Board Co-Chair Valentin Aguirre: Honoring Diversity Is Key to Celebrating Our Histories

Board co-chair Valentin Aguirre at the GLBT History Museum. Photo: Leo Herrera

by Leo Herrera

Valentin Aguirre joined the board of the GLBT Historical Society in 2015 and now serves as co-chair. His passion for working with the society dates all the way back to 1999, when he curated the display of Latinx queer history in the groundbreaking “Making a Case for Community History”exhibition. As a queer Latinx, Aguirre is familiar with the challenges organizations can encounter in representing diverse LGBTQ communities.

“Many local and international queer people of color still have great resistance to collaborating with the GLBT Historical Society because of having experienced institutional and personal racism by white queer communities for decades,” Aguirre observes. “As a result, the archives and the shows we can produce are limited in scope.”

Aguirre says he is proud the Historical Society has chosen to tackle these issues head on: prioritizing the collection and exhibition of intersectional histories that highlight women, transgender people and communities of color — as well as beginning discussions on how to improve the visibility of people of different abilities, including those on the autism spectrum.

Reaching Global Audiences

Aguirre also looks forward to the organization better reaching global audiences with shows extending beyond the Northern California-focused exhibitions that have predominated at the GLBT History Museum. “I hope that the resources of the Historical Society will be accessed by many, many more people and that it will be seen as a hub for discussions, exhibits and archival materials that focus on the issues most relevant at the time,” he says.

The GLBT Historical Society’s Vision 2020 campaign aimed at opening a world-class LGBTQ public history center is one of Aguirre’s priorities. “With a larger museum and archives, we could greatly expand to include more than what’s easily found on the West Coast and the East Coast and in major metropolitan areas. We’ll be able to preserve and show the history of queer cultures beyond the U.S. and to work with major museums to borrow and lend shows that broaden our reach.”

As with every supporter of the GLBT Historical Society, a love of community and a belief in the power of history is at the forefront for Aguirre. “A big take away for me is that doing this work is difficult because our attempts to come together are laden with layers of pain, grief and tentative hope about what we can do together,” he explains.

“Once we move past this, in ways that utilize a lens of cultural humility, I think we will be able to find new ways to celebrate our histories — through arts, rituals, debates, virtual experiences and archival projects,” Aguirre notes. “I have faith in this because surviving is not enough. We deserve fabulosity and amazing narratives that shift our thinking, on bigger scales and with more impactful scopes.”

Leo Herrera is an artist and filmmaker based in San Francisco.

Reprinted from the December 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.