That’s So Gay: Outing Early America

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(February 10 – October 17, 2014)

The exhibition That’s So Gay: Outing Early America shows that – like African Americana and women’s history – the abundance of resources documenting the subject at the Library Company merely needs to be revealed. To paraphrase the late gay activist Harry Hay (1912-2002), history knows more about gay people than it knows it knows.

How can we know whether someone was gay? There are many answers to that question, but ultimately we cannot know whether a person who lived in the past would be called lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender today.

That does not mean, however, that we cannot study gay history. Individuals participated in same-sex relationships, wrote poems and novels celebrating such relationships, deviated from gender norms, and suffered for such deviance in ways that are well-documented in the historical record. Gayness can also be considered a shared cultural experience based on an intrinsically gay outlook on the world.