James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Archives December 2011

Berner vs. Briggs Collection

A recent addition to the Hormel Center's archival collections is a box of material from the legal case of Lawrence Berner vs. John Briggs, et al. The suit was filed as a result of the November 1978 California ballot Proposition 6, which sought to prohibit openly GLBT persons from teaching. Prop. 6 was based on the belief that GLBT school teachers are not suitable role models for children and on the fear of inappropriate conduct towards their students.

State senator John Briggs sponsored the proposition, which became commonly known as the "Briggs Initiative." In addition to Briggs, Prop. 6 was supported by Anita Bryant and the organization Save Our Children. Bryant had recently experienced success in mobilizing an anti-gay rights movement in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Lawrence Berner, a gay school teacher in the Healdsburg, California school system, was singled out by Briggs and became a rallying point for the "No on 6" campaign. Due to significant political mobilization by Gwen Craig, Tom Ammiano, Harvey Milk, Hank Wilson, Bill Kraus, Sally Gearhart, and many GLBT community members, the proposition did not pass in California. The "No on 6" campaign was also supported by political heavyweights Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

After the proposition was defeated, Berner sued John Briggs, Save Our Children, Lee Lee (the president of the Healdsburg Public School Board) and 99 anonymous defendants listed as "Does 1-99." Berner filed the suit in 1979 and he won in 1982.

This collection focuses on the lawsuit and contains documents and exhibits regarding the pertinent events of 1978. It includes depositions by John Briggs and several other key figures in the Prop. 6 story. Of special note are scientific articles and doctors' testimony used in support of Berner's suit. Doctors David Kessler and Ernest van den Haag were the primary expert witnesses regarding the then-current scientific thought on homosexuality, children, role models, sexuality, gender identity, and pedophilia. The collection contains some correspondence with Kessler and van den Haag, as well as their depositions and copies of selected journal articles.

Because the Berner vs. Briggs collection is a very recent acquisition and not yet organized, it is not currently available for research. Two archival collections here at the library contain related material: the Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection and the Randy Shilts Papers. The Milk-Smith collection contains several files on the Briggs Initiative and the notes of Milk's debate with John Briggs. The Shilts Papers' Journalism series contains drafts and notes on different stories that Shilts wrote. Some of the files from 1977 concern Anita Bryant, Miami-Dade County and the repeal of the gay rights ordinance there. Later files in 1978 contain stories on Proposition 6, John Briggs, Save Our Children and the election results in San Francisco and California.

All Hormel Center archives are handled through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. For questions, please contact the San Francisco History Center reference desk at 415-557-4567.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Archives November 2011

Last summer Charles Schermerhorn donated three charming poetry books written by James H. Ramp. Ramp was born on August 20, 1898 and died in San Francisco on February 15, 1968 at the age of 69. In addition to his poetry, short stories and novels, he wrote the play The Grand Illusion in 1936. His work is in only a few libraries around the world.

The donated books were originally sent by Ramp to George Brammer of 641 O'Farrell Street in San Francisco. One untitled book of typewritten poems is signed: "A few of the latest for George -- J 1929." The Feet of Beauty was printed at Pacific Press Printers, 228 McAllister St., San Francisco; it is similarly inscribed: "George -- J[im] 1929." A third paperbound booklet titled Afterwhiles was printed by The Herald Printing Co., Fredonia, Kansas, for the Fredonia High School class of 1918.

Mr. Schermerhorn has made other book donations to the Hormel Center's collection. Some of those titles are now part of the pulp novel collection which was primarily established through the archival and book donations of Barbara Grier and Donna McBride. Grier and McBride collected literature that touched upon GLBT relationships and they maintained a card file of these books with entries for each author. Their card file includes references to four of Ramp's short story collections.

In The Ideal Gay Man: The Story of Der Kreis, Hubert Kennedy includes the following entry on Ramp's work in Der Kreis: "Another San Francisco writer was James Ramp...His first short story was published in April 1965; it was followed by seven more before the end of 1967. There were also four poems by him. ... Ramp's stories could best be described as gay fantasies. The characters are often working-class men who don't fit in because they love opera or read Walter Pater, for example. They usually have a large [pen!$] and are hungry for sex, but hold out for true love, which they always find at the end of the story, after intervening difficulties. And they apparently 'live happily ever after': one story mentions that a couple has been together for ten years, another for fifteen. The writing is entertaining, with many amusing puns. It's all too good to be true-but fun."

