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Documents of the LGBT Movement
Pagexi1(12 of 300)
Preface Until recently, history courses amounted to little more than reading about the activities of wealthy white men who engaged in war against one another. Rarely did the histories and lives of people of color or women appear, and if they did, it was as a sidebar in textbooks and presented in relation to men. Homosexuality was completely ignored unless it pertained to particular “scandals.” The civil rights movement and women’s rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s brought signifi cant changes to historical textbooks. The process of consciousness-raising initiated by the women’s movement included reclaiming its history—a process adopted by other marginalized groups, including lesbians, gay men, and transgendered. Even though people like American archivist Jim Kepner privately collected material on the early American gay movement (the world’s largest collection with more than one million items contained in the ONE Institute and Archives located on the campus of the University of Southern California), many of the cur- rent lesbian and gay historical collections did not begin until the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots. The Lesbian Herstory and Archives founded in 1973 and the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project (1977) are examples of two new collec- tions. Now lesbian and gay archives can be found on most universities, all around the country, and around the world. Deciding on which events to include in this chronology is problematic. Before the twentieth century, there are virtually no writings of personal letters or books that include explicit sexual descriptions. Very little information exists about the actual lives of people in earlier times. Identifying someone as gay or lesbian is exceedingly diffi cult. The primary document created by older cultures is for the ownership, transfer, and taxation of property. With property ownership came the issue of inheritance. Only the wealthy were landowners, and they wanted to guar- antee that their property would go to their offspring. Religion and culture com- bined to create and reinforce heterosexual nuclear family norms. Thus, marriages and offspring were recorded to assure the legitimacy of heirs. Not all marriages and not all offspring were recorded the poor, slaves, and racial/ethnic outcasts were often ignored. So were same-sex relationships. The documents we have are biased toward wealthy landowners who formed heterosexual relationships and their resultant children. A second source of documents related to human sexuality is legislation and court proceedings. Beginning in the 1600s America, colonies and states enacted laws to control sodomy. Vague terms were used to describe sodomy and gener- ally meant any form of sexuality disapproved by those in power, which were white