Tillie, a queen from the past, featured in this video was one of the first people I met when moving here to Chicago. I remember she would sit at the head of the bar at Roscoe’s Tavern. She never said an unkind thing and was totally interested in what was going on in your life. She would have her fingers covered in jewelry from her days as a fabulous queen, and was always happy to share a story or two. I’m happy I stumbled across this video, Happy Pride everyone!
Co-produced by the Chicago History Museum, QUEARBORN & PERVERSION took years of research and includes eighty oral histories that have been collected, representing various demographics of the pre-liberation lesbian and gay landscape in Chicago.
Interviewees include Augie Flanagan, one of the first lesbian bar owners; Studs Terkel, who reminisces about his meetings with Pearl Hart, a pioneering attorney and friend of the community; Chuck Renslow, a founding father of male beefcake photography; and Yvonne Hudson and Ernestine Medley, who reveal how they overcame racism in being accepted by their white sisters.
Enriching and illustrating these compelling interviews are treasured private photo collections, old home movies and print memorabilia. Each persons interview gives voice to an important component of the struggle to live an emotionally honest life at a time when societys labels of pervert and sick brainwashed many.
The film also explores the nations first organized homosexual-rights group established by writer Henry Gerber, the subsequent development of a strong social underground structure for men and women in the 1940s and 1950s, and such early rights organizations as Daughters of Bilits and Mattachine Midwest.
Then, in 1969, the strategic placement of a classified ad explicitly in search of a gay roommate by activist Henry Wiemhoff in the University of Chicagos college newspaper, THE MAROON, sowed the seeds of the newly emerging Gay Liberation movement.
QUEARBORN & PERVERSION concludes in the early 1970s with the flashpoints of the first gay rights march (not yet identified as a parade), same-sex dances and the opening of the first community center.