A Trip to Remember

A Trip to Remember By Breanna Johnson


Wednesday – July 4, 2018

After a full day of touring queer Berlin with our fantastic tour guide, Finn Ballard, we all had a free day to explore the city. Since we first arrived in Berlin I wanted to check out the Mall of Berlin, so I was determined to go and shop until I dropped. My roommate Nick Howard and I went together, mostly to get H&M clothing for cheaper prices, but also to see the size of the retail hub. To put it simply, the Mall of Berlin is massive. It houses over 300 stores and features two food courts, one in each building—yeah that’s right there’s an east and a west building. There are bridges outside that connect the two buildings together and in the common area on the first floor there is live music, seating, and pop-up shops offering sales and promotions.

Mall of Berlin

After shopping for three hours in the mall Nick and I took the subway back to Schöneberg to further explore the gayborhoods of Berlin. We walked around and stopped in a few shops for a few hours until we revisited a plaque dedicated to a brave German family. The Kolzer family’s plaque was recently put up—June 30th to be exact. The picture below explains the heroics of this courageous family.

Kolzer family plaque

We then headed back to the subway station at Nollendorfplatz and on the way we came upon a memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under National Socialism. The memorial is not in a main area of the station and if you’re not looking carefully you can unknowingly walk right past it. I found this disappointing because this is a group of people from my community who were murdered and criminalized just for being themselves and they deserve a proper memorial.

Nollendorfplatz memorial

To end the night Nick, Crystal, and I went to an Italian restaurant around the corner from our hotel and enjoyed some fresh pasta—a thruple dinner, if you will. That’s the name the three of us have adopted for ourselves since we’ve done practically everything together on this trip since the first day. Then, we retired back to the hotel to prepare for the next day.


Thursday – July 5, 2018

We started off our last day in Berlin downstairs having a communal breakfast before doing some sightseeing. Memorials were our main focus for the day and the first one we visited was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial was very somber and cold, evoking the atmosphere of a graveyard. The massive stones towered over the heads of our group as we wandered through the narrow pathways.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe







I felt an overwhelming heaviness as I walked through the memorial as well as a sense of disorientation because it was easy to get lost inside.

I was very disappointed in other groups that were there visiting the memorial. One group climbed atop the stones in an effort to take an ‘Insta-worthy’ photo; thankfully a maintenance worker yelled at them to get down. Even after that disrespectful action, more people attempted to climb the stones, and many continued to sit on them. I understand that this memorial is lacking signage and context, but the name alone should let you know that it is inappropriate to act that way.

The next memorial we saw was the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism. Before we even crossed the street, the disappointment set in because it is hidden behind trees, making it hard to find unless you are purposely looking for it. The plaque for the memorial is also hidden in some bushes and far from the memorial itself. The memorial is a giant stone with a window at the front that is only big enough for one person to access at a time.

Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism

Inside there is an underwhelming video of two same-sex couples kissing as the camera spins around them. In the background are historical photos of the persecuted homosexuals, but you can’t see them very well because of the couples kissing. The entire memorial could have and should have been done better.

After a debrief we headed to Brandenburg Gate, the staple of Berlin, to stop and get some souvenirs before heading to the last memorial site.

Brandenburg Gate

The final memorial was the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered Under National Socialism. Finally, a memorial done right! There was text to provide history and context, Ancient Sinti and Roma music playing, and an opening into a space specifically for this memorial. Inside, there was a circular reflection pool with a triangle in the middle.

Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered Under National Socialism

There were also stones on the ground with the names of Sinti and Roma towns, some which no longer exist today. You could tell there was a lot of thought put into this memorial. It was a proper memorial to the Sinti and Roma.

Our group then returned to the hotel to meet our guest speaker, Sascha Angermann. They spoke about their experiences being queer in Germany, their home country, and being an international student in the United States. They explained that they experienced more homophobia and xenophobia in the U.S. than in Germany. It was interesting to get their perspective; not to my surprise the United States has a lot of work to do to end the prominent homophobic culture.

Group photo with Sascha!


Friday – July 6, 2018

Our day is mostly taking place inside of airports since today is nothing but traveling. However, I think it also gives us a chance to reflect on this trip. We maneuvered through spaces despite language barriers, we critically analyzed queer works, and overall grew as students and people. This experience has been life-changing as it was my first time overseas. I fell in love with spaces and enjoyed getting to know my cohort, especially my thruple!

Me, Nick, and Crystal = The Thruple

It is sad to know that our time on this adventure is over, but it’s not a good bye to international travel experiences; it’s a see you soon. On to the next adventure!

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life By Nicholas Fields


After what would be an emotionally and physically draining Monday at Sachsenhausen we met once again with Dr. Finn Ballard to take a walking tour of the historic LGBTQ neighborhood of Schöneberg. Prior to the uprising of the Nazi party in Germany Schöneberg was the heart of gay Berlin and some would argue the heart of gay Europe as a whole. Dr. Ballard gave us an excellent lesson in the history of the community dating back to the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations (which wasn’t particularly holy and definitely not Roman). As we walked the streets we discussed prolific LGBTQ landmarks like the El Dorado which is claimed to be the first gay club/cabaret opened in Europe. Though the venue itself was taken over by Nazis in the 1930s and used as a polling place the building itself still stands as an organic market.

