Lesbians, bisexuals, and queer folks of all identities love learning about our history. Are we a naturally nerdy bunch? Is dyke herstory just very engaging? Does structural oppression and erasure make a generation hungry for a narrative from our elders, a lifeline back to our roots? Has watching two women lock lips without giving a fuck about the male gaze just always been really fucking incredible?! In my professional lesbian opinion I’d say the answer to every single one of those questions is yes, yes, yes, yes! All that “yes” energy we just experienced? That’s exactly how I feel when I scroll through the feeds of the intrepid humans who are curating dyke, bi, and queer history on Instagram today in the year of our goddess Lesbian Jesus 20gayteen.
Archives have not, historically, been the most accessible spaces. They are often tied to academic institutions, which can be unwelcoming to folks who are not students or researchers, and even archives that do welcome the general public can feel stuffy, intimidating, or simply entirely unknown. That’s why I have so much love in my heart for the many Instagram accounts that have popped up over the past few years with the explicit intent to showcase our herstory.
When I first started thinking about the criteria for this list I intended to only include Instagram accounts that were strictly archival – either run as an extension of a brick and mortar archive or run by professional archivists. But I soon realized that kind of qualification was fraught; if the thing I’m excited about is how accessible our herstory is when placed on a social media platform like Instagram, who am I to police the means in which that content arrives there? We are living in dark times, yes, but we are also living in rich magnificent times when it comes to the curation of dyke and queer projects amongst our community members. If zines were a cheap and effective way to get thoughts and feelings out to the gay masses in the ’90s, Instagram projects might be that for the year 2018 – you don’t even have to pay for photocopies! So in light of that, I opened up my qualifications and made them extremely vague – if the account included images of queer history, discussions of queer history, memes that are relevant to dykes of today and dykes of yesteryear, or even mostly present day chronicling of queer life that may one day grace the pages of a “lesbian herstory” listicle, I included it here. I want more voices, not less. I want to devour everything that came before us so we can continue to grow better, brighter, louder, closer. I want us to never forget how fucking beautiful and filled with love and rage we’ve always been.
I want to share my favorite accounts with you as we kick off LGBTQ History Month. I would strongly recommend following all of these accounts, and if you have favorites that I missed in this round up, please share them in the comments!
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It is 1979 here, some 5 years into LHA’s existence. Here are Deborah Edel, Joan Nestle, and Valerie Itnyre, 3 members of the early collective that created the Archives in the apartment at 215 West 92nd street. This is the original maids room- soon the materials would start filling up the living room, the foyer, the spare bedroom, and every inch of wall and floor space until it was clear that we needed our own building. Photo by Bettye Lane #lesbianvisibility #lesbianherstory #joannestle #deborahedel #bettyelane
Visiting the Lesbian Herstory Archives for the first time was a really big deal to me. In an article I wrote for this very website in 2012, I described the mission of the archives, which are physically located in a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn, like this: “The women who founded it were not all librarians, and they were not looking to catalogue ‘famous’ lesbians only. They wanted to save the voices from everyone in the lesbian community. They wanted to hear from me and from you. They wanted to hear from everyone so they could speak to all of us.” The archives feel like magic, and their Instagram account mirrors that feeling. The account, run by volunteers who work at the archive, includes an array of items: zine covers, t-shirts, pins, banners, portraits, and more, all with detailed captions describing the image and its significance. Flyers with information about talks happening at the Archives also show up on occasion. Their tagline reads: “In memory of the voices we have lost.”