The library's pulp collection includes Consenting Adult, The Love Smeller, A Far Country, This Fierce Heart and Wild Strawberry Patch. There is also a poem by Ramp in the anthology In Homage to Priapus.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Taking on the (In)justice System

In a time of increasing protest it is important to know your enemies as well as your friends. The book, "Queer (In)justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States," by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie and Kay Whitlock, makes evident that the struggle toward LGBT equality involves a lot more than marriage rights or inclusion in the military. Queer history in the hands of the legal system, is rife with media slander, prejudice, sexual abuse and selective, draconian punishment singled out to members of the LGBT community. The authors, two distinguished lawyers and one Quaker peace and justice activist powerfully document the systemic campaign by the powers that be to wipe out all expressions of gender non-conformity. Here is an in-depth review of this ground-breaking book from The Daily Kos blog.

And, speaking of the Daily Kos blog, our next book is a how-to guide, "Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era," written by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, committed ally of all things progressive and queer and the founder of that aforementioned award winning, foreward-thinking, political blog. In this book he presents a step by step guide to muckracking, rabble-rousing and initiating change in this digital age. In spite of the high-tech gloss, his rules for fighting the good fight are old-fashioned and clear, his examples concrete, his energy inexhaustible and his belief in truth begetting eventual justice, inspiring.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reading: "Milk and Honey"--September 13th

On Tuesday September 13th 6-8pm sponsored by the Hormel LGBT Center mark the publication of Julie Enszer's anthology "Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry" with a reading by local contributors. Here Julie Enszer's description of the book:

"In this land of Milk and Honey poems flow. Contemporary Jewish, lesbian poets address an array of experiences--relationships between and among women, family relationships, politics, solitude, ethical responsibilities, history, solidarity and community. With language and imagery that moves from the sensual and political to the tender and serene, "Milk and Honey" explores the vibrant, complicated, exhilarating experience of being Jewish and lesbian--or queer--in the world today."

Local contributors: Elana Nachman, Ellen Bass and Joan Annsfire will read from their work as well as the work of others. The reading will be held in the Latino Conference room across from the Cafe in the lower level of the Main Library.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Archives August 2011

Serendipity in the Archives

As I was looking for something of interest this month, I happened upon a letter written by Harvey Milk to his friend Susan Davis in September 1960. At that time Hurricane Donna ravaged the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. from Florida to Maine. Harvey writes about the expected arrival of the hurricane. Since Hurricane Irene has been all over the news lately, Harvey's letter provides an unexpected connection to events 51 years ago.

Of course, not every moment is newsworthy. For each letter, diary entry, or photograph that evokes a historical moment, there are many more that touch on the daily happenings and occasional milestones in ordinary people's lives. These can be equally interesting to peruse, as they provide glimpses into bygone eras and places and into the concerns and hopes of the people living then.

With that in mind, I selected another letter from the Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch collection (GLC 19). In this letter, Harvey congratulates Sue on her recent wedding to George Alch and muses on marriage, his home life with Joe Campbell and the wonderful city of San Francisco (where Sue and George got married). These letters provide insight into Harvey's personal life, his thoughts and his sense of humor.

The two letters highlighted in this post are merely the tip of the iceberg. The library's archival collections are full of such captured moments--from the mundane, ordinary and quite personal to the life-altering, history-making and public. If you are interested in looking at original historical materials, such as the Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch letters, please visit the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Archives July 2011

Barbara Cameron Papers

Here's a late "July" archives post. Just recently I was re-examining some smaller archival collections to find good candidates to prepare for public use. Among these the Barbara Cameron Papers (2 cartons). This is a jewel box of a collection as each item invites further inspection and contemplation.

