A group of graduate students from Wichita State University’s Department of History is chronicling the history of the LGBTQ community in Wichita.
The project is the next in a series of photo history books that Dr. Jay Price, chair of history in WSU’s Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has created through Arcadia Publishing. Previous topics of the region’s history include Wichita’s legacy of flight, El Dorado’s oil boom, the Cherokee Strip Land Run, the Lebanese community located in the city and the Mexican Americans of Wichita’s North End.
When he was approached by Arcadia about covering another topic, Price went to his students in his local and community history class for ideas, with grad student Christen Brouillette spearheading the topic of the Wichita LGBTQ community.
“My inspiration is mostly a desire to educate,” Brouillette said. “With the things going on in the news regarding queer people, especially trans people, I feel that people like us have been misunderstood. The first step toward rectifying that is education.”
The students — including Derek Landwehr, Darbee Chard and Amanda Mathews — are preparing to send in their initial proposal to Arcadia. They hope to shed light on a portion of Wichita history that’s been previously obscured.
“I think for me, growing up in rural Kansas was a big part of my motivation to work on the project,” Chard said. “Of course, this is the history of Wichita, but I think being able to see how things were from a more conservative part of the state affected how I felt about it. I'm also part of the community, so just having those ties and connections, it just felt really important to me to be able to speak about it to people.”
The students hope to have the final draft of the book completed next year and published in early 2025.
Grad student in history
Price says the students are not just helpers on the project, but they are the primary co-authors who will have a published book in their names that they can put in their portfolios.
The Center of Wichita and its chairman, Brent Kennedy, a lecturer for the Department of Anthropology, are also partners in the project. They helped set up a booth at the Wichita Pride Festival this year to hear directly from the community and gather testimonials from those who want to share their stories.
“It's a pretty divisive subject right now, and it's an underrepresented part of history,” Landwehr said. “So being able to help tell that story is a real honor.”
The entire crew echoed that they hope the final book will help educate people and increase understanding of the LGBTQ community, a community they said has been around for much longer than many people in the region realize.
About Wichita State University
Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling almost 22,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.
Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.
The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.