Friday, December 14, 2007

In honor of Allan Berube (1946-2007), a gentle man whose smile and dedicated explorations gifted us all in the early days of gay and lesbian history work.
"I have been lucky enough in my own life to have participated in the beginning moments of a people's movement from private history to public discourse. I remember the early meetings in Boston, Manhattan, Maine, San Francisco, Toronto, where a handful of men and women gathered to share their discoveries and to agonize over how to find the money to continue their work, how best to share their discoveries with the communities they were documenting, and how to balance the need for anonymity--a survival tactic of our people for so long--against the delight of revelation. I remember the flickering slide shows, capturing the lost faces and communal streets of other gay times, and the stunned recognition of audiences who were meeting for the first time with their own public story. In those days, we were not always sure that this fledgling idea of lesbian and gay history would find a home in the world..." (from A Fragile Union)
These were the years that brought Allan to me, as it did Deborah Edel, Elizabeth Kennedy and Madeline Davis, Jonathan Katz and Amber Hollibaugh, John DiEmilio, Pat Gozemba and Bert Hanson--sitting cross legged on a San Francisco wooden floor, at a meeting of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Grass Roots History Project, Allan sharing his discoveries in turn of the century California newspaper articles of passing women, sitting on a bench outside the Sex and History Conference in Toronto--I have a photograph I gave to the archives of Allan, Liz, Bobbi and Deb mugging for the camera on that bench at this ground breaking conference of queer grassroots historians and sex workers. In these 1970s days we overflowed with our passions for this new thing--the freaks turned into history--comrades we were with our slightly out of focus slide projectors, Jonathan with his index cards filling all surfaces in his village apartment and his black and white kitten rubbing his cheeks against what would become an entry in Gay American History. We were the archives girls, schlepping, schlepping artifacts of lesbian life from pillar to post, spreading the word, inspired by the rich discoveries of our comrades in Buffalo, in Boston, in San Francisco. And I looking to my own erotic past, took with me to small towns and larger ones, my images and words of butch and fem women from the 1950s --determined that feminism and queer history would be their home.
Dear Dear Allan--it has been many years since last we met--but I can see your face so clearly, remembering your gentle but insistent speaking out about the closing of the bath houses, remember that quiet grin, impish and smart, never did I feel smaller in your presence. You made large things possible with a minimal amount of self aggrandizement and your history work changed the story this country tells about its self.


Ms. Manitoba said...

Beautiful writing about Allan. Thank you. He was one of the dearest people I have met. I, too, haven't seen him in a while. And now ... it is so bloody final!

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