Idaho LGBTQ oral history collection in works

Creating an audio archive of the Idaho LGBTQ community for future generations is one of the primary goals behind an oral history collection project at Boise State University featuring interviews with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer residents.

The project is the brainchild of Riley Caldwell-O’Keefe, a professor in the Boise State University Theatre Arts Department. In the fall of 2011, she taught an “Intro to LGBTQ Studies” class in the university’s gender studies department and decided to make creating the LGBTQ oral history collection a component of the course. The idea stemmed from a healthy relationships panel hosted in October by the BSU Women’s Center that included two same-sex couples, and was greatly received by students.

“LGBTQ youth do not have enough visible role models,” Caldwell-O’Keefe said, “and I wanted the LGBTQ community here to be visible for them.”

Students conducted a total of 35 hour-long interviews with a varied group, ranging from LGBTQ activists to organic farmers and members of the military. Topics included childhood, coming of age and coming out, and historical and current connections with the Idaho LGBTQ community. The interviews will eventually be permanently archived as a special collection at the Boise State University library and accessed through the library’s website tentatively later this year.

I was asked to participate as one of the interviewees, talking, among other things, about my role with Pride Foundation, 30 years of living in Idaho, my 15-year relationship with my partner Jim, and our shared LGBTQ activist and advocacy volunteer work in Idaho.

“This project is an interactive learning tool, helping students understand LGBTQ history,” Caldwell-O’Keefe said, “with special emphasis on Idaho history and the impacts of this history on local individuals. It helps document the LGBTQ community of Idaho and serves as a valuable resource for students, researchers and the broader community.”

Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.

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