Founded in 1980, The History Project documents and preserves the history of Boston's LGBT community, and shares that information with the public – by conducting research on lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people in Massachusetts, preserving the documentary record of that community's social and historical contributions, and providing a forum for educating the general public.
THP is perhaps best known for its 1998/9 book “Improper Bostonians : Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland”; they published a second book in 2001 and offer other resources. They’re also on Facebook and Twitter.
THP conducted an oral history interview with me because I’m moving to Washington DC at the end of the month (to live with my long-distance partner of 4 ½ years, Julia McCrossin, a lifelong metro DC resident and Fat Studies scholar), and have been in leadership in Boston’s queer community since I came out as a high school freshperson in 1990 (too, I was born in Boston and have always lived here, and was never really "in"). I was the first out trans student at Newton North High School, a co-founder of their Gay/Straight Alliance and organizer of their first GLBT awareness day, part of their work for MA’s Gay & Lesbian Student Rights Law, part of the first trans / queer couple at their prom (I think there had been at least one gay couple some years before, and Newton South was first with some firsts as well)…and the rest is history – ha!
The interview was conducted by Marvin Kabakoff (also the primary service leader at our shul Congregation Am Tikva) and Andrew Elder, THP archivists and board members, at THP’s offices; Marvin questioned and Andrew filmed (speaking of history, it’s interesting how hard it is to describe the creation of “film” when the whole process is digital, as this was – i.e. there is no film, tape, etc.). The interview was about an hour and a half long, but could have gone on indefinitely – it’s amazing how much has happened in the last twenty-odd years, even/especially locally, and I don't even know all of it.
It wasn’t my best work -- I was getting over a cold, and had been distracted from preparing for the interview by preparing to move. But hopefully it was close enough, and will intersect well with past and future interviews. I did forget some things I shouldn’t have. But I remembered some things that I hadn’t in too long. And even some that THP didn’t know about, or hadn’t heard much about, yet. For instance, did you know that there was a trans organization here in MA before MTPC (MA Trans Political Coaltion)? It’s Time Massachusetts (ITMA), founded and directed by the late Penni Ashe Matz, may her memory be a blessing.
I tried not to be too “back in my day, we had to walk uphill to the Statehouse – both ways! Both ways, I tell you. Even in the snow. And we didn’t have none of your fancy testosterone to keep us warm, neither. No, we did not. And another thing…”. I think I at least managed not to tell anyone to get off my lawn. I think.
Well, I will be receiving a copy of the video. Eeek.
In any case, thanks THP! And thanks to all who helped me make history, not to mention made it themselves. And really -- everyone has, every day, from their first to last days. Privilege and good fortune – and their intersection with oppression and bad fortune -- have enabled me to be part of history in a particular and public way, but we are all and each a vital part of history’s creation, preservation, interpretation and dissemination. And those of us who are part of communities whose history is least known or appreciated have a special role. Those of us in the know, and the appreciate, must raise up fat history, and its intersection with the history of other communities, including queer ones. We must learn and share our history, and we must hold open the door for those whose histories are even less visible due to racism, classism, ableism and other oppressions.
For instance, did you know about Phil Baoine, part of Massachusetts fat and queer history (yes, the caption leaves a lot to be desired)? I just learned about him last month, when THP used a photo of him in the publicity for their year-end fundraising event. He even reminds me of my Julia!