by Michelle Sanchez
Immersing myself in this class introduced me to an entirely new research methodology, archival research, and field of study, queer studies. I pored over decades-old copies of The Daily Texan and The Rag (an underground newspaper published in Austin from 1966-1977) for the smallest blurb mentioning the Gay Liberation Front. I delved into gay men’s travel guides to uncover information about a business that appeared to have been almost entirely overlooked by the internet. I even took a bus over to BookWoman, one of the last standing relics of Austin’s queer 70s, and spoke with the owner to get information on my narrator. This class reawakened my ravenous desire to explore and learn. I felt the true appeal of research.
This class connected me to the greater cultural heritage of the queer community. It educated me on the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of oral histories as a methodology. It even helped me speak with some interesting characters (how else was I going to speak with a gay man in his 70s for 6 hours straight?). My greatest takeaway from this class, though, was the record I created for the queer people of posterity. I listened to elders’ stories, documented their legacies, and that was truly an honor.
When it came time to pick a narrator, Lois Ahrens immediately caught my eye. Her description described someone who was active in feminist circles, and nostalgic for the time she spent in Austin. I felt a sense of relatability, as I am also a queer woman who longed to join the hustle and bustle of big city life.
Speaking to her wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There were a few moments in our pre-interview and interview where she became emotional. She would gleefully recall someone she remembered hanging out with, immediately followed by one or the other of us finding that the person in question had passed away. Despite that, she chronicled moments of humor. My interview with Lois helped solidify the importance of oral histories to me.
Michelle Sanchez is an undergraduate student studying computer science at the University of Texas at Austin.