Illustrated LGBTQ History: Reimer and Brown Connect Queer Past with Queer Present
Through the lenses of protest, power, and pride, WE ARE EVERYWHERE by Matthew Reimer and Leighton Brown, published by Ten Speed Press, is a rich, sweeping and empowering photographic history of the Queer Liberation Movement. The creators and curators of the popular Instagram account @lgbt_history, Reimer and Brown combine exhaustively researched narrative with meticulously curated photographs. The resulting coffee-table-sized volume traces queer activism from its roots in late-nineteenth-century Europe–long before the pivotal Stonewall Riots of 1969–to the gender warriors leading the charge today.
Featuring more than 300 images from more than seventy photographers and twenty archives, this inclusive and intersectional book enables readers to gain a definitive view of queer history, with glimpses of activism in the decades preceding and following Stonewall, family life, marches, protests, celebrations, mourning, and Pride. By challenging many of the assumptions that dominate mainstream LGBTQ+ history, WE ARE EVERYWHERE shows readers how they can honor the queer past in order to shape a liberated future.
In this special “Behind the Pages” Igloo Interview, Reimer and Brown delve into what inspired the creation of this book, the process involved in putting all of the elements together, and how they hope the historical narrative will resonate with readers.
What was the genesis of and inspiration for the creation of WE ARE EVERYWHERE?
In a lot of ways, the genesis of and inspiration for WE ARE EVERYWHERE came from our work on Instagram as @lgbt_history, the account we started in early 2016. We’ve spent years collecting and curating imagery from the queer past, researching the stories and ideas behind the images, and pairing them together in an accessible way for an ever-expanding audience. Coincidentally–and sadly–we’ve done this work in the shadow of the rise of the most fascistic government the United States has had in generations, and that very much shaped our perspective and approach to history, as did the constant feedback we got from those who were interacting with the Instagram account. We always had a book in mind, though we didn’t really expect it to happen. We wanted to create the book that we needed years ago: one that connects the queer present to the queer past in such a way that might guide to a more liberated future. And we’re of course forever indebted to Kaitlin Ketchum, our Ten Speed Press editor, for reaching out to us and sticking with us throughout the process.
How did you go about writing the text, collecting images, and putting the book together?
It’s tough to answer the question, because our work as @lgbt_history certainly informed the writing of the book, but the process of researching, curating, and writing WE ARE EVERYWHERE was separate and distinct from our social media presence. We often chalk our approach to the book up to our training as attorneys: we focused on primary sources (which you have to approach with caution and understanding), then turned to secondary sources (which should be read with even more scrutiny), and then we sought out images that reflected the information we found in the written sources. What we’d learned over the years on @lgbt_history, but what we simply couldn’t impart on social media, was that queer history in the U.S. is full of connections–the same people, places, and issues keep popping up over and over; usually, our history is told as a series of superheroes or random events, when it’s just not accurate. Countless people have been fighting tirelessly for over a century to earn the limited rights that queer people have today; we are in no position to stop fighting. We wanted to write a book that showed that.
Why is Ten Speed Press the best publishing home for WE ARE EVERYWHERE?
We both were practicing attorneys when approached to do WE ARE EVERYWHERE; in other words, we didn’t need to do a book. Instead, we very much wanted to do a particular type of book; we had a vision of merging the incredible photographic history with a deeply-researched narrative. We didn’t think that we were going to ever get to do that book, as we kept getting the sense that there were, on one hand, photography books, and, on the other hand, history books. Ten Speed Press not only has allowed us to do the book we imagined, they’ve supported us at every step, they’ve encouraged us, and they’ve made the final product even more incredible than we could’ve imagined. Kaitlin Ketchum, Annie Marino, Doug Ogan, David Hawk, and Daniel Wikey are an incredible group of people on whom we’ve depended and to whom we owe more than we can say.
What aspects of this book do you think will resonate most strongly with readers?
We’ve eschewed traditional approaches to LGBTQ+ history. It didn’t start at Stonewall. We don’t much care about the perspective of the dominant culture. Our stories are not always pretty; the queer community is as guilty of bigotry and selfishness as any other. Our community doesn’t owe anyone any thanks; we’ve earned everything that we have and we have a lot more work to do. That’s the narrative aspect we hope resonates. Beyond that, of course, it’s a big, beautiful, glossy photography book, chock full of images that you’ve either never seen or you’ve never seen like this. And, from an academic perspective, it’s an exceedingly well-researched text. It’s the book we needed.