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Common Reading 2022: Excerpt from Out in Central Pennsylvania, "Chapter 2: Sparks!" by William Burton and Barry Loveland

Excerpt from Out in Central Pennsylvania, "Chapter 2: Sparks!" — William Burton and Barry Loveland

This book recounts the innovative ways that LGBTQ central Pennsylvanians organized to demand civil rights and to improve their quality of life in a region that often rejected them. Full of compelling stories of individuals seeking community and grappling with inequity, harassment, and discrimination and featuring a distinctive trove of historical photographs, Out in Central Pennsylvania is a local story with national implications. It brings rural and small-town queer life out into the open and explores how LGBTQ identity and social advocacy networks can form outside of a large urban environment.

Discussion Questions

1. What are the different ways that you identify (race, gender, interests, etc.)? How do these impact the way that you live? Try to think about how they extend beyond their obvious impact.

2. The chapter mentions “fusing the personal and the political.” Do you think that the two can remain separate, or are they interconnected? Why?

Class Activity

1. Visit the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Degenstein Center and discover some of the resources they have available and upcoming events that they’re hosting. Take some time to reflect on how our differences can influence our perspectives.

2. Read and discuss Susquehanna University’s policies on gender and sexuality-based discrimination. What resources are available to support students both on and off campus? How could SU improve their facilities and policies to better support students?

Introduction — Christiana Paradis

This excerpt is selected form Out In Central PA, a collection of oral histories that highlights the grassroots LGBTQ+ movement in rural PA and the leaders who launched it. Growing up queer in Central PA, I often didn’t think LGBTQ+ people existed, nor did I participate in activist movements. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Out In Central PA that I realized the true extent of activism and passion that has always existed and continues to exist here.  

Much of LGBTQ+ history has chronicled large-scale events in urban areas. Few, if any, discuss movements in rural areas, and even fewer recognize the contributions of trans and non-binary folx, disabled folx, and Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other people of color. Ultimately it is the culmination of these smaller grassroots movements across regions, states, and the country that have propelled the legal changes and freedoms we have today. 

Yet, as this excerpt states, “Change was now under way, but a long road lay ahead.” The movement has not ended. Every day the journey continues, and there is more progress to be made. Collectively, we must be renewed and united in our front and continue to march towards a more equitable future. 

As you read, consider the following: had this oral history not been recorded what would we remember about LGBTQ+ history in PA? What is the danger of retelling single narratives about our local, state and national history? How does renewing and promoting this history help create a more equitable future society?

LGBT Center of Central PA History Project - LGBTCentralPA

In this video, Pennsylvanians discuss their experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community located in central Pennsylvania.

About the Authors

William Burton is an author based in Provincetown, Massachusetts. 

Barry Loveland is retired from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is the cofounder and chair of the LGBT Center of Central PA History Project. 

Additional Resources

An important aspect of creating an inclusive environment is using an inclusive vocabulary. Check out The Safe Zone Project's LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Glossary of Terms to learn more about inclusive vocabulary.

To explore more about what it means to question the division, or lack thereof, between the personal and the political, check out this article by ThoughtCo titled "The Personal Is Political." Although the article looks at this phrase as the slogan for the Women's movement, think about how it might relate to "Sparks!" or your own life as you read.

For more information on inclusivity on Susquehanna's campus, check out the site for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. There, you can explore upcoming events, some resources, training opportunities, and more!


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