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Books documenting the History of LGBTQ Life in Wisconsin

Prior to the 21st century, LGBT life in Wisconsin, as in most of the United States and world, was largely hidden from the mainstream media and the public, due to widespread homophobia. This began to change after the Stonewall uprising in New York City in 1969, and gradually the stories of LGBT life began to be told as its increasing acceptance by the mainstream press and the public increased. Gradually, books began to be printed and more widely available.

In Wisconsin, the period beginning in 2016 is turning out to be the "Golden Age' for books about LGBTQ life and history in Wisconsin. It began with the book "LGBT Milwaukee" published in 2016 by the Curator of this web site, Michail Takach. This was followed by two books by Madison LGBT activist R. Richard Wagner. In 2021, two new books, " by Michail Takach and B.J. Daniels; and "We've Been Here All Along" by Jenny Kalvaitis and Kristen Whitson.

While Richard Wagner has since died, we can look forward to more books by these and more authors as more stories of LGBT life in Wisconsin are uncovered and revealed.

Books on LGBT Life with Wisconsin connections

    Out of All Time (1988, Terry Boughner) - A book about select gay and lesbian historical figures, written by Terry Boughner (co-founder of the 'Wisconsin Light' LGBT newspaper in 1987), and published by Alyson Press in 1988. (There are no Wisconsin figures in this book however.)

    LGBT Milwaukee (2016, Michail Takach) - Michail Takach had a deep concern for researching Wisconsin LGBT history, and began collaborating with this web site in 2012, while writing stories of LGBT life in Wisconsin for such media as OnMilwaukee and other web sites. He published his first book "LGBT Milwaukee" in 2016, which contains a significant amount of his original research from hours spent at the Milwaukee County Historical Society and from numerous other sources. The book is believed to be the first comprehensive social history of LGBTQ Milwaukee ever published, tracing the rise and fall of over six dozen landmark bars, gathering places and pride celebrations, with revealing seldom-seen historical photographs. With contributions from many local elders and icons, the book "LGBT Milwaukee" celebrates the resilience, determination and unity required to bring a community out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

    We've Been Here All Along (2019, R. Richard Wagner) - In 2019, Madison LGBT activist and author R. Richard Wagner authored the first of two groundbreaking volumes on gay history in Wisconsin, "We've Been Here All Along". The book provides an illuminating and nuanced picture of Wisconsin's gay history from the reporting on the Oscar Wilde trials of 1895 to the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969. Throughout these decades, gay Wisconsinites developed identities, created support networks, and found ways to thrive in their communities despite various forms of suppression--from the anti-vice crusades of the early twentieth century, to the post-war labeling of homosexuality as an illness, to the Lavender Scare of the 1950s.

    Coming Out, Moving Forward: Wisconsin's Recent Gay History (2020, R. Richard Wagner) - This, the second volume in Wagner’s work on gay history in Wisconsin, was released mid-2020. The revealing book outlines the challenges that LGBT Wisconsinites faced in their efforts to right past oppressions and secure equality in the post-Stonewall period between 1969 and 2000. During this era, Wisconsin made history as the first state to enact a gay rights law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. It also became the first state to elect three openly gay/lesbian persons to Congress.

    We Will Always Be Here: A Guide to Exploring and Understanding the History of LGBTQ+ Activism in Wisconsin" (2021, Jenny Kalvaitis and Kristen Whitson) -- The Wisconsin Historical Society Press announced 2021 this book in 2021; its first book for teen readers on LGBTQ+ history. Authors Jenny Kalvaitis and Kristen Whitson present examples of LGBTQ+ activism throughout Wisconsin’s history for young people to explore and discuss.

    History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour (2022, Michail Takach and B.J. Daniels) - This book, published by American Heritage press, covers "The queens that made Milwaukee famous". For over a century, drag has been an unstoppable force in Milwaukee nightlife. On June 7, 1884, The Only Leon brought the fine art of female impersonation to the Grand Opera Hall, launching a proud local legacy that continues today at This Is It, La Cage, Hamburger Mary's, D.I.X. and innumerable other venues. This history is examined by authors LGBT historian Michail Takach in his second book, and legendary performed B.J. Daniels in her first.

Credits: Web site concept, design and format by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: June-2022.

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