The urgent mission of “Making Gay History”
January 4, 2018 4:59 PM   Subscribe

In the late 1980s, author Eric Marcus set out to record the oral history of the gay civil rights movement in America. “I felt such responsibility to these people, most of whom had never had their stories told, or they had been long forgotten.”

Making Gay History, the podcast, has three seasons so far.

Season 1: Preview

Episode 1: A never before heard conversation with trans icon, self-described “drag queen,” and Stonewall uprising veteran Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia relives that June 1969 night in vivid detail and describes her struggle for recognition in the movement.

Episode 2: You’ve never heard of Wendell Sayers, but once you hear his story, you’ll never forget him. Born in Western Kansas in 1904, Wendell was the first black lawyer to work for Colorado’s Attorney General, and risked everything to join a gay discussion group.

Episode 3: In 1947, Hollywood secretary Edythe Eyde, a.k.a. Lisa Ben, had the audacity to publish “Vice Versa,” the first ever “magazine” for lesbians. Even more audacious, she imagined a future gay utopia that has all come to pass. In the '50s, Edythe sang gay parodies of popular songs in LA gay clubs.

Episode 4: In 1945 Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s gay friend Sam From urged her to do a study challenging the commonly held belief that homosexuals were by nature mentally ill. It was work that would ultimately strip the “sickness” label from millions of gay men and women and change the course of history.

Episode 5: Frank Kameny fought for what was right. And he never gave up. Lessons for us all.

Episode 6: When Jeanne Manford’s gay son was badly beaten at a protest in 1972, she took action and founded an organization for parents of gays known today as PFLAG.

Episode 7: WWII veteran Chuck Rowland turns theory into action, co-founding one of the first LGBT rights groups, the Mattachine Society, in 1950—a time when gay people were considered sick, sinful, criminal, and a threat to national security.

Episode 8: A generation ago, tens of millions of people turned to "Dear Abby” in her daily newspaper column for advice. Long before others did, and at considerable risk, she used her platform and celebrity in support of gay people and their equal rights.

Episode 9: Self-described gay rights fanatics and life partners Barbara Gittings and Kay “Tobin” Lahusen helped supercharge the nascent movement in the 1960s and brought their creativity, passion, determination, and good humor to the Gay Liberation 1970s, leaving behind an inspiring legacy of dramatic change.

Episode 10: Vito Russo loved movies, but he looked behind the silver screen and saw how Hollywood was sending a message that LGBTQ people were less-than-human. He decided that that had to change. He wrote a book, co-founded GLAAD, and when his life was on the line, was one of the people who founded ACT UP.

Season 2: Preview

Episode 11: Meet Marsha P. Johnson and Randy Wicker—two very different heroes of the early LGBT civil rights movement. Marsha was a Street Transvestite Action Revolutionary. Randy led the first gay demonstration in 1964 in coat and tie.

Episode 12: Shirley Willer had good reason to be angry—she was beaten by the police and a dear friend was allowed to die. Because they were gay. She channeled that anger into action, traveling the country in the 1960s to launch new chapters of gay rights organizations.

Episode 13: Hal Call never minced words. The midwestern newspaperman and WWII vet wrested control of the Mattachine Society from its founders and went on to fight police oppression and champion sexual freedom. He also made more than a few enemies along the way.

Episode 14: Part 1: Jean O’Leary was passionate—about women, nuns, feminism, and equal rights. She left an indelible mark on the women’s movement and the LGBTQ civil rights movement, but not without causing controversy, too. After all, she was a troublemaker. And proud of it.

Episode 15: Part 2: Jean O’Leary had a vision for the national LGBTQ civil rights movement. On March 26, 1977 she led the first delegation of lesbian and gay activists to the White House. And in 1988 she co-founded National Coming Out Day.

Episode 16: On November 2, 1955, when 30-year-old Morris Foote read on the front page of Boise's newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, that the police were rounding up and arresting gay men, he did the only thing he could think of. He ran. He didn't feel safe setting foot in Boise for the next 20 years.

Episode 17: Herb Selwyn never hesitated to stick his neck out for others. That included gay people at a time when other straight attorneys cashed in on the persecution of homosexuals and gay attorneys were too frightened to represent a despised minority.

Episode 18: When the Stonewall uprising upended the 1960s homophile movement, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen refused to be put out to pasture. They brought all their passion, humor, and determination to the gay lib ‘70s and showed the youngsters how it was done.

Episode 19: Four years before the 1969 uprising at NYC’s Stonewall Inn, a San Francisco confrontation between the police and that city’s LGBT community proved a turning point. Gay attorneys Herbert Donaldson and Evander Smith were among the night’s heroes.

Episode 20: Joyce Hunter’s childhood and adolescence were stolen from her and she was determined to keep that from happening to other LGBTQ youth. She survived suicide attempts, years in an orphanage, and a brutal anti-gay attack to change the lives of countless of young people.

