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Mapping the Gay Guides: Using Digital History to Explore LGBTQ Travel Guides, 1965-1980
November 23, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
While on his frequent business trips around the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bob Damron wanted to find bars and other locales to meet other men like him. A gay man, Damron sought friends, companions, and safety at friendly businesses in the various cities he visited. He began jotting down the names of the spots he frequented, sometimes loaning out his notebooks to fellow gay friends to take with them on their own journeys. His prolific lists became the basis of gay travel guide he began publishing in 1964. Named the Bob Damron Address Books, these travel guides became almost survival guides to gay and queer travelers across the United States. First published in an era when most states banned same-sex intimacy both in public and private spaces, these travel guides helped gays find community spaces that catered to people like themselves. Much like the Green Books of the 1950s and 1960s, which African Americans used to find friendly businesses that would cater to black citizens in the era of Jim Crow apartheid, Damron’s guidebooks aided a generation of queer people in identifying sites of community, pleasure, and politics.
Mapping the Gay Guides is a digital history project that is freely available online and uses mapping technology to transform these guidebooks into an interactive experience where users can explore historical queer geography. The site includes over 34,000 locations from all 50 states between 1965 and 1980. Join us as project directors Amanda Regan and Eric Gonzaba discuss Mapping the Gay Guides and what we can learn from using technology to study historical LGBTQ spaces! In the meantime checkout the project at: www.mappingthegayguides.org
Dr. Amanda Regan is a historian of the late-nineteenth and twentieth-centuries and is currently a Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. She earned her PhD in History from George Mason University in 2019.
Dr. Eric Gonzaba is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. He received his doctorate in American History from George Mason University in 2019. A specialist in African American history and LGBT culture, he’s currently completing a book on the culture and politics of gay nightlife in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia since 1970.