Our group outside of the El Dorado in 2018
The El Dorado in the early 20th Century was a popular queer Berlin club
The El Dorado in 1933 taken over by Nazi SA with the rise of Hitler and WWII. This was the end of the sexual freedom enjoyed during the Weimar years

Shöneberg was also home to queer celebrities such as author Christopher Isherwood (“Goodbye to Berlin”, “Mr. Norris Changes Trains “) who was instructed by a friend to come to Berlin because “Berlin is for the boys”. It was in fact for the boys, and for the girls, and for transgender individuals as well. Schöneberg was a haven for all those in the queer community in which one could live with freedom and dignity. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Ballard, the neighborhood has lost some of that inclusivity. Various bars and clubs will deny potential patrons based in gender, age, ability to pass and in some cases looks. This is a far cry from the original intentions of the neighborhood.

Christopher Isherwood’s apartment at 17 Nollendorfplatz – the inspiration for the musical Cabaret
Group photo at Nollendorfplatz with historian, Dr Finn Ballard


At the end of two long and informative days we were faced with a free day in Berlin. Some of us went shopping while others explored the city for its various museums and historical districts. I decided to immerse myself in the beautiful game, the world language of soccer. I am a huge soccer fan and the chance to experience the World Cup in Europe has been amazing. Coincidently I fell in love with the sport on another trip I took to Berlin back in 2014. I spent a majority of my day looking around the are for any café playing reruns of Tuesday games. I met a decent number of locals and tried to keep up with both their language and enthusiasm for the games. I did much better with keeping up with the games than I did with the language. It was a wonderfully relaxing day enjoying the sport I love with people that love it just as much if not more.

Never Forget

Never Forget

By Crystal Thornhill

Yesterday was an emotional day of learning more about the history of the Holocaust and the horrors of what happened to queer people, Jewish people and many others during that time period, specifically those people who were rounded up and put into the Sachsenhausen Labor Camp. First, two students did a site presentation about the Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals during WWII to get a better understanding of what happened to queer people during that time period. I had no idea that when the prisoners were liberated from the concentration camps that the queer people were sent to jail because their homosexuality was considered a crime still during that time period. I also learned from the presentation that the camps were segregated by gender, and that the camp we were going to visit was a camp a labor camp for men during the Holocaust.

Site visit report
Historian and Guide, Dr. Finn Ballard








Following the site presentation we met with our tour guide Finn Ballard at the Berlin Wall Memorial. We did not get to spend a lot of time there but he gave us some historical context of what the Potsdamer Platz square used to look like when the Berlin Wall was up compared to what it is like now. I also got to take a few pictures with a piece of the wall that had been preserved, which I thought was pretty cool, since the wall came down the year I was born and I have always wanted to see it.

Berlin Wall Fragment

After we spoke at the Berlin Wall we headed to the Nazi Labor camp on the train. When we got to off the train in Oranienburg and started the walk to Sachsenhausen, there was a heaviness during the walk as I began to reflect on the fact that this may have been the walk of many captured Jews, homosexuals, Soviets, and many others. When we arrived to the camp and started walking towards the gates, we saw the guard tower where time had stopped at 11:07, which was the time that the prisoners were freed. We also were told that the Soviets took over the camps for 5 years and imprisoned people themselves, which I did not know. The guard tower was a point where all the guards where able to see the entire camp and it gave me a feeling of entering an abandoned old prison. I also noticed the gate had the words “Albeit Macht Frei” written on it which translated to “Labor Liberates” which I found to be a sick, twisted and haunting message about how the Nazi’s say the camp and how little they cared about the people inside it.

Sign reading “Labor Liberates”
Prison cell within Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Guard building at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Once we got inside the camp we were able to see how the prisoners lived and died. We saw how they were tortured daily with roll calls that would require them to stand sometimes all day. We say the barracks where 500 or more men were forced to sleep, and try to survive each day. I felt so much sadness when I walked through the gas chambers and the experimentation rooms where people were tortured and tested without their consent and often died. It was so heartbreaking to realize how systemic the torture of these people was, and how much thought was put into stripping them of their humanity as much as they could, and how disposable everyone was as well. We say the “hospital” that they built to trick the prisoners into thinking that they were getting a medical check, when in reality they were being shot in the back of the head or put in a gas chamber while they were calm and thought they were just doing a standard physical. To know that this could have been me. That I could have died along with 20 million others during this time period made me sick. I am still processing the experience to be honest. I struggled to find photos of the experience because to me, the experience was one you had to feel, not see to understand. I also found myself hoping that in the United States we are not headed towards hating any group of people this much ever again, because looking the Holocaust in the face and seeing how horrible we treated one another is shameful and something I hope we can learn from during these troubling political times.

Barracks where up to 500 prisoners slept on wood beds
Medical experiments were carried out on prisoners often resulting in death








As we walked past the barbed wire on our way out of the camp I felt a sense of relief. I wish we had more time to process the experience as a group, but that evening many of us got together and it was nice to reconnect and check in with one another. I am glad I was able to see the camp, I will never forget it and I hope that I can continue to learn from all the things I saw, to make sure I can educate others about the torture queer people, and many others have endured just for being who they are.

Intercontinental Queer Art Roadshow

By: Nicholas P. Morgan


Friday morning we departed our hotel and made our way to the train station to travel to the Musée D’ Orsay. We emerged from the subway onto a beautiful plaza of beige stone. Once past the security and ticket checks, the space opens into the cavernous hall with an arched ceiling of glass and intricately carved panels lining the columns and arches between the sections of glass. Our group met briefly near the entrance to discuss the history of the space and receive our commission for the day: to seek out queerness in collections of the D’Orsay. We then dispersed throughout the museum.

