From In the news

History Talk | She Made My Daughter Do It: Lesbian Inheritance & Family Conflict

Wednesday, November 8th 2017
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5.00. Free for members.

A visitor views the “Faces From the Past” exhibit at the GLBT History Museum. Photo: Gerard Koskovich.
Harriet Speckart risked her inheritance over her love for Marie Equi. Photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society.

Marie Equi and Harriet Speckart and Gail Laughlin and Mary A. Sperry were well-known West Coast couples in the early 20th century. When inheritances came into play, the mothers of two of the women launched widely publicized court battles to block the bequests, asserting that “unnatural” and “manipulative” lesbians could make no legitimate claim to family assets. Independent scholar Paula Lichtenberg will discuss Laughlin and Sperry, and  Equi biographer Michael Helquist will recount the story of Equi and Speckart. The speakers also will look at how the couples presented their relationships publicly at a time when discretion was required and will sketch the women’s activist lives, especially Laughlin’s career as a suffragist, attorney and state legislator and Equi’s advocacy for reproductive rights, suffrage, workers and the anti-war movement. The talks are presented in conjunction with “Faces From the Past,” a new exhibit in the Main Gallery of the GLBT History Museum that looks at LGBTQ lives in Northern California before 1930; Lichtenberg is co-curator of the display.

Film Premiere | Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes

Saturday, November 11th 2017
4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Roxie Theater
3117 16th St., San Francisco
Admission: $15.00 • $12.50 for members

Book artist Susan Bonthron shows Before Homosexuals director John Scagliotti her work inspired by a Chinese lesbian love poem. Photo courtesy of After Stonewall Productions.
From the documentary Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes. Photo courtesy of John Scagliotti.

Pride of the Ocean and the Center for Independent Documentary present a special San Francisco premiere of John Scagliotti’s new feature-length documentary Before Homosexuals: From Ancient Times to Victorian Crimes. The film takes viewers on a tour of same-sex desire from antiquity to the 19th century via interviews with researchers and artists who have recovered the stories of this erotic history. Emmy Award-winning director Scagliotti has produced numerous films, radio programs and television shows, including the pioneering LGBTQ magazine series on PBS, “In the Life.” The screening is a benefit for the GLBT Historical Society and is sponsored by Pride of the Ocean‘s Saving History Film Festival Cruise. After the film-showing, the director will take part in a Q&A and discussion with the audience. To purchase tickets, visit the Roxie Theater website.

From the Executive Director | The Legacy Circle: A Key to Our Future


by Terry Beswick

This month, I’d like to take a moment to talk with you about planned giving — one of the most important ways individuals can support the GLBT Historical Society. But first, a brief summary of why it matters.

At our annual gala last year, we announced Vision 2020, our campaign to establish a new home for the GLBT History Museum by 2020, when the lease expires on our current small museum in the Castro. The proposal won widespread support, and we’ve made steady progress in laying the groundwork needed to move forward.

Our long-term goal is to create a full-scale queer public history center dedicated to preserving and showcasing LGBTQ history and culture. The facility would bring together our museum and archives along with operational spaces needed to support research into our past. We hope to partner with a developer and with the City of San Francisco to establish this facility. We’re working right now to take necessary steps to develop such partnerships.

Giving an Enduring Gift

When everything else falls into place and we open the doors to the new museum, we’ll still need to cover the costs of running such an institution on a day-to-day basis. Which brings me to the point of this month’s column: planned giving.

Of the 230 people who responded to our recent member survey, 21 said they have included the GLBT Historical Society in their wills or estate plans, and 20 more said they’d like to. We are deeply grateful to all of these forward-thinking folks. We’re certain many more would like to know their legacy will live on through the work of the society: collecting, preserving and sharing the stories of LGBTQ people so our past will be recognized today and in the future.

