From GLBT history

Exhibition Opening: OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer

Friday, October 6  
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco 
$5.00 | Free for members

Front cover of OUT/LOOK, No. 11 (Winter 1991). Courtesy GLBT Historical Society.
A new multimedia exhibition focusing on OUT/LOOK, a national queer quarterly based in San Francisco that ran from 1988 to 1992. Embracing gender and racial diversity and bridging academic and community perspectives, the magazine had a passionate following and sparked vigorous debates. It addressed political and cultural topics, emphasizing graphic arts along with scholarly and literary writing.

Curated by E.G. Crichton, the exhibition features new work by an array of culture-makers, each of them asked to draw on one issue of OUT/LOOK for inspiration. By documenting the history and sparking fresh creative investigation, the exhibition will bring the legacy of the magazine to a new generation.
The opening will include remarks by the curator. In addition, many of the exhibition contributors will attend, as will founders and editors of OUT/LOOK. A new issue of OUT/LOOK published in association with the exhibition will be available for purchase. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, visit the exhibition website.

Q-Public: OUT/LOOK for the 21st Century

Thursday, October 12
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5.00 | Free for members

Front cover of OUT/LOOK, No. 14 (Fall 1991). Courtesy GLBT Historical Society.

In conjunction with the exhibition “OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer,” a roundtable of writers, editors, artists and community organizers will discuss the story of OUT/LOOK (published 1988–1992) and the significance of the new exhibition devoted to the magazine at the GLBT History Museum.

Participants are author Jeffrey Escoffier, cofounder and publisher of OUT/LOOK; writer and performer Brian Freeman; artist Maya Manvi, an editor of the new issue of OUT/LOOK published to accompany the exhibition; and writer and curator Dorothy Santos. E.G. Crichton, a founder and art director of OUT/LOOK, will serve as moderator.

The panelists will survey the history of the magazine, present the works created for the exhibition and discuss cultural initiatives sparked by the project. A 10-minute performance by Brian Freeman based on a short play written by project participant Casey Llewellyn will round out the program.

Community Forum | Fighting Back: Art as Resistance | 30th Anniversary of the AIDS Quilt

Tuesday, October 24
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: Free | $5.00 donation welcome

The latest in the GLBT Historical Society’s monthly “Fighting Back” series exploring contemporary queer-community issues in a historical context, “Art as Resistance: 30th Anniversary of the AIDS Quilt” will offer a multigenerational conversation with organizers, artists and scholars on the role of art in promoting social justice. The participants will lead a community discussion on the history of radical and public art in the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS movements and its legacy for today, with a special focus on the 30th anniversary of the first public display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Taking part in the panel:

E.G. Crichton, a founder and art director of OUT/LOOK magazine from 1987-1990, created the recently launched project “OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer,” which includes an exhibition currently on display at the GLBT History Museum, a website, a new magazine and an event series. As an artist, Crichton uses a range of media and social strategies to explore specific histories, often working in collaboration with diverse practitioners and communities.  Her projects have been exhibited in Asia, Australia, Europe and across the US.  She is an emeritus professor of art at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Visit her website here.

Cleve Jones is a human rights activist, author and lecturer. He joined the gay liberation movement in the early 1970s and was mentored by pioneering LGBTQ activist Harvey Milk. Jones cofounded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983 and founded the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1987. He led the 2009 National March for Equality in Washington, D.C., and served on the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which challenged California’s Proposition 8 in the U.S. Supreme Court. Jones is the author of two books, Stitching a Revolution (2001) and When We Rise (2016). He lives in San Francisco and works as an organizer for the hospitality workers’ union, UNITE HERE. Visit his website here.

Leo Herrera is a Mexican visual artist, filmmaker, writer and activist. His work focuses on aspects of gay culture, including PrEP, HIV stigma and criminalization and the preservation of gay history. His viral film clips have gathered over a million views, and his advocacy work has been featured in national publications and museum exhibitions. Herrera has collaborated with a wide variety of organizations, activists, artists and events that further the gay movement. His current passion is the Fathers Project, a short film that imagines a world where AIDS never happened and the heroes lost to epidemic are still alive.

