Sources: Proud Heritage: People, Issues, and Documents of the LGBT Experience

Proud Heritage: People, Issues, and Documents of the LGBT Experience. Ed. By Chuck Stewart. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 3 vols. acid free $294 (ISBN: 978-1-61069-398-1).

Proud Heritage offers an eclectic array of primary documents and encyclopedia entries on LGBT history, activism, and legal rights under state and federal law. While the thematic entries and short biographies in the first volume are similar to those that have appeared in encyclopedias and handbooks on LGBT issues over the last fifteen years, volumes two and three offer unique source material for undergraduate research in gender and sexuality.

Volume two presents primary documents related to LGBT experience, activism, and historical events from early America through the present, including those produced by LGBT communities, as well as those who have opposed them. Each prefaced with a short contextual introduction, these include reports produced by the Mattachine Society, the Lesbian Avengers, and the Conference of Lesbians of Color, as well as condemnations from religious groups, ex-gays, and elected officials. Over thirty legal documents are reproduced, including important decisions related to sodomy laws, employment, adoption, discrimination, harassment, and marriage. Some of the earlier documents would be difficult to locate elsewhere, including 17th and 18th century criminal trials, and pre-1950s documents on homosexuality among the Navy, Women’s Army Corps, and US government employees.

The third volume is organized into chapters corresponding to individual states. For each state, a narrative overview provides history of the sociocultural environment for LGBT people, in most cases dating back to early European settlement. Following the overview, the authors provide a summary of relevant legal statutes. The areas of law consistently covered include adoption, reproduction, custody, gender markers on state identification, hate crimes, marriage, employment, schools, and sodomy.

When compared with the second edition of David E. Newton’s Gay and Lesbian Rights (ABC-CLIO, 2009) there is some overlap in thematic coverage and emphasis on legal issues, but at over three times the length, Proud Heritage provides over one hundred fifty primary documents to Newton’s fourteen. This emphasis on reproducing sources and summarizing legal statutes does come with a less granular approach to the topical and biographical entries in volume one of the set. For broader coverage in this area the Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America (Charles Scribners & Sons, 2004) offers greater emphasis on social movements, intersectionality, and academia. LGBTQ America Today: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 2009) has a similar focus, but a greater emphasis on short biographical entries. Proud Heritage is focused on the United States, so Greenwood Encyclopedia of LGBT Issues Worldwide (Greenwood, 2010), which provides entries for individual countries as Proud Heritage does for states, is a better source for developing arguments about legal issues for LGBT people on a global scale.

My one complaint about this work is that the “Q” typically found at the end of “LGBT,” which represents “queer” identities, seems to be missing, both from the title and the thematic entries—though it does make a few appearances in the latter. Queer-identified people make significant and often radical contributions to LGBT activism, and it would be nice to see these communities better represented here.

While the signed thematic entries in Proud Heritage are will-written and could be useful to undergraduates pursuing research on LGBT issues, it is the large number of primary documents and thorough exploration of individual state laws and statutes that make this work significant. This content is unique, and provides a welcome addition among LGBTQ-centered reference sources.—Madeline Veitch, Metadata and Reference Librarian, State University of New York at New Paltz


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