Barbara Cameron (May 22, 1954-February 12, 2002) was a Native American (Lakota Sioux) lesbian activist, poet and writer. She was raised by her grandparents on the Standing Rock Reservation (North and South Dakota), and moved to San Francisco in the 197os. In 1975 she co-founded Gay American Indians with Randy Burns. She counted among her friends the Native American poet and activist Chrystos, and there are a few pieces in the Papers that are written by Chrystos and dedicated to Cameron.

The Papers also include speeches, poems and other writings by Cameron. Her subjects include the challenges of being gay within the Native American community, being Native American within the LGBT community, racism, nature, violence and death, acceptance, activism, and alcoholism. Her Papers also include material on the different political groups with which she was affiliated, including the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club.

The Barbara Cameron Papers are not yet ready for public use but I expect them to be ready by the end of 2011. The Papers will be available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Speed Dating for LGBT Boomers--August 2nd

Tired of the online dating feeding frenzy? Meet actual people and perhaps that special someone at the library over a book! Sign up for same-gender speed dating for baby-boomers. Bring a favorite book and come prepared to schmooze about it and more.

Preregistration is required. Contact jjasper@sfpl.org to sign up. The group will be gender balanced as much as possible, and really groovy!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 5:45-7:45 (Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room), lower level, SF Main Library

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Archives June 2011

Ed Lucas Diaries, August 1967-July 1988

Edward Karl Lucas was born in San Francisco on June 24, 1947. He attended Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose, a very good Catholic Prep School. He was a Drama major and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1960s. He took classes at ACT (American Conservatory Theatre) in San Francisco in the early 1970s and was an extra for them as well. He had some speaking parts with Berkeley Rep. around the same time.

His friends describe him as very well-educated and very witty, an Edwardian gentleman and, at the same time, full of fun and imagination. Ed was an avid reader of novels and of the New Yorker. He was very bright, sensitive and sensible.

He lived in San Francisco and Berkeley. He worked at the Postermat on Columbus Ave. (at Green) in the early 1970s where he sold posters and related things to Carlos Santana and Janis Joplin, among others. He was a college recruiter at University of San Francisco after that, then did apartment rentals at Saxe Realty in San Francisco. He also moonlighted as a bartender at the Hayes Street Grill. He was a member of the Gay Mens' Chorus from its very first days and he continued with the Chorus for as long as his health permitted until around the beginning of 1988. Ed died of AIDS on June 30, 1989.

Ed's 13 diaries were donated by his friends Ernie Guomas and Jim Seger, January 2011. The diaries chronicle Ed's activities as a UC Berkeley student and in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s. He notes movies seen, parties he attended, and men he dated, among other things. His thoughtful observations are a nice counterpoint to the whirlwind of life at the time.

1. August 1967-September 1968
2. October 1968-December 1969
3. January 1970-December 1971
4. January 10, 1972-October 3, 1973
5. October 24, 1973-March 5, 1975
6. March 20, 1975-March 12, 1976
7. March 12, 1976-January 11, 1977
8. January 12, 1977-September 13, 1978
9. September 13, 1978-June 1980
10. July 17, 1980-September 26, 1982
11. September 1982-August 1985
12. August 14, 1985-December 31, 1987
13. January 1, 1988-July 4, 1988

The Lucas diaries complement the Vincent diaries (GLC 45) and Gary Fisher papers (GLC 51), two other gay men who lived in San Francisco and died of AIDS. The Ed Lucas Diaries detail an earlier time period than the other two.

The Ed Lucas Diaries (GLC 68) are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hormel Center's Frameline Video Archive Project

The Frameline San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival donated its entire movie archive to the Hormel Center of San Francisco Public Library. The gift includes not only the films shown in the Festival for the past 35 years, but many film submissions never screened. As you may imagine, preserving this collection is central to the Library's mission and of vital importance to the LGBT Community. Just this spring The Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center began to digitize this massive collection. The photograph above is from the futurist Japanese film Summer Vacation:1999 by Shusuke Kaneko. This boys' school charmer features a terrific all-girl cast. (And ssshhhhh! This movie will be shown for free in our Koret Auditorium, Thursday June 23 at noon).

