Telling our stories

Posted: March 20th, 2015 | Columns, Featured, Out of the Archives | No Comments

By Walter G. Meyer | Out of the Archives

This weekend, in cooperation with Diversionary Theatre, San Diego Lambda Archives presents “Telling Our Stories — LGBTQ Oral History,” Saturday, March 21 at 2 p.m.

Long-time activist Steven F. Dansky is visiting from New York to talk about his project, “OUTSpoken: Oral History from LGBTQ Pioneers,” that unpacks our history with stories from audacious pathfinders and gay liberationists; dykes and lesbian separatists; and radical fairies and queens.

Walter Meyer

Walter Meyer

These pioneers formulated a daring politics with insights about human existence, trans- and gender identity, and sexual orientation that has inspired generations of post-Stonewall Rebellion activists and change-agents, academics and historians, and artists, filmmakers, and writers. Dansky will screen an op-doc trailer with snippets of the archived interviews. He’ll discuss saving our history throughout his journey traveling coast-to-coast through rural communities to urban epicenters, and globally via Skype to Bangkok, Buenos Aires and Melbourne.

Joining Dansky on stage will be the people recording our own local oral histories. Attorney and activist Robert Lynn has been interviewing pioneers of the San Diego LGBT community including Bridget Wilson, Stan Lewis, Chris Shaw, Al Smithson, George Murphy and others. When someone recently asked when the project would be finished, a spokesperson for the Archives said, “Never.” There are so many people whose histories are worth preserving that the list is endless.

In addition, local videographers Meredith Vezina and Ellen Holzman have been borrowing the Archives to record interviews for their trans history project. They have taped the histories of transgender individuals including those of Connor Maddocks, Vicki Estrada, and Tracie O’Brien with many more scheduled. These local videos will become part of the Archives’ permanent collection.

At the “Telling Our Stories” event, Dansky, Lynn, Vezina and Holzman will each talk about their process, show clips from their work, then join in a discussion of oral histories and answer questions. The program will last until 3:30 p.m., followed by an hour-long reception. This very special event will be held inside the Diversionary theater space, 4545 Park Blvd., and is free to the public. There is a $10 suggested donation. The Archives will be open for tours before and after the program. For more information, visit our Facebook page and click the dropdown menu “More” and click “Events.”

Other archival news

• On Feb. 2 at Cygnet Theatre, the Archives helped with a wonderful memorial to Jonathan Dunn-Rankin. Many in San Diego knew this amazing man as a newscaster or an actor, but less aware of his activism as one of the first gay people to seek public office in San Diego. He was also a founder of the San Diego Democratic Club, a leader of the Gay Academic Union and an early supporter of Lambda Archives (to which he made donations of both money and materials pertaining to his work).

The Archives will continue its tribute to the life of Dunn-Rankin with a display in the lobby of Diversionary Theatre during the current show (“Baby with the Bathwater” — through March 29). Dunn-Rankin starred in several plays at Diversionary, served on its board (even as president), and donated a tile in front of the theater that bears his favorite quote from Hamlet: “Suit the action to the word.”

There will be more information about Dunn-Rankin on display at the Archives (located just behind Diversionary) and the lobby’s exhibit area will be open extra hours during much of the show’s run so theatergoers may visit both before curtain and during intermission.


Items left behind at Bourbon Street now have a new home
(Courtesy Lambda Archives)

• The Archives recently got a visit from Andy Zlotnik, one of the new owners of Park & Rec, formerly known as Bourbon Street. He said that in the process of remodeling he and his business partner John Pani found sports trophies, Nicky awards, other civic commendations, and hundreds of photos from events at the once-popular gay bar. They contacted Bourbon Street’s former owners who said they’d be happy giving the memorabilia to the Archives. So as has happened when so many other LGBT businesses, organizations and newspapers have closed, Lambda Archives became recipient of that irreplaceable history. We thank the new owners for saving that part of our community’s past.

There is a lot more planned for the Archives! Follow us on Twitter @LambdaArchives and like us on Facebook or visit our web site to get the latest updates on all that is happening, including the ongoing collaboration with Save Our Heritage Organization to identify and preserve places of importance to LGBT history. And stay tuned to this column for more exciting events coming soon from Out of the Archives!

—Walter G. Meyer is the author of the critically acclaimed gay novel “Rounding Third,” a regular contributor to Gay San Diego, and the manager of Lambda Archives. Reach him at

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