Ghosts of GLBT History and Web 2.0

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WHEN I FIRST MOVED to Los Angeles to matriculate at the University of Southern California in 1998, I had no idea I was moving to the area that had been ground zero for the national homosexual rights movement in the 1950s. I did not know that the Joan Corbin and Corki Wolf, long time art director and editor to ONE Magazine, had lived blocks away from my home in La Crescenta. I did not know that the park on Alvarado that I passed by every day on my way to campus was the very park where Mattachine founder Dale Jennings had met and flirted with an undercover police officer, a fortuitous meeting that would soon galvanize Mattachine and propel it to the forefront of homosexual activism. I did not know that the area where I parked my car near campus was the same area where, in 1948, Harry Hay had attended a “gay” frat party and conceived the idea that homosexuals could and should be organized. I did not even know that ONE had existed, that many homosexuals in the country—and the world—had looked to the people in these neighborhoods for support, encouragement, and inspiration.

But gradually these ghosts revealed themselves—and they demanded to be heard. Many of the deceased, such as Kepner, I had never met; others were comrades fallen in the line of duty, taken by AIDS or by age. The first colleague to go was Ernie Potvin, friend to the late Jim Kepner, who had recruited me in 1996 while I was completing my masters degree in anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Potvin requested my help in authoring and managing the website for the newly formed one/igla, a “merger” between the academic aspect of ONE, Incorporated, called ONE Institute, and Kepner’s International Gay and Lesbian Archives. When Potvin died in 1998, I inherited the site—but did not know one lick of HTML, let alone a sophisticated application like Dreamweaver. But to honor the memory of Kepner and Potvin, I set out to learn what I needed to keep the website running and the information flowing.

My second encounter with GLBT cyber history was in working for what has turned out to be one of the first web resources for gay and lesbian academics, the International Gay and Lesbian Review, launched in 1996 by Walter L. Williams and John Waiblinger at the University of Southern California. Williams has learned from a librarian researching the history of the Internet that the Review may have been the first academic publication to emerge entirely online—others had begun in print and migrated over. The Review currently has hundreds of book abstracts and reviews, and readers are encouraged to submit reviews of their own. While the quality of the content varies greatly, the site’s value as a bibliographic resource is great.

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