So we can honor everyone who designates the Historical Society as a beneficiary in their estate plans, we’ve launched our new Legacy Circle. If you prefer, we’ll hold your name in confidence — or if you wish, we’ll list you publicly, since that’s a great way to encourage others to follow your example. Your legacy gift, however large or small, will help the Historical Society thrive and put in place the resources needed to create our New Museum of LGBTQ History and Culture.

We look forward to welcoming many of you to the Legacy Circle. For full details plus a brief form you can use to let us know you’ve made the GLBT Historical Society a beneficiary of your estate, visit our new Legacy Circle page.

Terry Beswick is executive director of the GLBT Historical Society.


True Colors: Welcoming the Archives of Rainbow Flag Creator Gilbert Baker

by Mark Sawchuk

A legend in the LGBTQ community, Gilbert Baker (1951-2017) was an American artist and activist famed for creating the rainbow flag, which debuted at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978. Now an internationally recognized symbol of the queer community, the flag also is an icon of contemporary design, with examples held by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and other major collections. During his lifetime, Baker traveled widely to promote the flag and to work for social justice. Shortly after Baker’s death in March of this year, his estate selected the GLBT Historical Society to preserve his archives, art and memorabilia. As the society prepares to posthumously honor Baker with its annual History Maker award at the Living Colors gala on October 14, History Happenssat down with the society’s managing archivist, Joanna Black, to learn more about this exceptional addition to the archives.

How did the GLBT Historical Society come to acquire the Gilbert Baker collection?

A couple of Baker’s close friends contacted the society and inquired whether we would be interested in a donation. Of course we jumped at the chance, as this is a highly sought-after collection. When I met them at Baker’s apartment in New York, it was an emotional experience for all of us to go through his belongings. I felt so honored to be there and really felt his presence throughout the process.

What specific items does the collection contain and what do they tell us about a man who was a monumental figure in modern LGBTQ history?

Baker’s rainbow flag has become universalized as a symbol of tolerance, unity and love. The collection contains plenty of flag-related materials, including documentation about two of the longest rainbow flags ever sewn, rainbow textiles and fabric scraps, all of which show his dedication to his craft as a vexillographer (someone who designs flags). My favorite item is the last sewing machine he owned, which is a companion piece to the one we already have that was used to sew the two original flags in 1978.

What’s also wonderful about this collection is that there’s lots of material about other aspects of Gilbert Baker’s life. We have private writings, correspondence with close friends, fabric protest signs, photographs, AV materials, awards and his drag outfits. He was involved in many political campaigns and was a genius at stirring people up to create positive change. Perusing this collection gives you a much more well-rounded sense of who he was. You see his colorful, theatrical side and his engagement as an artist and an activist. It proves that his commitment to social justice transcended the flag, even if that will always remain his best-known work.

How is the society handling the collection, and when will it be available to researchers?

It’s difficult to give a precise date because this was a logistically challenging acquisition. Accessioning new collections happens in several steps. We’re nearing the end of the first phase, which is surveying it and making sure the fabric items are properly conserved. The next step, the processing phase, will take several months and involves creating a detailed inventory that provides context for the materials and a guide for researchers. This collection is complex and involves a lot of stakeholders, including Gilbert Baker’s heirs. We’re hoping to make some of the collection available to researchers in the second half of 2018.

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

Exhibition Features New Work Inspired by Groundbreaking Queer Journal OUT/LOOK

Front cover of OUT/LOOK, No. 1 (Spring 1988). Courtesy of GLBT Historical Society.

San FranciscoA new multimedia exhibition opening October 6 at the GLBT History Museum explores the story of OUT/LOOK, a groundbreaking national queer quarterly published in San Francisco from 1988 to 1992. Embracing gender and racial diversity and bridging academic and community perspectives, the magazine developed an avid readership. The show and its associated programs, publication and website are designed to spark intergenerational conversations about the legacy of OUT/LOOK and its era.

