I began the programme in part because the LGBTQ+ community has a limited visual record, or none at all, of significant events in our history, particularly in the histories of Queers of colour and transgender people. Just as photographs from your early life help to anchor personal memories, a visual record – even an imagined one – can bring historical events to life.
History is taught in school, but LGBTQ history mostly is not. The “Queer Ancestors Project” is a workshop in San Francisco for young artists. It hopes to uncover some forgotten histories, and create something beautiful out of what is found. Reporter Annie Berman spoke with the program’s artists and teachers to find out more.
"Artists often move back in time for inspiration; they connect with ancestors in the process of creation. Queer people have queer ancestors, too, of course. But for a variety of reasons, the connections aren’t always so strong.Queer history, if it wasn’t outright suppressed, was never particularly well recorded until more recently. This is especially true when it comes to the visual record — particularly for queer people of color and transgender people. The Queer Ancestors Project changes this, one class at a time over several months, by connecting artists to the LGBTQ people who came before them"
Chan says. “Queer culture has such a long history of resistance — resistance and resilience and creativity whether from camp or drag balls, performances, writing — there’s such a wealth.” The problem is that queer artists are rarely called out as such, which often leads to erasure. To push back on that, to help situate her students in history, Chan put a particular emphasis on personal storytelling. “I really wanted them to see themselves in conversation with history … that their lives and their stories matter and are a part of history.”
"Often, though, this history has remained in the shadows, in the margins. “It’s not documented, but we know it happened. They’re encouraged to do the research, so they know the context,” Gilmartin said. “For some artists, it’s about inventing queer and trans history and imagining it into being.”