Annual Meeting Preview: “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Philadelphia's Queer Past"

1943 Frances Palamidas Cleopatra Gallagher Club, New Years Day Mummers Parade. John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia

This session takes place on Friday, April 5, at the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia and is endorsed by the OAH Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Historians and Histories.

(Panelist Bob Skiba will also lead the tour "From the Ghetto to the Gayborhood" on Saturday, April 6.)

Chair: Marc Stein, San Francisco State University

• Jen Manion, Amherst College
Bob Skiba, John J. Wilcox Archives
Jason Orne, Drexel University
V. Chaudhry, Northwestern University

"Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Philadelphia's Queer Past"

This session brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars who are conducting research on Philadelphia's LGBTQ past and related aspects of the history of gender, race, space, and sexuality. In the last two decades, scholarship on Philadelphia LGBT history has contributed significantly to larger conversations about the histories, politics, and cultures of cities, while also introducing new ways of thinking about local, regional, national, and transnational genders and sexualities. Local histories are sometimes dismissed as narrow and provincial, but the participants in this roundtable all share a sense that Philadelphia’s exceptionally rich history of gender and sexual transgression, across more than three centuries, offers unique opportunities for addressing important conceptual, methodological, theoretical, and political questions for historical, gender, and sexuality studies.

Amherst College historian Jen Manion will introduce new scholarship on female to male gender crossings in 19th century Philadelphia and relate this to the history of abolitionism, women's rights, and broader debates about race and gender. Public historian Bob Skiba, curator of the John J. Wilcox Archives at Philadelphia's LGBT Community Center, will discuss his research on pre–World War Two topics in Philadelphia LGBT history, including queer aspects of the Mummers Parade. Drexel University sociologist Jason Orne will introduce new scholarship on the changing spatial distribution of Philadelphia LGBTQ commercial spaces from the 1960s to the present. Northwestern University anthropologist V. Varun Chaudhry will consider the recent institutionalization of "transgender" as a category, particularly in relation to the Philadelphia Trans Health/Wellness Conference, which began in the early 2000s. San Francisco State University historian Marc Stein (author of the first scholarly monograph on Philadelphia LGBT history) will introduce his new scholarship on Philadelphia queer history, moderate the roundtable, and encourage audience participation.

With the Annual Meeting taking place in Philadelphia, we thought this might be a great opportunity to organize a session focused on local queer history. The creation of the OAH Committee on the Status of LGBT Historians and Histories a few years ago has contributed greatly to the increased presence of queer history on the Annual Meeting program; we want to be part of that and highlight the ways that queer history is connected to the history of race and gender, cities and suburbs, movements and activism, health and medicine, and politics and culture. We hope the focus on Philadelphia will appeal to not only OAH queer historians, but also to other historians of Philadelphia, community-based historians, and everyone who attends the Annual Meeting. By showcasing the work of academic historians, public historians, a sociologist, and an anthropologist, we also want to contribute to interdisciplinary conversations about the past.

For those who are interested in background readings, one place to start would be panelist Marc Stein’s book City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945–1972 (2000; 2004). More recently, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s magazine Legacies published a special issue on LGBT history (Spring 2016); one of the articles is by panelist Jen Manion. Another great resource is panelist Bob Skiba’s “Gayborhood Guru” blog, which can be found at There’s also Glenn Holsten’s documentary film Gay Pioneers, which focuses on the Annual Reminder demonstrations at Independence Hall on the Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969.

Marc Stein is the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Professor of History at San Francisco State University and the former (and founding) chair of the OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories. He is the author of City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945–1972 (University of Chicago Press, 2000); Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions from Griswold to Roe (University of North Carolina Press, 2010); and Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement (Routledge, 2012). He also served as the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of LGBT History in America (Scribners, 2003) and the guest editor of a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality on "U.S. Homophile Internationalism" (2017). His next book, Documenting the Stonewall Riots: A Primary Source Reader, will be published by NYU Press in 2019.


Posted: December 11, 2018
Tagged: Previews, Conference, OAH Works