Episode 21: CNN business anchor Tom Cassidy kept his “private life” strictly separate from his public life. Three decades ago he had to. But then he was diagnosed with AIDS.

Season 3: Preview

Episode 22: Welcome back to Sylvia Rivera’s kitchen, for the second part of a never-before-heard interview from 1989. Pull up a chair for a conversation with the Stonewall veteran and trans rights pioneer who reflects on a life of activism while she cooks a pot of chili.

Episode 23: Sergeant Perry Watkins played by the rules. The U.S military did not. Drafted in 1968, he was thrown out fifteen years later despite his honesty and stellar record of service. He fought back and won.

Episode 24: Everybody loves Ellen DeGeneres. But that wasn’t always so. When she came out on screen and in real life the backlash was fierce and her future cast in doubt. In this 2001 interview hear a beloved icon at a crossroads.

Episode 25: You likely know J. J. Belanger's face from an iconic 1953 photo booth photo. But there’s a full life’s story behind that photo that includes love, heartbreak, Alfred Kinsey, and fighting for trans rights.

Episode 26: In 1983, Deborah Johnson and Zandra Rólon Amato went to a Los Angeles restaurant for what was supposed to be a romantic dinner. Instead they wound up in court. They fought back against discrimination and won.

Episode 27: In 1981 Larry Kramer sounded an alarm almost no one wanted to hear. Gay men were dying from a mysterious disease and the only way to stop its spread was to stop having sex. The outspoken activist went on to co-found GMHC and ACT UP, two of the leading organizations in the fight against AIDS.

Episode 28: Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were the originals. With six other women, they co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis - the very first lesbian organization in the U.S. DOB seems tame and timid today, but in 1955 it was risky and radical for a fearful time.

Episode 29: Morris Kight was a whirling dervish champion of LGBTQ civil rights. He cut his activist teeth in the labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements, and from 1969 on brought all his passion to bear on catapulting himself and L.A.’s gay liberation efforts onto center stage.

Episode 30: As a Jewish child growing up in Nazi-occupied Paris, Paulette Goodman knew what it meant to be a despised minority. After the war, her family sought refuge in the U.S. But when Paulette found out that her child was gay, she discovered that there was another battle to be fought and won.

Episode 31: Greg Brock blazed a trail for LGBTQ journalists by being himself at a time when being yourself could sabotage your career or cost you your job. But Greg didn't just come out on the job, he came out to everyone on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" for the first National Coming Out Day on October 11, 1988.

Episode 32: Morty Manford was one of thousands of young people who joined the fight for gay liberation in the early 1970s. As a member of the Gay Activists Alliance, he challenged New York City's mayor face to face in a successful effort to get the police off the backs of the gay community.
posted by roger ackroyd (17 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I recently culled my podcast subscription list because it was getting massive, but here you go, posting stuff I absolutely must subscribe to.

This is fantastic. Thanks for posting it.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh my god this is fantastic.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:12 PM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Awesome post, thanks!
posted by en forme de poire at 7:13 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is brilliant. I thank Eric Marcus for making it, and I thank you for posting it! I can't wait to listen!
posted by hippybear at 7:19 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Awesome. Thank you. See you in a week.
posted by disclaimer at 8:14 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is amazing. I stumbled across it a while back, but you've given me a hell of a reminder to go back and listen.

Thank you. I needed this.
posted by sciatrix at 8:48 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a radio producer by trade, I always like to get folks to pay attention to the fine people who make this stuff happen. Turns out I have friends who work on it. Bonus!
posted by mykescipark at 10:17 PM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you! Am listening to the second Sylvia Rivera one now. I've read so much about her but have never heard her voice.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:05 AM on January 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh my gosh, this is wonderful.
I read the book awhile back and now am so looking forward to these—thank you for posting!
posted by bookmammal at 3:40 AM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

This podcast has been a treasure and an invaluable history resource
posted by The Whelk at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

There’s also a very good interview with Marcus on the gay culture and interview podcast SEWERS OF PARIS
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on January 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Started listening to these on my commute home tonight and made it through the first five episodes of season 1–and they are wonderful and riveting and moving.
Thanks again for posting this!
posted by bookmammal at 4:05 PM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Great post! This is one of the best podcasts out there.
posted by Riverine at 11:16 AM on January 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Was out for a long walk this slightly-less-cold afternoon and got through a few episodes.

That Wendell Sayers episode - wow. That story about his parents.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Wendell Sayers episode was the one that made me tear up.
posted by bookmammal at 3:03 PM on January 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

S1E8: Jeanne and Morty Manford on the founding of P-FLAG. So beautiful and moving.
posted by hippybear at 1:51 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Popping back in to say that I just finished Season 2 and am totally immersed in these.
Also—if you want to learn more, the book of the same name is in oral history form and includes expanded versions of these interviews plus so many more. I read the updated version a couple of years ago and highly recommend it.
And—I just finished reading How To Survive A Plague this week, which was an interesting accompaniment to this podcast.
posted by bookmammal at 2:36 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

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