Juliana Delgado Lopera is an award-winning Colombian writer and oral historian based in San Francisco. The recipient of the 2014 Jackson Literary award and a finalist for the Clark-Gross Novel award, she’s the author of ¡Cuéntamelo! (new edition forthcoming), an illustrated bilingual collection of oral histories by LGBTQ Latinx immigrants, and Quiéreme (Nomadic Press 2017). She has received fellowships from Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts, Lambda Literary Foundation, the San Francisco Grotto and the the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She serves as executive director of RADAR Productions.

Sean Dorsey is a trans and queer choreographer, dancer, writer and activist. Dorsey is recognized as the first acclaimed transgender contemporary choreographer in the United States. Over the last eight years, Dorsey created and toured a trilogy of dance-theater works exploring censored, buried or forgotten parts of trans and queer history: The Missing Generation (2015), The Secret History of Love (2013) and Uncovered: The Diary Project (2010). Dorsey created these works through archival research, community residencies and oral history interviews. Dorsey also worked with the GLBT Historical Society’s archives for each of these projects. This year, Dorsey is creating a new work, Boys in Trouble, and launching a new national advocacy, teaching and training project, Transform Dance. Visit his website here.

Brontez Purnell has published zines including Schlepp and Fag School, as well as books including The Cruising Diaries (2014), Johnny Would You Love Me If… (2017) and Since I Laid My Burden Down (2017). He also has played in a such bands as Panty Raid, Gravy Train!!! and currently Younger Lovers. His column at Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll was called “She’s Over It.” In addition to running his own experimental dance company, he also makes films. Follow him on Instagram.

Picnic & Dance: Queer Summer of Love in Golden Gate Park

Picnic & Dance: Queer Summer of Love in Golden Gate Park

Sunday, June 18    
Noon to 5:00 PM 
National AIDS Memorial Grove  
Golden Gate Park 
Free. Donations Welcome.

Graphic from the San Francisco Oracle (April 1967). Courtesy Regent Press.

In conjunction with the “Lavender-Tinted Glasses” exhibition currently on display at the GLBT History Museum, the Calamus Fellowship invites you to join in an afternoon tribute to the queer movers and shakers who helped create the Summer of Love in 1967. The potluck picnic and dance for all ages will take place at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. DJs Brontez Purnell, Malik Mays and others will provide the sounds. Fabulous tie-dye and other LGBTQ hippie looks encouraged. Free admission. Calamus will be collecting donations for the AIDS Memorial Grove and the GLBT Historical Society. To join the Facebook conversation, click here.

FUNDRAISER Out of Hibernation: Beartoonist Beer Bust at the Lone Star

Out of Hibernation: Beartoonist Beer Bust at the Lone Star  
Sunday, March 12
4:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Lone Star Saloon
1354 Harrison St., San Francisco

“Bear Pride” temporary chalk drawing by Fran Frisch at the Lone Star Saloon (circa 1995)

The Lone Star Saloon invites gay bears and their friends to a special beer bust to support the GLBT Historical Society and its current exhibition, “Beartoonist of San Francisco: Sketching an Emerging Subculture.” Exhibition curator Jeremy Prince will be on hand to make informal comments about the history of the bear subculture, and artwork and t-shirts by bear cartoonist Fran Frisch will be available for purchase. With spring on the way, the beer bust will be a great opportunity to come out of hibernation for a visit to the Lone Star, recently honored by the City of San Francisco as an officially recognized LGBTQ legacy business.

