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Spotlight on LGBTQ+ History

San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs

San Diego’s LGBTQ+ scene is vibrant and thriving, but the community shares a complicated history made up of individual wins, losses, and struggles. 

Stories of Struggle and Triumph

Many LGBTQ+ stories have never been heard or explored, and the San Diego History Center aims to bring them to light. The first of its kind in Balboa Park, LGBTQ+ San Diego: Stories of Struggle and Triumph will examine aspects of the local queer experience, from past persecution to pioneering change (and the people who forged it) to shaping a future of inclusivity.

With strong messages of identity and family—and how we experience and define both—this exhibition includes accounts of love, loss, intolerance, acceptance, perseverance, hope, finding one’s power, and overcoming adversity. A local focus leaves community at the core and examines how community and family can be wider than what we are born into. Curated by LGBTQ+ scholar Lillian Faderman and team, the groundbreaking show features the Families We Make and Choose wall, a compilation of photos submitted by the public, representing their definition of family, in all the beautiful iterations that includes.

This exhibition gives locals and visitors the opportunity to see America’s Finest City through a more diverse lens. And the LGBTQ+ experience is one well worth looking at. From the original Pride gathering in 1970, named then a “Gay-In,” to the first officially named Pride Day in 1975, to the efforts of activist groups like Gay Liberation Front of San Diego, we learn how far the LGBTQ+ community has moved the needle toward acceptance. On the other side of the coin, we also see the sacrifice and sweat incurred by people vying to live in society as their authentic selves.

San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community has made incredible strides to educate and create spaces of inclusion and love. This exhibition is one more hue in the vast rainbow of lived experience. It’s a close look at who we are by turning an eye toward where we’ve been, where we are, and the possibilities of where we can go.

The San Diego History Center, together with the Lambda Archives, has compiled photographs, oral histories, public records, and documents to help ignite the dialogue between past, present, and future. It also places stories of our region within the larger cultural context, forging a conversation between San Diegans and the wider world. By highlighting the unique experiences of the LGBTQ+ community within San Diego, this exhibit invites people from all walks of life to hear stories from their fellow humans, and to examine how we are as much the same as we are different.

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