National

LGBTQ history mapped for possible national historic landmark honors

In this June 16, 2016, file photo, a man lights candles on a memorial outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
In this June 16, 2016, file photo, a man lights candles on a memorial outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City. AP

Unique and, for some, life-changing names enliven a first-of-its-kind Interior Department-released study on what officials termed Tuesday the “history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified Americans.”

From San Francisco’s Bulldog Baths and Seattle’s Gay Community Center to the Our Fantasy Club in Wichita, Kansas and a roadside park in Mississippi’s Kemper County, the national study recounts the places and events associated with a cultural history that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said has often been “overlooked.”

“It will result in an important step forward in reversing the current underrepresentation of stories and places associated to the LGBTQ community in the complex and diverse story of America,” Jewell said in a statement.

For far too long, the struggles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified Americans have been ignored in the traditional narratives of our nation’s history.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Jewell unveiled the study along with National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, whose tenure in recent months has been rocked by allegations of management problems at national parks including Yosemite and Grand Canyon.

Funded by the private Gill Foundation, and produced by the National Park Foundation, the “LGBTQ Heritage Theme Study” sets the stage for places to be considered for designation as National Historic Landmarks or nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

In June, President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall National Monument in New York City as the nation’s first monument to honor the story of LGBTQ Americans. The Obama Administration has also recognized the Henry Gerber House in Chicago as a National Historic Landmark, and designated eight other LGBTQ sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

The new study notes many other locations, like Roadside Park No. 75 on U.S. Highway 45 in Mississippi that was popular for cruising.

“It has often been outside -- on the street, in the park, in a public field -- sometimes under different auspices than assumed and at other times under the cover of foliage that LGBTQ people have found each other,” the study states.

The study further describes “Our Fantasy Club” as “Wichita’s oldest gay and lesbian bar, which closed in 2015.” It was owned by Linn Copeland, a founding member of the Kansas Gay Rodeo Association.

Michael Roehrman of the Wichita Eagle also contributed to this report.

Michael Doyle: 202-383-6153, @MichaelDoyle10

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