Myself, Elliott, and Eden began our visit at the top of the museum with impressionist painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and Cézanne. During our saunter through the works of the great impressionists, I happened upon a docent giving an English presentation about artist Paul Cézanne. During her presentation, she described Cézanne as someone, “averse to the attention of women” and someone who, “married rather late in life.” To me this indicated that Cézanne may have been queer. After some brief research and a discussion with my colleagues, I found out that indeed much of Cézanne’s work is very queer and he likely was as well. This draws to attention how museums often “sanitize” the queer truth about art and artists.

One piece I found particularly queer and intriguing was Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The objective beauty and complexity of this piece are tremendous. Adding to the beauty of the piece, queerness is evident in Bal du moulin. In the lower right corner two gentlemen are seated next to each other at a table. The individual on the left with the top hat stares with interest at a third man seated across from him. The man on the right with the boater hat seems to be staring off into space – disinterested in the conversation between the third man and the two women he is speaking two. Throughout the painting, almost every man except these two is with, and is very close to a woman. The fact that these two are seated together and seems generally disinterested in the women across the table from theme indicate a level of queerness to me.

Bal du moulin de la Galette

Later that afternoon I met Elliott to tour the Catacombs of Paris. After a two hour wait in line, we entered the head house and descended a spiral staircase 65 feet below street level. The most incredible part of this experience was grasping the fact that the bones of over six million people are housed in the crypts of the catacombs.



Our travel day to Berlin began with a 06:15 AM report time in the hotel lobby. After copious amounts of coffee, the cohort lurched the two blocks to the metro stop. From there we travelled to the Paris East Station. After about an hour, our train arrived on the platform. We expeditiously recombobulated our collective effects and made haste to platform 26. The train slipped out of the station before we had all stowed our luggage. As we left Paris behind us and made for the border, our TGV began rapidly accelerating. The French, ever-proud of their engineering accomplishments, made sure our top speed of 310km/h (~250 mph) was prominently displayed every few slides on the in-cabin information board. As we approached Frankfurt, our fearless leaders informed us that we would have little to no time to detrain, find our next platform, and board the next train that would ultimately take us to Berlin. We began collecting ourselves early so as to be prepared for the move.

As soon as the train came to rest on the platform, we alighted and immediately all channelled our inner “Long-Island-Lola” as we power strut through Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. We arrived at platform 6 and took a collective breath as our train had not yet arrived. I looked around the gorgeous terminal and absorbed its magnificence. The vaulted glass ceilings stretched from the buffers to the end of the platforms. As I captured a brief photo that failed to do justice to the majesty of the station, a German ICE train floated onto the platform and again the race was on to find our carriage. Again, the train departed just as the last of us were boarding.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof

Relief flowed through the cohort as our ICE train trundled into Berlin Hauptbahnhof. We sluggishly collected our gear, descended to street level, and walked to the taxi stand. As we descended, I once again marveled at the magnificence of yet another massive, vaulted glass ceiling. I found myself considering the value Europeans place on infrastructure and rail travel compared to Americans. Our cab ride to the hotel was a much needed respite from a day spent on trains.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof


We began our day with a guest appearance by Dr. Jonathan Katz during breakfast. As always, our conversations with him were filled with fascinating new information and incredible detail. From the hotel we proceeded to the Akademie Der Künst to see an exhibition titled “Abfallprodukte Der Liebe”. The exhibit was put on by Elfi Mikesch, Rosa von Praunheim, and Werner Schroeter. The first room of the installation was a preview of the three artists lives, and films. The second two rooms were exhibits by Elfi Mikesch and Werner Schroeter. Both these rooms were stark, dimly lit, and featured dark, aggressive orchestral background music. The walls of these rooms featured photographs, stills from the artists’ films, and the actual films produced by these artists.

Abfallprodukte Der Liebe

The third room was what I will call “the penis room”. This room was Rosa von Praunheim’s room. According to Dr. Katz, a friend of Rosa, this room resembled her mind: every where and all over the place. As one approached the room, a low sign that translates to “WARNING PENISES” greets the viewer, though “greets” is used loosely here. The room is filled, in very chaotic fashion with drawing of penises, magazines, murals, projected art, porn, and all other sorts of penis themed art. Though I am a queer man, this room was a lot of chaos and a lot of penis for 10:30 AM.

Our next stop was the Gemäldegalerie. We began our museum walk with Dr. Katz by viewing Byzantine art commissioned by churches in the 9th through 11th centuries. Even in these ancient works, queerness was evident. From the Byzantines we proceeded to Italian renaissance works. Again, queerness was evident throughout the collection, thought the docents and curators may not know or talk about it. One queer piece was Der hl. Sebastian by Sandro Botticelli. In the common vernacular, Botticelli was a known homosexual. What makes him unique, however, is that the Catholic Church continued to commission works from him. Der hl. Sebastian was one of these pieces. Works like this gave Botticelli reason to paint beautiful male bodies and get paid for it.

Der hl. Sebastian

After the official tour Elliott, Dr. Pitts, and I took another walk through the collection with Dr. Katz. This was the most informative and interesting part of the Gemäldegalerie for me. It was during the portion that I saw some of my favorite works and gained the most from Dr. Katz. One such work was Die niederländischen Sprichwörter by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. This work was meant to hang in a church to serve as a warning of actions that could land someone in hell. While the work serves as stern warning, it also offers titillating and at times humorous depicting of various debaucherous acts.

