LGBTQ+ Oral History: The Power of Community and Individual Stories

—Aliya Sarris (Mentor: Holly Cashman)
Aliya Sarris

During the summer of 2020, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) at the University of New Hampshire under the mentorship of Professor Holly Cashman. In this commentary, I explain the concept of oral history, a research method that entails the collection and study of recorded interviews with those who have personal experiences within the framework of larger historical events. The project specifically focused on the oral histories of older LGBTQ+ folks living in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire. The goal was to collect information regarding their experiences in New Hampshire both before and after the Stonewall Riot of 1969, known as a catalyst of the LGBTQ+ community’s activism. I discuss the experiences of three interviewees that include themes such as discovering community, exploring self-acceptance, and finding lost love. I also explain the concept and significance of researcher positionality, or the researcher’s relation to the social and/or political context of the project, in qualitative research. Through the oral history method, I was able to discover the importance of community engagement and the power of each interviewee’s individual story.

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