Mapping the Gay Guides

Mapping the Gay Guides (MGG) is an in-progress digital history project and collaboration between myself and Dr. Eric Gonzaba. MGG draws on Bob Damron’s Address Book, an early but longstanding travel guide aimed at gay men since the early 1960s. An LGBT equivalent to the African American “green books,” the Damron guides contained lists of bars, bathhouses, cinemas, hotels, advocacy organizations and cruising sites in every U.S. state. MGG seeks to associate geographical coordinates with each location mentioned within the Damron Guides and provide an interface for visualizing and stuyding the growth in LGBTQ sites between 1965 and 2005. Made up of a public-facing and freely available web app as well as a series of digital vignettes that analyze the data using historical context, MGG stands to make a significant contribution to scholars understanding of the ways in which LGBTQ people negotiated and appropriated public space to form community.

Using a subset of the data digitized for this project, we have written a forthcoming article for Southern Quarterly entitled “Mapping the New Gay South: Queer Space and Southern Life 1965-1980.” In this article, we argue that the appearance and utilization of gay space as an integral part of southern life helped create what we refer to as “the New Gay South,” a robust but close-knit network of queer geography far from the gay meccas of San Francisco or New York.

MGG has recently received a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the expansion of Mapping the Gay Guides. This generous support comes from the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program within the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access. The funding will allow MGG to expand to include another twenty-five years of data representing an estimated 100k more locations. Notably, this expansion will allow the project to study changes in the LGTBQ spatial landscape during the AIDS crisis, the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and more. You can read more about the ways in which MGG will expand thanks to this NEH funding on the project’s blog.