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I am pumped to support a new #fiercepussy project at Leslie-Lohman Museum for the QUEERPOWER installation series, an annual public art project that takes over the entire façade of the Museum. Make a pledge to the Kickstarter campaign, and join us in bringing this project to all who live and visit New York City! fierce pussy is a collective of queer women artists that formed in 1991. The collective was immersed in AIDS activism during a decade of increasing political action supporting gay rights. At a moment when it is crucial to stand up for projects that reflect our values, we hope you will support our new installation by fierce pussy, and join us in proclaiming that our communities are not only visible, but united in our support of queer artists. Type this into your browser to donate, &/or buy tickets to the summer benefit: http://kck.st/2JuLhs8 visit @leslielohanmuseum for more info
Run by Kelly Rakowski, the genius behind PERSONALS, HERSTORY’s Instagram bio states that it is “A DYKE IG ACCT, not an archive,” which is fair enough, but you’ll find a lot of herstorical gems here, including vintage photos, magazine covers, and screenshots of old school personals ads published in On Our Backs (the first women-run erotica magazine and the first magazine to feature lesbian erotica for a lesbian audience in the USA). You’ll also find more current news: Kelly posts about queer community projects, updates about the PERSONALS app, and of course, includes the occasional meme. HERSTORY also recently teamed up with OTHERWILD for a clothing collaboration that you should definitely check out – who wants to buy matching “How Dare You Assume I’m Straight” tank tops with me?
This account is exactly what it sounds like. Did you want to spend hours scrolling through photographs capturing LGBT history, often complete with detailed captions? Well today is your lucky day, friend. Some of my favorite images include: a man holding a sign that says BERT & ERNIE LIVE TOGETHER from a Pride Parade in 1990, Sister Sadie Sadie The Rabbi Lady holding a sign that says THANK GOD I’M GAY, in 1983, Lani Ka’ahumanu, co-founder of BiPol, Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day, holding a BI-PHOBIA SHIELD in 1984, and these women holding a sign in 1979 that says A DAY WITHOUT LESBIANS IS A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE.
The Black Lesbian Archives (BLA) were created in June 2017, when Krü Maekdo, the founder, noticed a lack of digital representation of Black Lesbians online. She writes on their about page: “I can’t have that. Not as long as I’m alive. Our lives, our stories will NOT be put on the shelf.” Krü encourages folks to submit articles, posters, flyers, mixtapes, videos, photos, audio, publication, poetry, etc of Black Lesbians to her archive, and also puts on events and exhibits to discuss the importance of the BLA.
The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives is the largest independent LGBTQ2+ archive in the world and regularly posts photos of tangible queer history as well as occasional photos of their physical archive space. Their first post describes the account as a place for “news, updates, and new curiosities from the inner workings of the worlds largest independent LGBTQ+ archives!” Some favorite bits and pieces from this archive: Gay Weekend, the board game; Let’s All Jam With A Dental Dam, a pin; Jell-O is the Gay Dessert, a proclamation; Sin Girls, the book. If you’d like to visit the physical archives, you’ll find them at 34 Isabella St., Toronto, Canada.
This account is an Experience with a capital E. The tagline “daily fashion inspo for and from lesbians” allows the curators to post images of perfect queer fashion through the ages whether the person wearing it identifies as queer or not, which is a genius move because some straight women are really offering us a lot of fashion ideas in these trying times. Along with images of a young bald Cate Blanchett, Tessa and Janelle in the PYNK video, the best of Miranda Hobbes, and the famous k.d. lang/Cindy Crawford Vanity Fair cover, the account posts the occasional meme and crowdsourced lists. I honestly cannot pick a favorite image from this account – every new post surprises and delights me – so I’d say just set aside a solid four-hour chunk of time and browse the entire collection. Trust me.
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There is so much talk today about loving yourself first. As Rupaul says, “If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” It’s so important to remember though, that we need the love of others too. Love from our friends, families, and partners. We need connection and we need to be mirrored by people who care about us. The idea of self love can be taken to extremes and used as a means of maintaining unhealthy boundaries that don’t allow for our vulnerability to be seen or held. So by all means want yourself first, it’s vital, but remember that love from without has a lot to teach us about how to actually go about the business of loving ourselves (Quote from Grace Jones) #gracejones
You’re into “all things dyke & beautiful,” yeah? Cool cool cool, welcome home. This is an account carefully curated by its anonymous founder, and to scroll through its content is to really fucking relate to its name. You want film, art, and culture with a lesbian slant? Got it. You want memes so specific to dyke culture that you actually gasp when you see them, wondering how someone read your diary and also paired it with the perfect image of Jenny? Got it. You want gorgeous women, old school fashion, magazine covers from the ’90s, and a solid appreciation of all things Carol? GOT. IT. God(dess) I’m such a dyke, amen.