ANNIVERSARY PARTY: Turning 32, Turning Six, Turning Up the Music

Turning 32, Turning Six, Turning Up the Music 
Friday, March 17
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Tickets: $15.00 advance; $20 at the door


Thirty-two years ago, a band of queer history enthusiasts created the GLBT Historical Society to uncover and preserve stories of the LGBTQ past. Six years ago, we opened the doors of the GLBT History Museum in the Castro.
Join us at a double anniversary party to celebrate these milestones — and to raise funds for our spring makeover. The museum is showing a little age and needs a fresh face to better welcome visitors for the next four years. Proceeds of the party will help us redo the entry, reception desk and shop.

VivvyAnne ForeverMORE, Marga Gomez and Alex U. Inn will serve as hosts and entertainers, and DJ Marke B will play cool queer hits from the past four decades. Drinks and light refreshments will be provided. Wine donated by Beaux, Equality Wines and the Midnight Sun.

For advance tickets, visit the Eventbrite page.

Compton’s Cafeteria 50th anniversary series

Headline discussing the July 18, 1966, protest outside Compton’s Cafeteria that preceded the riot the following month.

Three years before the more famous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district erupted with one of the first-known moments of collective queer resistance to persecution by law enforcement. The exact date is lost to history, but on an August night in 1966, drag queens, trans sex workers, hair fairies and gay street hustlers rose up against police harassment in what has come to be known at the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.

The GLBT History Museum and the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco are teaming up in July through September to host a series of programs to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the riot. The programs are made possible by additional support from the Roxie Theater and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Easter Grant. The full series is open to the public. Events will take place at these San Francisco venues:

The GLBT History Museum. 4127 18th Street in the Castro district.
The Tenderloin Museum. 398 Eddy Street in the Tenderloin district.
The Roxie Theater. 3117 16th Street in the Mission district.

For detailed information on each program, watch our website and like our Facebook page.

Thursday, July 28
6 p.m.
Tenderloin Museum Tenderloin Queer History Walking Tour and Kickoff Reception
Thursday, August 4
7 p.m.
GLBT History Museum Cruising the Tenderloin in the 1960s: A Talk by Felicia Elizondo
Tuesday, August 16
7 p.m.
GLBT History Museum Compton’s 50th Anniversary Art Launch and Artist Talk
Thursday, August 18
7 p.m.
Roxie Theater Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria
Thursday, September 1
7 p.m.
GLBT History Museum Sex Work in the Tenderloin Then and Now Cancelled
Thursday, September 8
8 p.m.
Tenderloin Museum Vanguard Revisited with Rev. Megan Rohrer

MIGHTY REELS: Pride in the 70s

Harvey Milk gestures at the crowd during the 1975 Gay Freedom Day parade on O’Farrell Street.

Friday, June 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This program is now available for on-line viewing.

In celebration of Pride Month, media preservationist John Raines devotes his ongoing Mighty Reels series to a look back at Pride in the 1970s. Beginning with amateur video of the 1973 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade and festival — a casual party in the park — the program surveys annual marches in the city through 1981. Harvey Milk appears in some of the reels, both before and after becoming California’s first openly gay elected official. Rare film and video drawn from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society include a Super 8 retrospective lensed and introduced by Lou Perica (1930-1989), a longtime member of San Francisco’s gay community. Admission: $5.00; free for members.

MIGHTY REELS: White Night Fright!

Riot police and residents face off in San Francisco’s Castro District.

Friday, May 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This program is now available for on-line viewing.

Kicking off the new monthly Mighty Reels series of film and video from the GLBT Historical Society archives, “White Night Fright” brings together scarce archival finds to mark the 37th anniversary of the White Night Riot. A night of unprecedented violence followed the surprise verdict in the trial of Dan White, killer of George Moscone and Harvey Milk. Curated by media preservationist John Raines, the program includes untelevised footage of the riot, an amateur documentary, a satirical radio broadcast, and highlights of the tenth anniversary demonstration in 1989. Admission: $5.00; free for members.

Author Talk: “The Last Decade in Transgender Activism”

Please join us at the GLBT Museum for “The Last Decade in Transgender Activism” — a talk and book launch for Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, 2nd Edition.

