The National Park Service, which has launched a new LGBTQ heritage initiative, has invited 18 scholars, including Jack Jen Gieseking of Bowdoin, to provide it with information on the people and places around the country that have been important to the LGBTQ movement.
Gieseking, a cultural geographer, received an invitation to join the panel soon after attending an academic conference this spring where s/he spoke about transgender spaces. Gieseking, whose research focuses on New York City, is writing a book on the contemporary historical geography of lesbian-queer spaces, economies, and cultures in New York City from 1983 to 2008. At Bowdoin, Gieseking teaches data visualization and new media classes within the College’s Digital and Computational Studies Initiative.
The group of scholars — all researchers and preservationists with expertise in LGBTQ history or historic preservation — will be flown to Washington D.C. in late June for the one-day panel. They are charged with exploring the story of the LGBTQ movement in areas such as law, religious, media, civil rights and the arts, and with identifying sites that could host national monuments or be named to the National Register of Historic Places or Landmarks, according to the Associated Press.
Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis told the AP that “the Park Service is, in my view, America’s storyteller through place. It’s important that the places we recognize represent the full complement of the American experience.”
Gieseking said the panel will be sensitive to the diversity of individuals and groups who have contributed to the movement over time. They will also be mindful of historically important LGBTQ places both in cities and in rural areas, she added. The panelists include John D’Emilio, Will Roscoe, Nan Alamilla Boyd, Paula Martinac, Gerard Koskovich, Petra Doan and Christina B. Hanhardt.
Currently, there are few sites in the United States that commemorate LGBTQ people or their movement for equal rights. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar. The bar was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000 to honor its role in helping spark the modern gay rights movement.
Violence broke out outside Stonewall on June 28, 1969 by patrons and employees protesting brutal police raids on the bar. After days of riots, between 100 and 1,000 people marched up 7th Avenue. A year later, people involved in that “riotous march” wanted to commemorate it by retracing their steps, according to Gieseking. This became the first Pride parade, an annual tradition that takes place now across the world.
The work of the scholars is being paid for with a $250,000 grant from the Gill Foundation, a major donor to gay civil rights causes, according to the AP.