Preserving Our LGBT History: The OUTSpoken KC Project

I know more about Kansas City’s LGBT history, I’d wager, than the vast majority of 25-year-olds around here. And I know basically none of it.
I realized this last fall during a research project. It bothered me. I’ve read enough queer history to not be totally ignorant of my roots. But that knowledge took effort. I had to track down my history.
When you’re a queer person, you just don’t get your history told to you growing up. Definitely not in history class. Or on field trips. Or in any other setting where we are told about who Americans and Kansas Citians historically are. Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are largely the charade that queerness doesn’t exist. And with “Don’t Say Gay” laws popping up in U.S. school districts, it’s a stubborn charade. Most straight people don’t harbor malice toward us. But if we don’t preserve our history, then it just won’t get preserved. It just won’t get told.
Thankfully, there are people in Kansas City who care a lot about preserving our stories. Stuart Hinds, one of the founders of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid-America (GLAMA), is a tenacious chronicler of the Kansas City LGBT experience. So is Jamie Rich, longtime head of the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival. I met these two men because of our shared concern for preserving Kansas City’s LGBT history, and the result of our conversations is a new community project we’re calling OUTSpokenKC.
Through OUTSpokenKC, we want to collect and record more of the Kansas City LGBT experience. We will audio-record interviews and hand them over to GLAMA for preservation. We also want to share these important stories with the public, doing some of the preservation and education that just doesn’t happen by default.
So this summer, we’re inviting people in the Kansas City’s LGBT community to share their life stories with us. Although we welcome all personal histories, our specific focus is stories of love and marriage. We chose this theme because of how historic 2013 has been (and continues to be) for marriage equality and because of our ongoing struggle to persuade America that the hearts of queer people work. That we share in the human experience of actual romantic and erotic love.
Interviews will conclude in the fall so that we can move into part two of the project: a public interpretive reading of selected stories in October as part of LGBT History Month. OutSpoken KC will invite the public to hear these stories, read aloud by local performers. My hope is that this event will allow more of us, queer and straight, to know more of where we come from.
If you’re a member of Kansas City’s LGBT communities and would like to share your story, please contact me at Pseudonyms are totally acceptable if privacy is a concern. Your stories of love and marriage matter. OutSpoken KC wants to preserve and share them.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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