June is “Pride Month,” when we celebrate the diversity in our communities with special appreciation for our LGBTQ+ community members. This month’s From the Archive blog post focuses on three collections at the Folklife Center that highlight the experiences of LGBTQ+ Vermonters.
Collection #1: RU12? Queer Stories
The RU12? Community Center (based on the phrase “Are you one too?”) was founded in 1998, and has since evolved into the Pride Center of Vermont. In 2005 the Vermont Folklife Center partnered with RU12? on the Queer Stories project. RU12? intern Heidi Wagner conducted the majority of the interviews, organizing them around a series of questions generated by youth from Outright Vermont and the University of Vermont’s GLBT group. These 16 interviews explore the experiences of LGBTQ+ people, including early role models in the media and in the neighborhood, identification, coming out, and finding others like you, but the interviews also include questions about everyday life—families, growing up, and finding your vocational path in life. In the interviews, people candidly share their insights and experiences. As interviewee Nancy states:
I mean, I think life’s full of surprises. I think for the most part sexuality and gender, quite honestly, are very, very fluid. I’m not sure that we’ll ever capture its real meaning beyond just kind of broad categories and that the most important thing to do is to ask individual people where they would put themselves on a continuum or what their experience is and recognize that even that will change over time.
Collection #2: Backstage at the Rainbow Cattle Club
In 2010 and 2011 VFC Folklorist Greg Sharrow and photographer Evie Lovett captured a series of interviews and black-and-white photographs of the Ladies of the Rainbow Cattle Co, a drag performance troupe based out of the Rainbow Cattle Co, a gay bar in Dummerston, VT. The interviews explore the culture of drag, gender, performance, identity and transformation, and formed the basis of our exhibit, Backstage at the Rainbow Cattle Co. The complete collection, including Evie’s fabulous photos, is available through the Vermont Folklife Center Archive. You can also hear some of the audio from the collection in the second episode of VT Untapped™, the Folklife Center’s monthly podcast series.
Collection #3: Voices of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Movement
2011 marked the two-year anniversary of the passage of the Marriage Equality Act legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of Vermont. Madeleine Winterfalcon, a lesbian involved in the LGBTQ+ community in Vermont (and VFC Assistant Archivist!), was closely involved with the marriage equality movement in the state, and through her involvement, heard many personal stories during the campaign that she wanted to preserve. She ended up organizing an oral history project, conducting 17 interviews with participants. The interviews range from pro-marriage to anti-marriage, and include gay and lesbian singles and couples, and allies. Drawing on the interviews, Winterfalcon then crafted 15 short audio pieces that allowed the interviewees tell their stories in their own words, and the audio clips were aired as a VFC blog series in 2011. Their stories in their own words are here at the Folklife Center.
A New Collection in the Making: Launching the First Burlington Pride Parade and Festival
Winterfalcon’s work continues with a new set of interviews currently underway. In conjunction with Margaret Tamulonis of the Fleming Museum and Andy Kolovos, Head Archivist at the Vermont Folklife Center, Winterfalcon is interviewing individuals who were organizers of the first Burlington Pride parade and festival in 1983. Upon completion of these interviews, the work will involve presenting an exhibit of this event using audio and newspaper clippings as well as other items.
The Vermont Folklife Center is proud to support this vibrant community through its staffing, its family members, and its collections. You can listen to interviews from the three current collections by visiting the Vermont Folklife Center.