The Music Division holds a wealth of information about many LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) artists in its performing arts books and scores, special collections, online collections and exhibits, concert materials, and other writings. These documents include musical scores, correspondence, scripts, photographs, programs, scholarly texts, and other materials about their lives and careers. This guide brings together some of the highlights from these holdings, providing an opportunity to learn more about LGBTQ+ creators and to recognize and celebrate their artistic achievements.
The sexual and gender identity of many historical figures has been obscured over time; moreover, it can be difficult to determine how such individuals would identify by today’s terminology. Other figures, however, have disclosed their identity through their private correspondence or other writings. We do not wish to ascribe to any person an identity that they may have disagreed with, but at the same time we recognize that many of the queer community’s accomplishments have been hidden through oppression, prejudice, and forced closeting. By increasing awareness of LGBTQ+ identity in the performing arts, we can make relevant materials more readily accessible for students, educators, and scholars.
This guide does not claim to be comprehensive, neither in terms of identifying every LGBTQ+ artist within the Performing Arts Reading Room nor in terms of identifying every location in which those artists are represented. Additionally, not all materials highlighted in this guide focus on LGBTQ+ topics, nor would every individual listed here identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Including these collections and individuals, however, illuminates associations between artists and further emphasizes the importance and accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ community within the performing arts. This guide was compiled in part with the use of secondary sources and other references.
This guide will be revisited and updated as additional collections are acquired and processed and as more information becomes available.
The Performing Arts Reading Room is the access point for the collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.