In the Archives | Documenting LGBTQ People With Disabilities

Cover of Able-Together (Fall 1999). Collection of the GLBT Historical Society.

by Mark Sawchuk

The archives of the GLBT Historical Society are committed to documenting the diversity of the LGBTQ community and the intersectional lives of its members. One reflection of this commitment is our holdings on LGBTQ people with disabilities, including community members who joined the disability rights movement that emerged in the 1970s.

One of our larger collections addressing the subject is the records of Able-Together, a San Francisco-based international organization in the 1990s. Through social activities and a magazine, Able-Together: A Forum for Men With and Without Disabilities, the group facilitated romantic and erotic contacts for gay and bisexual men with disabilities, who often faced discrimination at bars, sex clubs and other gay venues.

Our archives also contain personal papers of LGBTQ people with disabilities, including a number who were engaged in advocating change as both performers and activists. To cite just two examples:

  • The papers of Julia “Dolphin” Trahan, a lesbian artist and disability rights activist, provide a window into her performances in the 1990s, including one entitled “Body Talk = Survival: Intersections of Disability, Race and Sex.”
  • The papers of Diane Hugaert contain materials related to her work with Wry Crips, a theater group for women with disabilities founded in Berkeley in 1985 and still active today.

Those interested the disability rights movement also will find an important source in the Daniel A. Smith videotapes. This collection includes an unreleased 31-minute documentary by Smith, “Sign 504 Now,” about a four-week sit-in by disability rights protestors at a federal office in San Francisco in the late 1970s.

To learn more about the GLBT Historical Society’s collections on disability, search our online archives catalog. And if you have materials reflecting the lives of LGBTQ people with disabilities you might wish to donate, email our managing archivist, Joanna Black.

Mark Sawchuk
 is a member of the GLBT Historical Society Communications Working Group.

Reprinted from the January 2018 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.