Queering Archives: Why it is Important to Include LGBT Items in Archives

Authored by Audrey Shults

Queering Fanfiction Event Poster from Marymount Manhattan College

This artifact is a copy of a poster advertising for an April of 2017 event discussing Queering Fanfiction, or taking media and putting an LGBT spin on it, usually so that two previously heterosexual characters enter a homosexual relationship. The event was hosted by Marymount Manhattan College’s (MMC) Gender and Sexuality Studies Club which, in addition to being a club, is a minor offered by the college. This aligns with MMC’s mission to help students “develop an awareness of social, political, cultural, and ethical issues in the belief that this awareness will lead to concern for, participation in, and improvement of society” (Marymount Manhattan College, n.d.). Because homosexuality has only recently begun to lose its stigma, there are few items from the LGBT community in MMC’s archives, save for the past decade or so.

The idea of queering characters in popular fiction however, has been around for a long time, and due to the internet “writers who share similar interests can fairly easily collaborate, even across long distances” (Kruger 2010). This is crucial, because “many of the most challenged books, year after year, feature voices from diverse communities (including those of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and LGBT people)” (Oltmann 2017, 410-418), causing some queer writers to fear sharing their work. By sharing one’s writing online, however, a sense of anonymity is added. While a person may not feel comfortable expressing their sexuality in day-to-day life, they could post a link to their queer writing online and “every user [of that platform] would know what the biases and personal interests of the link poster were, and could follow links [or blogs] on that basis”(Rak 2005, 166-182, 252-253). This interaction leads to groups of like-minded individuals collaborating.

It is imperative that queer artifacts like this are included in archives because “queering the archive transforms the institution with possibilities of inclusivity for social justice and the rewriting of histories”(Zepedia 2018). This idea aligns with St. John’s mission, which states that students are here not just to get a job, but to learn “how to make a difference in the world” (St. John’s University, n.d.). Inclusion of objects from queer events in archives such as the one at Marymount Manhattan College does just that; it really makes a difference.

References

Kruger, Steven. 2010. “Gay Internet Medievalism: Erotic Story Archives, the Middle Ages, and Contemporary Gay Identity.” American Literary History 22, no. 4. https://doi.org/10.1093/alh/ajq064

Lizeth, Zepeda. 2018. “Queering the Archive: Transforming the Archival Process.” disClosure 27. https://doi.org/10.13023/disclosure.27.14

Marymount Manhattan College. n.d. “Mission.” Accessed October 16, 2018. https://www.mmm.edu/about-us/mission.php.

Oltmann, Shannon. 2017. “Creating Space at the Table: Intellectual Freedom Can Bolster Diverse Voices.” Library Quarterly 87, no. 4: 410-418. https://doi.org/10.1086/693494

Rak, Julie. 2005. “The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity.” Biography 28, no. 1: 166-182,252-253.

St. John’s University. n.d. “Our Mission.” Accessed October 16, 2018. https://www.stjohns.edu/faith-service/our-mission.

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