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Boston is Making Lesbian Herstory Come Alive

History has a funny way of forgetting people. Walk down any tourist path in Boston and you’ll be bombarded with tales of war heroes and founding fathers. But what about the revolutionaries who fought for equality from a different front – the LGBTQ+ community? 

Our herstory is often relegated to footnotes, our contributions erased with academics debating if we were lifelong “roommates.” For me, as a queer person with a strong interest in history and cultural preservation, this lack of representation is a constant reminder of the invisibility we can still face. 

That’s why new initiatives in Boston are so exciting – it’s unearthing the hidden herstory of Boston’s LGBTQ+ community, proving that our stories deserve a place on the map and in the grand narrative of the past.

An Inclusive Queer History Tour

Delve into Boston’s rich LGBTQ+ history with a curated walking tour Rainbow Revolutionaries Tours. Step back in time and explore Boston’s vibrant LGBTQ+ history with Rainbow Revolutionaries. Yes, you’ll be joined by a costumed guide dressed in 18th-century attire but it’s not gimmicky. Our guide, Emily had a wealth of experience and knowledge of queer history both in Boston and across the state of Massachusetts. 

 As they lead you along the Freedom Trail and to additional hidden gems just off the beaten path. This unique tour explores seven locations that weave together the stories of Boston’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Guests will discover the fascinating history of Boston Marriages, learn about pivotal moments in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and uncover the secret romances of some of Boston’s most celebrated figures – from literary giants to renowned actresses and even a Revolutionary War hero. The best part of this tour is that it’s intersectional and includes a wide variety of examples of queer Bostonians who’ve changed and built a community for our people. 

If guided tours aren’t your thing, Boston has a wide variety of options for you to learn at your own pace. 

Visiting Boston, I stumbled upon a hidden gem – Boston LGBT History Project. This organization is dedicated to uncovering and preserving the rich history of LGBTQ+ communities throughout New England. More than just an archive, it’s a vibrant community space that hosts events, exhibits, and opportunities for locals and visitors to connect. 

Founded in 1980 as an independent non-profit, The History Project not only safeguards these precious historical artifacts but also actively supports research and shares these stories with the public through exhibitions and events. It’s a space for anyone interested in exploring the often-overlooked past of LGBTQ+ people in Boston, be they members of the community itself or allies.

From Salons to Suffrage

Discover the inspiring stories of Boston’s pioneering women at the Boston Women’s Memorial. Located on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall near Newbury Street, the Boston Women’s Memorial is a tribute to three influential women in Boston’s history: Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley. 

Boston Women's Memorial

The memorial features sculptures by artist Meredith Bergmann, designed to encourage interaction with the viewer. The sculptures depict each woman using her pedestal in a unique way, rather than standing on it passively, just as they did in their lifetimes with their metaphorical platforms. If you’re up for a bit of a drive, about 3 hours from Boston is the Susan B Anthony’s Birthplace Museum in Adams Massachusetts. 

Art with a Viewpoint

 Immerse yourself in the works of female artists and LGBTQ+ creators at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

A trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum this summer just got a lot more queer. Their new exhibition explores how portrait photography by LGBTQIA+ artists from across the country captures the many facets of the community. 

Spread across three galleries, including even the building’s exterior, the exhibit promises to delve into how these photographers use their art form to explore self-discovery, forge connections within the community, and celebrate the chosen families they’ve built. 

Each artist brings their own unique style, but they all share a focus on creating a space where their subjects can feel comfortable and tell their stories, sometimes even becoming the storytellers themselves. 

The one I’m most excited about is – “On Christopher Street: Transgender Portraits by Mark Seliger.” 

The photographer spent years building trust with transgender individuals in New York’s Greenwich Village, particularly those connected to Christopher Street, a historic neighborhood for the LGBTQ+ community. The exhibit, on display from June 13th to September 8th, aims to celebrate these individuals, share their stories, and capture the essence of Christopher Street in their lives.

This article was written with support from Meet Boston

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