Knowledge of queer history is being lost. Many who were highly active in the queer civil rights movements of the 70’s and 80’s are now elders. Younger queer folk may not be aware of what preceded them, while older people may not know what it’s like to be young and queer in this new century. Our project aims to change this, by offering a new approach to oral history. While there are lots of oral histories out there, many of them exist only as audio recordings or transcripts in academic libraries that likely never see the light of day.
The Queer Oral History Project digitally records queer people’s life stories on video. All of the videos are archived, tagged, and searchable by keyword. Scholars or others who’d like to view an entire interview may do so through a simple request process. In respect of privacy, those who’d prefer their story be available only by request may do so. People can also record and upload their own stories. Imagine watching a transgender activist in a small city in the south tell their story, or someone recording the stories told by a home-bound queer elder.
The Queer Oral History Project began as a grant-funded affiliate program of the Utah Pride Center in Summer of 2009. It was awarded $4,000 from the Utah Pride Center and the Utah Humanities Council. Best friends Jeremy Yamashiro and David Alder combined their respective degrees—one in Anthropology and the other in Film—to bridge generations and identities. Four years later in San Francisco, Jed Barnum joined the project as the scope was increased. New interviews were recorded in June as part of Pride month, and eventually this website was launched in early 2014. The organization is currently looking for a fiscal sponsor, as we work our way toward full nonprofit status.
This project doesn’t happen without the support of so many in our community who have already generously volunteered their time, talents and voices. Ed Ehrgott has offered plenty of support on the technical side of things in the early stages of our website. Stephen Leader has interviewed people about their stories, and Ken Hodnett generously used his equipment to record those interviews. Kyle Devries generously invited us to be a part of Faetopia during SF Pride month.