Neither Sin Nor Civil Rights: Ethel Sawyer’s Study of a Lesbian Community

In 1965 24-year-old Ethel Sawyer completed the first known academic study of an African American lesbian community. Sawyer’s analysis of “mate stability” helped me develop an understanding of why in the 1950s and 60s gay women who rebelled against sex and gender norms participated in the most normalizing of all institutions: marriage. Although Sawyer did not hear of any such ceremonies during the two years she spent conducting … Continue reading Neither Sin Nor Civil Rights: Ethel Sawyer’s Study of a Lesbian Community

The Trouble with Invoking Jim Crow to Fight for LGBT Issues

Pink Panthers Movement’s Response to the Arizona Anti-Gay Law Arizona’s new bill allowing for discrimination based on sexual orientation is rightfully attracting a lot of pushback from LGBT activists. One of the go-to arguments is that the law revives Jim Crow, the practice of segregating African Americans from whites. While there does seem to be a natural logic here, I think the LGBT movement should … Continue reading The Trouble with Invoking Jim Crow to Fight for LGBT Issues

Activists go to jail for marriage equality

[Description: Blurred out text frames a photo of Nancy and Toby in the upper right corner the Headline: “Free Nancy Davis and Toby Schneiter Gay Marriage Now” dominating the middle.] Today, most of us in the U.S. show our support for political causes through “clicktivism”: we “like,” “share,” and retweet stories on our social media feeds. Sometimes we’ll sign an online petition. A few of us … Continue reading Activists go to jail for marriage equality

1971 television footage of African American lesbians applying for marriage license

Video of Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans applying for a marriage license. Last week I interviewed Donna Burkett, an African American butch lesbian who spent her lifetime working in factories because she refused to wear a skirt. We can be proud of Donna for taking a stand against sexism in the workplace but the fact is she was not a political animal. She had marched … Continue reading 1971 television footage of African American lesbians applying for marriage license

Breaking the Chains of Homosexual Oppression: Girouard and Tremblay’s 1973 Gay Marriage Record Album

[Image Description: 1973 LP album art for Giourard and Tremblay, shows both men with their arms around each other’s waist and with their arms chained together with manacles, raising their arms into the foreground. They are both gazing directly into the camera.] In 1972 Quebec entertainer Michel Girouard married his lover, Regeant Tremblay, in an unusual and unique ceremony. Girouard was a journalist for Tele-Radio … Continue reading Breaking the Chains of Homosexual Oppression: Girouard and Tremblay’s 1973 Gay Marriage Record Album

When Harry Married Bob

In 1973 Harry Freeman married Bob Jones at Boston’s Old West Methodist Church. Having a Christian ceremony was important to them. They had both been students in seminary school, and although they chose not to pursue careers with the Church, they remained deeply committed to God, the Christian faith, and to the development of spiritual life on earth. The night before their wedding the Bishop … Continue reading When Harry Married Bob

The Gay Red Herring

One of the big news stories before Christmas 2013 was the United Methodist church’s defrocking of Rev. Frank Schaefer for officiating at his son’s marriage. His son is gay, as is the man he married. This week’s blog entry is about a different Methodist minister who was removed from the church in 1973 on similar grounds. While in Boston I interviewed Rev. William E. Alberts … Continue reading The Gay Red Herring

Are there degrees out ‘outness’?

In the history of lesbian and gay politics, historians put a lot of stock in whether or not the people we study were “out.” But what exactly does “out” mean? This past week I interviewed Robert W. Wood, author of 1960 book Christ and the Homosexual Wood is a retired United Church of Christ (formerly Congregationalist Church) minister who knew since high school that he … Continue reading Are there degrees out ‘outness’?

Research’s Circuitous Route

Click through for larger This past weekend Elise flew to Boston on a last-minute research trip.  Unfortunately in the rush to get to the archives she left her computer at the airport security check point. This Monday she sends a pictogram to explain research’s circuitous route. originally from elisechenier@dreamdwidth, crossposted to outlawstoinlaws@dreamwidth, a community for sharing and discussing same-sex marriage before 1980. Like the Elise … Continue reading Research’s Circuitous Route

“…he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” – Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom (1995) The eyes, ears, and hearts of the world are turned toward South Africa this week as we bid farewell to Nelson Mandela, a man who led the largely peaceful transition of a nation … Continue reading “…he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”