Curated by E.G. Crichton, “OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer” features new work by 38 culture-makers, each asked to find inspiration in one of the 17 issues of the magazine. This diverse group includes writers, visual artists, performers, curators, activists and representatives of two organizations, all belonging to the two generations of queers who have grown up since the five-year lifespan of the magazine.

“The last issue of OUT/LOOK was published 25 years ago, yet people still tell me they miss it,” Crichton says. “Members of younger generations I speak to — including the participants in this project — express surprise that we were already wrangling back thenwith intersectional identities, marriage equality, the politics of respectability, who decides our tactics for resistance and other contemporary concerns.”

“Walking through the gallery, listening to the audio tour, visitors will be introduced to OUT/LOOK through historical materials and through artists’ and writers’ provocative new responses to the original magazine,” Crichton adds. “They’ll get a taste of innovative queer thinking and the sharp debates in and about the LGBTQ community at a pivotal time in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And they’ll discover lots of links to issues that are very much alive today.”

“OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer” opens on October 6, 2017, with a public reception from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St., San Francisco. The event will include remarks by the curator. Many of the exhibition contributors will attend, as will founders and editors of OUT/LOOK. Light refreshments will be served. The exhibition runs through DATE.

Curator EG Crichton.


The “OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer” project includes publication of a new issue of the magazine that brings together artwork, essays, poems, a play and editorials. The publication will be available at the GLBT History Museum for $20. Also developed in conjunction with the exhibition is a content-rich website offering historical information about OUT/LOOK, responses and recollections from creators and readers of the journal, and a portfolio of each participant’s contribution to the project. Visit the website at
A series of public programs is planned in conjunction with “OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer.” The first program, “Q-Public: Out/Look for the 21st Century,” is set for Thursday, October 12, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the GLBT History Museum.


E.G. Crichton was a founder of OUT/LOOK, where she served as art director from 1988 to 1990. An interdisciplinary artist and curator, she 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 art institutions and as public installations across the United States and in Asia, Australia and Europe. She retired in 2016 as professor of art at the University of California, Santa Cruz. For more information, visit her website at     
“OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer” is made possible in part by a grant from the Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund that also is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For more information about the fund, visit

Conversations with Gay Elders

Thursday, October 5
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Koret Auditorium
San Francisco Main Library
100 Larkin St., San Francisco 94102
Admission: FREE

Editor Alex Bohs, interview subject Robert Dockendorff and director David Weissman.

Filmmaker David Weissman shares a segment of his Conversations With Gay Elders, a series of in-depth interviews focused on gay men whose journeys of self-discovery precede the era of Stonewall and gay liberation. Sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library; cosponsored by the GLBT Historical Society.

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.

Take Action: Three Ways to Support the GLBT Historical Society

The GLBT Historical Society has thrived for more than three decades thanks to encouragement from the community and notably from our members who get involved in our efforts. Here are three things you can do right now to support the society in preserving and sharing the stories of the LGBTQ past:

Fill out a brief survey. The City of San Francisco is eager to hear from residents, former residents and others about the aspects of the city’s LGBTQ cultural heritage they value the most. The City will use the survey to shape a citywide strategy for sustaining this heritage. In responding to the questions, you can help the GLBT Historical Society by urging the city to fund our museum and archives — and our plans to build a new world-class center for LGBTQ public history. To take the survey, click here.

Follow us on social media. We regularly post on social media about LGBTQ history and about our programs and activities. By following the GLBT Historical Society, interacting with our posts and sharing them with your friends, you’ll help us ensure that more people discover the queer past and learn about our work. You’ll find us on Facebook and Instagram.

Spread the word to volunteers. We’re currently recruiting and training volunteer ages 18–29 to participate in our San Francisco ACT UP Oral History Project, which is gathering oral histories from veterans of AIDS activism in the city from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Applications will be accepted through August 5. For more information, contact project director Joey Plaster at gro.y1516193739rotsi1516193739htblg1516193739@yeoj1516193739.