Die niederländischen Sprichwörter

Our final museum for Sunday was the Schwules Museum. Open since 1985, the museum has displayed work focusing on LGBT life in Berlin. In reposes to criticism that the museum has been too male-centric, the Schwules committed to make 2018 “The Year of the Lesbian”, only featuring lesbian art in its special exhibition sections. This museum was particularly special as I had an opportunity to see art where white queer men were not the focus, a theme that was quite present at other queer exhibits, including the Leslie Lohman in New York. I very much enjoyed not only the art, but also watching other team members enjoy art that was actually about them and the identities they held.

My favorite pieces from the Schwules were selections from the Off the Rocket series by Yori Gagarim and Giants I, II, III by Risk Hazenkamp. An exhibition of queer AFAB bodies of so many shapes and forms, Off the Rocket was incredibly special. This is a form of representation that is so unfortunately rare. Though I am not AFAB, I appreciated the power of this set.

Off the Rocket

My favorite piece of the day was far and away Giants I, II, III. As a photographer, I greatly appreciated the objective qualities of the work. On top of this, I was in awe of the concept of the work: a strong lesbian woman, aging and maturing with grace. I am in awe of the symbolism and imagery in the piece. As small details change the viewer experiences her journey with her.

Giants I, II, III

Nature Has Balance

Nature Has Balance: By Maurina  Baker

I believe my portion of the trip was punctuated by high and lows – both physically and in the moments of realizations for myself. The first day- like most days we’ve had in Paris has been picturesque. The temperature pleasant, the clouds non-existent and the breeze ever so often to keep us cool and from sweating.

The day started with a walk around the Notre Dame and a brief lesson on LGBTQ Rights in France- such as the policies on marriage, adoptions and the current issues that are currently being fought for such as trans rights.  After our site visit we walked to the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation. The memorial requires you to walk through a small park and down steep stairs with high walls that lead to an open courtyard that is almost at the sea level. While the courtyard is open, the walls made me feel small, trapped and close to suffocation. The area is beautiful but stark and uninviting, no breeze breaking through the walls and gives you the deepest sense of isolation- even the noise of the street is almost silenced in the courtyard. The courtyard gives way to a small narrow hall that you can walk into and see inscriptions in French on the walls and straight ahead there is a hallway behind bars with small beams of lights and a large black box with flowers on it. The box contains the ashes victims of the death camps. In those moments watching the light reflect off 200,000 mirrors meant to symbolize the lives of people who were murdered brought all of history and knowledge I had to a stunning and complete halt- as I realized how unfathomable it was that 200,000 lives let alone over 6 million lives were taken by such a horrible regime.

The knowledge is only reinforced by our next visit to the Memorial of the Shoah. There the entrance directly leads to The Wall of Names- a listing of all Jews that were deported from France Reading the names drove the reality of the atrocity home. Names of people I have never met- the first name I can focus on was person born in 1922. Seeing my age, 22, a joy they would never know. A journey through the Memorial continues to bring life to a piece of history I’ve learned about my entire life, as I watch clips of film from the time and see uniforms that were worn in the death camps. Leaving the memorials for the day, was almost like coming up for air. The solemn air that seemed to choke all the words in my throat in the memorial seemed to blow away with the Parisian breeze, the sun warming us to provide comfort.

Memorials to the Deportation and Shoah

We also spend some of the day talking with a professor of Sociology, Dr. Jean Beaman, about the politics of race, gender and sexuality in France. She offers us wonderful insight and talks about how identity politics and how they interact throughout the nation.

Presentation about Identity Politics in France by Purdue Professor, Dr. Jean Beaman

The next day we went to visit places that have inspired art, movies and music heard across the world. The Moulin Rouge- a site that has created its own dance style and is home to sexual liberation. Even now the Pigalle remains a site important to the sex tourism industry even as large white tour buses pass though the streets and families stroll down the sidewalk with their small children basking in the weather.

Our next stop is to the Montmartre- where I chose to climb an absurd amount of steps- there is literally a sign for when you hit the 253rd step. The steps stand proudly and somewhat intimidating and at a certain point I concede to myself that jeans were a terrible idea-  but I make it to the top. The view from the top is a lot to absorb. It seems like I am physically on top of everything Paris in all of its beauty is laid bare for me to take in.  Toni Morrison once said “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” This was one of those moments.

However, I still took a picture because I needed to make this blog post.

View of Paris from Montmartre

Walking around the mountain was an awesome experience there were artists doing live painting to sell either of famous Paris sights or a portrait of a customer, many people played live music on the streets. It was easy to see why the place attracted so many artists, the view and atmosphere was storybook. The spirit of inspiration and relaxation seemed to hit me with every breeze.

For dinner, we had dinner with the the Couvent de Paname house of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. There we met with 3 of them and they gave us history lessons- particularly on the church that is on the mountain of the Montmartre which was built using the tax money from Parians’ after they tried to rebel and become independent during the commune. Having dinners with the sister was a delightful experience as they shared personal stories and gave insight into daily life for queer people in Paris.

I have sat at the table for a while contemplating how to put in words the joys and heartbreak I have experienced in the last few days of the trip. The words that best sum my thoughts of the last few days have come from Sister Rose of the Couvent de Paname Sisters “Nature has balance – if you have the worst you will also have the best”. While at the times the words uttered over a large helping of goat cheese and prosciutto did not appear to be particularly powerful but as I drink my tea and watch the lights play out over the streets, they give me a great sense of peace.

