The protection of LGBTQ communities and their complex, deep histories is an ongoing battle waged by activists, politicians, and historians around the world. As government leaders and public figures attempt to diminish both the rights and visibility of these groups, observers to the political battleground don’t have to sit idly by. From political advocacy to personal education, communities can and should rally behind the cause.
Accessible education has always been a significant tool for social change, and in the age of the internet, that rings more true than ever. Where lack of physical access used to be a nail in the coffin for accessing diverse, thorough information, growing technology and social media have risen to bridge much of that gap. Digital divides still exist for many, but it’s now easier than ever to access knowledge that would have been nearly impossible to find just a few decades ago. And that’s incredibly important to communities that have had their histories systematically ignored, especially LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color.
So, on top of all the political organizing, nonprofit support, and social media engagement you put into bolstering LGBTQ communities, dive into the troves of LGBTQ history floating around the internet. It’s a vital part of our nation’s — and the global community’s — existence. Here are just a handful of the many accounts sharing various parts of these communities’ long histories.
Creators and social media campaigns
One of the biggest accounts on the list with more than 430,000 followers, Rainbow History Class is a TikTok-based crash course in all facets of LGBTQ history and culture. Videos span just about every topic, from stories about influential trans women in the music industry, like Grammy winner Wendy Carlos and the Academy Award-recognized composer Angela Morley, to a historical recounting of lesbian and gay solidarity during the HIV and AIDS crisis. Beyond its regular host and contributor, Australian creative and pop culture enthusiast Rudy Jean Rigg, the account also invites outside voices (called “substitute teachers”) to contribute commentary and featured history lessons based on their own areas of expertise (many videos focus on queer Australian history, in particular). Visit Rainbow History Class’s website for more information on its mission and the account’s teachers.
What is heteroflexibility?
Ellie Medhurst is a lesbian fashion historian and a frequent contributor to Rainbow History Class, sharing her expert knowledge on all things clothes, design, and queer history. On her TikTok page, Medhurst posts about a wide variety of subjects, including the history of Black lesbian fashion, how queer fashion aesthetics appear in fictionalized media, and short biographies of lesser-known lesbian figures, like the early twentieth century feminist writer Otake Kōkichi. Medhurst also runs a personal blog, where you can find lengthier discussions of lesbian and queer fashion choices, like dungarees (overalls) and their connection to lesbian feminists or the history of short hairstyles and community resistance.
The It Gets Better project is a campaign and nonprofit organization working to empower and educate LGBTQ youth around the world through media programming and community building. The campaign also posts on TikTok, and while it’s not just limited to historical content — also sharing videos about current politics, mental health, and media representation — the page frequently highlights unknown LGBTQ history through its “30 Second Queer History” series. Videos under this tag highlight things like the work of Stonewall activist Stormé DeLarverie, the legacy of the Los Angeles’ Trans Empowerment Center and AIDS activists, and unknown facts about a variety of Black queer icons, from vogueing pioneer Willi Ninja to blues pianist and singer Gladys Bentley.
BiHistory is an Instagram account and digital archive project created by Mel Reeve, a writer and former archivist based in the United Kingdom. The Instagram project was conceptualized as a way to preserve the history of bisexual communities and activists, as well as highlight bisexual icons and activists throughout history, like First Nations Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau, 17th-century opera singer and swordsman Julie d’Aubigny, and famed performers Bessie Smith and Josephine Baker. On Instagram you’ll find historical images, interviews, and other media like zines, flags, and advertisements created by and for bisexual organizers, as well as current events in LGBTQ organizing and event programming. BiHistory has also published three zines about the BiHistory archive, which are available for digital purchase.
Museums and archives
The GLBT Historical Society was founded in 1985 as a primary resource for preserving public LGBTQ history. Based in San Francisco, the society collects and exhibits historical materials related to queer communities around the country, hosting events and educational opportunities for the public to engage in the rich and complex stories of LGBTQ people. On both its Twitter and Instagram pages, the society posts glimpses into the vast archive, which includes one of the first Pride flags hoisted at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978. You can find more of the archive, primary source databases, research guides, and online exhibitions on the society’s website.
The Digital Transgender Archive is an online initiative to preserve and democratize access to transgender history, inspired by the difficulties faced by researchers and historians of transgender and gender nonconforming communities. The archive aggregates various databases, online media, and independent history projects, including independent trans publishing houses, newsletters, and other historical media like photograph collections and random ephemera, which cover a wide variety of transgender history. Portions of this database are shared on the archive’s Instagram and Twitter pages. If you’re interested in the stories shared, dive deeper into the database and other educational resources over on the official website.
Making Gay History is an oral history archive turned podcast (and Twitter account) created by journalist Eric Marcus, sorting and sharing 30 years worth of archival audio clips featuring the voices and stories of LGBTQ people, friends, and family. The Making Gay History podcast turns these clips into fully fleshed-out pieces of queer history, representing a diverse community of everyday people. The stories cover the varied lives of activists, like playwright and gay rights activist Larry Kramer, former UCLA cheerleader and LGBTQ novelist Randy Boyd, and collegiate tennis star and AIDS activist Sara Boesser. After visiting the initiative’s Twitter page, visit the official website for more information, or listen to the podcast.
Wearing Gay History chronicles the use of clothing, specifically T-shirts, in LGBTQ organizing and community building, with thousands of photos and accompanying information made available in a free, accessible digital archive and shared on its Twitter page. The account and database were co-created by Eric Gonzaba, a historian of LGBTQ and African American culture at California State University, Fullerton, who brought together the digital archives of numerous LGBTQ databases across the globe. With more than 4,500 items, Wearing Gay History shares textile examples of both LGBTQ art and design, and the history of queer clubs, events, and other community spaces. Find the full collection of textiles and histories on the Wearing Gay History website.
Another Twitter follow, the digital archive Mapping Gay Guides, which chronicles the history of queer spaces across the United States, was also co-created by Gonzaga. Based on travel guides written by Bob Damron, a gay man who traveled extensively throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the archive physically maps the legacy of LGBTQ organizing both for fun and political community. The archive includes tens of thousands of LGBTQ-friendly spaces around the country, like Washington, D.C.’s Paramount Steak House — one of the few commercial Damron listings that has remained open and LGBTQ-friendly since the first travel guide was published. The initiative shares the histories of notable locations in the form of short vignettes, all honoring the legacy of Damron’s books and the historical battle over LGBTQ safe spaces.