Listen, any IG account that acknowledges Avril Lavigne wearing a Dixie Chicks shirt as “a true honorary lezzy moment in herstory” deserves a follow. I don’t make the rules, that’s just a fact! Run by Alexandra, a 24-year-old self-described “purveyor of lesbian culture and fashion” living in NYC, this feed is a good mix of art, herstory, and witty captions about astrology. There’s also a very occasional selfie of the founder thrown into the mix. And! Once a month, @dykeanotherday and @godimsuchadyke team up to create Between ⚢ The Dykes, a monthly themed newsletter collaboration with “editorial opinion pieces, herstorical and culture explorations, dyke fashion insights, & a lez advice column.” Sign up to take the magic of dyke Instagram directly to your inbox.
This account, run by Cooper T. Moll, is 50% archive, 50% personal, and 100% perfect. Self-described in her bio as a “trouble making femme dyke,” Cooper is an archivist, librarian, activist, queer history, art, and culture buff, and erotica enthusiast. I personally love to follow dykes who post behind the scenes pieces of their lives as well as archival material or memes – one of my favorite parts about Instagram is that it feels so intimate, and allows for “serious” posts to live easily next to light-hearted and irreverent content, too. And won’t dyke present eventually become dyke herstory? Anyway all of that is to say this account is deeply satisfying to follow, whether Cooper is posting beach photos from last month or archived material from 1980. Bonus: if you want to read Cooper’s masters thesis, The Politics of Describing Pleasure: The Discursive Limits of Categorizing Feminist and Queer Pornography, you sure can!
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The time is upon us! We are SO excited to announce one of the two covers we've chosen for Issue 3 today, featuring the wildly handsome and intelligent @naa_accepts. Issue 3 can now be pre-ordered via link in our bio. A little more about issue 3 below: . . . . . Our third issue – "The Intergenerational Issue", shares the images and voices of Butches of a diversity of ages; from fledgling to elder. The importance of intergenerational relationships, particularly in marginalised groups such as Queer communities, is paramount. This issue is dedicated to exploring the experiences and perspectives of Butches of all ages. It acknowledges and honours the road that our Butch Elders have paved for us, and how their contributions have created a safer space for Queers to exist and thrive. Bringing these stories together with those of younger Butches allows us an opportunity to reflect upon what has and hasn't changed in relation to Butch identity. Our communities are stronger when we join forces to celebrate our unique and related experiences. Join us by pre-ordering issue three now (and choose which cover you want!) and if you can make it to the Melbourne launch, go grab a ticket asap as tickets are limited. Cover image 📸 by: @esthergoodboy #butch #butchisnotadirtyword #queerpublication #dykestowatchoutfor #butchdyke #queer #femalemasculinity #queermasculinity #lesbiansofinstagram #boi #queerboi #dykesofinsta #lgbtqia #tomboystyle #lesbiansofig #gay #gayisok #butchlesbians #butches #butchesbelike #weareeverywhere #itgetsbetter #seattle #seattlephotography #portraitphotography #portrait #queerseattle #seattletrip #queerpublication #qtpoc #qpoc
Butch Is Not A Dirty Word is a bi-annual print publication exploring butch identity and culture. Another living breathing present-day archive, this project aims to collect butch stories and experiences, celebrating this specific identity in our community. The photo featured above is the cover of the third issue, “The Intergenerational Issue,” which seemed extremely relevant for this round up. The caption reads: “The importance of intergenerational relationships, particularly in marginalised groups such as queer communities, is paramount. This issue is dedicated to exploring the experiences and perspectives of Butches of all ages. It acknowledges and honours the road that our Butch Elders have paved for us, and how their contributions have created a safer space for queers to exist and thrive. Bringing these stories together with those of younger Butches allows us an opportunity to reflect upon what has and hasn’t changed in relation to Butch identity. Our communities are stronger when we join forces to celebrate our unique and related experiences.” I love queer elders, forever and ever amen. (Order the magazine, or stickers or pins, on their website.)
