This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. For many, this infamous clash between the trans and gay patrons of the Stonewall Inn and the New York City Police Department, which already had a long history of harassment against the gay community, signifies the start of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in the United States. Celebratory and educational events are happening throughout the country to mark this monumental event. The Making Gay History podcast, hosted by Eric Marcus, is dedicating their entire fifth season to stories on and around Stonewall. As important as Stonewall is to the movement, there are many other stories to uncover as we celebrate Pride Month.
This June, we are proud to continue our focus on Upstanders with a special series on California LGBTQ Upstanders, co-hosted by ONE Archives Foundation and in collaboration with the podcast, Making Gay History. Each week, we explore the content, themes, and questions raised in one past episode of the podcast.
As I continue my dive into the history of of the LGBTQ civil rights movement in Los Angeles, it is becoming clear that it is a history of a diverse group of self-determined people and their allies fighting to ensure that society fully understands and accepts LGBTQ individuals.
You may remember this quote from Edythe Eyde, who we met last week:
“With the advancement of psychiatry and related subjects, the world is becoming more and more aware that there are those in our midst who feel no attraction for the opposite sex.” (Edythe Eyde, Making Gay History)
Eyde highlights the importance of the psychiatric and medical communities in forming current/popular social beliefs. Incredibly, universal sodomy laws were prevalent in the United States until 1963, which tells us that homosexuality was widely viewed as morally and socially abhorrent. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1952, confirming these general societal beliefs. (More information can be found here.) Psychiatric research studies on human sexuality conducted in the 1940s and 1950s initiated the gradual change of regarding homosexuality as a natural expression of human sexuality rather than a pathological disorder.
Today for LGBTQ Pride Month we learn about the ground-breaking work of Dr. Evelyn Hooker.
Over the course of the next four weeks, we will be exploring the intersection between the history of the City of Los Angeles and the LGBTQ civil rights movement between 1940 and 1980. Los Angelenos have a rich and sometimes unusual history of activism within their own communities and beyond. With the help of the Making Gay History podcast and its host Eric Marcus, we will get to know a few of the lesser known influencers. Knowing some of these stories ensures that the history we teach our students is both accurate and inclusive.
The first person we are going to meet is Edythe Eyde. Her voice is like listening to someone’s polite, unassuming grandmother . . . until you realize, through her stories, what a heroine she actually was. I’m sure you’ll agree that she was prescient, radical, and deserving of high praise. Way back in 1947, Edythe Eyde was already ahead of her time:
"Homosexuality is becoming a less and less taboo subject, and although still considered by the general public as contemptible, or treated with derision, I venture to predict that there will be a time in the future when gay folk will be accepted as part of regular society."
This June, we are proud to continue our focus on Upstanders with a special series on California LGBTQ Upstanders, co-hosted by ONE Archives Foundation and in collaboration with the podcast, Making Gay History. Each week, we will explore the content, themes, and questions raised in one past episode of the podcast. We invite you to subscribe to this blog so you get the updates each week, listen along with us, and share your thoughts by commenting on this blog. Our host and guide for this series is James Waller, a long-time educator in South Los Angeles, a board member of ONE Archives Foundation, and a Facing History friend. Here is his introduction to this series.
A little personal perspective
Most of my K-12 education was in various LAUSD schools around Mid-City and the Valley. I paid attention in school and did pretty well for the most part, but I was not inspired by what I was learning. I did not see much of myself in any of the things that I studied in the curriculum of the time. Although I was a huge fan of my history lessons in elementary school and of the stories told in my Sunday school class at church, it was not until my World History class in 10th grade, roughly three years later, that I began to even see Black people as being written about as anything other than a savage, a slave, a sharecropper or a shoplifter. This might not have been the case 100 percent of the time, but it was enough to paint a a pitiable picture in my head that did not give me much hope about life in America for a young Black man.