NOTE: Reprinted from the August 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here

Launching Our National Advisory Council

by Terry Beswick 


The GLBT Historical Society has long worked to strengthen our engagement with academic, cultural, corporate and philanthropic communities and to broaden support for our organization. We have now taken another major step in advancing this effort: forming a National Advisory Council to advise and support our staff and board on the fulfillment of our mission. Five distinguished leaders of the LGBTQ community have agreed to serve as honorary cochairs:

Mark Leno, former San Francisco supervisor and California State senator and current candidate for mayor of San Francisco.

Alfredo Pedroza, Wells Fargo Bank executive and a member of the board of trustees of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco.

Gayle Rubin, associate professor of anthropology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Susan Stryker, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, founder of the Transgender Studies Initiative, and associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Amy Sueyoshi, associate dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University.

In particular, the council will help guide our campaign to establish the New Museum of LGBTQ History and Culture — a world-class museum, archives and public history center in San Francisco that we believe is vital to the preservation of our heritage and the representation of our diverse LGBTQ communities.

The council will help establish a foundation on which we can build the new museum — but it’s just one of the blocks we need to put in place. Since we announced our Vision 2020 fundraising campaign last year, we also have made steady progress in building our donor and membership base. To all who have donated, joined or increased their membership level this year, we thank you. Please tell your friends about our campaign, and ask them to sign up as members, too.

We at the GLBT Historical Society are honored to protect our community’s heritage and to share the stories of our past with people of all ages, races, classes, genders, and sexualities. We’re grateful to the members of the new National Advisory Council for taking a stand in support of this work, to all our members and donors, and to everyone who believes in the importance of LGBTQ history.

Terry Beswick is executive director of the GLBT Historical Society.

NOTE: Reprinted from the August 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here

From Mount Vernon Ladies to LGBTQ Heritage: Bringing Our Stories to the Field of Preservation

by Shayne E. Watson

LGBTQ heritage preservation — and place-based history more generally — anchor the stories and experiences of queer people to the physical spaces where the history unfolded: the home of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the Black Cat Café, the Turk Street Baths, Compton’s Cafeteria, Folsom Street Barracks, the Women’s Building of San Francisco, Buena Vista Park, the men’s room in the basement at Macy’s. These places don’t exhibit extraordinary design; they are significant to us because they embody our histories.

Upper-class white women founded the first historic preservation organization in the United States in 1853. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union saved George Washington’s Mount Vernon and sparked a national fervor for preservation based largely in patriotism. Over a century later, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 put the National Park Service in charge of place-based history at the federal level and established the National Register of Historic Places, the foremost list of historic sites in the United States.

Queers on the National Register

For most of its history, the National Register foregrounded architectural history and essentially disregarded places important for their social or cultural heritage. In 1999, more than 30 years after the creation of the register, the Stonewall Inn in New York City was the first LGBTQ-associated site added to the list. For more than a decade, the Stonewall stood alone as the only queer listing out of nearly 90,000 properties recognized on the register.

We’ve made great progress in addressing the invisibility of the LGBTQ past in the field of preservation in the last five years, especially in San Francisco. In 2015, the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission adopted the Citywide Historic Context Statement for LGBTQ History in San Francisco, the most comprehensive local study of LGBTQ historic sites ever completed. In January 2017, San Francisco launched the Citywide LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy to preserve and promote queer heritage — the first city-sponsored LGBTQ cultural heritage preservation program in the world.

The GLBT Historical Society has been instrumental in both of these projects, serving as a fiscal sponsor for the first and as a member of the task force for the second. We’re currently encouraging everyone interested in San Francisco’s LGBTQ cultural heritage to complete the city’s survey on the subject. In addition, we recently launched our own Historic Places Working Group to make queer place-based history and site preservation an integral part of the Historical Society’s mission. As chair, I’m eager to hear from people interested in getting involved. You can contact me via e-mail.

