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07.29.2015
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July 20, 2015

Harlem Archive Collects Past Stories of Those Who Wrestled With Their Sexuality

New York Times
By Winnie Hu

By the time Nora-Ann Thompson fell in love with a woman, she was 45 years old and had three failed marriages behind her. The daughter of a black pastor in the Bronx, she had grown up in a family and a church that did not talk openly about sexuality, let alone homosexuality.

When she finally told her father, all he could say was “that cannot be; you need a man to take care of you and protect you,” she recalled. They never spoke of it again.

Ms. Thompson, now 65, is part of a new oral history project in Harlem that captures the experiences of 13 pioneers in New York City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Their stories tell of the hardship and discrimination they faced within their own families at a time when expressing their sexuality was neither encouraged nor accepted.

All of those interviewed for the project are black, and range in age from 52 to 83. They include a transgender woman who was once homeless and took female hormone shots on the street and a transgender man who was shunned by co-workers after they learned of his medical history. Another man was taunted as gay by his sisters long before he moved to New York and came out.

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kgarcia@sageusa.org

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