Browse Exhibits (7 total)

A Lesbian Capital: “Odd Girls” in Washington DC

Even after a half-century of serious scholarly inquiry into American gay communities, histories continue to ignore lesbian women. Queer memories of gay liberation around events like Stonewall and the AIDS crisis largely omit the role of lesbians. This exhibit explores only a small facet of lesbian communities in the Washington DC metropolitan area. However, using t-shirts almost exclusively from the Rainbow History Project archives of Washington DC, this online exhibit shows how women who loved other women significantly shaped the past four decades of LGBT life.

Lesbian women led picket lines, opened up thriving businesses, produced unique music, and reshaped public health projects in Washington.  These DC “odd girls” actively sought to affirm their lesbian identities not only against straight society but also from what some lesbians saw as a gay subculture concerned almost exclusively with the issues of men. 

Gather ‘round People: Advocacy and New Voices

The LGBT community has faced unique challenges in the past thirty years, including deadly violence, bullying, and a generation lost to AIDS. The community responded to these challenges in different ways. These shirts demonstrate the defiance and determination of gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgender persons to confront their often-unjust treatment.

Despite shared struggles, these shirts also display divisions within the community. How so?

Hoosier Pride

The first Gay Pride parade took place in June 1970 in New York, just a year after the 1969 Stonewall Riots.  More than four decades later, the concept of pride remains the most recognizable aspect of the modern LGBT movement. Celebrations of identity are held annually, not only in “gay havens” like San Francisco or New York, but also in the “flyover” communities of rural America.

Many of the shirts in this exhibit have explicit Hoosier connections. How do Hoosiers express pride? What political symbols do you see in these shirts?

Lakes of Lavender: Snapshots of Queer Minnesota

What is it about Minnesota, the idiosyncratic heart of the Upper Midwest, to be, as historian Stewart Van Cleve entitled his book, the “land of 10,000 loves?” Drawing exclusively of t-shirts from the University of Minnesota’s Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection, this exhibit explores the diverse experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Minnesotans.

We invite you to investigate the various ways queer Minnesotans have expressed their sexual and political identities throughout the past four decades. 

 The t-shirts highlighted in this exhibit come exclusively from the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection.

Out in Naptown: Gay Life in Indianapolis

The t-shirts of the Chris Gonzalez Library and Archives can help us piece together the history of Indianapolis’ gay community from the past forty years. From bars and picnics to sports and newspapers, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens have produced a vibrant culture in the Circle City, helping in small part to answer that often-contentious question of just what is a Hoosier.  

How do the past experiences of LGBT Naptowners compare with those of larger, more prominent gay communities in New York and San Francisco? 

Queer Uncle Sam: The Politics of the Ballot Box and the Bedroom

From Harvey Milk to Tammy Baldwin, the Briggs Initiative to Proposition 8, the Lavender Scare and “Boys Beware” to the Grindr app, the rising political activity of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people helped push the community from an unknown counterculture to a powerful mainstream lobby. Though it is easy to argue that all the shirts in the collection are political, the items in this exhibit deal directly with not only issues of political leaders and elections, but also the politics of people’s private lives.

Has the ballot box been an effective means of addressing LGBT issues? In what ways are mainstream politics unable to address the variety of the community’s concerns?

The Ones That Laughed: Humor in the LGBT Community

“I wouldn’t be here without the gay audience,” explained the late comedienne Joan Rivers. “They were the ones that laughed and encouraged and thought you were wonderful.” From its inception as a unified community, LGBT citizens have poked fun at themselves and the wider society, supported up-and-coming comics, and fostered a distinct culture of comedy.  Whether or not these shirts actually get a laugh, they demonstrate one tactic of the LGBT movement’s quest for visibility, recognition, and integration.

Can you think of other social groups that used humor in their messages? Do you think the use of humor is only in jest or do you think it has real political implications?