Shayne E. Watson
 is an architectural historian and preservation planner specialized in LGBTQ heritage. She serves as an administrator of Preserving LGBT Historic Sites in California on Facebook.



NOTE: Reprinted from the July 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here. For a free subscription to the newsletter, click here.

In the Archives: Documenting a Gay Transgender Pioneer

by Gerard Koskovich

Among the founding members and early board members of the GLBT Historical Society was a pioneering activist who helped open the way for transgender gay men to receive gender care while claiming their sexual orientation.

Louis Graydon “Lou” Sullivan (1951-1991) faced down a medical profession in the 1970s that insisted on heterosexuality as an outcome for transition, gradually locating providers who were willing to buck the demands of heteronormativity. In 1986, he founded the organization that came to be known as FTM International, creating a network of support for men like him.

Our archives include Sullivan’s complete personal papers, donated by his estate after he died of AIDS in 1991. Included in the collection are his extensive journals detailing his transition and the challenges it involved. Our holdings also include the records of FTM International and 58 issues of the organization’s FTM Newsletter (1987-2005), as well as a small collection of personal letters from Sullivan to a trans man known only as David (collection no. 2009-02).

To learn more, read the new biography of Sullivan by historian Brice D. Smith: Lou Sullivan: Daring to Be a Man Among Men (Transgress Press, 2017).

Gerard Koskovich is a queer public historian and communications director for the GLBT Historical Society.


NOTE: Reprinted from the July 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here. For a free subscription to the newsletter, click here.


Stories From 27 Years at the Historical Society

by Daniel Bao

In the Spring of 1990, I found myself sitting in the dark wood-paneled living room of a San Francisco Victorian filled to the brim with banker’s boxes. I was a graduate student in Stanford Professor Estelle Freedman’s class on the History of Sexuality in America, and she’d suggested I do research at the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, as we were then called.

Bill Walker, one of the Historical Society’s founders, helpfully brought me a box filled with 1950s issues of ONE magazine, and I spent the afternoon reading them, awed by the fact that “real live homosexuals” had organized and published a journal that long ago. Little did I know how my life would be changed by that afternoon’s research.

A few months later, I was in the basement of the Redstone Building in the Mission, having joined the Archives Committee of the GLBT Historical Society. It was exciting to be in an official office space, though the street odors wafting from the emergency escape door made it clear that the society had a ways to go. By 1995, our offices were above ground on Market Street and in 2003 we moved to Mission Street, where we stayed until last year.

With the Times

The Historical Society’s moves were shadowed by my own. After serving on the Archives Committee for a few years, I found myself on the board of directors for 10 years, then served as acting executive director for a few months while we looked for a permanent ED. As soon as our new ED started in early 2004, I became the bookkeeper — and more recently was named finance director under our new executive director, Terry Beswick.

My 27 years with the Historical Society have been more than interesting. Sometimes calm and quiet, and sometimes like a crazy roller coaster with no brakes. Looking back, I’m amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish — and proud, too. I look forward to the next 27 years and am confident that with support from the City and the community, we’ll be able to create the world-class LGBTQ public history center we are planning through our Vision 2020 initiative.

Daniel Bao is finance director for the GLBT Historical Society.

NOTE: Reprinted from the July 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here. For a free subscription to the newsletter, click here.

The Future of Leather: Where We Came From, Where We’re Going

The Future of Leather: Where We Came From, Where We’re Going 
Friday, July 28
7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5.00 | Free for members

Bikers in leather in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood (circa 1985). Photo: Robert Pruzan; a collection of the GLBT Historical Society.

San Francisco has long been known for its groundbreaking LGBTQ leather and BDSM community. In conjunction with the new “South of Market: San Francisco’s Leather Scene” display in the “Queer Past Becomes Present” exhibition at the GLBT History Museum’s Main Gallery, curator Greg Pennington will facilitate a discussion about the leather scene from the 1960s to the present and beyond. Prominent leather community members, authors, and scholars will take part, including Gayle Rubin, Jordy Tackitt-Jones, Rajat Dutta and Race Bannon. A social hour with light refreshments will follow.

