Houstonian Helps Archive Gay History (Part 5)

Categories: Houston 101

photoforpridestory.jpg
Photo courtesy J.D. Doyle
J.D. Doyle, center, is the grand marshal of this year's gay pride parade.
This is the final part in a series for Houston Pride Week.

J.D. Doyle, the male grand marshal for this year's Pride Parade, is on a mission: To gather as much of Houston's LGBT history as possible and make it available online. Known to many Houstonians as the longtime voice of KPFT's "Queer Voices" program, Doyle is also a leading world expert on "queer music."

In the course of curating an exhaustive collection and operating an online program of queer music, Doyle realized he was "running across all kinds of history that no one knew anything about." He grasped that primary sources for learning the history of the LGBT community were not being collected and cared for, so he undertook the mission. He finds it surprising that "just a historian and radio personality" was selected as a grand marshal.

See also: The Fight For Pride Week (Part 4)

"In recent years that election has become something of a popularity contest, and I'm not political, I'm not a big fundraiser, I don't sit on numerous boards, etc., and I'm not a party boy, so I was totally shocked that I was elected this year," says Doyle, who edited a gay newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia in the late Seventies before moving to Houston. "But I have to say how gratifying it is that my work is recognized by the community. That's very humbling."

Now retired from his day job, Doyle works constantly adding material to his collection and his elaborate website that features PDF files of early gay publications as well as newspaper clippings and photographs. In conjunction with his historical quest, Doyle has also begun the Texas Obituary Project, an online memorial site commemorating the lives of gays, many of whom died during the HIV/AIDS epidemic 1981-1995.

Doyle and Botts Collection curator Larry Cricione both noted that when gays died, many families simply threw their documents, diaries, and photographs away, often out of embarrassment. Both are actively seeking and willing to receive any materials that are offered from donors.

As Doyle puts it, "Finding and maintaining our history and making it easily available seems like the most important thing I can do with my time. People need to know where we came from, how it was, what a struggle it was. Otherwise, we'll just forget how we got here."

This is the final part in a series of posts marking Houston Pride Week.

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