On Oct. 9, the second Saturday in LGBT History Month, you can sip some fruit of the vine, then hop on a streetcar to take in a tour of some of KC’s gay history locales. That’s when the Kansas City Museum will be hosting its Gay and Lesbian History Trolley Tours. Guide Ross Freese will narrate the one-hour excursions.

All proceeds from the tours will benefit the collections of GLAMA, the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (glama.us). Funds raised will go toward supplies needed for collection, processing and storage for the archive. Tickets are $45 per person; the price includes a wine-tasting reception. Go to kcmuseum100.org/trolleyglama.html to make reservations.
How Your Tour Guide Got Started
By day, Ross Freese works as an IT specialist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. On occasion, he steps up to serve as a local historian.

“History has intrigued me from an early age. Besides enjoying it in school, my family would take summer vacations and visit historic sites all over the country. We visited East Coast battlefields from the Revolutionary War and plantations down south, national parks, Williamsburg, Va., museums. It brought history alive, and that excitement has stayed with me ever since.”

“LGBT history seemed a natural progression. I bought my first book on the subject back in the 1970s at the Phoenix Bookstore on Westport Road. It was Jonathan Katz’s Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. and it was a real eye-opener.”

“A few years ago I prepared a larger timeline of LGBT history (I nicknamed it “Magna Carta to Drag Queens and Everything in Between”) for a GLSEN event, and in the course of my research discovered a couple of Kansas City events and people that absolutely captivated me. I was struck by how this information was being preserved by scholars but was slipping away from our local community consciousness.”

“Then last year, David Greene from the UMKC LGBTQIA office called me and asked if I could lead an LGBT Kansas City history tour for their Coming Out Day celebration in October. He would arrange for the trolley if I could put together a 45- to 50-minute tour. I was intrigued and agreed. Then I asked how much time did I have to pull everything together? ‘Oh you have 10 days, plenty of time.’ ”

“A few panicked trips to the library, some information from David, and phone calls to old and new friends, and, surprisingly quickly, more local history began to emerge. I put together a route, drove it with a friend and the drive time was 49 minutes. A huge sigh of relief and cocktails followed in quick succession.”
Tour Itinerary
This trolley tour, Freese says, will highlight national events and local visionaries, offer new perspectives on well-known Kansas City history, and suggest topics for further research. 
Some of the highlights, he says, will be “homophile organizations, sex variant women, Supreme Court cases, theatrical touring companies, Femme Mimics, Kansas City’s jazz heritage, The Phoenix Society, a national purse fight between East and West Coast early lesbian and gay rights groups who came together in fragile harmony at 12th and Wyandotte, Lesbian Town, Jeanne Eagles, Drew Shafer, Ma Rainey, politics, printers, clubs, bars, railroads, Slumming and some guy named Pendergast are all packed into an exciting hour driving through the heart of historic Kansas City.”

He also plans to talk about new trends and ongoing challenges in researching LGBT history in public records, plus mining for information in unlikely sources. 
If You Go
The tour will depart from Union Station Kansas City at 2 and 4 p.m. The wine-tasting reception will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., so trolley-riders can join in before or after their respective tours.

Saturday, Oct. 9
Trolley tours: 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Wine-tasting reception: 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Union Station
30 W. Pershing Rd. l Kansas City, Mo. l 816-483-8300
$45 per person

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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