Edward Casey, Stevedores Bathing Under Brooklyn Bridge, 1939

Green-Wood Historic Fund

Brooklyn exhibition explores borough's LGBTQ history

May 30, 2019 - 11:09 am

 “When Brooklyn Was Queer” author and historian Hugh Ryan, and Brooklyn-based artist, activist, and founding member of Silence=Death, Avram Finkelstein, have joined forces to create the “On the (Queer) Waterfront: The Factories, Freaks, Sailors, & Sex Workers of Brooklyn” exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society that will take an intimate look of queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history in Brooklyn, from the 1800s through World War II.

“To date, there has been no movie, book, or exhibition dedicated to the LGBTQ history of Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough; yet this history stretches back before the word ‘homosexual’ was even coined in 1869,” Hugh Ryan said.

While Manhattan-based LGBTQ movements often dominate the headlines, this exhibition is considered the first of its kind to shed light on the LGBTQ communities that lived, thrived, and worked on Brooklyn’s waterfront.

 “These were also places of violence, misogyny, homophobia, and labor exploitation. Yet queer people found ways to sustain themselves and their identities by working along the social peripheries, in order to obtain freedom unavailable elsewhere. For many working-class queer people, singing, dancing, doing drag, or being exhibited as a freak provided the rare opportunity to make a living without living in the closet,” Ryan said.

Admission is a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $6 for seniors. BHS members and student admission is free with valid identification. For more information about the exhibition, please visit here.

-- Marie Flounoy

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