Making Gay History | LGBTQ Oral Histories from the Archive
Summary: Intimate, personal portraits of both known and long-forgotten champions, heroes, and witnesses to history brought to you from rare archival interviews.
Jean O’Leary was passionate—about women, nuns, feminism, and equal rights. She left an indelible mark on the women’s movement and the LGBTQ civil rights movement, but not without causing controversy, too. After all, she was a troublemaker. And proud of it.
Hal Call never minced words. The midwestern newspaperman and WWII vet wrested control of the Mattachine Society from its founders and went on to fight police oppression and champion sexual freedom. He also made more than a few enemies along the way.
Shirley Willer had good reason to be angry—she was beaten by the police and a dear friend was allowed to die. Because they were gay. She channeled that anger into action, traveling the country in the 1960s to launch new chapters of gay rights organizations.
A never before heard interview with Marsha P. Johnson and Randy Wicker - two very different heroes of the early LGBT civil rights movement. Marsha was a founder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Randy led the first gay demonstration in 1964 in coat and tie.
Making Gay History is back with more hidden histories mined from Eric Marcus’s 30-year-old audio archive. Ten new episodes featuring intimate interviews with pioneers in the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights—some known and some long-forgotten champions, heroes, and witnesses to queer history.
The right to love and be loved for who we are has always been a driving force in the fight for LGBT civil rights. Eric shares four special love stories from his archive featuring activists who helped change the course of history.
The late author and activist Vito Russo is best known for his 1981 landmark book, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, and for co-founding both GLAAD (originally known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).
A dynamic duo, self-described gay rights fanatics and life partners Barbara Gittings and Kay “Tobin” Lahusen helped supercharge the nascent movement in the 1960s and brought their creativity, passion, determination, and good humor to the Gay Liberation 1970s, leaving behind an inspiring legacy of dramatic change.
A generation ago, tens of millions of people turned to “Dear Abby” in her daily newspaper column for advice. Long before others did, and at considerable risk, she used her platform and celebrity in support of gay people and their equal rights.
A WWII veteran who co-founded one of the first LGBT rights groups, the Mattachine Society, in 1950—a time when gay people were considered sick, sinful, criminal, and a threat to national security. Dr Evelyn Hooker described Chuck as “a natural organizer”.
A mother's love turns her into a quiet revolutionary. When Jeanne Manford’s son Morty (himself a leader in the movement) was badly beaten at a protest in 1972, she took action and founded an organization for parents of gays known today as PFLAG.
Frank Kameny lived a long and extraordinary life. He was fired from his federal government job in 1957 because he was gay. He didn’t just go home and pull the covers over his head. He fought a successful eighteen-year-battle with the government to change the law so the same thing didn’t happen to other gay people.
In 1945 Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s gay friend Sam From urged her to do a study challenging the commonly held belief that homosexuals were by nature mentally ill. It was work that would ultimately strip the “sickness” label from millions of gay men and women and change the course of history.
Edythe Eyde moved to Los Angeles in 1945 and by 1947 was working as a secretary at RKO Pictures where she used her office typewriter as a printing press to publish her landmark “magazine” for lesbians, “Vice Versa.” In the 1950s, when Edythe started writing for the The Ladder, the Daughters of Bilitis magazine (DOB was an organization for lesbians founded in 1955), she took the pen name “Lisa Ben” (an anagram for “lesbian”). Her first choice for a pen name had been “Ima Spinster,” but that idea was shot down by the magazine’s editors. Edythe told Eric Marcus, “I thought that was funny and they didn't. I don't know whether they thought it was too undignified or what, but they objected strongly. If I had been as sure of myself then as I am these days I would have said, ‘Alright, take it or leave it.’ But I wasn't. So I invented the name Lisa Ben.”
We don’t know much about Wendell Sayers beyond what he shared in his original 1989 interview for the Making Gay History book and the little we found in our research. He was born in Western Kansas on April 29, 1904, and died on March 27, 1998. He was, as he notes in the interview, the first black attorney to be hired to work in the Colorado State Attorney General’s office. Wendell’s specialty was in real estate. In the late 1950’s he attended several meetings of the Denver chapter of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization, and briefly attended the Mattachine Society’s sixth annual national convention, which was held in Denver in September 1959.