Our history is the story of resistance, resilience and rebirth in the face of violence, criminalization and a devastating epidemic. As with all communities, the story of who we are and what we’ve been through informs our future. Historical societies are the gatekeepers of our stories; in these increasingly hostile times, their work has never been more important. That’s why the GLBT Historical Society and Archives in San Francisco has launched a new campaign called #HistoryIsResistance.
The #HistoryIsResistance campaign is dedicated to exposing all generations to the incredible, priceless footage found in the Historical Society’s archives. Some of this footage has only recently been discovered and hasn’t been seen before.
To get these important glimpses of our history in the public eye, the Historical Society teamed up with filmmaker Leo Herrera to create a series of music videos. The videos showcase the historical footage with soundtracks from contemporary queer artists. The first video is “It Girl,” featuring the vocals of Mister Wallace, a Chicago and New York City-based performer known for gender-bending hip-hop and lightning-fast rhymes.
“It’s important to remember what these queens are doing in the films was completely illegal. It was a time where wearing drag could land you in a psychiatric ward, on the front page of the newspaper, in jail or all three,” says Herrera. “Yet, while we tend to think of these past eras as only having miserable, lonely queer folks, these films tell a different tale. When we look back at this tumultuous present, it’s going to be important to let a new generation know that we were still enjoying being queer. That’s what this campaign is about. Now more than ever it’s crucial institutions like the GLBT Historical Society are being supported.”
Watching these queens dance without shame isn’t just history — it’s inspiration. It reminds us that we must take every opportunity to openly express ourselves as an act of solidarity for those who cannot. HIV is still killing us, legal protections are weakening and trans women continue to be murdered. We can resist. We will survive. We will tell our stories.
The GLBT Historical Society and Museum’s statement on the #HistoryIsResistance campaign reads:
#HistoryIsResistance celebrates the Historical Society as a pillar of queer power. Our aim is to encourage and reward membership through curated online content and IRL gatherings that promote that our very existence IS resistance.
As most authoritarian regimes have shown, a way to oppress a people is to deny them their history and culture. Throughout history, queer people have been especially susceptible to this; our records go back only a fraction in time, stigma and the law forced us into closets, AIDS nearly wiped a generation and even our closest family members have been complacent in erasing our history.
Yet, one of our beacons against this smudging of culture are the archives and museums which actively keep our queer stories from disappearing. The GLBT Historical Society and Museum is one of the few organizations of its kind in the world. We are the backbone of queer culture in San Francisco and America.
During this time of political turmoil, join us in celebration and in resistance with art, nightlife and history!
If you want to support the good work the Historical Society is doing, now is the time. In celebration of Pride, memberships are only $15.
How are you reminding the world that #HistoryIsResistance?
Featured image of a 1971 Gay Pride event by Grey Villet via The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images