Mapping a Reflective Narrative of D.C.’s Gay Liberation Movement

Welcome, Darlings, to the Gay Movement,” is a reflective timeline of DC’s Gay Liberation Front. The tour uses ArcGIS StoryMaps and content from the Rainbow History Project’s digital archives to offer insight into the brief radical movement with the intention to highlight the similarities with the current young queer community.

The appplication begins by situating GLF-DC within the wider national movement and history of queerness before moving into the spark that initiated the formation of a DC branch. Users are invited to explore the maps and click on pushpins to reveal additional photos and blurbs about the locations frequented by GLF members. The central narration of each event concludes with a series of reflective questions that prompts the user to think about their own experiences within the LGBTQ+ world.

The app concludes by asking how radical queer organizations have contributed to the world today and “how [users] will continue the fight.”

Evaluation

What began as a virtual mapped tour of a queer activist’s “day in the life,” turned into a reflective jaunt through the timeline of the DC Gay Liberation Front. Although this was not exactly what I envisioned, I still believe that the project benefits those interested in queer history by grouping together available archival documents and recordings, pinpointing the places of significance, and linking together queer radicalism with activists of the present.

I used RHP and former GLF member, Brian Miller’s pdf timeline of the GLF-DC movement as a storyboard to draw out main themes of the movement and zero in on various events around the city. Then I created a list of links to photos, oral history clips, addresses, and newspaper clippings. This master list described where I found the material, who was featured, and allowed me to link the content directly through the ArcGIS map. After much trial and error, I created 14 points for users to explore themes of pride, protest, discrimination, mental health, religion, and more.

Once I finished the app, I enlisted the help of several queer friends (EJ, Tabitha, Rachel, and Erin) to beta-test it. I made important changes to the usability and points of narrative using their feedback.

Both EJ and Tabitha are trusted friends hailing from Indiana, and as I thought about their perspective of the app, the more I realized that I could connect with them by asking more open questions about GLF-DC events, such as “Where did you first attend Pride? How has religion affected your life? Have you experienced discrimination within queer spaces?” The questions remain open for each user to answer for themselves.

In the future, I’d love to add more points to the maps and of course, more photographs once the RHP physical archives reopen to the public. Additionally, I’d like to put more research into creating a more interactive component of the app, where users can actually submit answers to the posed questions. Once I embed a commenting feature, I’d like to share it more widely within the queer community.

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