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Bay Area Lesbian Archives is on Instagram! For several decades, the Bay Area has been home to one of the largest and most diverse lesbian communities in the world, rich in activism, culture and community. BALA’s mission is to preserve this at risk history and make it accessible to the public. Lenn Keller, Founder and Project Director. Lenn hails from Chicago, and has lived in the SF Bay Area for over 40 years. She is a photographer and filmmaker has documented, archived, and exhibited Bay Area activist and marginalized communities with an emphasis on lesbians of color and LGBTQ communities for over 30 years. Rebecca Silverstein, Oral History Project Coordinator, Asst. Project Director. Rebecca is a native New Yorker and settled in San Francisco in 1976. She was one of the organizers of the S.F. Conference on Violence Against Women. She is a co-founder of Mothertongue Readers Theater, a feminist collective in the Bay Area, and she worked at the MoonRise Café, a lesbian collective and women’s space in Sonoma County, California. Sharon De La Peña Davenport, Advising Archivist. Sharon is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in the Bay Area for over 40 years. Sharon was a co-founder of the lesbian owned Brick Hut Café (1975 – 1997) in Berkeley, CA, Sharon is a freelance professional archivist, and her contributions include the papers of the Third World Women’s Alliance, the Alliance Against the Oppression of Women, and the papers of Aileen Hernandez accessed at Smith College, Northampton, MA.
The Bay Area Lesbian Archives is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the lesbian history of the Bay Area and make it accessible to the public. Though this account has a much smaller following and posts much less frequently than some of the larger or established on Instagram archives, I really love their content because it seems to be original and a little different from what many of the other herstory accounts post – I’ve rarely seen the images they post before. Also I’m always hopeful if an account I love gets more followers they will post more frequently, so do me a favor and give this archive a little love.
We’ve told you about the Queer Appalachia project before, but now I’m back to tell you again what a wonderful collection and resource it is. Though like many of the accounts included on this list it is not a traditional archive, it is absolutely a slice of life, both past and present, of rural resistance in Appalachia and the South. To detail everything this account covers would be an essay unto itself. It is forever collecting user submitted materials of rural life with the #ElectricDirt hashtag for its Electric Dirt zine project, and the images in this feed range from snapshots of queers in nature, flyers for community organizing events, text posts detailing how to call your senators, memes, original art, and serious conversations about microaggressions experienced by the Appalachian community. This is absolutely essential viewing, whether you’re a rural queer looking for community or an urban queer looking to be a better ally to queer folks who don’t live in your trendy city. (Order Electric Dirt zines #1 and #2 here.)
This account, run by our very own Riese Bernard, promises “’90s lesbian pop culture, sometimes Indigo Girls lyrics.” If you know anything about the reverence Riese has for lesbian herstory and her truly unique and hilarious sense of humor, you know that this account is destined for greatness. It’s just in its beginning stages, and it’s not like Riese has anything else on her plate that might take up a lot of her time, but I bet with enough friendly encouragement she would start posting more aggressively and then we could all have the joy of gay ’90s nostalgia curated by Riese’s excellent brain more frequently in our lives, and the world would be a tiny bit better for it.
