Archive for Monday, March 31, 2008

KU librarian reaches out to gay Kansans for untold stories

Through a grant, Tami Albin, Lawrence, has created a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer oral history collection titled "Under the Rainbow: Oral Histories of GLBTIQ People in Kansas." Albin was photographed in her Lawrence home with her cat Maggie.

Through a grant, Tami Albin, Lawrence, has created a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer oral history collection titled "Under the Rainbow: Oral Histories of GLBTIQ People in Kansas." Albin was photographed in her Lawrence home with her cat Maggie.

March 31, 2008

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Interview with Tami Albin

Tami Albin talks about her interviews for the "Under the Rainbow" project.

Pride week activities

Kansas University's annual Pride Week starts today. Here are the scheduled events:

Today: Tabling and cake at Wescoe Beach, 11 a.m.; Lea Delaria concert, 8 p.m., Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Murphy Hall.

Tuesday: Lecture by Augusten Burroughs, author of "Running with Scissors," 7 p.m., Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union.

Wednesday: LGBT parent panel, 7:30 p.m., Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union.

Thursday: Movie, "Scout's Honor," 7:30 p.m., Big 12 Room, Kansas Union.

Friday: Brown Bay Drag, noon, Kansas Union plaza.

Saturday: Kansas College Unity Coalition, 10 a.m., Kansas Union.

Tami Albin was always very careful. The 11-year-old didn't go to the library with friends. She never wrote down the call numbers of the books she was looking up. She dodged well-meaning librarians whenever possible.

She trolled the aisles, constantly in a state of childhood fear of anyone knowing she might be up to something.

She was reading anything from the tiny shelf labeled "HQ76.5."

"Of course, librarians want to be helpful and would ask me if I needed help, and I'd run and hide," says Albin, now 38 and a librarian in her own right at Kansas University's Anschutz Library. "It was one of those things where it's like a deer caught in the headlights. It's like - blink, blink - oh my God, you know what I'm doing! I've been exposed! And you run off, you scamper away."

What she was doing was exploring the feelings she had felt from age 6 - that she was different. Armed with vocabulary created from insults slung her way across the playground, she dove into books in the HQ76.5 section - the call numbers of the gay and lesbian books. Sitting alone with her finds, she read, gleaning whatever information was available.

Now, Albin is making sure Kansans who believe they might be or who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (GLBTIQ) know they aren't misfits. She's proving it by interviewing people in Kansas' GLBTIQ community for an oral history collection called "Under the Rainbow: Oral Histories of GLBTIQ People in Kansas."

The project, funded by a two-year new faculty research grant, is seven months in, and Albin already has crisscrossed the state to interview 20 people, ranging in age from 25 to 80. And she's got people lined up, waiting to tell their stories.

"Initially, it was like, if I can get 20 people to be interviewed, that'll be great, because I didn't know how many people would want to be interviewed," Albin says of her initial goal. "I could just stop the project, but I won't because so many people want to talk to me. I have easily another 85 people who still want to talk to me."

Ready to share

Bruce McKinney is one of those who wanted to be interviewed.

McKinney has been a voice in Wichita's gay community for 35 years, when he came to the city to study education at Wichita State University. He formed the first gay group at WSU, but then ended up leaving the school empty-handed because of his pride.

His advisers, worried about a movement toward keeping gays from teaching, told him his senior year that because he was so outspoken about his homosexuality he would not be recommended for a teaching certificate.

"What good is a teaching degree without a certificate?" he says. "I was devastated."

He was devastated but determined to be a voice for the gay community. These days, McKinney is on the boards of the Wichita Pride and Kansas Equality Coalition. He provided Albin with a window into the late '70s in Wichita.

"I told her about the events in 1977, '78. That's when Wichita went through the effort of getting the civil rights ordinance to include gay and lesbian people, and then on May 9, 1978, (Wichita was one) of five cities to repeal (it)," he says. "And we lost it at a 5-1 vote, which was pretty devastating to the community. It forever warped our sensibility about who we were. People left town. Kansas did not want us here, and many of the leaders left."

Anchored by a good job and family, McKinney stayed and fought. And now he's making sure Albin records every last bit of that time.

"I've always wanted to remember what happened 30 years ago because it was so horrible and we need to remember that," he says. "It was not holocaust, but in our little tiny community in little Wichita, Kansas, it had a big impact."

