Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 6, Issue 1
fall 2015
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Yale Reflections by 2015/16 LGBT Studies Fellow, Anne Balay

2015/16 Yale LGBTS Research Fellow Anne Balay

Now that I have completed about half of the LGBT Research fellowship, I would like to thank Yale Librarians.  This photo is of me standing in front of SML with my father, who was the first Yale librarian to rock my world.  During the fellowship, Gwyneth Crowley and Tim Young both worked with me to find the unfindable.

I am at Yale to research blue-collar queers.  What we know about archives is that the people who typically wind up in them are people who see their lives, and themselves, as important.  They ask themselves questions about where their work will be housed, and they take steps to ensure that documents are saved, organized, and searchable.  Yale has hired and funded archivists who seek out materials that fill the gaps this process generates.  Yale librarians look at the archive and ask the most difficult question:  what is not included?  As any researcher knows, it’s really hard to identify what isn’t there – to seek out absence.  Yale librarians have spent years crafting an LGBT archive that goes far beyond the usual suspects, and thus includes photos of truck drivers, trans people, drag queens, sex workers . . . and books about these and other usually invisible, unruly queer populations.

Yet these materials are still hard to access because, as Tim Young reminded me, search terms are old, infrequently updated, and limit how any piece of material can be identified.  Therefore, someone familiar with the collection can really make a difference.  In the first two weeks of my fellowship, I have collected materials from the Sterling Memorial and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript libraries.  In the coming months, I will read and analyze these treasures so that when I return in March and April, I can do follow-up research, and also work extensively with Manuscripts and Archives.

My weeks at Yale this fall gave me the opportunity to meet and talk to important scholars in the field of LGBT studies such as Susan Stryker and Karen Nakamura.  I also spent social time with Yale faculty, graduate students, and visitors, and felt enriched by challenging conversations.  Intertwining my archival work and research with the scholarship and activism of others is what made the fellowship memorable, and will transform my own work in progress.  I will present my year’s research at the Queer Labor conference George Chauncey is organizing at Yale in April, 2016.
Anne Balay is currently a visiting professor of anthropology at Haverford College. She graduated with a PhD from the University of Chicago, after which she promptly became a car mechanic. Though in subsequent years she returned to academia as a professor both at the University of Illinois and Indiana University Northwest, she never lost her interest in blue collar work environments. She is the author of Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers (2014, University of North Carolina Press). Her current research centers on gay, lesbian, and transgender long-haul truckdrivers.

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