual beliefs, not religious doctrine, propelled social and political conservatism. In a third account, Marie-Amélie George analyzes the scientific evidence used in anti-gay ballot initiatives, arguing this secular language bolstered conservatives’ success and turned the Oregon Citizens Alliance into a regional leader.This panel emphasizes the multiple ways in which the political right mobilized to oppose sexual liberalism, presenting a new account of leadership within the conservative movement by identifying opponents of gay rights and abortion as crucial participants that shaped the American political agenda. By analyzing responses at the national, regional, and local levels, and addressing the work of individuals, organizations, and coalitions, the papers provide a nuanced account of the ways in which conservatives countered the sexual revolution. As the papers demonstrate, opposition to abortion and gay rights evolved in response to specific constituencies who emphasized these particular issues and worked to turn their individual projects into a national movement. These leaders created powerful interest groups that rendered issues of sexuality increasingly salient for the Republican party. In their vocal denunciation of sexual liberalism, these leaders made anti-abortion activism and opposition to gay rights a cornerstone of conservative politics. Ultimately, this panel argues that issues of sexuality are crucial to understanding how the conservative movement became a powerful political force in America.

Chair and Commentator: Bethany Moreton, University of Georgia, Dartmouth College

  • Leading Ladies: Conservative Christian Women’s National Political Leadership. Emily Johnson, University of Tennessee
  • Beating the Rectory Door Down: Anti-Abortion Activism and the Remaking of Religion in America. Jennifer Holland, University of Oklahoma
  • Modernizing Morality: Scientific Evidence in Anti-Gay Ballot Initiatives. Marie-Amelie George, Yale University

Discovering Intimacy in Early America: Meanings, Definitions, Practices: Friday, April 8, 10:50 am-12:20 pm

With its multiple meanings and varying understandings and practices in early America, the concept of intimacy continues to puzzle scholars. In the past several decades, new studies have enriched our understanding of the importance of the concept of intimacy to historical actors and have expanded scholarly attention to new environments in which it was constructed. We now understand, as one scholar has written of incest and the liberal subject, that discursively constructed categories in the period before the widespread definition of homosexuality helped to shape the possible articulations and practices of intimacy among men and women. This panel will draw together three different aspects of intimacy, inflected as they are in three different sets of relationships: male friendship, international law, and same-sex practice. Drawing on the annual meeting theme of “leadership,” this panel explores both formal political leaders whose understandings of intimacy mattered to the outcomes of major national politics, as well as informal thought leaders in the area of law and commerce. In early America, men and women of different cultural and political backgrounds “led” the way to a new definition of intimacy, one which increasingly insisted on the overt sexualization of same-sex intimacy while still maintaining the pretense of the platonic definition of an earlier age. The papers of this panel will also trace the origins of these new definitions and practices on intimacy, paying close attention to where the borders at which the met.The three papers explore the varying meanings, definitions, and practices of intimacy among men and women in early America, or the period approximately before 1900. Dr. Thomas Balcerski will offer a paper on the intimate male friendship of James Buchanan of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King of Alabama. In his paper, Dr. Brian Connolly tests the relationship of intimacy and private international in the early nineteenth century. In his paper, Dr. David Doyle traces how intimacy functioned in a same-sex intimate relationship from the late nineteenth-century. In sum, these papers expand scholarly understandings of intimacy in the formative period before the discursive medicalization of homosexuality.Finally, this panel draws together the research of three younger scholars, each of whom offers new perspectives on aspects of nineteenth-century political culture. The chair, Dr. Richard Godbeer, an established scholar with many published articles and books, will provide essential criticism and insights for the presenters, as will the commentator, Dr. Nicole Eustace, whose recent work explores the concept of intimacy in the period before 1815.

Chair: Richard Godbeer, Virginia Commonwealth University

Commentator: Nicole Eustace, New York University

  • Could I Have Taken You By the Hand’: James Buchanan, William Rufus King, and the Meanings of Male Intimacy in Antebellum America. Thomas Balcerski, Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Intimacy, Marriage, and Private International Law. Brian Connolly, University of South Florida
  • Special Friends: The Fraying of Romantic Friendships in Turn of the century America. David Doyle, Southern Methodist University

Histories of Sexuality and Gender Before the 20th Century: Friday, April 8, 1:50 pm-3:20 pm

Standard narratives in the history of sexuality chart a move from a premodern history of sexual acts to a modern history of sexual identities. Participants on this panel complicate and challenge that narrative, exploring diverse histories of gender and sexuality before the twentieth century. In doing so, the panelists call our attention to new sites of study and offer possible terminologies and frameworks for this premodern past.

Chair: Peter Coviello, University of Illinois, Chicago

Commentator: April Haynes, University of Wisconsin, Madison

  • Critical Trans* Studies and the Political Category of Female-Husbands. Jen Manion, Connecticut College
  • Sphincters of the Spirit: Methodism and Racial Feeling in the Early Republic. Scott Larson, George Washington University
  • The Natural History of Sexuality. Greta LaFleur, Yale University

Legacies of Latina/o Sexuality as Leadership in the United States: 1700s-1980s: Saturday, April 9, 9-10:30am.