Thursday, March 10, 7 pm-9 pm
GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., SF.
$5 suggested donation
Facebook invite here

In 2007, when bisexual transgender activist and professional biologist Julia Serano first published Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, there was little-to-no mainstream coverage of trans lives or the issues that impact trans communities.

In this provocative manifesto, she revealed the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, and gender and sexuality as a whole. To celebrate the release of the second edition of Whipping Girl, Serano will read from the new preface, and talk about the many changes and evolution of both trans people’s circumstances and transgender activism since the early 2000s, followed by a Q&A and discussion.

WhippingGirl_sizedFROM THE PUBLISHER
In this newly updated edition of Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (Seal Press / March 8th, 2016 / $20.00 / 2nd Ed.), Julia Serano, transgender activist and professional biologist, uses her observations and experiences to examine how fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness dominate our societal views towards femininity. In her eloquent and engaging voice, Serano illuminates the ways in which these assumptions about femininity alter our perceptions of gender, sexuality, and identity. This edition’s new preface familiarizes readers with the most recent struggles and victories of the trans community, and grounds Serano’s theories and objectives in the socio-political context of the late 90s and early 2000s.

Whipping Girl contains new perspectives for those well-versed in queer theory, while remaining conversational and accessible for readers new to gender identity politics. Serano’s well-honed arguments and reputation as a thought-leader stem from her ability to bridge the gap between the often disparate biological and social perspectives on gender. In this provocative manifesto, she exposes how deeply rooted the cultural belief is that femininity is frivolous, weak, and passive, and how this “feminine weakness” exists only to attract and appease male desire.

In addition to debunking popular misconceptions about transsexuality, Serano makes the case that today’s feminists and transgender activists must work together to embrace and empower femininity—in all of its wondrous forms.

Julia Serano is a highly regarded writer and thinker on the subjects of gender, feminism, and LGBTQ issues. She is best known for her 2007 book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, which garnered rave reviews—The Advocate placed it on their list of “Best Non-Fiction Transgender Books,” and readers of Ms. magazine ranked it #16 on their list of the “100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time.”

Serano’s writings have also appeared in numerous anthologies; in feminist, queer, and progressive magazines and websites (including Bitch magazine, Out,, Ms. magazine’s blog, and; and are regularly used as teaching materials in gender studies, queer studies, psychology, and human sexuality courses in colleges across North America.

Serano’s background as a writer, performer, activist, and biologist (she has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University) makes her a unique voice on the subjects of gender and sexism. She has the rare gift of being able to present complex ideas from feminism and gender/queer theory, and to interweave them with her personal experiences as a bisexual trans woman, in a clear, compelling, and entertaining manner.

GLBT Historical Society announces new executive director

New GLBTHS executive director Terry Beswick
New GLBTHS executive director Terry Beswick

The GLBT Historical Society has announced the selection of a new executive director, Terry Beswick.

Beswick is the outgoing manager of the Castro Country Club, which expanded greatly under his leadership. He brings years of experience in fundraising, leadership and activism to his new role at the Historical Society. As executive director, Beswick will head both the GLBT History Museum and GLBT Historical Society archives. He will particularly focus on development and fundraising.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to have this opportunity,” Beswick says of joining the GLBT Historical Society as executive director. “I have been inspired by the important contributions and the people of the GLBT Historical Society and I plan to work tirelessly to ensure the organization’s continued success and growth. Our diverse communities are so rich with the stories, the archives and the artifacts of our struggles and our triumphs. It’s essential that we preserve these stories, interpret them and make them accessible today and for future generations.”

Beswick begins his role at the Historical Society in February. He will be officially introduced at the GLBT History Museum’s fifth anniversary celebration, “I Love History,” taking place Friday, January 29, 7:00 -9:00 p.m. at the museum, located at 4127 18th St., San Francisco.

The announcement of Beswick’s appointment was made by Historical board cochair Brian Turner in an email to members and friends of the institution this morning.

