Where can you be safe and be yourself?

It is okay to be “Other.”  

By the 1950s, an organized, dispersed gay rights movement existed. Rights, let alone safety and protection, were scarce. Most cities had bars, but police regularly raided them. Gay people were frequently harassed, arrested, or beaten, so they gathered in homes, bathhouses, and bars, or met each other in mainstream social groups, churches, and classrooms. Sometimes, the best place to find community was with a book, a magazine, a TV show, or the internet. 

Rolodex, 1960s–2008

Rolodex, 1960s–2008

A Rolodex of people in the large, nationwide network of California activists and publishers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.  

Gift of Kendra Mon 

45 rpm record, around 1956

45 rpm record, around 1956

Lisa Ben (a.k.a. Edythe Eyde) created this gay parody of “Frankie and Johnnie,” produced by the Daughters of Bilitis. 

Gift of Kendra Mon

Matchbook covers from Los Angeles gay bars Blanche’s, Boots, The Flame, Gold Coast, and Woody’s, 1990s–2010 

Matchbook covers from Los Angeles gay bars Blanche’s, Boots, The Flame, Gold Coast, and Woody’s, 1990s–2010 

Archives Center Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Collection, National Museum of American History, 1915–2016 

Women’s bathroom sign, 1980s

Women’s bathroom sign, 1980s

From the Herizon Club, Binghamton, New York.  

Gift of Adele Brown 

Mattachine Review, 1955

Mattachine Review, 1955

Published by the Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization founded in 1950 by Harry Hay and others in Los Angeles.  

Archives Center Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Collection, National Museum of American History, 1915–2016 

The Ladder, a Lesbian Review, 1964

The Ladder, a Lesbian Review, 1964

Published by the Daughters of Bilitis, a social club founded in 1955 in San Francisco by Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, and others as an alternative to bars and night clubs.

Archives Center Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Collection, National Museum of American History, 1915–2016

The Third Sex, 1959

The Third Sex, 1959

Lesbian pulp fiction book by Artemis Smith. Unlike many LGBTQ+ stories of the 1940s and 1950s, this one does not end in tragedy.  

"Tell,” 1994 

Referring to the partial lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” restriction on military service.

Gift of Bil Browning and Jerame Davis 

“1989 Conference of Gay and Lesbian Jews,” Chicago, Illinois 

“1989 Conference of Gay and Lesbian Jews,” Chicago, Illinois