This panel seeks to disentangle the marginalized, and at times, “undocumented” lives of Latina/o individuals, collectives, and communities that have all deployed notions of sexuality and gender as a means and form of leadership in history. Each paper will focus on instances in which one’s sexuality, or a person’s operation of it, have revolutionized, complicated, and/or reconfigured notions of power and agency in a progressively heterosexist and heteronormative U.S. society. The three papers associated with the panel will illuminate instances of sexuality as leadership over the last three centuries. Utilizing a comparative history of cross-dressing native groups in North America, the first paper will illustrate how deviant sexuality throughout the 1700s reshaped notions of domesticity and gender between women and men. The second paper will explore fandangos in South Texas, examining sexuality between French, Mexican, and Anglo and African American subjects in the Confederate town of Bagdad during the fifth, sixth, and seventh decades of the eighteenth century. The last paper will examine queer immigration to and from Mexico to the United States during the twentieth century, revealing how queerness was utilized to combat not only Americentric notions of gender and respectability, but also Latin American notions of sex and selfhood. The panel will also explore larger themes entrenched within the American historical imagination, such as the formations and subsequent prescriptions of gender and domesticity as well as the conflation of race and nationality to regionalized politics of respectability and difference. By doing so, this panel attempts to illustrate how the lenses of race and gender work conterminously to uncover how one’s sex and sexuality have been present, and at work, within several social, political, and economic movements throughout the American nation-state’s chronicle. Simultaneously, it canvasses specific periods in which historical actresses and actors traversed the boundaries of U.S. Empire to engage in sexual transactions and criminalized relationships with other characters residing within the North American continent, revealing the transnational past of sexuality and its effects in unraveling national histories. Most of all, the panel seeks to investigate how sexuality as leadership has functioned over the last 250 years.

Chair: Pablo Mitchell, Oberlin College

  • The Demographics of Mexican Migration During the Twentieth Century. Ana Raquel Minian, Stanford University
  • Regionalized Notions of Sexuality in the Nineteenth Century Confederate-Mexican Borderlands. Kris Klein Hernandez, University of Michigan
  • Xochihuas (Cross-Dressers) in Pre-Cuauhtemoc Native North America, Pre-1800s. Daniel Santana, University of Texas at El Paso

10:50 am – 12:20 pm 

Queer and Trans* Oral History Projects: Saturday, April 9, 10:50 am-12:20 pm

This roundtable explores the ways in which collaborative oral history projects continue to shape and transform the production of historical knowledge about queer and trans communities. Presenters will focus on a range of issues, including: the productive challenges of collaboration (among activists, academics, and community-based organizations, for example); the role of open-access principles in shaping projects and sharing research; the impacts and ethical complexities of digital access to audio files and other materials; and the activist and political contexts for developing and sustaining oral history projects. Presentations will be short, leaving ample time for a moderated discussion that involves audience members.

Chair: Kevin Murphy, University of Minnesota

Commentator: Jason Ruiz, University of Notre Dame


  • Jeanne Vaccaro, Indiana University
  • Andrea Jenkins, University of Minnesota, Tretter Collection
  • Timothy Stewart-Winter, Rutgers University-Newark
  • Nadia Reiman, StoryCorps
  • Andrew Wallace, StoryCorps

Sexuality, Race, and Leadership amid Crisis in Twentieth-century Urban America: Saturday, April 9, 1:50 pm-3:20 pm

This panel explores how leaders define, reshape, or challenge ideas about sexuality in response to moments of crisis. Each of the three papers examines a different American city, a different style of leadership, and a different type of crisis. Yet running throughout these three papers is the idea that historically specific crises have instigated reassessments of the meanings of sexuality. In Marie Rowley’s paper, this theme is explored through reformers’ and civic leaders’ responses to prostitution in Depression-era Chicago. The economic crisis of the early 1930s caused these leaders to reassess the importance of policing “deviant” sexuality. Julio Capó, Jr.’s paper explores the themes of leadership and crisis in the 1970s and 1980s in Miami. His work emphasizes how queer activists defined sexuality as a key element in the city’s experiences of political and social turmoil in the wake of a “race riot” and an influx of Haitian and Cuban immigrants. Finally, Darius Bost’s presentation explores the response of a New York City-based black gay writers’ group, Other Countries Collective, to the trauma of the AIDS crisis. He describes their efforts to create spaces where they could react to the crisis they faced and where they could collectively explore and challenge the meanings of race and sexuality in their lives and communities.Taken together, these presentations show a wide range of possibilities for the historical analysis of sexuality in times of crisis. Aspects of sexual behavior and identity can be a source of continuity and comfort in troubling times, or they can be identified as a problem or symptom of the larger crisis. Leaders at all levels may turn their attention to the meanings of sexuality during a crisis, from city officials and middle-class reformers in Depression-era Chicago, to community activists and leaders in 1980s Miami and New York. The spaces of sexuality in the city also play an important role in each of these papers. Civic leaders used the presence of streetwalking prostitutes and rows of brothels to mark parts of Chicago as racially and sexually problematic in the early 1930s, while Other Countries Collective actively claimed their own spaces where they could challenge hegemonic definitions of race and sexuality. The movement of people across formal and informal borders in 1980s Miami shaped the meanings of race and sexuality there. This panel presents important insight into the ways that the meanings of sexuality reflexively shape ideologies of race and gender and explores the ways that leaders of every kind use definitions of sexuality in response to a crisis.

Chair and Commentator: Marcia Gallo, UNLV

  • “The Girls Are Hard Up Nowadays”: Investigating Prostitution in Depression-era Chicago. Marie Rowley, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • “There was Absolutely No ‘Clash’ between Blacks and Gays”: Miami’s Queer Urban Crisis, 1977-1994. Julio Cesar Capó Jr., University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • “In the Upper Room”: Other Countries Collective and the Intimate Spaces of Black Gay AIDS Activism. Darius Bost, San Francisco State University