Until There’s None

Until There’s None

By Gabriella Renee

Hello all my name is Gabriella Renee and I have the pleasure of telling you about my experiences at the Solidays music festival here in Paris, France. I am a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, and that is the capacity in which I spent my Solidays. Thus, I will retell my adventures as Postulant Sister Bernice Lynne Monroe, or BLM. (For more information about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, visit https://www.thesisters.org/become-a-nun)

Our study abroad cohort was afforded many special opportunities this trip some were a total surprise to all of us, and some were completely planned as they were written into the syllabus Solidays was one of the special opportunities that was written into the course. It also happened to be one of the things that I was most looking forward to on this trip as a young up and coming Sister, this was to be my first international sister event. I don’t want to bore you with the details of my manifestation. I will, however, leave you with a photograph and quote from Sister Faegela, “Your face looks like an exploded trans pride flag,” which was my aim as I am a Transfemme identifying person. Sometimes, it can be difficult to parse out to folx that, yes I do participate in drag but I don’t “do” drag. I am a girl who had a heart for the ministry and joined the Sisters.

The initial Solidays staging area was a bit of a blur for me. I was met by a sea of friendly faces all welcoming me to Paris and welcoming me to Solidays. Thanking me for manifesting with them and embracing me and just making me feel like I have known them for my entire life. In this moment I had a flashback to my first ever manifestation, and while I had a smile on my face most of the evening inside I was shaking like a leaf. But this time I was bold and comfortable and home. I was just so touched and yet slightly confused that they were honored, overjoyed, and thankful that I would come from Indiana to participate in Mass with them. We rehearsed and then it was time to break bread. We are people of the cloth, we have to break bread.  4PM came quicker than I thought it would and before I realized it I was backstage, a new Nun still Sister Bernice but with a renewed calling. I will try my best to be give you a brief translation of the history of the Mass and why it is so important. The Grand Mass touches on the Stonewall Riots, The Founding of the Sisters in San Francisco, the rights of sex workers, PrEP, ending the stigma surrounding queer identities, suicide within the queer community, HIV/AID’s awareness and treatment and sex positivity among many other things. All of this with a unique sister flair. It is a main event at Solidays that thousands of participants attend.

But the Mass was not all smiles for me. Near the end of all of the sisters got together in the middle of the stage and Sister Rose of Paname lead us in signing “You are my Sister” by Antony and the Johnsons. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was on stage with 30+ different Nuns from all over the world; that they in fact were my Sisters. I began to cry.  I somehow found the ability to hold back tears through “I Will Follow Him”. We performed a Glitter Blessing for the entire audience and soon enough the Mass was over. After the curtain call I found Sister Rose and wept in her arms and thanked her for the opportunity. She said that she should be the one thanking me. “Welcome home, baby,” she embraced me.

From the Mass we were whisked over to the AIDS Memorial Quilts. We were a little off schedule as sisters are never quite on time. The quilts were already unfolded and that is when it truly hit me again that I was on hallowed ground. As the ceremony began we lifted up the Quilt and began to walk it in a circle as the names of the deceased were read I cried the entire ceremony some out of sorrow some out of realizing the great responsibility I have to carry the torch. The ceremony reminded of my initial calling into the ministry. Even though it broke my heart it also re-lit my fire to continue to live the mission statement:


In whatever forms that may be.


AIDS Memorial Quilt Ceremony at Solidays



Navigating  PrEP

Today we got to meet with a former ACT UP Paris member and current AIDeS PrEP Navigator Tom Craig.  We learned about his history of activism through ACT UP which eventually lead him to his full time position with AIDeS. The AIDeS organization was founded in 1984 at a time when having HIV was a death sentence. They were an all-volunteer organization that aimed to help make life a bit more comfortable for gay men who were excommunicated from families or evicted from their homes.

But that all changed in mid-1990’s with the creation of the cocktail. As folks began to recover and HIV was no longer a certain death warrant, less folks were active in AIDeS much like ACT UP and numbers began to drop. While there have been many things that have gotten people moving in and out of activism the biggest issue at hand currently is the topic of PrEP and who should have access to it but more importantly who should be funding the access to this life saving drug. We learned that in just the next few days Tom plans to have a meeting with Anti-PrEP people and hopefully come to some agreement that can help stave the number of new infections in Paris. One could ask why would anyone want to keep someone off of these potentially lifesaving drugs. Tom went on to talk about the stigma that accompanies the medication here. There is also some left over hurt in the gay community over the poor side effects of the HIV medication Azidothymidine (AZT).

Meeting Tom Craig at Le Spot – one of the many centers operated by the AIDES Organization around Paris

But this talk was not a lecture and Tom fielded a lot of questions one topic that seemed to touched on in many different questions was who is his target audience for PrEP and general sexual health information and HIV texting? Tom informed us that his main audience for PrEP are MSM (Men who have Sex with Men), migrant men and migrant women. But, he also made it very clear that it is not just as simple as getting on PrEP and that being the end of your worries. As a person who takes PrEP I know that with the medication comes the required need to have access to adequate health care. Every three months I have to have blood work done to check my liver levels as one of the known side effects of PrEP is potential liver damage which is heightened for me as a trans girl since I am on estrogen and testosterone blockers. So I found it very refreshing to hear him say that AIDeS goes past just the lets get folx on PrEP message that some other organizations may present and furthers the conversation of the need for adequate health care for everyone. My fellow cohort members were also very interested the different ways that AMAB (assigned male at birth) folx can take PrEP the continuous or daily schedule in which most people currently take PrEP or it can be taken On demand  ( according a physician’s indication). The on demand use of the medication consist of taking of a three day dosage. 2 PrEP at least 2 hours before your first sexual encounter. The second dose is one pill is 24 hours +/- 2 hours after the first does. The third dose is one pill 24 hour +/- 2 hours after the second dose. It was really helpful to learn this information and to be able to take it back to communities where people aren’t in positions to be able to afford PrEP every month or are not that sexually active but still want to be protected.