Speaking for more than 70,000

Albin says that her videotaped interviews are across the board. She has subjects who knew they were gay anywhere from age 3 to after they were married and had children. She has talked to people who went through programs to "fix" them.

Albin says it's a history not many people know about, which is part of the reason she took on the project. She was tired of the Midwest being viewed as a place devoid of a GLBTIQ community.

"(It) caused me to think, if it's really, really that bad in Kansas, why do people stay?" she says. "My partner said to me, 'You could do an oral history on this, and you could call it 'Under the Rainbow.' So, it was like, you're right, I could do that."

Getting the history down

Albin plans to squeeze in as many interviews as she can in addition to her job as the undergraduate instruction and outreach librarian and women's studies subject specialist at Anschutz.

She hopes to get the first transcripts of her interviews up in September on KU's ScholarWorks Web site, a digital repository. The site will be home to the oral collection and means that the address will be stable and easily located by a keyword search in Google.

The all-access pass to the information is especially important to Albin, who knows that the Internet plays a huge role for those wanting information about being gay. She doesn't want anyone to miss out on the history and stories of the GLBTIQ community in Kansas.

"A lot of gay kids commit suicide because they don't understand what's going on," Albin says. "And if you have access to information to understand that, then you know you're OK, you're OK with what you're feeling, it's not the end of the world.

"I think that can save a life."

Comments

DaREEKKU 7 years, 4 months ago

This project is exactly what Kansas needs. There are gay people in EVERY county in Kansas and it's time for voices to be heard. Tami rocks!

wysiwyg69 7 years, 4 months ago

I think tami has a fist that could knock out mike tyson , better be careful what you say about her

cutny 7 years, 4 months ago

Sounds like a great project. Good luck to you, Tami. I'm sure the stories will be amazing.

misseve 7 years, 4 months ago

ignorant... boy that name really fits.

Oracle_of_Rhode 7 years, 4 months ago

While I support everyone's right to pursue happiness, and get equal status and benefits in society ... um, the acronyms are getting a bit silly.

GLBTSKJDIWABBAKDJKLAASLKSDABRACADABRAs unite!

Paul Decelles 7 years, 4 months ago

Reality,

A couple of quick comments:

Intersexed is not the same thing as transgender in that an intersexed individual is born with "reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male." See the ISNA web site for more details. http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex

Transgender generally is taken to connote an individual with a desire to appear or become a person of the opposite sex or more precisely gender. So it is an umbrella term for lots of different people from transsexuals to cross dressers.

There seems to be some controversy as to the degree these terms overlap.

Next, there has been a tendency to broaden the use of queer to mean any one who doesn't fit into society's little male/female heterosexual boxes and thus queer is becoming in some people's minds an umbrella term.

One other quick comment. You write:

"Her comments are kind of proof that you don't "learn" to be gay and can't be "cured." Rather, it's genetic. Many gay people noticed they were "different" when they first started attending school."

Just because someone follows a certain developmental pathway is not proof of genetics. Early family and even prenatal environmental influences could hypothetically be the only factors involved. But you are certainly right about many gay people knowing they were different at a very young age. My suspicion is that both genetic and environmental factors are working here.

tigerforlife 7 years, 4 months ago

you make another final four and the hometown paper has feature about lesbian librarians...YOU MUST BE SO PROUD BEAKERS!!!!

UNC by 15-20....GO ROY!!!!!

"I'm stayin'" LOL

bd 7 years, 4 months ago

This is amazing , our Jayhawks make it to the final four and the main headline/feature photo in the paper is about some lesbian???

Amazing!

flutter 7 years, 4 months ago

Tami, this is an awesome project!! Way to go!!

aginglady 7 years, 4 months ago

Good project Tami, keep up the good work. Like the stories of the pioneers, these entries are important.

cowboy 7 years, 4 months ago

Note that the LJW has changed the front page to the Jayhawks coverage , with all due respect to Tami , what were the editors thinking here ?

Poon 7 years, 4 months ago

you make another final four and the hometown paper has feature about lesbian librarians:you must be so proud beakers!!!!

Well, yeah 'cause we've been there before!!!!

UpperLawrence 7 years, 4 months ago

Great work! Let's hear it for the eclectic midwest!

DaREEKKU 7 years, 4 months ago

"tigerforlife (Anonymous) says:

you make another final four and the hometown paper has feature about lesbian librarians:you must be so proud beakers!!!!"

