New Exhibition Chronicles Miami-Dade’s Gay History

Marchers in Miami’s first LGBT rights parade (1978) hold signs displaying their professions. Credit: Tim Chapman, Tim Chapman Collection, HistoryMiami Museum

“Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities,” a new exhibit opening Saturday, March 16 at HistoryMiami Museum, explores Miami’s queer past, reflecting its gender and sexual diversity for over a century. 

Curated by author and historian Julio Cap, Jr., the exhibition presents the stories of Miami’s queer communities who, despite discrimination, isolation, and violence, managed to carve out spaces for themselves and made their voices heard in South Florida. Hundreds of artifacts, photographs, archival footage and other items were assembled for the exhibit.

Displayed in the museum’s 5,000 square foot gallery,Queer Miami” will address topics ranging from policing and criminalization, community development, advocacy and activism, immigration and the AIDS crisis to what the future holds for Miami’s queer community.  

Visitors will be able to examine memorabilia from some of Miami’s oldest gay bars, photographs of rallies and marches, archival material from Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign, historical footage and original video interviews from the people involved in building Miami’s LGBTQ communities. Interactive components will also encourage visitors to contribute their own stories to the exhibition.

HistoryMiami Museum executive director Jorge Zamanillo said, “This exhibit is unique because the story is still being told and changing every day. We’re inviting visitors to tell their own stories and be a part of history.”

He added, “We live in such a diverse city, it can be a challenge to tell every story. I think it will be eye-opening…People will come out learning a lot more than they expect, especially the deep history of the struggle, going back to the beginning of the 20thcentury. There’s a lot of important history that has taken place right here.”

“It’s an exciting—and most necessary—time to tell these stories,” added Capó. “One of the greatest challenges in studying LGBTQ history is that our lives and experiences are so often purposefully erased from history books and archives. As this exhibit will show, our LGBTQ community, of which I am also a proud member, has persisted and persevered in Miami since its inception.”

An expert on the intersection of gender and sexuality throughout history, Capó is also the author of “Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami Before 1940.” Published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2017, his book received honors from the Florida Historical Society, Florida Book Awards and Southern Historical Association. Capó is currently an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

HistoryMiami museum will open the exhibition with a preview party on Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m. The opening reception will feature live music, performances and complimentary beverages. Tickets are $10 or free with pre-registration at bit.ly/Queer-Miami-Party. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday and regular admission is $10. For more information, go to HistoryMiami.org.

 


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