LGBTQ+ historian George Chauncey, recent recipient of the 2022 John W. Kluge Prize, has released a new video series titled “Through History to Equality.”

This enlightening series, consisting of three episodes, investigates the experiences of LGBTQ+ Americans, exploring their evolving treatment throughout the 20th century, the significance of marriage equality, and the impact of the AIDS crisis.

In the first episode, “From Sexual Regulation to Antigay Discrimination,” Chauncey speaks with Roswell Encina, the Chief Communications Officer of the Library of Congress. Together, they trace the history of LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States, documenting the ever-changing legal, social, and political landscapes that these communities navigated under the shadow of discrimination.

The second episode, “Why Marriage Equality Became a Goal,” features an interview between Chauncey and renowned civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto. Bonauto, who has played a pivotal role in legal cases related to marriage equality over the last three decades, offers insights into the significance of the marriage equality movement and the rapid transformation of both the law and public opinion.

In the final episode, “AIDS: A Tragedy and a Turning Point,” Chauncey assembles a panel of experts to discuss the impact of the AIDS crisis. This crisis claimed the lives of numerous gay individuals, including prominent writers and community leaders, but also ignited a wave of activism and self-acceptance among the LGBTQ+ community. The discussion reflects on the early history of AIDS, encompassing the fear, loss, and the emergence of resilience and assertiveness during this challenging period.

George Chauncey, a pioneer in LGBTQ+ studies, received the Kluge Prize as the first scholar in this field. Chauncey is celebrated for his influential works, including “Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940” (1994) and “Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate over Gay Equality” (2004). Chauncey’s testimony has played a crucial role in over 30 court cases related to LGBTQ+ rights, including landmark Supreme Court cases like Romer v. Evans (1996), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), United States v. Windsor (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

Chauncey’s “Gay New York” uncovered the vibrant and visible gay world in pre-World War II New York City, debunking prevailing misconceptions. It received accolades and awards, including the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize, Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Studies.

The Kluge Prize, awarded every two years by the Library of Congress, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the humanities and social sciences, shaping public affairs and civil society. The $500,000 prize emphasizes the value of scholars who engage with a broader audience and influence social and political issues.

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