Safer at Home: Exploring the ONE Archives Collection

Week 7 (June 1, 2020)

In this photograph, Matthew of Glendale (Matthew Schmidt) stands on the left, dressed in a colorful embroidered jacket with leather belt. His three friends, also dressed in costume, stand close together and smile for the camera at a house party hosted by Matthew and his partner Buddy (Albert Antunes) in Glendale. This photograph is one of many from several photo albums of the couple now housed at the ONE Archives. The bulk of the early photographs depicts elaborate costume parties that the couple threw at their home from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. House parties and gatherings offered an alternative to gay bars, which were dangerous due to the risk of police raids and possible arrests. 

At home, Matthew and Buddy could control who they invited, the duration of the party, and the volume of the music. Though there were risks of gathering at home, they were lower and safer than going out to the bars. There were freedoms that this private space afforded, and Matthew and Buddy created a space at home for their community. 

Though here in Los Angeles at the moment we can’t have friends over or host parties at our house, we are starting to assess the risk of gathering and having to make decisions based on safety about what places and spaces are safe or safer than others. In essence, what is worth the risk? Though the context was different, these same questions were ones that Matthew and Buddy had to answer. And while outdoor space appears less risky than indoor space, it is certain that small gatherings will be available to us before large gatherings in spaces like bars and restaurants are permissible again. We can mourn the temporary loss of these locations and activities that some of us have come to love, but we also should remember that space and place have always been more and less available to individuals and groups due to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. 

**This post was written days before the current cycle of news and protests related to police brutality. However, the above statement about safety and space is as relevant now as ever. Using archival material as a lens, this project will continue to pose questions and challenge ideas about space, place, and activity in relationship to safety and freedom and how those are shaped by structural racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. 

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