Project Consultant and film historian Jenni Olson went through the collection and selected films she determined to be highest-priority for saving. We sent 14 films, some of them beginning to deteriorate and at risk of being lost forever, to the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) for digital preservation. To find out more about this Frameline Archive Project visit www.sfpl.org/frameline . Come hear Olson speak on Tuesday June 7 in the Koret Auditorium at 6:00pm. She has wonderful stories to tell about the films we are preserving. On stage you will also meet Frameline Festival Program Director Jennifer Morris and Hormel Center Program Manager Karen Sundheim.

And don't miss a rare opportunity to see some of these historical gems screened in their entirety! Every Thursday in June at noon we will show one or two of the finest in our collection. On Thursday June 9 we show Olivia (Pit of Loneliness), a 1951 French lesbian boarding school drama. On June 16 Director Reno Dakota will be here for the showing of his award-winning movie American Fabulous (1991). That's the cover of the video above left. And on June 30 we'll show both Boy! What a Girl!, the 1945 all-Black cast musical starring Tim Moore as the bald, cigar-smoking female impersonator Madame Deborah (see photo above right). We'll also show Out of the Shadows, a rarely screened documentary portrait of African-American Gay and Transgender men in Washington DC, narrated by the late poet Essex Hemphill.

We are hoping to continue to digitize this precious international movie collection over the next couple of years. It is an expensive project and its completion will depend on donations.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Archives May 2011: New Accession

Scott Wirth Operation Concern collection:

Each month, the Hormel Center accepts collections that document LGBT life in the San Francisco Bay area. Sometimes a collection consists of several boxes of papers, T-shirts, buttons, and the like. At other times a collection is just a few manila folders.

This month Dr. Scott Wirth, a psychologist, donated 3 folders of material that documents the early history of Operation Concern. Operation Concern (OC) was the first counseling service established by LGBT people for LGBT people and their families in the Bay area. OC later merged with 18th Street Services to form New Leaf, which closed its doors on October 15, 2010.

Dr. Wirth's donation does not include client files but rather grant reports, grant proposals, fliers, brochures, notes, minutes, and talks. These documents show how the organization sought funding, how it was viewed by peers in counseling circles and the LGBT community, and how the staff approached the critical issues of a new-found clientele.

In October 2010, New Leaf donated several boxes of material, including a small portion on Operation Concern. Dr. Wirth's small but important donation helps to complete the picture of LGBT individuals recognizing a need and organizing a thoughtful response that would serve as a model for counseling centers around the country.

Because the Operation Concern collection is a very recent acquisition and not yet organized, it is not currently available for research. All Hormel Center archives are handled through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. For questions, please contact the San Francisco History Center reference desk at 415-557-4567.

If you have archival material that documents some aspect of the LGBT experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact Karen Sundheim, the Program Manager of the Hormal Center, Main Library at 415-557-4566.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Archives April 2011

Atlas Savings & Loan

What with Tax Day in April, this month is all about money. So it seems fitting that we just received a donation of two stock certificates issued by Atlas Savings & Loan. Atlas was the first financial institution established by and for gays and lesbians in the United States.

John Schmidt, its chairman, along with ten gay directors, including two women, formed Atlas in 1980 in San Francisco. The savings and loan opened for business in November 1981 and identified the gay and lesbian community as its primary market. In August 1982 Atlas opened a branch on 18th and Castro Streets and by January 1985 had three branches in San Francisco.

By June 1985 Atlas began to suffer as a result of bad construction loans, joint ventures and shared loans with two other savings and loans. In August 1985 Atlas was declared insolvent. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board took control of the savings and loan in July 1986 and its assets were sold to Empire Savings of New York.

In September 1986 the Federal Bureau of Investigation began conducting an inquiry into allegations of wrong-doing by former senior management as part of its investigation into three other failed savings and loan associations in Northern California. A group of former Atlas shareholders sued John Schmidt and its auditing firm, Price Waterhouse, in 1989 claiming that they were misled as to Atlas’ financial condition. In 1990 Empire of America Bank (formerly Empire Savings of New York) was placed in conservatorship.

