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This Instagram account will help you understand your place in LGBTI history

‘Our history is just sitting out there in albums, shoe boxes, attics, garages, and other nooks and crannies; we need to make sure we capture it’

This Instagram account will help you understand your place in LGBTI history
@LGBT_history | Instagram
LGBT history delivers a daily dose of archive imagery to your Instagram feed

Be honest: Most of the Instagram profiles you follow are either hot people on the other side of the world you’ll never get to meet, celebrities or photos of cats.

One profile that’s well worth adding to the list is @LGBT_history

The profile was launched at the beginning of the year and has established over 35,000 followers in just over six months. The idea is simple: to post photos of moments in LGBTI history with some words of explanation.

Postings range from Pride marches and protests to significant LGBT figures and simple images of gay men and women from the past.

The profile was the idea of Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer, private attorneys living in Washington, D.C. They tell GSN in that they recently became engaged.

In an email to GSN they explain that they had the idea for the account late last year.

‘In November 2015, we went to the unveiling of the headstone of American LGBT pioneer Frank Kameny and our general interest in LGBT history became a general obsession.

‘For Leighton, that manifested itself in seeking out, collecting, and cataloging LGBT history pictures from every possible online source; for Matthew, it manifested itself in reading/watching as much as possible on the subject and collecting historic LGBTQ paraphernalia (buttons, flyers, books, etc.).

‘When we started to put up on Instagram the pictures that Leighton was collecting, we didn’t have much of a plan; we only knew that the pictures were helping us discover a great deal about our community’s history that we felt we should already know and that maybe other people would want to see these incredible images and have them put into their accurate historic context.

‘In a very short amount of time, we saw a real reaction and that made us take it more seriously: our research got more intense, the set-up shifted to “This Day In History,” and we really focused on finding images that hadn’t been widely seen before.

‘We don’t claim to be experts, we’re learning as we go, but we do a great deal of research and we take it very seriously’

‘The idea behind the account was to explore the stories behind pictures to which we felt a connection, to share them, and to use it as an opportunity to learn about our history; once we saw that others felt a similar connection, we realized that there’s a stark lack of resources for LGBT history, especially in terms of social media resources.

“HUG-A-HUNK,” AIDS Emergency Fund booth, Up Your Alley Fair, San Francisco, California, August 10, 1989. Photo c/o @leatherarchives. The Up Your Alley Fair, more commonly know as the Dore Alley Fair or simply Dore Alley, is a San Francisco leather and fetish event that is described as “Folsom Street Fair’s [i.e., the largest BDSM and leather event in the world’s] dirty little brother” because it is geared toward the local community and, in other words, is not tourist-focused. Started in 1985, Up Your Alley served, among other purposes, to show that San Francisco’s local fetish community continued to thrive, even in the face of the AIDS epidemic. At Up Your Alley in 1989, the San Francisco-based AIDS Emergency Fund (established in 1982 by a group of friends who came together to pay bills for friends who were too ill to work because of the onslaught of a mysterious disease) debuted the Hug-A-Hunk booth, at which fair attendees paid five dollars to embrace good looking locals. Hug-A-Hunk proved so successful that it appeared at Folsom Street Fairs, Castro Street Fairs, and Pride events for years to come. To learn more about the AIDS Emergency Fund, which is still in operation, visit aef-sf.org. #lgbthistory #lgbtherstory #lgbttheirstory #lgbtpride #QueerHistoryMatters #HavePrideInHistory #AIDSEmergencyFund #NeverForget #NeverAgain

A photo posted by lgbt_history (@lgbt_history) on

‘We don’t claim to be experts, we’re learning as we go, but we do a great deal of research and we take it very seriously. And we keep the account going because it’s meaningful to us and we hope it’s meaningful to others.’

The men say they have been ‘blown away’ by the response they’ve had to the account.

‘We get incredible emails from people telling us that the account helps them get more in touch with their queerness, feel more proud, more rooted, and generally understand their place in history a bit more; it’s a dose of Pride everyday.’

