February 3, 2009
The Chicago Gay History Website and Some Thoughts
A few days ago, Gapers Block published an announcement bringing attention to the Chicago Gay History website. Clever girl that I am, it immediately became glaringly apparent that I seemed to have overlooked Chicago's LGBT community in the pages of the CH Journal. I know, 'cuz I looked. My bad?
You see, this is one reason I am but an amateur historian; I have not evolved far enough in my study to think in terms of ethnicity, race and sexual orientation as categories in which people have to be placed in order to evaluate their contribution to the building of Chicago. And I'm not being sarcastic. Chicago had, what, fourteen different nationalities converge to dig its sorry self out of the mud? What would the city have done without the African-Americans who came to find work during the Great Migration? Is there anyone - living or dead - who had a greater social conscientiousness than Jane Addams, now considered to have been a lesbian (and who gives a damn, by the way)?
People, however, are proud of who they are and their history. They should be. We all should be. Chicago was and is a city of neighborhoods often with a long and distinguished heritage. And, I'd like to see me try to overlook the Irish on these pages, or the Germans or the Polish, or, Oh dear! I think I may have a problem. It seems none of those nationalities have been given their own set of links either.
Ok, I'm being a bit of a wise guy today. Chalk it up to finally recovering from pneumonia, or bronchitis, or plague or whatever it was that I had. What I'm really trying to say is that the LGBT community has been instrumental in Chicago's evolution to the great city it is today. Consider Henry Blake Fuller, the father of urban literature or Henry Gerber, or Margaret Anderson. It really is great that the contributions of the gay community in Chicago can be spotlighted on such a well-constructed and informative site. Just sorry I hadn't thought of it first.
A new set of links to Gay Chicago history has been added and will be amended as information is located. For additional reading, see Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community edited by Tracy Baim and the Chicago History Museum blog post, "Out at CHM".