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San Diego To Document LGBTQ History

Activists sit on the stairs of San Diego's first LGBT center, which has the sign "The Gay Center," in 1973. It was also known as the "The Center for Social Services."
Lambda Archive
Activists sit on the stairs of San Diego's first LGBT center, which has the sign "The Gay Center," in 1973. It was also known as the "The Center for Social Services."
San Diego To Document LGBTQ History
San Diego To Record LGBTQ History GUESTS:Charles Kaminski, board member, Lambda Archives

Per decade San Diego's LG BT community existed in the shadows. The idea of the community might be forging any kind of history was not considered certainly not by people in the mainstream so it is another testament to changing times that this week the San Diego city Council approved the launch of a study into the history of the city's LG BT Q community a grant from the state will allow San Diego to document the people places and events that gave strength to the community through the years and eventually brought lesbian gay bisexual and transgender people out of the shadows and into the mainstream of San Diego city life. Joining me as Charles Kaminski is a board member of the archives which collects and preserve San Diego LG BT history Charles welcome to the program. Thank you for helping me. You advocated for the city to apply for this grant as you see it what is the goal of the project is it to preserve buildings or create a documented history. I think the idea behind the resource context statement is a framework at the beginning and what it will do is identify themes a specific geographic area which is the city in a timeline of the elves GPT experience the outcome of that may be a listing of potential sites that may be a listing of individuals who made those sites as story get may relate to whatever theme the consultant that the city hires in the community discusses. How do you understand the study will be conducted will there be interviews with people and site visits and that sort of thing? I hope so my understanding of the cities process in the schedule is it will start this fall with the end gauging a consultant and part of that process will be what you said social media, outreach, interviews with elders in the community and I am assuming that will be both LGBT and the heterosexual community because some of the early leaders or supporters of the Tran to community were not gay they were straight. How much do we know about LGBT history in San Diego and you're the guy who should know [ laughter ]. I've only been on the board for a few years but our website has a wonderful timeline and it starts way before 1800. There are couple of little high spots that the Native Americans had some spirited people who were to spirit and they lived in this area. 1800s had some interesting characters in the development of the city, two women who called themselves domestic partners and companions when was a socialite so the history starts utterly. Whether that report will go that far am not sure. You have said Charles that when you look at this historical study of San Diego's LGBT history it may be a good starting point would be World War II or just after why is that? What happened in many large cities San Francisco Los Angeles and San Diego is grouping of individuals who came to support the US during the war and then San Diego's case many stayed after the military was over and this was one of the first times that large groups of same-sex individuals were brought together and I think there was an opportunity for them once they left the military to start exploring who they were as individuals and San Diego being in Navy town and then later the Marines and other armed forces surfaces had the opportunity for individuals who were may be struggling with their sexual identities to not go back home to the Midwest or where they came from but to stay on the coast and be with others they could seek out. San Francisco particularly. Since the land of archives has been documenting this history for quite some time and you have been involved in that as well what are some things that perhaps immediately spring to mind is some of the most important places or events that should be included in this historical record. It's very interesting before I came here today I went online to look at a few places that are on the city's historic records but not as landmarks for the LGBT history so going back in time you had Alice Lee and Catherine the two women I mentioned 1885 building a house just north of Balboa Park by the famous architects Hilbert Gill in that house was declared historical because of its architecture and relationship but not because of their companionship the Villa Montezuma 1905 Jesse Shepard lived with his companion until Jesse died in 1927 again not declared historic. The Fleming residence declared historic in 1980 32250 D St., Golden Hill that the first LGBT center the center for social services nodded knowledge does an important site so part of this report in the study will go back I am hoping and document this and perhaps there will be amendments to the Fleming residence declared historic in 1983 for its LGBT relationship. So that will be included in the history of that particular building. That's correct we are all Americans whether you are LGBT are non-Tran2 and the shows how we participated in the development of the history of San Diego. What Charles has been lost in the history of the LGBT community. Other than the most recent incident I cannot speak to what has gone on before the city is going to rapid changes in the 1950s, in the 1970s and now the recession is over but the most recent concern and most recent incident that occurred was a demolition of the top Kerry house. There were many in the community who felt that was an important LGBT site. Tell us where that was. On Altamonte Boulevard on the corner of Florida was demolished about a month ago or two months ago and it was where these two men and African-American and a white man who were in a relationship wrote a lot of the documentation for the incorporation of the future LGBT center so that was recently lost because it was not identified as an important LGBT site. So people were working on trying to preserve it though and it was lost because it was not official yet is that rate? That is right it was -- the location was part of a larger entitlement that was given without him consideration of any kind of LGBT history [ Indiscernible ] jointly submitted to the State historic preservation office and nomination to the national register for the Michael's Kerry house and that was scheduled to be heard next month in August and when that announcement came out three days later the house was demolished. Or other cities in California undertaking this kind of historical review of their own LGBT communities. Los Angeles completed their study last fall in 2014 and theirs is a very rich history because of the entertainment industry a very dynamic in terms of early protest prior to stonewall. San Francisco is under way they are getting close to their conclusion in San Francisco would be expected to do it so San Diego becomes the third city to undertake this kind of historic resource statement but this is a national heritage initiative the National Park Service has encouraged since 2014 that the LGBT citizens of America started death-defying those places that are important to their community. When I asked about the history of the LGBT community being lost there is actual human history being lost because of the AIDS epidemic. A lot of those people that carry that history with them and it is just never been documented. That is true although the archives has an oral history project and in that oral history project which we are still doing and we are doing it transgender oral history project we have captured many of the early individuals but we have lost so many whether it was to a or now like me getting older we are facing the consequences of growing up in aging so that process is very important oral history whatever the community you are in and another aspect is that the LGBT community is very diverse we are not just Caucasian but we have to capture the experience of all the people of color the Latina community the African-American the Asian community the transgender community because each for the flavors of our history. Charles why is this important to document the history of this community in the actual place with perhaps either buildings or plaques to show in the built environment that these things occurred why not just write a book. Or put up a plaque [ laughter ] I think it's important in the development of any city that there be an understanding of what went on before it is not to say save everything as it is put capture some remnant or fragment of what went on before because knowing who we were and what we did health is defined -- helps to define who we want to be and what we want to become. We see ourselves now and in the future and the story of America in this case is the story of San Diego. Learning about what the LGBT community has done in San Diego will hopefully help us appreciate and value our diversity and each other's people so I think that is an important aspect and that is why the densification to this historical resource report becomes very important. It will help that the city and future growth. To identify where the areas are significant so we could potentially avoid a future Michael carries demolition and loss. I want to thank Charles Comiskey thank you very much. Thank you Marine it is been a pleasure.

The San Diego City Council this week accepted a grant from the state to study the history of the city's "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning or queer" community.

Through the project titled, "San Diego LGBTQ Historic Context Statement," San Diego will document the people, places and events that gave strength to the region's LGBTQ community, who often lived in the shadows because of discrimination.

Charles Kaminski, board member of the Lambda Archives, which collects and preserves San Diego LGBT history, said the city will begin engaging the public in the fall. The city will also hire a consultant to help develop the project.

"What it will do is identify the themes and a timeline of the LGBT experience," Kaminski told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday.

Kaminski said the LGBT history in San Diego begins before the 1800s.

"The 1800s has interesting characters including two women who called themselves domestic partners — one was a socialite," Kaminski said.

He also touched on how the city developed after World War II when people came to San Diego.

"Many stayed when the war was over. Same-sex individuals were brought together," Kaminski said. "There was an opportunity for them to start exploring who they were as individuals."

San Diego To Document LGBTQ History