-I would say that people's lives, histories and hardships are MORE important than a GD sports score. Sports dominate KU, they steal all of the money (and parking) and glory. KU has many excellent and high ranking academic programs. Did you know that our African Studies Program is one of the top programs in the nation? I would bet not.....

"madmike (Anonymous) says:

As long as the grant wasn't from tax money."

-Why? My tax money has to pay for ridiculous and religiously biased programs like abstinence only education. My tax money has to pay for benefits and rights for heterosexuals while ignoring homosexuals. Get over yourself.

This project is an excellent idea. I wonder how many people would have the stamina, courage and intelligence to go do some of things that she is doing across this state.

jpryor 7 years, 4 months ago

Reality- Queer is not equal to G or T for all. More commonly now, Queer encompasses LGBTI. However, many people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi, or trans often find queer to be offensive and choose not to accept it as an identity. Since the 80s though, there has been a movement to use queer in an empowering and all inclusive meaning.

Trans and Intersex are different and I'm sure you can easily find info online if you so choose.

You hit a great point about "non-sexual". Many would consider that asexual. There are various identities that many hold who consider themselves apart of the general LGBT community and this is why we see more acronyms coming in and queer being used to sum it all up a little easier. Trust that those of us in the queer community even find the alphabet to be a bit annoying as well. Unlike many people in the world community who would like to not accept us, we tend to accept anybody with any identity. I'm surprised there wasn't an "A" tagged on to LGBTIQ, which stands for Allies.

Don't forget to check out the University of Kansas Pride at www.kuqna.org .

HootyWho 7 years, 4 months ago

basketball really isn't that important Is it? bd? good for you tami, good luck on your project

Melissa Kounelaki 7 years, 4 months ago

"... our Jayhawks make it to the final four and the main headline/feature photo in the paper is about some lesbian???"

Not just some lesbian, but rather a person who is giving voice to people who's lives deserve to be written and spoken about. As happy as I am for the Jayhawks, people's histories (as noted above) are more important than some basketball game. Isn't this feature in the Pulse section of the print version? So not the front page of the paper? I think the online version moves stories around as the day goes on.

Battle On, Tami!

aginglady 7 years, 4 months ago

One of the hermaprodites I know considers himself Non Sexual. He has no inner or outer reproductive parts, and thinks kissing is just awful. He has no sexual feelings at all. He loves his animals deeply, and they love him back without prejudice.

ginaxx 7 years, 4 months ago

I think it needs much courage to tell the world that he/she is a bisexual or gay. I have some bisexual friends on the site BiLoves, they would rather choose some online service to come out than in real life.

ontheotherhand 7 years, 4 months ago

bd (Anonymous) says: This is amazing , our Jayhawks make it to the final four and the main headline/feature photo in the paper is about some lesbian???

Amazing!


Careful bd, your 'phobes are showing! :)

Unlike the paper version of the LJWorld, the online version changes the feature story throughout the day. Had you hit the home page five minutes before you did, you would have seen the article about the KU win. The next time you go to the home page, it might show another article. Hope this isn't too hard--or "amazing"--a concept for you to understand!

ontheotherhand 7 years, 4 months ago

Attention bd! I just refreshed the home page and the article on the KU win is there. Isn't that . . . amazing??!!

johnp 7 years, 4 months ago

Great project. I can't wait to start reading the histories.

DaREEKKU 7 years, 4 months ago

madmike:

If you want an itemized list of everything that Tami Albin has spent her money on why don't you contact her yourself instead of complaining about it on a posterboard. She seems very receptive, open and communicative so I am sure she would be more than happy to discuss it with you. But be careful!....you might....catch....GAY. Before you know it you will begin wearing tight clothes and using words like "fabulous" and "spiffy." Your leg muscles will develop a condition forcing you to walk in a swishy pattern and before you know it.....you too will find disgust in unmatched socks.

beatrice 7 years, 4 months ago

"It is wrong to use tax dollars for a grant like this when basic support of the infrastructure can't be met." -- says the neocon who fully supports the war in Iraq. Just think how great our infrastructure could be if we spent a trillion dollars in our country, rather than on Bush's pet war and the rebuilding of Iraq.