Tom was great and I think some members of my cohort will benefit greatly from having met him today. Who knows I could have been sitting in the room with the person who invents the cure for AIDS it could even be you


Chercher by Myracle Newsome 

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

Please don’t think that I had that quote in my repertoire. It was on the top of the journal page that I began handwriting this piece due to some technical difficulties. The journal is also used — albeit seldomly– to jot down overwhelming, unsolicited emotions and experiences that I’ve had while on this study abroad. I say seldomly, because most of my time recently has been spent basking in the awe-inspiring beauty and uniqueness in these new places and spaces. Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, however, I would like to inform you of how I will write this piece going forward. A first-person narrative, while effective in sharing my own personal endeavors, neither fits my writing style, nor does it directly include my audience as a part of the story. So you’re going to have to trust me on this; follow my lead and come on this adventure with me, s’il vous plait? Parfait.

Take the time to relax and imagine: you were packing for a voyage that you never thought that you would have the chance to take. You’re not the richest person, as a matter of fact you’re rather poor. Nor are you the most intelligent, especially among the various talents in your study abroad cohort. Despite these personal truths, you’re still going to New York, to Paris, to Berlin! Your peers and instructors were a conglomerate of identities that all fit with you under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella that took so long for you to become comfortable with. Soon, you were on a plane to someplace that seemed so mythical and out of reach to your inner not-well-traveled Midwesterner. New York; the hotbed of American queer history and culture, your history and culture. For the first time in a long time, you weren’t afraid to be unapologetically, unabashedly queer.

The museum tours and class time were fun. You learned a lot, but you always found yourself looking forward to the time you spent meandering the streets with your friends. You have the opportunity to explore, so you take it. You found the covertly named “Big Gay Ice Cream Shop” in a hole in the wall along the East Village. The clerks were like you, black and queer and trying to make it out here in the big bad world. Museums were great for certain purposes: historical and cultural contexts of the past. You knew that you do most of your learning in the field by observing and interacting with people living in the present. Even while most of you encounters were fleeting, your soul never failed to feel satisfied, elated, content.

Leaving New York was something that you saw coming. It had been in the class itinerary. You knew you had to pack, but the days prior to departure was full of identity affirmation and excitement. The tour of the Lesbian Herstory Archives somewhat anchored you so tightly to the city you had to leave behind. Til this very moment you can’t believe you’re an official part of the archive all thanks to a failed attempt to impress an intern by flexing your butch muscles in helping a couple others from your cohort assemble a rolling cabinet. You may have gotten to sign the furniture, but you never did get that intern’s number. The day after you attended the best drag show that you’d ever been to, and even got to light the cigarette of one of the queens post-show. The two of you are now mutuals on Instagram.

A change of setting, then. No longer in New York, you found yourself on a seven hour flight to Paris. It was the longest flight you had ever had in your life, which wasn’t particularly difficult due to the sad fact that you’d only ever been on three flights including this one. You were about to step foot on a different continent, something you had never done before. “What would Paris be like?” You contemplate all of the stereotypes and rumors you had heard about France. The people hate Americans (understandable), the streets smell of cheese (this is why the French hate Americans), most places have English speaking employees/owners due to the influx of tourists (again…), the French most popular forms of transport is either by moped or by baguette (you were informed of this when a group of children asked questions about the French during a day where you were volunteering at a middle school. These children were indeed American.). Before you could either confirm whether or not a long loaf of bread was a form of transportation, you and the rest of the passengers on the plane were informed of what would end up being a 20-30 minute delay. Another aircraft was in your plane’s “parking spot” of sorts. Shuttles were meant to come and extract everyone on the plane and you must admit, walking off a staircase attached to the aircraft made you feel somewhat presidential, but it was deterred by the long waits and the even longer train rides to your hotel. All of that to say, you first impression of France was heavily influenced by jet lag and general annoyance toward the world.

Emerging from the tunnel, you soak in your surroundings. The schoolchildren were wrong; no people riding baguettes through the streets of Paris. Those streets were much narrower than you were used to, and the stop lights were interestingly peculiar. The building structures were beautifully cookie-cutter. Each established building took up an entire block, about a fifth of a mile, and were only separated by streets themselves. It would be easy to get lost if you failed to count your blocks, as everything looks both eerily similar yet so distinct. You remember several people walking by you as you and your group walk together toward the hotel. Their words you couldn’t completely comprehend, but you knew from the way they wove their words together as fluidly as a spider crafting its intricate tapestry that you weren’t in America any longer.

You woke up on 22 juin, 2018, your birthday. You had your outfit planned: blue suit, black pants and button down shirt, white tie. This was one of the days you had been looking forward to for years. You finally made it to the Louvre, the royal palace you’d been studying in both French and art history. Lowell had already told you that they would be celebrating your birthday for the length of the class period. As a special treat, you wouldn’t only be going to the Louvre, you would be leading your cohort past the lengthy line of grumbling people. It was petty, but worth it.

You were able walk through marble hallways, get background on giant paintings that should be considered masterworks, but during the time were blasphemous. Your background in art history helped you with a lot of the contexts, compositions, intricacies and general history of many works. You found it particularly entertaining when the class entered the room in which the Mona Lisa was housed. You always thought the work was underwhelming, so you took great joy it photographing everyone who was photographing the Mona Lisa.

Winged Victory was a stellar piece.

And you were shocked when you saw this sculpture of Athena, but you know that you aspire to have that level of reverence at some point in your life.

