Sunrise Interview: Dr. Anna Sloan on upcoming lectures on Southern Oregon LGBTQ+ history

NBC5 Natalie Sirna: June is of course Pride Month. The Southern Oregon Historical Society and Jackson County Library Services have a presentation series this month that focuses on the LGBTQ+ community here in Southern Oregon. Joining us this morning is Dr. Anna Sloan, who is leading those presentations. Good morning, Anna.

Dr. Anna Sloan: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Sirna: Of course. Now, Anna, can you tell us more about the Windows in Time Presentation that you’re leading?

Dr. Sloan: Yes, absolutely. So Windows in Time is a monthly history talk presentation that’s co-sponsored by the Southern Oregon Historical Society and the Jackson County Library Services. So every month, local folks who know a thing about history, come and give a public lecture. And I am lucky that I get to do our June talk. It’s titled Out in the Valley: Southern Oregon LGBTQ+ Histories. And I’ll be focusing on a few things, some of the frequent gaps that we see in the record for these types of histories in Southern Oregon and elsewhere. I’m going to be talking about some of the histories that we have been able to put our finger on locally to represent these histories and stories. And I’m also going to be talking about some of the work that we’re doing at SOHS to really try to document more of what’s been going on historically, for these communities in southern Oregon.

Sirna: Very nice and very important to document that. How can people attend the presentations that you’re giving?

Dr. Sloan: There are a few ways that people can attend. This is a talk that’s given twice every month. So the first option is going to be this coming Wednesday, June 5 At noon at the Medford Public Library. A week later in Ashland, folks can come to the Ashland Public Library, Wednesday, June 12. Again, at noon for another, another chance to see the talk. The talk is also available online, you can register to view it over Zoom. And then after the fact it’s also going to be posted on YouTube on the JCLS YouTube channel.

Sirna: Very nice. And how would you say support for the LGBTQ+ community has changed in Southern Oregon over time?

Dr. Sloan: It’s an interesting question and one that I’ll be going into more during the talk. You know, I’m starting sort of my talk in the period of Western settlement. And interestingly enough, you know, we think of the wild west as sort of anything goes and in many ways that went for gender and sexual identities as well. So we do see, in certain instances, individuals with gender diverse identities, being able to come into some of these early western communities and really make a name for themselves. One example is Charlie Parker’s stagecoach driver between Northern California and Southern Oregon, who was assigned female at birth, but really lived their life as a male identified person, and found acceptance in some of these early western communities. When we get to the turn of the 20th century, we see a lot of regulations and restrictions increasing at the federal and state government levels on LGBTQ+ identities. This is a period of less acceptance, we see that reflected in newspaper articles of the time where homosexuality is really criminalized. A little bit later on in the 20th century, we see sort of an interesting contrast following the gay liberation movement of the 60s and 70s. There is a whole series of lesbian communes that open up in sort of this area between Wolf Creek and Roseburg. So folks, really sort of having an embodiment of those identities there. But we’ve been hearing from some of the folks that we’ve been working with at SOHS, who grew up in the Rogue Valley at that time, and who were LGBTQ identified that they faced less acceptance in the sort of local communities of Medford and Ashland to a certain extent. So something that’s really changed quite a bit over time.

Sirna: Yeah, absolutely. And like you were saying, you wouldn’t have necessarily thought those things to be true if that documentation didn’t exist. And so that’s very important. And anything else that you would like to add this morning?

Dr. Sloan: Oh, yes, I want to let the public know that at SOHS. You know, due to some of the gaps in the record, we’re really having a moment where we’re trying to collect more of these local histories. We’re doing an oral history project with local, LGBTQ+ elders. We’re trying to actively collect documents and objects related to these histories. We’re going to have a booth at Pride 2024 in Medford this year. So if folks have those histories, and they would like to document them, I’d love to have people get in touch and help to document these important histories through the work that we do at Southern Oregon Historical Society.

Sirna: Absolutely. Well, Anna, thank you so much for being here and thank you for your work to preserve queer history.

Dr. Sloan: Thank you.

Sirna: As Anna said, the Windows in Time presentation Out in the Valley Southern Oregon LGBTQ history will take place this Wednesday from 12 to one at the Medford branch of the Jackson County Library. There will be a second opportunity next Wednesday, June 12, at the Ashland branch. For more information, visit Once again, thank you so much for being here.

Dr. Sloan: Thanks for having me.

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