This post was written by our summer intern Megan, who is a MLIS student at Dominican University.
It’s the last day of June, which means it is the last day of Pride Month! This week we are listening to Studs’ 1977 interview with American historian and author Jonathan Katz. Katz is a historian of human sexuality, and in this interview he and Studs discuss his work Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States. In this pioneering work, Katz chronicles a collection of documents and letters concerning homosexuality from the 15th century onward in America.
Katz’s work brings to light the suffering LGBT people have endured throughout American history. Without Katz’s hard work, much of this history would never have been discovered. He explores a wide variety of historical accounts of gay American history, ranging from that of Henry Haye, a communist and gay man who founded the first homosexual emancipation organization, to a love letter written to Emma Goldman by a woman in the early 20th century, to Walt Whitman as a forefather of the homosexual emancipation movement.
These varieties of stories and documents expose the horrendous suffering that gay and lesbian Americans have endured: they were treated as silent and invisible, considered sinners, and their existence was denied by the majority of society. When they were recognized, they were often considered deviants and abnormal, and even subjected to medical “treatments”. In his work, Katz describes documentation of aversion therapy, the use of nausea-inducing drugs, shock treatments, castration, lobotomies, vasectomies, hysterectomies, and other barbaric procedures.
At the time Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States was written, the gay community had not been historically explored; it was pushed into the darkness and forgotten. Katz explains that this time is over, and that in order to move forward, we must recognize the historical injustices that the LGBT community has suffered in America. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, Katz’s work certainly played an important role in recovering and revealing gay and lesbian American history. We thank Katz for his hard work and honor the LGBT community on the last day of Pride Month 2016.