Love and Resistance

Baumann, Jason (Editor), Kay Tobin Lahusen (Photographer), Diana Davies (Photographer), and Roxane Gay (Introduction). Love and Resistance: Out of the Closet into the Stonewall Era. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Queer folks marching with a Gay Liberation Front banner.

“Queer culture thrives and has always thrived because resistance is as deeply embedded in who we are as our sexuality” (xv). With these words by Roxane Gay, we are introduced to an incredible collection of LGBTQIA+ documentary photographs taken in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Photographs were taken by journalists Kay Tobin Lahusen and Diana Davies in people’s homes, in bars and other social atmospheres, and amid political protests. Images were collected in the New York Public Library Archives and selected by editor Jason Baumann.

While the majority of this book showcases portraits and photojournalism, Baumann pairs images with carefully researched historical and cultural context. Love and Resistance begins with a wonderful preface describing the political and social milieu of 1960s and 1970s queer life in America, focusing mostly on queer hubs like New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Journalists Lahusen and Davies are given generous biographical introductions.

Movements and organizations profiled by Lahusen and Davies include Gay Liberation Front, ACT UP, Radical Faeries, Lavender Menace, Radicalesbians, Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and Mattachine society, with important personalities including Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, Dick Leitsch, and Craig Rodwell. Many of these photographs have been shared on social media without context, so I was delighted to learn the deeper histories. Others were new to me and I was excited to see images I’d never seen of some of my heroes.

Photographs are organized into four chapters, focusing on visibility, love, pride, and protest. I thoroughly enjoyed pouring over lovely portraits and photos-in-motion of individuals, lovers, friends, social life, and resistance. Interestingly, Lahusen and Davies were at many of the same protests documenting the same folks, so we get to see events from two different perspectives. What struck me the most is the pure joy emanating from most of the photographs.

It made my heart feel good to see people in love, people being courageous, people being vulnerable. Trans people, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, leather and fetish community members, activists and artists and regular folk getting together to shake up the establishment. This book made me feel proud to be queer and hungry for more of my history.

Love and Resistance was on the 2020 Rainbow Book List. I highly recommend it for public and academic libraries as well as for use in journalism and archival courses.

About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
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