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. . Duane Kearns Puryear holding his own AIDS panel at ‘Display on Ellipse’ in Washington, D.C., 1989. . . "MY NAME IS DUANE KEARNS PURYEAR. I WAS BORN ON DECEMBER 20, 1964. I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH AIDS ON SEPTEMBER 7, 1987 AT 4:45 PM. I WAS 22 YEARS OLD. SOMETIMES, IT MAKES ME VERY SAD. I MADE THIS PANEL MYSELF. IF YOU ARE READING IT, I AM DEAD." . . On September 7, 1987, Duane Kearns Puryear was diagnosed with HIV. According to Stephanie Poole's 1998 article, ‘The Making of an AIDS Quilt,’ the process of making his own quilt panel was Puryear's first act as an AIDS activist: . "In creating this (panel) with needle and thread, Puryear completed the most significant reidentification possible. He identified himself as dead. Puryear was 16 when he contracted HIV. He was 22 when he was diagnosed with AIDS." . Duane once said that his goal was to be "the longest living person with AIDS." In 1991, "at the age of 26, he died. He had lived with HIV for 10 years. During (that) time he became an activist, he worked on an AIDS hotline and he became a lecturer. In Dallas, he founded the speakers bureau which (became) an important part of the Dallas AIDS Resource Center." . 📷 1: The Dallas Metroplex Chapter of the NAMES Project Foundation Collection. . 📷 2: © Fred W. McDarrah, The Names Project, AIDS Memorial Quilt, Washington, D.C., October 10, 1992. . #whatisrememberedlives #theaidsmemorial #aidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids
It is impossible to consider queer history without talking about the AIDS crisis. The AIDS Memorial documents “stories of love, loss, and remembrance” with the hashtag #whatisrememberedlives. Another Instagram account, @visual_aids, “utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists, and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.” Also, just while we’re here talking about remembering and honoring the victims of this plague, I would like to recommend everyone read this powerful and heartbreaking Twitter thread by Tucker Shaw. He writes: “Remember how terrible it was, not that long ago, during the worst times. How many beautiful friends died. One after the other. Brutally. Restlessly. Brittle and damp. In cold rooms with hot lights. Remember?” I also – and I realize we’re veering away from Instagram for a second now, but just bear with me, this stuff is important – would really like to recommend Alexander Chee’s How To Write An Autobiographical Novel: Essays. He writes openly and painfully about living in San Francisco as a young queer man during the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s, and his essay “After Peter” might be one of the clearest and devastating renderings of that time I have ever read.
BUTCHCAMP is curated by artist Isabella Toledo and graphic designer Rosie Eveleigh and was created in 2016. According to an interview on Dazed magazine, the pair “realized that lesbian camp (much like the majority of lesbian history) was missing from theories on camp,” and so to rectify that problem they began their archiving project. The article continues: “BUTCHCAMP works through a process of intense research, image amassment, and publishing in sets of three on Instagram to establish historical narratives between images across history.”
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FAQ: How Personals Works! 1, Once a month there is an OPEN CALL 4 SUBMISSIONS. This is only two days once a month, usually early in month. Personals will announce open call dates a few days in advance. 2, You will click a link n bio & fill out a google doc form. 3, once you submit you cannot cancel or edit the personal. 4, to ensure your personal is posted donate $5 to building #PersonalsApp Because of abundance of submissions, and now also because it’s an enormous amount of work I cannot post everyone who does not donate. BUT!! Personals posts people who cannot donate as well – with QPOC, over 40+, ppl w disabilities to the front. 5, we are building #PersonalsApp click website in bio to learn more. 6, we cannot do location hashtags – IG has censored these on personals. Another reason we are building #PersonalsApp 🚫7, Do not DM or Email your personal! It will not be posted. You must wait for open call for submissions. 8, We will be reposting this often. see story highlights for more info. 9, donate via PayPal or Venmo @FundPersonals, info n bio. 💓Thank You💓 photo @ilonatuominen 10, if you are into someone’s personal – comment @ them or follow / and DM them. That’s also how Personals works. Enjoy!
I wasn’t sure about including PERSONALS in a list about our herstory, because it’s arguably one of the most present things we, as a people, are doing right now! It feels like everyone I know has either submitted a personals ad, responded to a personals ad, or at least scrolls through and reads the ads religiously, occasionally screenshotting one to send to a friend as a gentle push to get them to send a DM. I argued with myself for a little bit – can this count as history? But you know what I decided? (Well, of course you do, because it’s on the list, but humor me.) I decided yes! The PERSONALS account is run by Kelly Rakowski, the badass behind the HERSTORY account I wrote about above, and the entire project was inspired by the personals featured in On Our Backs, a lesbian magazine from the ’80s.
Writing wildly specific personals, embarking on long distance pen pal relationships before U-Hauling across the country to give it a go in the same city, and feeling your heart sink when you start reading a personals ad and realize before you’ve finished that it’s your most recent ex are all 100% queer culture – always has been, always will be. We are who we are. This account may be set in the present, but it’s very much rooted in the past, and I feel certain that 100 years from now, when future generations of dykes and queers go looking for stories about their elders, they’ll put every single personals ad from this account in an archive. What will archives look like in the year 2118? I have no idea. But these little snippets of our desires, our identities, our wants, our dislikes, our hope… they’ll be there. It’s what we’re all always looking for when we go searching for our herstory.