Gay Games swimmers (including Richard Hunter and Richard Boner, foreground), Gay Games I, San Francisco, August 1982. Photo c/o Gay Games Blog. The first Gay Games, held in 1982, saw 1,300 gay and lesbian athletes and nearly 10,000 spectators converge upon San Francisco for a celebration of sport, competition, and pride. Initially called the Gay Olympic Games, the United States Olympic Committee successfully sued to preclude the use of the word “Olympic.” The same year, a number of other Olympic organizations–including the “Crab Cooking Olympics,” the “Diaper Olympics,” and the “Rat Olympics”–were allowed to use “Olympic” without liability. #lgbthistory #lgbtherstory #lgbttheirstory #lgbtpride #queerhistorymatters #haveprideinhistory #rio2016 #olympics #gaygames

A photo posted by lgbt_history (@lgbt_history) on

‘Queers need to digitize their pictures!’

They also say that they welcome submissions and want to post more images from all over the world (the majority so far have been from the US). They’ll consider any pre-2000 images of LGBTQ life – including candid photos of couples, friends, families, parties and bars.

‘We would also ask for as much information as possible about any images submitted. And, in terms of international pictures, we try very hard to go beyond the US, but we are limited in terms of our resources.

‘So, not only would we love to see more submissions from non-US countries, we also welcome any guidance as to online, public databases where we can find high-quality images of LGBT history from other countries. Submissions can be sent to [email protected]

‘We can also provide people with a physical address if they want assistance in digitizing or if they just hope to give their old pictures a good home.

Gladys Bentley (August 12, 1907 – January 18, 1960), c. 1930. Gladys Bentley, who was born one hundred and nine years ago today, built her singing career billed as a black, lesbian, cross-dressing wonder in the 1920s and 1930s. During the Prohibition era, Bentley’s performances at Harlem’s gay speakeasies–usually backed by a chorus line of drag queens, with Bentley donning her trademark white coat and tails–were infamous. An open lesbian for most of her life and throughout her career, Bentley claimed to have been “cured” of her homosexuality as the McCarthy era began; she married a man (though he later would deny the marriage ever officially took place), studied to be a minister, and wrote an essay for Ebony magazine called “I Am a Woman Again.” Gladys Bentley died of pneumonia on January 18, 1960; she was fifty-two. #lgbthistory #lgbtherstory #lgbttheirstory #lgbtpride #QueerHistoryMatters #HavePrideInHistory #GladysBentley

A photo posted by lgbt_history (@lgbt_history) on

‘On that note, maybe more than anything, the account has given us an appreciation for the value of the images that survive from queer history. The pictures that we feature were taken by those who were confident enough to do the photographing and are of those who were proud enough to be photographed, subversive acts in and of themselves.

‘We would just ask Gay Star News – and any publication or entity that cares about queer history and identity – to spread the word: Queers need to digitize their pictures!

‘And, to make sure we reach as far as possible, younger generations of LGBTs need to ask, beg, nag, and assist our elders to digitize their photographs (and to put their LGBT memorabilia in safe storage generally).

‘Our history is just sitting out there in albums, shoe boxes, attics, garages, and other nooks and crannies; we need to make sure we capture it.’

“IF I DIE OF AIDS – FORGET BURIAL – JUST DROP MY BODY ON THE STEPS OF THE F.D.A.,” jacket worn by David Wojnarowicz (September 14, 1954 – July 22, 1992), ACT UP demonstration, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, D.C., October 11, 1988. Photo by Bill Dobbs. David Wojnarowicz, who died twenty-four years ago today, was an American painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and AIDS activist. Wojnarowicz emerged from New York’s underground art scene in the late 1970s as one of the most prominent and prolific mixed-media artists and activists; a retrospective of his work, “History Keeps Me Awake At Night,” has been announced for exhibition at the Whitney Museum (@whitneymuseum) in Spring 2018. David Wojnarowicz died from AIDS-related illness on July 22, 1992; he was thirty-seven. #lgbthistory #lgbtherstory #lgbttheirstory #lgbtpride #queerhistorymatters #haveprideinhistory #davidwojnarowicz

A photo posted by lgbt_history (@lgbt_history) on


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