San Antonio, TX

The story of the LGBTQ community in the early 20th century is buried deep in Texas history. A first-generation college student and young historian explored these lesser-known past events and early advocates and published his findings in the scholarly article, “Recovering Queer History in Texas: Female Impersonators, Public Opinion, and Policy Responses in the Early Twentieth Century.”

While pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Gene Alviar dedicated his research to uncover this piece of Texas history. But it was a challenge finding archives of a population that tried to remain in the shadows in this deeply conservative state.

Alviar’s first find was an old black and white flyer of the Wagon Wheel Night Club, a 1930s sanctuary for the LGBTQ community. The flyer has since faded to a yellow tint as it’s slowly deteriorated over the years, but is still visible enough to make out the subject: a man dressed as a woman surrounded by an entourage of performers. It was this discovery that led Alviar to other small triumphs and failures that ultimately became the foundation of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

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