Yep, too bad this grant of what is likely a few thousand dollars was given, otherwise the American infrastructure could have been repaired. Right. And with my upcoming $600 stimulous check I intend to pay off the national deficit.

Remember folks, in the upcoming election a vote for John McCain is a vote to continue Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and the war in Iraq. I wonder who madmike will be voting for?

zbarf 7 years, 4 months ago

Why do they (Media) continue to treat this as normal when 70% of Americans feel that it is not? Must be a tactic to present an article as "matter of fact" and wonderful to slowly erode morality and de-sensitize society.

The Facts state that in many cases, these people have other mental disorders on top of their homosexuality. It is just not healthy and a real problem that society is not honest about it.

LJWorld - Don't you dare censor this because you don't agree with my post! My problem is with homosexuality...not the homosexual. So no bigot comments, just a discussion on the merits or negatives of homosexuality.

geniusmannumber1 7 years, 4 months ago

Well zbarf, partially they just love to get under the skin of ignoramuses that like to make up statistics ("70% of Americans feel that it is not"), cite "Facts" without stating what those facts are, invent things out of whole cloth ("in many cases, these people have other mental disorders on top of their homosexuality"), use their argument's conclusion to buttress their own argument ("It is just not healthy and a real problem that society is not honest about it"), have difficulty in writing complete sentences (see above), and then claim that they are engaging in a rational discussion when in fact they are engaging in bigotry despite disingenuously denying the same. Those people are irritating.

Or maybe because it's normal.

bettie 7 years, 4 months ago

Go, Tami, Go! Tami is an awesome librarian, by the way. Awesome.

LawrenceLover88 7 years, 4 months ago

Great job, Tami! I am proud to live in a city like this because of the work you are doing! Thank you for showing those outside of Kansas what a great place Lawrence is.

Keep up the great work...

beatrice 7 years, 4 months ago

zb, "The Facts state that in many cases, these people have other mental disorders on top of their homosexuality."You don't say! Must be their sexuality that causes their disorders, right? And on what do you blame the mental disorders of heterosexuals then? Or are you saying that heterosexuals never have mental disorders? Left-handed people are in a minority, but there they are. Do you think they have chosen to be left handed even though it goes against societal norms, or were they born that way? Is being left-handed a mental disorder? Just something to think about. Just so everybody knows, I don't have a problem with lefties, but just don't flaunt it. If you see I have a child with me at the grocery store, please don't write a check using your left hand in front of us! Flaunting it like that is just disgusting. What am I supposed to say to the children? My philosophy is, love the lefty, hate the writing.

Alia Ahmed 7 years, 4 months ago

Tami,There is/was (not sure if either or both are still living) a lesbian couple in my hometown in north central Kansas when my siblings and I were growing up. One of the women had been married and had children my age. I've often thought how neat it would be to write/know more about their life experiences as lesbian women in the 1950's in rural Kansas. I wonder what level of acceptance and/or bigotry they encountered throughout the years. This seems like a very interesting project and I wish you much success at giving a voice to this silent (or silenced) minority.

Thats_messed_up 7 years, 4 months ago

I think we should have a final four for all of our queers. We could have it at the corner of 7th and Mass (of course it would be more than XXX-don't bring your kids) and would obviously be a field of 69 instead of 64. Gotta love March Madness!

kansas_o_kansas 7 years, 4 months ago

This is where I want my tax dollars going. And in the state that Spawned Westboro Baptist Church we need all the help we can get.

james bush 7 years, 4 months ago

Is a gay pride parade sceduled in Lawrence?

packs_of_wild_dogzz 7 years, 4 months ago

So Tami...Why do gay women try to look like boys and gay men act like sissy girls??? Help me understand.

Buggie7 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh how freakin funny Marion. Thanks for the laugh!!

igby 7 years, 4 months ago

Mariann: Isn't that on March 17th, lol.

Celeste Plitz 7 years, 4 months ago

I think it's awesome what Tami is doing. Through better understanding perhaps some of the intolerance I see every day will gradually be replaced with acceptance. I bet the stories are fascinating.

RonaldWilson 7 years, 4 months ago

How about a grant for beastiophiles. Let's hear about how pedophiles feel in Kansas. Or, how's about how necrophiles deal with stereotypes. Let's celebrate the sob stories of sexual deviants not finding the social acceptance they desire. Note to Queers: When you rebel against milllions of years of human behavior, people think you're wierd!

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