Sean G. Massey, Sarah R. Young, & Ann Merriwether

Although progress in terms of LGBTQ rights has been made, and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people have changed in the past few decades, the implications of anti-LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination remain serious. It is critical that efforts to change these attitudes continue, and that LGBTQ-affirmative social scientists, educators, and practitioners continue to develop a robust knowledge base to guide these efforts. In addition, there is a related literature that highlights the strength and resilience found in the LGBTQ community, even in the face of this adversity.

LGBTQ historians and anthropologists like Chauncey (1995), D’Emilio (1983), Stryker (2008), and Kennedy and Davis (1993) have helped make visible the courage and perseverance of LGBTQ individuals and communities who faced legal risks, social stigma, overt discrimination, and violence across the 20th century. These are the voices and struggles of a resilient community: the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis who organized and built networks of LGBTQ people in the shadow of McCarthyism and anti-homosexual witch hunts; the transwomen and transmen, drag queens, queer youth of color, street hustlers, butch dykes, and gay men who took a stand at the Stonewall Inn, throwing pennies, nickels, high heeled shoes, and bricksin protest against police harassment; the LGBTQ people who, amid unimaginable death and sadness brought about by the AIDS epidemic, built organizations, took care of each other, acted up, and fought back against government disdain and neglect; the people with AIDS who, many in midst of the ravages of the disease, still found meaning in helping others. These stories of resilience aren’t meant to minimize the dangers or potential for harm. In the words of Harvey Milk, they are simply stories of hope:

“Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be alright…. and you and you and you, you have to give people hope.” (Milk, 1973).