In episode 03 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, Zaheer and I tackle the history of queer spaces in Brooklyn. We sit down with curator and writer Hugh Ryan, who helps us define “queer” as a historical construct and shares some amazing hidden queer histories that he has uncovered. We also visit Lesbian Herstory Archives in the neighborhood of Park Slope to talk with co-founder Deborah Edel, and listen to the reflections of one Brooklynite who shared his life and experiences in our oral history collections.
We usually plan each episode a month or two in advance, and we knew we wanted to do an episode honoring Pride for the month of June. But on Sunday, June 12, the episode took on new and heartbreaking meaning for us when we learned of the mass shooting of 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. This tragedy and this unthinkable loss of life makes examination of Brooklyn’s complex and layered queer history all the more imperative. Zaheer and I dedicate this podcast to the victims of the Pulse massacre, and those who have lost partners, family members, friends, and loved ones.
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Explore documents, interviews, and pertinent links from Flatbush + Main Episode 03: Queering Brooklyn Spaces
Segment 1: Histories and Ideas
To learn more about Hugh Ryan’s work, visit his website.
For more info about the house at 7 Middagh Street (also known as “February House” because so many of its tenants shared February birthdays), check out “Brooklyn Bohemia” on the Brooklyn Waterfront History project website, developed in partnership between Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
In addition, Ryan recommends the following titles: George Chauncey’s Gay New York, Joan Nestle’s Persistent Desire, Sherrill Tippins’s February House, and Marcy Adelman’s Long Time Passing: The Lives of Older Lesbians.
Segment 2: Into the Archives
Below are images of the materials we explored when we visited the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Selections from Dyketionary, date unknown
Hard hat with lambda, date unknown
A glimpse at the LHA’s amazing button collection:
Listen to the oral history of Mabel Hampton here.
Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn
Below is the full oral history of Philip Coleman, part of BHS’s 1992 AIDS-Brooklyn Oral History Project, undertaken as part of a 1993 exhibition on AIDS at Brooklyn Historical Society, the first exhibition of its kind at a public history institution. This interview is being made available online for the first time in a digital format, thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Segment 4: Endorsements
There’s still time to get tickets for “Refined and Redesigned: Defying Gender Norms in Fashion,” a public program at BHS at 6:30 on Thursday, June 23.
Finally, below are some context and resources related to the Orlando mass shooting:
The Pulse nightclub shooting was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in American history. Before that, the largest massacre of gay people in America took place in 1973 with an arson attack on New Orleans’ UpStairs lounge that led to the death of 32 people. Historian Jim Downs explores the politics of fear, community, and advocacy in relation to these two tragedies.
In this moving video, Anderson Cooper reads aloud the names of those who died at Pulse nightclub.
As the investigation into the shooter’s motives continue, several advocacy groups have stood strongly against any attempt to use the Pulse massacre to promote xenophobia of any kind, whether it be homophobia or Islamophobia. This article touches on some of those efforts.
Additionally, a group of librarians and educators have begun a crowd-sourced living document, #PulseOrlandoSyllabus that contains a rich listing of resources on, about, and for LGBTQ life.
Lastly, here are some organizations mobilizing support and continued advocacy for the communities affected:
The One Orlando Fund: Established by the non-profit Strengthen Orlando and backed by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the fund is intended to “provide a way to help respond to the needs of our community, now and in the time to come, after the effects of the Pulse tragedy.”
Equality Florida’s Pulse Victim Fund: Established by Florida’s LGBTQ civil rights organization for the victims and their families.
The New York City Anti-Violence Project: Founded in Chelsea in 1980 in reaction to violence in the neighborhood against gay residents, the AVP serves the city’s LGBTQ and HIV-positive communities with direct client aid, community organizing and public advocacy.
Latino Pride Center: Launched by the New York City-based Hispanic AIDS Forum in 2013, the Latino Pride Center initially served gay and bisexual Latino men.