This is the Winter 2017 course discussion blog for and by UCLA students enrolled in LGBTQ Studies 183: Queer Arts in LA.
This course includes a creative component. When this course was first offered during the Fall 2012 quarter, the students researched queer artists who have a significant connection to Los Angeles. Then created a collaborative website.
My name is Valerie Merringer and I’m from San Francisco, CA. I moved to LA for my freshman year and have fallen in love with the city and the wide range of activities and communities it has to offer. I’m a Gender Studies major and have been so lucky to learn about history of feminist and queer movements in a city that has seen so much of this history go through it. You can usually find me at the beach or Downtown-where I love to look at the architecture and imagine a bigger, faster moving Los Angeles.
What I found most interesting in the first portion of Gay LA: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipsticks Lesbians was the connection between location or spaces and identity. Los Angeles during the 1930’s and mid 1940’s had the illusion of being a liberal dream and a safe haven for artists and those who wanted to explore a queer identity. After Pearl Harbor and the influx of military personal in the South Bay Harbor where men were shipped out, there was a rebirth of gay bars that didn’t just serve the Hollywood and Vine area. These bars, which worked as a place of camaraderie and safety for men coming back from war were a huge success. As the war in Europe and the Pacific wined down, the development of permanent housing communities- intended for bachelors coming back from war helped build LA up. I was so surprised to see that “when military men and women completed their tours of duty, more came back to Los Angeles than to any other city” (Faderman and Timmons, 73.) The notion that we must never underestimate the power of visibility and community is something that this excellent book is coming back to. The visual arts allow for another form of expression of the political and social happenings of a specific location that allow us as views and participants to honor our past histories.