Faces From the Past: Queer Lives in Northern California Before 1930

Faces From the Past: Queer Lives in Northern California Before 1930
Friday, July 14
6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5.00 | Free for members

Homer Baker, age 19; convicted of sodomy and sentenced to six years at San Quentin. Original file identification card, San Francisco Police Department (1908). Courtesy Bill Lipsky.

“Faces From the Past” is a new display in the “Queer Past Becomes Present” exhibition at the GLBT History Museum’s Main Gallery. Using tintypes, postcards, newspaper articles, paintings, mug shots, arrest records and other historic documents, curators Paula Lichtenberg and Bill Lipsky examine over 150 years of queer presence in Northern California.

In the first of a series of programs in conjunction with the display, this panel will feature the curators, along with two historians. Independent scholar Will Roscoe will discuss Queen Califia, the semi-mythical figure after whom California is named, and the two-spirits of the Bay Area. San Francisco State University Professor Clare Sears will speak on laws that criminalized cross-dressing and same-sex sexuality in 19th-century San Francisco.

A reception with the curators starts at 6 p.m., followed by the panel at 7 p.m

Inside Hollywood’s Bisexual Closet: Marilyn Monroe and More

Inside Hollywood’s Bisexual Closet: Marilyn Monroe and More  
Thursday, July 20
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5.00 | Free for members

Front cover of Boze Hadleigh’s Marilyn Forever: Musings on an American Icon by Stars of Yesterday and Today (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2016)

A look at bisexuality behind the scenes in old Hollywood with Boze Hadleigh, the author of two books published last year that address the question: Hollywood Lesbians: From Garbo to Foster and Marilyn Forever: Musings on an American Icon by the Stars of Yesterday and Today. Rock Hudson once told Hadleigh, “I don’t believe in bisexuals,” yet Hadleigh thinks bisexual activity may have been prevalent in the studio system which showcased the beauty of both genders.

For a shot at stardom, he notes, many comely heterosexual men took a turn on the gay casting couch, while ambitious lipstick lesbians tolerated the straight version. Sometimes a basically gay star such as Cary Grant acted bi for career’s sake — and a sex symbol could question her sexuality while maintaining a straight image, as did Monroe.

Hadleigh will discuss these tales and more in his talk at the GLBT History Museum.

We Were Rebels: Jae Whitaker Remembers Janis Joplin

We Were Rebels: Jae Whitaker Remembers Janis Joplin
Thursday, July 6
7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: $5.00  |  Free for members

Jae Whitaker at the opening of the “Lavender-Tinted Glasses” exhibition at the GLBT History Museum. Behind her at left: Portraits of Janis Joplin and Whitaker in the early 1960s. Photo: Gerard Koskovich

A conversation with Jae Whitaker, an African American lesbian musician who moved to San Francisco in the early 1960s to participate in the Beat scene that was centered in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. In 1963 she met the young Janis Joplin; the two became lovers and lived together.

Joey Cain, curator of our current exhibition “Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love,” will interview Whitaker about her early life, the Beat scene, her meeting and relationship with Joplin, her experiences during the Summer of Love, and her life in San Francisco in the subsequent five decades.


Fighting Back: The Making of a Queer Museum

Fighting Back: The Making of a Queer Museum
Tuesday, July 25
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
The GLBT History Museum
4127 18th St., San Francisco
Admission: Free; $5.00 donation welcome

View through the front windows of the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco on the evening it opened for previews (December 10, 2010). Photo: Gerard Koskovich

The latest in the GLBT Historical Society’s monthly “Fighting Back” series exploring contemporary issues in a historical context, “The Making of a Queer Museum” will offer a multigenerational conversation about the role of museums in preserving and presenting the history and culture of marginalized communities.