“We are thrilled to announce that Terry Beswick will be joining us as executive director,” Turner said in the email. “Terry brings years of experience leading and building another Castro-based nonprofit, the Castro Country Club. Terry is a long-time AIDS activist, is enthusiastic about queer history, and promises to bring a new era of growth and vision to the GLBT Historical Society.

“The board and I are very much looking forward to working with Terry to strengthen our financial base, move the archives to its new home, grow our organization and expand our amazing programs that serve our community and society at large by collecting, preserving and telling stories of the GLBT past in resonant ways,” Turner added.


Since 2009, Terry Beswick provided principal leadership for the Castro Country Club, a 33-year-old nonprofit, volunteer-based community center serving GLBT people in recovery. During Beswick’s tenure, the organization saw an eight-fold increase in annual operating revenue and eliminated a long-running deficit. At the same time, Beswick spearheaded a capital campaign funded by small donations and in-kind contributions, and planned and implemented a complete renovation of the facility’s interior.

Previous to his role at the Castro Country Club, Beswick served as a volunteer at the club while obtaining a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University. In 2015 he completed his third consecutive AIDS/LifeCycle, riding his bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds to fight AIDS.

He also has worked as a journalist and as an AIDS activist with nonprofit and governmental organizations, including Project Inform, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy, the National AIDS Program Office of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Bay Area Reporter. In the 1980s, he was a cofounder of ACT UP/San Francisco and was the first national coordinator of ACT NOW, the national ACT UP network.


Often referred to as San Francisco’s “queer Smithsonian,” the GLBT Historical Society was founded in 1985. It is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of GLBT public history and is a registered 501(c)3 educational nonprofit organization.

The society’s archives preserve one of the world’s largest collections of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical material, including personal papers, organizational records, photographs, art and artifacts, ephemera and audiovisual recordings spanning more than a century of queer history. The materials are used by authors, curators, journalists, filmmakers, students and other researchers.

In addition, the society operates the GLBT History Museum, the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. Located in the heart of the historic Castro District of San Francisco, the museum offers historical and cultural exhibitions and presents panels, talks, film showings and other programs.

For more information on the GLBT Historical Society, including a calendar of events, visit


Illustrated Talk: Missing Places — Lost & Endangered Queer Historic Sites of San Francisco and the Bay Area

The Embarcadero and the Produce District viewed from the Ferry Building in 1959. The area was home to a gay enclave from at least the 1930s until it was bulldozed for redevelopment in the early 1960s. Photo: San Francisco Public Library.
The Embarcadero and the Produce District viewed from the Ferry Building in 1959. The area was home to a gay enclave from at least the 1930s until it was bulldozed for redevelopment in the early 1960s. Photo: San Francisco Public Library.

Thursday, January 14, 7-9pm
at the GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., SF.
$5 suggested donation

From the Sharp Park district of Pacifica to San Francisco’s Embarcadero (an area not often remembered as a gay enclave), you’ll encounter unexpectedly queer places in this lively illustrated talk. You’ll meet some fascinating people, too, including a woman tavern owner who fought the revocation of her liquor license all the way to the California Supreme Court — plus cameo appearances by female impersonator Ray Bourbon (1892–1971), famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956), and chanteuses Bambi Lake and Justin Vivian Bond.

Drawing on examples from San Francisco and the Bay Area from the 1930s to the today, presenter Gerard Koskovich looks at processes that have led to the loss of GLBT historic sites and to their absence from public memory. He’ll also discuss ways to commemorate the stories of these missing places and will highlight forces currently threatening sites that embody the city’s GLBT history. Koskovich presented the talk to an enthusiastic audience at the University of London in November. The GLBT History Museum presentation marks its U.S. debut.

Cosponsored by San Francisco Heritage and Shaping San Francisco. Follow the conversation for this event on Facebook.