You enjoyed this. You had a birthday of a lifetime. You have been to places that you never thought you would have had the fund to go. You have people beside you, cheering you on even through your hard days. Yes, despite being on such a spectacular trip, hardships don’t just go away. There are good times and difficult times. There are times where you have to step away and put self-care first. There are days where you have to lean on others to get through. But there are also times where you have long-term, happy memories that you get to make with this special group of people at this special time in your life. Your birthday, while wonderful, was still a hard day for your depression. Though you have to remember the times during the day where someone made you smile, laugh, did something kind for you and you did something kind in return. You’re here to learn and grow, and sometimes both of those processes require pain. You are not the same as you once were. Just don’t forget, you’re looking for something. You’re looking for your history, your humanity, your potential, a place where you belong. Don’t stop searching.


Thank you for trusting me til the end.

Do not forget. As the French say: chercher.

Archives, HIV Activism, & Sasha Velour

Archives, HIV Activism, & Sasha Velour by Eden Conrad

As we descend into the New York City subway stations, the air is suffocatingly hot and humid, and I find that the folding fan I got for the trip, though very pretty and dear to me, barely produces enough air current to cool me off. I eye Lowell and a few others much larger fans, and decide that, someday, I must own one. Besides, those ones can make such a satisfying “clack”, whereas mine produces a subtler “rip”, and while it suits me, sometimes a girl just wants to make a little more noise.

Subway travel shot into Brooklyn

We ride the subway into Brooklyn, to see the Lesbian Herstory Archive, and to be given a tour by one of the founders, Deb Edel. The archive was formed in 1974, and dedicated to storing the history, papers, books, recordings, photographs, and ephemera of all kinds of lesbians.

And all kinds means all kinds; the archive does not impose their own definition of lesbian, and instead allows for people to send in their own material that they think matters to lesbian history. As such, many different kinds of lesbians have their history in the archives; trans lesbians, political lesbians, former lesbians, other queer women, etc. This even includes lesbians who may not have always been nice people, and this makes a very important point; no group of people is immune to having unpleasant, unethical, or immoral people within it, and marginalized communities are no exception. Though these people may have done horrible things, or espoused views directly harmful to other marginalized groups, they are still a part of our past, and must be remembered, so that we may learn and grow. The physical archive itself is a beautiful place, books line the walls, massive file cabinets stand proudly, and a delightful little stamp rests in the corner, to officially make whatever cash (or indeed, any paper) on you at the time official lesbian currency.

However, these materials are all accessible, the archive not believing in the stuffiness of traditional archives, described vividly as going just short of forcing visitors to wear hazmat suits. Instead, the Lesbian Herstory Archive allows visitors to carefully hold all these pieces of history in their hands, understanding the pure significance that holding a piece of history can be to someone who so rarely gets to see themselves in the past. As we finish up in the archive, new cabinets arrive, bringing with them an exciting opportunity for our group; as some of us helped bring in and assemble the cabinets, they were permitted to sign the inside of the cabinets, inscribing themselves into the records of herstory with a black sharpie. We get food, and reconvene to meet up yet again with ACT UP, participating in an actual meeting of the organization. We settle into the New York LGBTQ Center, and the meeting starts. With members both new and old, people introduce themselves, the agenda is discussed, and we split off into groups to focus on specific topics. In my group, we brainstormed various protest slogans and signs, which was a great deal of fun! There were several chants developed, and we even tried some out at the end of the meeting. As the meeting came to a close, we were given an offer for a heavy discount on ACT UP denim vests, with pre-sewn patches, and a traditional slogan on the back in dark font, “Silence = Death”. The night comes to a close, and we rest for the next day.


On Tuesday, many of us wake up relatively early to get laundry done, as the next day we will be flying across the Atlantic into Paris, where we will have a long day spent staving off jet lag via a tour of the city. I grab a tasty lamb gyro (which is quite swiftly becoming one of my all-time favorite foods) for brunch afterwards. We depart to meet with Terri Wilder, with whom we discuss the medical side of HIV treatment. We talk about the history of HIV treatments, and how far they have progressed, including the very important fact that undetectable equals untransmittable, or U=U for short. What this means is that when a person living with HIV’s viral load, or how much of the virus is in their body, is low enough that it is not picked up on commercial testing, they cannot transmit the virus through condomless sex. We also discussed PrEP and PEP (short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, respectively).

PrEP is used by people who are under risk of contracting HIV, and PEP is used by people who believe that they have come into contact with the virus. Both of these medications greatly reduce the risk of infection. However, work still needs to be done, with some people not having the money or proper access for these medications and other HIV medications, whether by class or geographical location, or both.

Finally, we have an event that wasn’t on the itinerary. We head back down to Brooklyn (subways as dank and stagnant as ever) and arrive at National Sawdust. We’re seeing Nightgowns, a production of Brooklyn style drag produced and starring Sasha Velour.

The stage of National Sawdust where Sasha Velour’s NIGHTGOWNS takes place

Words do not describe how amazing the experience was for me. This is the first professional drag show I have attended, and it completely blew me away. I‘ve never seen so much queer energy all in one place, all at once. I felt so strongly alive, I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m having the time of my life. This production has genuinely changed what drag means to me. I had never been particularly interested in drag before. Of course, I have always had respect for the art form, and deeper respect for its history, but the word drag always brought to mind cisgender gay men for me, it made me think of drag race, and the recent controversy of RuPaul’s transphobic commentary and extremely weak apology. But these are no longer what I think about. Right off the bat the very first performance by Daphne Always highlights the complicated relationship trans women have with surgery, and the often impossible and cruel standards placed on appearance. This performance was profoundly powerful and spoke to me like I never thought drag ever could. After every performance, I’d think to myself that nothing can top it, and yet sure enough the next performance was just as powerful. I found myself taken away by it all, captivated, enthralled, whisked away like a mortal in a faery ring, to dance the night away. This drag show will always be present in my mind, and it will forever be one of my most treasured memories.

