Daring to Find Our Names: The Search for Lesbigay Library History

Daring to Find Our Names: The Search for Lesbigay Library History

Daring to Find Our Names: The Search for Lesbigay Library History

Daring to Find Our Names: The Search for Lesbigay Library History

Synopsis

Outlines theoretical and methodological problems in documenting lesbigay history generally (and specifically, the history of lesbigay professionals, particularly those in the "feminized" professions like librarianship). This book will appeal especially to historians of traditionally underrepresented populations (women, Native Americans, African Americans, lesbigays). In particular, chapters on methodological problems in lesbigay research, separatism, and biases created by gender bias will pull together for the first time integrated feminist/radical perspectives on library history. The authors call for more responsible treatment of such subjects as the "outing" of historical figures, and conversely, a more open approach to research on "gender outlaws" in the workplace.

Excerpt

A central tenet of professional library rhetoric holds that "libraries change lives." Certainly in the case of the lesbigay population, the meaning of that statement is literally true, for through reading, many lesbigays first find confirmation of their identity and learn that they are not alone. Gay actor Stephen Fry writes of the importance of "slim volume after slim volume cataloguing the pansy path to freedom" (Fry 1997, 86), whether that freedom lies solely in alternative sexuality, or indeed in "freedom of the mind" (87). Given the minority "identity wars" of the 1990s, such a distinction as Fry makes may indeed be critical, for it is not inconceivable that lesbigays may find confirmation of their individual identity not in the lesbigay section of the library collection, but in another section of the library, or in another realm entirely.

In a repressive social climate, responsibility for serving the lesbigay population may carry more weight than many librarians wish to bear. After all, librarians have not always been defined as guardians of the freedom to read; early leaders "avoided controversial literature and endorsed the librarian as moral censor" (Geller 1984 [xv]). Sexology texts such as Havelock Ellis Studies in the Psychology of Sex and Alfred Kinsey Sexual Behavior of the Human Male, as well as novels with a homoerotic theme, such as Radclyffe Hall The Well of Loneliness (1928), were usually available only upon request from the public librarian. Library catalog subject headings and classification schemes placed homosexuality with "sexual perversions" or "criminal behavior," or for more progressive and sympathetic titles, "mental illness" and its analogs, and broad-minded nonfiction generally concerned the psychosocial causes of this "disease" (Streitmayer 1995, 45).

The revolution in personal sexual mores in the 1960s and 1970s was accompanied by a broader judicial distinction between erotica and pornography and more liberal publishing practices, although some of the titles that came under review . . .

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