The majority of the Atlas Savings & Loan Collection was donated by Lester Bruno in 1997 with subsequent additions by Jim Van Buskirk, Roy Johnson, the GLBT Historical Society of Northern California, and Donald Reed. The collection spans the years 1979-1990 and contains a small amount of business correspondence and records including bylaws, publicity, promotional materials, mailings to shareholders and stock certificates. There is good press coverage of Atlas through the years especially its opening in 1981 and its financial difficulties in 1985 and 1986. In addition there is a lot of memorabilia and giveaways with the Atlas logo.

The Atlas Savings & Loan Collection (GLC 48) is available for research through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

The images include: one of the stock certificates, a portion of the People magazine article on Atlas in February 22, 1982, a promotional piece with an item in Herb Caen's column, brochures, and a photo that appeared in the 1985 San Francisco Gay Pride Celebration guide.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Singing Leaves of Grass

San Franciscans had the pleasure of listening to attorney Daniel Redman bring forth Walt Whitman's pioneering expression of male companion love, as he sang the first chapter of Leaves of Grass before a mesmerized audience of nearly 80. The Library is celebrating 150 years since the publication of Whitman's Calamus Poems with an exhibition in the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center called "Paths Untrodden: Walt Whitman's Calamus Poems and the The Radical Faeries". The exhibition, which runs through May 19, 2011, was curated by local researcher and historian Joey Cain. There are photographs of Walt Whitman and his contempories.

Daniel Redman sang passionately in a melody influenced by his Jewish roots. Some who were listening were reminded of Bar Mitzvah's attended in youth, while another commented Whitman's words seemed to be brought forth as Irish seafaring song. When Redman was asked
about recording his music, he mused on the possibility of different chapters of the long poem being sung by Queer people from other cultural backgrounds. He described LGBT life as being a diasporic culture, wherever we are is our Jerusalem........LGBT true home is in the heart.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Archives March 2011: Gay Bears

Lynn Ludwig Photograph Albums

When the temperature goes down, I naturally think of hibernating. And hibernating naturally makes me think of bears. Within the LGBT community "bear" refers to someone whose physical appearance closely resembles that of a real bear: hairy, strong and anywhere from heavyset to heavily muscled.

In August, Lynn Ludwig donated his collection of 41 photo albums and 200 photo portraits. Lynn's photographs document bear events, LGBT pride parades in San Francisco and his own family events. Frequently documented are the Lone Star Saloon, Eagle bar, and the street fairs for Folsom, Dore Alley and Castro streets.

The albums include portraits of friends and family. All of the albums are interspersed with Lynn's beautiful photographs of flowers and Northern California scenery. Occasionally there are badges from events that Lynn attended as well as flyers promoting those events. The time frame covered is 1988-1999. We see here a sample of some of the images that Lynn captured: a San Diego Bear Pride event from 1992; also a flyer from the ABC Convergence (Associated Bigmen's Clubs); and a lovely shot of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco. The Lynn Ludwig Photographs Collection (GLC 65) is available for research and browsing through the San Francisco History Center.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Queer Teachers: Out of the Past, Into the Future

With all the flack that teachers have been subjected to lately in the mainstream press, it is past time to give a shout-out to those who continue to brave the difficult challenge of educating our future generations. The first selection, "And They Were Wonderful Teachers: Florida's Purge of Gay and Lesbian Teachers," by Karen L. Graves is a blow by blow historical account of a witchunt that began in the fall of 1956 growing out of a climate fueled by McCarthyism and the cold war, an environment that fostered distrust and suspicion. This book is the story of 87 gay and lesbian teachers, the victims of that purge. Their responses to this persecution are as varied and complex as those folks who testified before HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Council. Count this book as one that puts our present day struggle into proper historical context.

Our second book is an anthology edited by Nelson M. Rodriguez and William F. Pinar titled,"Queering Straight Teachers: Discourse and Identity in Education." These eleven essays are a jumping off point for a different kind of discussion, one that involves straight people just as much as queer ones. It relies on something that old school feminists used to call "conciousness raising." In this case, it just means waking up to the realization that heterosexism along with a preconceived and inflexible conception of gender, only serves to limit the opportunities for self-actualization and achievement for everyone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The History of Queers and Cinema

This classic, "Out at the Movies: A History of Gay Cinema," by Steven Paul Davies covers the basic ground, focusing on, but not limited to films made in the United States. From the closet days of the fifties: (The Wizard of Oz) through the ominous classics of the sixties: (The Killing of Sister George, Midnight Cowboy, The Children's Hour) up through the early 21st century: (Angels in America, Brokeback Mountain, Transamerica), he chronicles a progression of the best-known films, actors and directors who brought LGBT life to light on the big screen.

