By Mary Kenny, SFSU News
Two years ago, an exploration of U.S. perceptions about Canadian sexual politics took Professor Marc Stein on a journey that led him to a new understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues around the globe. The result? A new online archive of gay and lesbian magazines dating back more than 60 years that includes information from six regions around the world.
According to Stein, Canada decriminalized homosexual acts three decades before the U.S., accepted gays in the military nearly 20 years before the U.S., and legalized gay marriage 10 years before the U.S., “and those are just three legal signs of a difference in the culture of the two countries.”
“I hoped that by looking at the U.S. homophile periodicals of the 1950s and 1960s, I’d develop a sense of whether the perception that Canada is more sexually liberal than the United States pre-dated the decriminalization of homosexuality that occurred when Pierre Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister in the late 1960s,” said Stein, SF State’s Jaime and Phyllis Pasker Endowed Chair in History.
The archive, titled “U.S. Homophile Internationalism: An Online Archive and Exhibit of the 1950s and 1960s,” is featured on the OutHistory website. It features annotated bibliographies, digitized materials and more than 1,000 items — including photos, letters to the editor, op-eds, feature stories, news stories and advertisements — from Africa; Asia and the Pacific; Canada; Latin America and the Caribbean; the Middle East; and Russia, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
The project morphed as soon as Stein began analyzing the first three U.S. gay and lesbian magazines of the 1950s and 1960s: ONE, Mattachine Review and The Ladder. He quickly realized his research “would be strengthened by a broader consideration of U.S. homophile references to, representations of and contributions from other parts of the world,” he said.
The project was funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council when Stein was a professor of history at York University in Toronto. (Stein joined SF State in fall 2014.) With a portion of the funding, Stein hired six research assistants from among his York Ph.D. students. The research assistants analyzed and compiled the information on each region of the world.
The archive includes bibliographies for the period from 1953, when ONE magazine began publication, through 1964. Stein said it made sense to end the bibliographies in 1964 when a new homophile magazine, Drum, began publication and quickly surpassed the others in circulation.
Eventually, however, he would like the archive to extend to 1969, generally recognized as marking the transition to an era of more vocal advocacy and political activity on behalf of gay liberation and lesbian feminism.
Stein said the archive is a comprehensive resource for students, scholars and everyone interested in the history of gender and sexuality. “We very much hope that it will inspire new interest in global histories of gender and sexuality and contribute to the internationalization of U.S. LGBT history,” Stein said.