Preserving Past & Present: The Chris Gonzalez Library and Archives

The Library

The library is located at 429 E. Vermont Street. Here you are welcome to peruse the shelves, borrow materials, or start up a conversation with Michael Bohr, the founder of the library. Bohr established the Chris Gonzalez Library and Archives in 1995. The library is named after Chris Gonzalez, an LGBT+ activist who founded the Indianapolis Youth Group, among many accomplishments. Bohr wanted to preserve a history that was often destroyed or simply not collected by most institutions. Bohr also wanted to make LGBT+-related materials easily accessible.

The Chris Gonzalez Library is the largest of its kind in the state, with over 10,000 items. From western and mystery novels to psychology and photography books, there are a variety of lending materials and media. The library also continues to collect LGBT+ materials and even houses some of the city’s earliest LGBT+ publications, some of which you can access online via the Kinsey Institute, an Indiana University research center specializing in the fields of human sex, gender, and reproduction.

Indy’s Publications

In the early twentieth century, LGBT+ communities were rarely mentioned or only mentioned in negative contexts by the media. This began to change in 1953  with the third publication of One Magazine, titled “Homosexual Marriage.” A Los Angeles postmaster refused to distribute it on the grounds that it was obscene, but a Supreme Court decision in 1958 ruled in favor of the magazine, paving the way for the distribution of future LGBT+ publications.

Indianapolis’ earliest known gay publication was The Screamer. It was created by a man who used a mimeograph machine he had access to at work in the Beech Grove train yards in the southeastern part of the city. Published in the late 1960s, The Screamer reflected greater trends across the county where LGBT+ individuals created their own media outlets. The Screamer only lasted four issues, but later Indianapolis print publications like The Works and The Mirror had larger distribution networks and longer runs. Indianapolis’ current publications include the Word, IXE, which is dedicated to cross-dressing, and Indy Unite, which has just released its first issues. Copies of current issues are available to browse at the library.