Entertainment » Fine Arts

Lesbian Identity, Sexuality Explored at Chicago History Museum

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday May 1, 2014

On May 8, The Chicago History Museum will conclude its eleventh season of the LGBT program series Out at CHM with "Lesbianography: Lesbians and Sex." Scholars Juana María Rodríguez of UC Berkeley and LaMonda Horton-Stallings of IU Bloomington will lead a provocative discussion of lesbian identity, intersections of race and sexuality, and gender borders in the Chicago History Museum's Chicago Room.

"There's a real imprimatur of, 'Yes, this history matters, and the Chicago History Museum continuing to back this program is really kind of a seal of approval,' " said Chicago History Museum Curator Jill Austin in an article in the Chicago Tribune.

But another impetus for the start of the series, Austin said, came when a museum scholar attended a national conference "where people wondered why public libraries would do LGBT history but museums wouldn't."

"Lesbianography" is intended to create a safe space to question assumptions about lesbian sexuality, led by Rodriguez and Horton-Stallings' candid exploration about crossing the boundaries of power and fantasy, the navigation of sexual communities, and the possibilities for queer desire. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with an open bar cocktail reception and live DJ set by DJ Lady D, followed by the discussion.

It is part of the museum's wildly successful lecture series that began in 2004 and after 10 years, 30 events, thousands of audience members and a key role in the museum's induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, it's safe to say the annual lecture series on LGBT history has achieved that.

"Right from the beginning, attendance was super. We were filling up the lecture hall," said Raymond Crossman, past member and current chair of the "Out at CHM" advisory committee. "It's just unheard of for a museum lecture series to draw big and consistent attendance. People know that when they come, they're going to have a good time, and they're going to learn something. We make sure that it entertains and delights but is also scholarly."

Out at CHM is supported by gifts from Robert Kohl and Clark Pellett, from Dr. Raymond Crossman, and with additional support from River North Beverages.

Most of the "Out at CHM" events have not specifically tied in to exhibitions in the museum's galleries, but "Out in Chicago," the big and well-received 2011 show about the history of lesbian, gays, bisexual and transsexual people in Chicago, was informed by and discussed in the series, said Austin, who was one of the curators of "Out in Chicago."

In establishing the series, "one of the goals was to draw (museum) membership from within the LGBT community, and that has happened," Michael Canfield, a museum program administrator, told the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago History Museum, a major museum and research center for Chicago and American history, is affiliated with the Chicago Historical Society and acknowledges the Chicago Park District's generous support of all the Museum's activities.

"Lesbianography: Lesbians and Sex" will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 8 at The Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark Street in Chicago. Tickets are $20/$15 for members. For information, call 312-642-4600 or visit www.chicagohistory.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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