Courtney Gillette: My favorite kind of history is the oral kind, so I’d think there’s no better way to get cozy with LGBT history than to seek out some awesome LGBT elders and hear their stories. In a society that’s totally youth obsessed, queer old folk are often forgotten, which is terrible, considering how much history and change they’ve probably seen in their day. Just the opening scenes of Milk, showing those raids on gay and lesbian bars not so long ago, made me realize how different it was back then, and how important those stories are. Oral history interviews — whether formal, or just a chat — are a phenomenal way to both learn and validate the lives of LGBT folks whose voices aren’t normally heard.
You can get involved with LGBT older adults’ rights through organizations like Sage, or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. And if you’d like to take some time to visit and talk with an LGBT elder, there are dozens of gay and lesbian retirement communities that would totally welcome visitors. Make it a real oral history excursion with the help of Storycorps, the national oral history archive. You can download a DIY oral history kit, or order one of their more complete packages, to help you interview and record the stories of any old queer folk you talk to. I’m thinking of skipping one October weekend of apple picking for some quality time with some old dykes.
Trish Bendix: If you are lucky enough to live in a larger city, there are likely events going on, like LGBT-themed art exhibits, speeches and readings that you can participate in. But if you are on your own to celebrate October, here are a few ideas: Read memoirs/biographies by and about lesbians. I don’t care if it’s about Gertrude Stein or Kate Clinton; you’ll learn something. These can be found at your local feminist bookstore or in the Gay and Lesbian section that even Borders and Barnes and Noble has (no matter how small it may be).
If movies are more your speed, there are those, too! Aimee & Jaguar, The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister, Tipping the Velvet — old school dramas of what it was like to be gay back in the day (fictionalized, but still). My person recommendation: The Heretics, a documentary about the women behind one of the first feminist magazines in existence. Very, very lesbian-oriented.
Music also counts. Dig up some records/MP3s from women like Alix Dobkin who was among the first to sing about lesbian love. You’ll laugh, but you’ll also be able to appreciate it for what it is: revolutionary at a time gone by.
How will you be celebrating LGBTQ History Month?