John D’Emilio wants you to contribute to your community.
As co-creator of the website OutHistory.org, D’Emilio is searching for new voices to tell those key stories about important figures and events throughout LGBT history.
“History is so important in building a community,” said D’Emilio in a telephone interview last week from from Chicago where he teaches in the Gender & Women’s Studies program at the University of Illinois-Chicago. “Through history we get a sense of who belongs and why it is important and, quite frankly, there has been so little recorded about LGBT history.”
D’Emilio has written extensively about gay life. His “Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America,” a book he co-authored with Estelle B. Freedman, is in its third edition. It was cited by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws in 14 states. D’Emilio called the citing his “greatest moment.”
He hopes OutHistory.org will give people a new platform to share their lives, stories and in the process serve as a vital resource for those researching LGBT issues. On the website, one can search through names, places, subjects and documents. Under a participate category, those visiting the site can add their own content, network with others or tell their own story.
“The history of sexuality is in a new era. The meaning of sex in people’s lives has changed,” D’Emilio said. “Today, sex is a form of identity for people.”
OutHistory.org contains notes on many influential people from Oscar Wilde to Lady Gaga. As for his own personal favorite, D’Emilio cited Chicagoan Jane Addams as a world-class social justice reformer.
“I wish she was my great aunt,” he joked.
The brainchild of Jonathan Ned Katz, who penned the groundbreaking documentary “Gay American History,” OutHistory.org launched its redesign last month and D’Emilio envisions the site to become a key place to learn about the gradual development of the American LGBT community. Florida, he said, should be strongly represented.
“You have to learn your own community…where you are living,” he said. “Shouldn’t Florida have a rich LGBT history?”John McDonald