Gerard Koskovich is a San Francisco–based historian, curator and rare book dealer. A founding member of the GLBT Historical Society, he has published widely on GLBT history and culture and has given talks at universities, conferences and community organizations in the United States, England, France and Germany. He served as an advisory committee member for the recently adopted San Francisco LGBTQ Historic Context Statement and is one of 15 historians invited to advise the National Park Service on the launch of its LGBTQ Heritage Initiative.

“Missing Places: Lost & Endangered Queer
Historic Sites of San Francisco & the Bay Area”
Thursday, January 14, 7–9pm
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5


How the Archives Inspired a Director: “Joyful Times Despite the Oppression”

Stu Maddux, Director of 'Reel in the Closet'
Stu Maddux, Director of ‘Reel in the Closet’

“The idea for Reel In The Closet came from reading the GLBT Historical Society newsletter,” says filmmaker Stu Maddux, whose feature-length film is currently touring the festival circuit, aiming for a wider release in 2016. The documentary showcases private home movies of nightlife, picnics, house parties, and tender moments in the pre-Stonewall era. Much of the newly unearthed footage is from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society.

What sparked the film? “It was an article about GLBTHS volunteer John Raines, who was digitally transferring and preserving hundreds of reels of videotape at the archives before they became unplayable,” Maddux recalls. “As I began looking at the body of moving images that was already transferred, I was struck with a feeling pride I had never felt before.
“I was seeing people like me in the 1950s, ’40s and even ’30s carve out joyful times despite the oppression they faced. These were happy people documenting their lives. That’s when I knew that it was important to create a documentary not simply using the moving images at the archives, but to make it about the hope they make you feel and the urgency to save them before they are lost forever.”
The film also covers the upheaval of gay liberation. “The home movies by photographer Crawford Barton are fascinating. He documented his migration from rural Georgia to San Francisco in the 1970s with images that echo the experience of many LGBT people, capturing along his journey many early, historic LGBTs events. While filming the 1972 Gay Freedom Day Parade in New York, he caught several people who would later become important to queer history.
“For months I was particularly struck by a woman holding a hand made sign that reads, ‘Parents of Lesbian’s and Gays Unite.’ I was able to confirm that it is Jeanne Manford, who founded PFLAG. These are the only known moving images of her marching for the first time. And Barton captured it all with the artistic eye he later became known for.”
And how is the film being received? “The most heartening reactions to Reel in the Closet come from people starting out who have never seen personal moving images of LGBT people from the pre-Stonewall period. I had a college student tell me that she finally had something to show to her parents to prove them wrong. They had convinced her growing up that being gay started with Stonewall!”
For trailers and screening dates for Reel in the Closet, visit — or request a temporary link to view the film online from Maddux by emailing moc.x1516193755uddam1516193755uts@u1516193755ts1516193755.

“Marie Equi: Radical Politics & Outlaw Passions” author talk

Wednesday, November 4, 7pm-9pm
GLBT History Museum.

Local author Michael Helquist presents his acclaimed new biography of Marie Equi (1872-1952), a pioneering and controversial physician, radical labor organizer, feminist, birth-control proponent and woman-loving woman. Suggested donation: $5.00.

From the publisher’s website:

“‘Marie Equi’ explores the fiercely independent life of an extraordinary woman. Born of Italian-Irish parents in 1872, Marie Equi endured childhood labor in a gritty Massachusetts textile mill before fleeing to an Oregon homestead with her first longtime woman companion, who described her as impulsive, earnest, and kind-hearted. These traits, along with courage, stubborn resolve, and a passion for justice, propelled Equi through an unparalleled life journey.


“Equi self-studied her way into a San Francisco medical school and then obtained her license in Portland to become one of the first practicing woman physicians in the Pacific Northwest. From Pendleton, Portland, Seattle and beyond to Boston and San Francisco, she leveraged her professional status to fight for woman suffrage, labor rights, and reproductive freedom. She mounted soapboxes, fought with police, and spent a night in jail with birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. Equi marched so often with unemployed men that the media referred to them as her army. She battled for economic justice at every turn and protested the U.S. entry into World War I, leading to a conviction for sedition and a three-year sentence in San Quentin. Breaking boundaries in all facets of life, she became the first well-known lesbian in Oregon, and her same-sex affairs figured prominently in a U.S. Supreme Court case.