Moderated by GLBT Historical Society Executive Director Terry Beswick, a panel of cultural activists, independent scholars and museum professionals will describe their involvement in establishing population-specific public history institutions in San Francisco and elsewhere:

The panelists’ remarks plus observations and comments from all who attend will contribute to San Francisco’s Citywide LGBTQ Cultural Heritage Strategy. For more information on the city initiative, visit the San Francisco Planning Department website.

San Francisco ACT UP Oral History Project


Sit-in by Stop AIDS Now or Else (SANOE) on the Golden Gate Bridge (1989). Left to right: Jade Travers (died 1994), Chaya Gordon, Henry Bortman, unidentified, Ric Puglia, Mic Sweeny, Rebecca Hensler, unidentified. Photo: Copyright © Rick Gerharter.



The GLBT Historical Society has launched a new wide-scale oral history project to chronicle, preserve and share the history of ACT UP/San Francisco and other AIDS direct-action groups in the city. ACT UP/San Francisco was a highly visible and influential group of militant AIDS activists associated with a national network of independent organizations that shared the name AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.

ACT UP/San Francisco emerged from earlier AIDS direct-action efforts in the city starting in 1984; it remained active into the mid-1990s. The project will document this wider context by also gathering oral histories on AIDS direct action by other local groups, including Enola Gay, the ARC/AIDS Vigil, AIDS Action Pledge, ACT UP/Golden Gate and Prevention Point.

In addition to creating historical documentation, the project aims to foster dialogue between ACT UP veterans and younger organizers active in the current upwelling of social justice organizing. The initiative will train people ages 18–29 to conduct oral histories and to actively shape project outcomes. Through round-table conversations, listening parties and other public events, the project will draw on the history of AIDS direct action in San Francisco to inform contemporary resistance.


Project Objectives

The ACT UP/San Francisco Oral History Project will be active through 2019. The outcomes will include the following:

  • Oral histories with at least 40 former members of ACT UP/San Francisco to be permanently archived and maintained by the GLBT Historical Society.
  • An exhibition at the GLBT History Museum incorporating high-quality documentary-style video portraits, photos, and other materials.
  • A multimedia Internet presence.
  • A series of culminating public events offering opportunities for dialogue and debate

Through oral history recordings, the project will document ACT UP/San Francisco’s legacy of protest and politics. In addition, the project will focus on the unique artistic and sexual cultures fostered through the constellation of San Francisco groups of which it was a part, including AIDS Action Pledge; Mobilization Against AIDS; Stop AIDS Now or Else (SANOE); Queer Nation/San Francisco; Boy With Arms Akimbo/Girl With Arms Akimbo; Bad Cop/No Donut; Diseased Pariah News; and Transgender Nation.



Project Director

The project director is Joey Plaster, an oral historian and doctoral candidate in American Studies at Yale University. The recipient of the American Historical Society’s Allan Bérubé Prize for work in public history, he has designed projects that interpret oral histories in relation to neighborhood gentrification and conflict, engage queer homeless youth activists in documenting their community’s history, and analyze pre–gay liberation college life through interactive online platforms.


Interested in sharing your story or volunteering? Contact Joey Plaster at gro.y1516193739rotsi1516193739htblg1516193739@yeoj1516193739.


To take part in the conversation and get regular updates, join the Facebook group: ACT UP/San Francisco Oral History Project.

Project Staff: GLBT Historical Society

  • Executive Director: Terry Beswick
  • Museum Working Group Chair: Elisabeth Cornu
  • Managing Archivist: Joanna Black

Project Advisors

  • Gerard Koskovich, a public historian formerly active in ACT UP/San Francisco, Queer Nation/San Francisco and Bad Cop/No Donut.
  • Marc Stein, professor of history at San Francisco State University
  • Amy Sueyoshi, Associate Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University
  • Laura Wexler, professor of American studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Yale University





This project is made possible by support from California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the GLBT Historical Society.