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."
While listening to this podcast consider what Ms. Edye's words and actions say about the theme of inclusion/exclusion by applying Facing History’s Connect-Extend-Challenge strategy as follows. I share my thoughts below and invite you to share your thoughts by posting a comment.
- Connect: How do the ideas and information in this Podcast connect to what you already know about what life was like for LGBTQ people in Los Angeles before 1950?
- Extend: How does this podcast extend or broaden your thinking about what life was like for LGBTQ people in Los Angeles before 1950?
- Challenge: Does this podcast challenge or complicate your understanding of what life was like for LGBTQ people in Los Angeles before 1950? What new questions does it raise for you?
Connect: How do the ideas and information in this Podcast connect to what you already know about what life was like for LGBTQ people in Los Angeles before 1950?
Although Los Angeles is a big city, I imagine that being an LGBTQ person living here before 1950 was difficult at best because it can still be difficult now even though we have progressed as far as having legalized Gay marriage.
Ms. Eyde shares that she wrote her magazine Vice Versa because she was lonely and that it might help her meet other "gay gals". Many people had hid their sexuality due to the fact that being gay was "still considered by the general public as contemptible, or treated with derision". Keeping in mind that homosexuality was still widely considered as an illness at the time, this is not surprising.
Extend: How does this podcast extend or broaden your thinking about what life was like for LGBTQ people in Los Angeles before 1950?
I was completely unaware that there were magazines devoted to lesbians, although few and underground, being written in the 1940s. There must have been more than "Vice Versa". I wonder what they were and who wrote them?
"All you cute butches lined up at the bar, I’ve had a love like you…" This line from one of the songs that Ms. Edye sings in the podcast is interesting because the term butch is still used today to refer to lesbians who are viewed as more masculine than feminine. It is interesting that as much as things have changed, some things remain the same.
Even with all of the negative views about homosexuality there were people who were brave enough to challenge the norms and be outwardly gay in appearance and action, "It is not an uncommon sight to observe mannishly attired women or even those dressed in more feminine garb strolling along the street hand-in-hand or even arm-in-arm, in an attitude which certainly would seem to indicate far more than mere friendliness."
Challenge: Does this podcast challenge or complicate your understanding of what life was like for LGBTQ people in Los Angeles before 1950? What new questions does it raise for you?
More than anything, I am left with many questions after learning a little about Edythe Edye and her life. The optimism that she showed while facing so many negative feelings, thoughts and possible consequences for and about being gay is inspiring and a bit shocking.
- Where did she and others like her gain that sense of confidence when the world seemed poised against them?
- What other societal changes occurring at the time might have lent themselves to this feeling of optimism she felt? Was life easier as a gay gal than a gay man?
- I wonder about what life was like for LGBTQ people of color at the time or for people who could not so easily blend into society as Ms. Eyde might have been able to. For example, what and where were the outlets of expression and social interaction for a transgender black woman?
- How much has society changed, behind closed doors, since Edythe Eyde first wrote her magazine in 1947? Why are LGBTQ youth the highest risk group for suicide and bullying when things have progress so much?
Share your Connect - Extend - Challenge thoughts below or respond to one of the following questions:
- At Facing History, we talk a lot about “Upstanders” - a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied. Would you consider Edythe Eyde an “Upstander”?
- Ms. Edye describes several hopes she has for the future - what she imagines the future might hold. How do her imaginings compare to the world we live in today? What changes have been most meaningful to you and your contemporaries?
- Why and to whom is Edythe’s story important?
Connections to Facing History and Ourselves Themes/Readings:
Identity is a key concept in a Facing History classroom, and one that Edith Eyde talks about on this episode of Making Gay History. Here are two student voices around LGBTQ identity:
- Finding Confidence (from our resource, The Holocaust and Human Behavior)
- Celebrating LGBT Pride: Why I No Longer Hide My Rainbow, a blog post featuring a past student essay contest winner.
Several films which may also be of interest to readers, and are available for borrowing for Facing History educators:
- Straitlaced presents a range of stories around gender identity through the voices of youth.
- Out of the Past is a broad sweep of history highlighting LGBTQ individuals.