Marie Equi at San Quentin Prison
Marie Equi at San Quentin Prison

“Marie Equi is a finely written, rigorously researched account of a woman of consequence, who one fellow-activist considered “the most interesting woman that ever lived in this state, certainly the most fascinating, colorful, and flamboyant.” This much-anticipated biography will engage anyone interested in Pacific Northwest history, women’s studies, the history of lesbian and gay rights, and the personal demands of political activism. It is the inspiring story of a singular woman who was not afraid to take risks, who refused to compromise her principles in the face of enormous opposition and adversity, and who paid a steep personal price for living by her convictions.


The Nance with special pre-show queer history talk

Ray Bourbon at Taits (1933)

Saturday, October 24, from 7 to 10 p.m.
New Conservatory Theatre Center
25 Van Ness Avenue

Direct from Broadway, The Nance (8 p.m.) recreates the naughty, raucous world of burlesque’s heyday and tells the backstage story of headliner Chauncey Miles, who plays “the nance,” a flamboyantly effeminate stock character—usually played by a straight man. At a time when it was easy to play gay and dangerous to be gay, Chauncey’s uproarious antics on the stage stand out in marked contrast to his offstage life. By Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Dennis Lickteig.

Special Pre-Show History Talk: “A Real Life Nance: Rae Bourbon”

Ray Bourbon (1930s)

Rae (aka Ray) Bourbon (c. 1892-1971) performed in and out of drag as a pansy comic in vaudeville, a bawdy nance in burlesque, and a female impersonator in bars and on stages from the 1920s through the 1960s. At 7 p.m., Professor Don Romesburg will discuss Bourbon’s early career in the context of the so-called “pansy craze,” the popularity of nance roles, and the constant challenge of policing and raids for queer performers of the era.

GLBT Historical Society members receive a special premium for the entire run of the show, running Wednesday-Sunday through November 1. Use the discount code “GLBTMuseum” for a savings of 25% . Purchase tickets at or by calling the box office at 415-861-8972.

Here’s Ray Bourbon performing “Give, Sister, Give” from his 1945 album Hilarity From Hollywood. Listen closely for a nod to San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a notorious cruising area for servicemen during World War II.

Halloween with Empress Reba

Share a toast with Empress IV Reba of the San Francisco Imperial Court and check out the costumes at this party from 1968. Can you help us identify the location? This is a silent excerpt from the Anonymous Collection 2000-67, eight 8 mm films which revolve around Reba and the Court. We scanned the entire collection in high definition this past March.

Castro Street Fair in 1976

The Castro Street Fair celebrates its 41st anniversary this Sunday. Founded in 1974 by Harvey Milk, it’s long been a favorite with locals and tourists alike. Artists, vendors, craftspeople, and community organizations line the streets while several stages feature live music and dancing.

The archives is fortunate to possess amateur videotape shot at the 1976 and 1978 fairs. It’s part of the Daniel Smith/Queer Blue Light collection of nearly 100 reels produced by community enthusiasts in the 1970s. Below, take a trip through the sights and sounds of the Castro Street Fair as it happened on October 3, 1976.

California Pride: Mapping LGBTQ histories

Thursday, October 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
White Horse Inn
6551 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

white-horse-inn[1]We’re pleased to be a community sponsor of a presentation by public historian Donna Graves at the longest-running LGBTQ bar in the Bay Area. Donna will discuss California Pride, an online, crowd-sourced archive of memories, stories, and images of sites throughout the Golden State associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) experience. She’ll show attendees how to “pin” their favorite LGBTQ historic sites to the California Pride map. If you have memories or photos of queer East Bay history, please come and share. Admission is $10 for members of the GLBT Historical Society and other sponsoring organizations, and $15 for all others, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Making history: Reclaiming LGBT lives through fiction and drama