"Queer Screen: A Screen Reader," edited by Jackie Stacey and Sarah Street is an anthology, a collection of different writers presenting a compilation of articles about specific queer films and the issues surrounding them. Most of the contributors to this anthology are women and so it provides a distinctly lesbian perspective to the world of queer cinema.

"Queer Cinema in Europe," edited by Robin Griffiths takes us across the pond with another anthology examining queer identity in film. This book contains fourteen scholarly essays. Identities, aesthetics, queer bars and queer spaces and coming out stories in the cinema of Europe are some of the topics broached in this collection of predominantly male writers.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Archives January 2011

California Hall, San Francisco. January 1, 1965.

46 years ago an event occurred which served to coalesce the emerging LGBT community in San Francisco. Police harrassment of homosexual men and women was witnessed first-hand by straight men and women. They were appalled and were very public about their outrage.

In the mid-1960s members of the gay community and the religious community sought to find common ground. The Council on Religion and the Homosexual sponsored a fundraiser, a Mardi Gras Ball. Attendees included homosexual men and women along with local clergy and their wives.

Evander Smith was a San Francisco lawyer who along with Herbert Donaldson was retained by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. Anticipating police harassment at the ball, Smith and Donaldson were asked to attend the event in case legal advice was necessary.

In fact the police did take photographs of attendees arriving and requested admission to the event on two occasions. The first was to examine whether the event was in accord with rules regarding liquor; this was standard practice and the police were admitted to ascertain that the event was in compliance. At a later time, the police asked for admittance again and were denied because they did not have tickets for the private event and could provide no reason to enter. As a result, four people were arrested: Evander Smith, Herbert Donaldson, Elliott Leighton and Nancy May.

The Hormel Center contains the Evander Smith -California Hall Papers. The collection includes case files on the legal defense of Smith, Donaldson, Leighton and May. The files contain a chronology of the events that took place, legal research on the laws pertaining to those events, notes on jury selection, materials concerning homosexuals and their treatment by authorities, clippings of newspaper coverage and cartoons, a few photographs of attendees and police, and some homosexual publications of the time. There are also copies of sermons or papers enclosed in Methodist Church service programs of January 1965.

Nan Alamilla Boyd's book Wide Open Town:a history of queer San Francisco to 1965 is an excellent history of the events leading up to and through this moment in San Francisco LGBT history. The Evander Smith/California Hall Papers are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th Floor, Main Library.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sexual Intimacy in US Prisons

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world. According to the United States Deparment of Justice statistics, in 2009 there were 748 inmates for every 100,000 residents. Although in rare instances sexual contact occurs between males and females, the overwhelming majority of sexual contact in prison is between people of the same gender.

In Regina Kunzel's book, "Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality," she rejects the often asked question, "do prisons simply collect "perverts" or help produce them?" by substituting the theory that sexual expression behind bars is not an issue of identity. Kunzel stresses the difficulties for those prisoners exhibiting "gender non-conformity" and points out that power, pleasure and random circumstance are more responsible for the normative shift of behavior in a single-sex environment than any theories regarding whether or not an inmate identifies as gay.

Silja J.A. Talvi presents a less academic take on prisons in her book, Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System. Talvi's background as an investigative journalist, editor and activist is evident in this work. By referencing the actual experiences of women inmates she presents examples of sex between women that runs the gamut between furtive encounters to stable partnerships. In addition she deals with other inmate issues such as medical care, mental health, abuse and the specific situations of women who kill. This book encompasses both defeat and resistance, it reads as a compilation of survival strategies utilized by women who feel themselves to be "a nearly invisible group that has been dehumanized, forgotten."

Click here for more information about the Women Behind Bars Prison Project that Silja Talvi founded.