About

 

Notes on identity:

The use of identity labels throughout LGBT history is a messy and fraught with  controversy. Terminology that is preferred or embraced in one generation often becomes a pejorative in the next. Throughout this project, I try to use the terminology that was commonly used during the time period in which I am discussing. My purpose here is to more accurately convey the atmosphere and sensibilities of the people, places and events at the time they took place. I do this because I believe that when we yank history and polish it up for modern priorities, we lose the full context of the times we are attempting to observe. I believe it is best to use the words our fore-bearers used to describe the communities they created for themselves and to understand better how they saw themselves. At no point should my use of these terms be construed as a lack of awareness of the ways these terms can cause discomfort with contemporary readers.

Notes on epithets:

When discussing any history that touches on acts of bigotry, there is the dilemma of how to treat epithets. One solution is to cloak it with asterisks or resort to other means to protect readers from disturbing and harmful language. I do not do this. My reasoning is two-fold. First, if my purpose here is to more accurately convey the spirit of the times, it is essential to accurately reproduce the language of the times. And secondly, these words really were spoken or written, with impunity, and often with pride. If we preserve those words along with the names of those who uttered them, then we ensure their legacy, such as it is, is never forgotten. Maybe it will serve as a lesson for those who today think nothing of expressing similar or other forms of bigotry. If that is the legacy they want to leave to their descendants, let them have it.