Saturday, September 12 at 1 p.m.
New Conservatory Theatre Center
25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco

golddiggers-150[1]We’re pleased to be a community sponsor of a presentation by Irish writer Hilary McCollum (Golddigger, Life and Love: Lesbian Style), who will discuss the role of fiction and drama in reclaiming the hidden histories of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. “Every community needs its history,” McCollum says. “But gaps remain, especially for groups who had less access to recording their stories. Fiction and drama can fill these gaps. In doing so, storytellers can help both lesbian and gay people and the wider community to understand themselves and the history that has shaped them.” The event is free.

Blame Anita Bryant

GLBT Historical Society co-founder Greg Pennington moved to San Francisco in 1977. In June of that year, singer Anita Bryant spearheaded a repeal of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Florida. “As the Chronicle headlined it,” Pennington says, “`5,000 Furious Gays March in San Francisco.’ Well, they marched for five days in a row. On the second night, I joined in.”

bryant-150-2[1]From that point on, Pennington began investigating how gay news was reported in different publications. “I was already monitoring the Advocate,” he explains. “I started keeping track of periodicals. Gay Windows, The Washington Blade, Gay Community News. I started collecting publications and making chronologies.”

After Harvey Milk’s assassination, a group convened at the home of Scott Smith, Milk’s former partner. “That’s where I met Willie Walker,” says Pennington.

Walker explained to Pennington that he wanted to set up an archives, but he believed that its mission had to be broader than simply collecting materials. “He wanted to have educational programs and outreach,” says Pennington, who agreed—“I decided I would help him make it happen.” The two formed the San Francisco Periodical Archives.

Meanwhile, other groups were meeting, such as the Gay and Lesbian History Project. Most history project members were academics, who would meet to vet each other’s research. “Walker and I went to a meeting of the history project on September 5, 1984. Gayle [Rubin] was there, with Allan Bérubé and Eric Garber. We proposed to them the idea of creating a historical society. And we got a go-ahead that they would support such an organization.”

walker-pennington-150-2[1]The nascent group had five meetings through the holidays and into 1985. “But we wanted to get other people involved,” Pennington says.“We were a group of white men and a couple of women. And we realized, you know, we’ve got to start this thing all over again.”

With this in mind, Walker sent a letter to 160 organizations and 100 individuals inviting them to what turned out to be the pivotal meeting at the San Francisco Public Library on March 16, 1985. There were 63 people at the library that Saturday afternoon. “We made the decision that everyone at the meeting was a member,” Pennington remembers. “And we chose the name, the San Francisco Bay Area Gay and Lesbian Historical Society. … On May 18, we held a public membership meeting to adopt the bylaws and elect the first board of directors.”

Walker was the first cochair, along with Ilene Brettholz. Pennington was elected secretary and served for three years. “Jack Leister was the first treasurer. We got people from the other organizations, people active in the Harvey Milk archives. We kind of coalesced.” On May 19, 1986, the board of directors of the historical society accepted the San Francisco Periodical Archives as its first acquisition.

mow-150-2[1]“We did fundraisers at the Eagle and made $4,000 to $5,000 each time,” Pennington recalls. “I was able to get several people to donate collections—for instance, Sylvester’s costumes.”

Pennington says they had several founding principles: “The first is that we were concerned that we were losing important material to AIDS. Families were throwing things out. And there was the Magnus Hirschfeld collection, which was destroyed during Hitler’s Germany. Because of that, we believed that the archives always had to be controlled by the community. It can never be in political hands, because politics can change. And we were concerned about access to very sexual documents. Our collecting policy was very broad, including material that was very sexual in nature.”

Today Pennington is retired, and is still a collector. “I collect little buildings, movie DVDs, maps. I still have a large gay poster collection. And I have leather friendship pins. That will be one of the first things I’ll catalogue and donate to the Historical Society.”

Bay Area native Linnea Due is an award-winning writer and editor.