Queer Memorials & ACTing UP

Queer Memorials & ACTing UP by Nicholas Howard

In another fun installment of the Sex, History, & the Cities blog, our group ventured out into Greenwich Village to first explore the New York City AIDS Memorial and then later the Stonewall Inn. Saturday was primarily a day to explore memorialization, commemoration, and gain a sense of queer life during the time period of the AIDS epidemic and the Stonewall riots.


Our first stop was the New York City AIDS Memorial. We had a short presentation from Nick Fields, a student in our cohort, that gave us some brief background knowledge of the monument. We talked about how the monument itself is extremely controversial for a number of reasons that include the fact that it is privately maintained, it is a memorial to mostly queer people, it has writings solely from Walt Whitman (a cisgender white male), and that it is the first of it’s kind. I think that it is notable as well to bring up the fact that this memorial was just erected two years ago on World AIDS Day in 2016. This memorial really helped me realize how instrumental the AIDS epidemic was and is still shaping queer history.


Our next stop was the historic Stonewall Inn. We had a phenomenal site visit presentation from Nick Fields and Breanna Johnson that really set the bar high for the rest of us. It was super informative and insightful for a lot of us. Nonetheless, many of the group members felt extremely underwhelmed by the Stonewall Inn. However, I think that all of us were able to come to the consensus that the visual appearance and magnitude of the Stonewall Inn doesn’t take away from the historical importance of the site as an essential piece of queer history.


At the Stonewall Inn, we were able to have the chance to talk to Tree Sequoia who is an eighty-year-old person who participated in the riots. After our meeting with Tree, we had a discussion about the changes in language compared to now. We are often accustomed to communicating in an academic setting where some types of language aren’t used anymore. Despite these slight differences in language, Tree effectively gave us all the ability to extract a sense of what it really meant to be a queer individual in New York in 1969. For me, I really appreciated the true response that we received from Tree that included rooftop sex, burning trash cans, throwing bottles, running to a coffee shop, and the acknowledgement that he was just having fun in the right place at the right time.

On Sunday, we had the privilege to finally get to work with ACT UP. We started off the morning with a short discussion about the history of ACT UP. After the discussion, we decided to visit the New York LGBTQ Center. At the center, we met with an individual meeting with a facilitator from ACT UP that gave information about ACT UP meetings, current projects, and how the organization has changed since the epidemic. She then split us in to groups and had us work on activist plans at Purdue. These plans included a needle exchange, providing more access to inclusive safer sex materials, and creating a queer student coalition. Finally, we were given the chance to help ACT UP create some materials for the Pride Parade which were tombstones targeting the accessibility to PrEP and direct criticism towards Big Pharma. I think that this service learning opportunity was a great opportunity to learn more about activism and it gives us a way to plan our own campaigns back at home.


Tomorrow, we will have the exciting chance to continue our learning by participating in an actual ACT UP meeting. I am extremely excited to get the chance to learn even more about HIV/AIDS in healthcare and the impact of the large pharmaceutical companies on the epidemic as we further our travels!!



FIRST DAYS IN NEW YORK: By Elliott Williams

The show has begun! After arriving in New York, we are exploring the scenes of lower manhattan. Speaking on behalf of the team, while we have walked a shocking amount in the past 24 hours the city has been thrilling and welcoming to our group. Our travel day was relatively painless.

Friday was our first real day of study. We met with queer art historian Dr. Jonathan Katz and explored themes of queer representation, imagery, and meaning throughout modern and contemporary periods.

First, the Whitney. Dr. Katz led us through part of the museum’s permanent collection as well as a gallery on protest art. Key to his lecturing was revealing queer themes in art that has been lost. Whether through misunderstanding, deliberate hiding, or respectability politics, much of the identity and meaning behind the work of LGBTQ artists is left behind once a work becomes part of the art world. Some particular pieces that stuck out to me include:

Edward Hopper, A Woman in the Sun (1961)

Along with work by Warhol, Paul Cadmus, and the triumvirate PaJaMa, we saw how themes of isolation are manifestly queer, and appears again and again in queer works. A sense of being alone in a crowd, knowing that you’re different than those around you, and recognizing that your identity is different things to different people are not only captured by these artists but best contextualized by their queerness.

Elseworth Kelly, Red, White, and Blue (1961). Dr. Katz (and I) found it fascinating that every hard-edged abstractionist in the 60s was queer. Why is that? A compelling explanation was that the edges and geometry gave them a way to make statements about queer sexuality and relationships that survive within in dominant culture. We saw in the similar, yet differentiated colors and shapes of this work potential analogies to human relationships.

From the Whitney, we saw a gallery exhibition of Hugh Steers’s The Nullities of Life, which captured gay male intimacy and domesticity during the AIDS crisis, and documents the artist’s desire to direct his art towards a political end. Following, we saw Cell Count in the La MaMa Galleria, an exhibition of works related to AIDS activism.

“… and I’m waking up more and more from daydreams of tipping Amazonian blowdarts in ‘infected blood’ and spitting them at the exposed necklines of certain politicians or government healthcare officials or those thinly disguised walking swastikas that wear religious garments over their murderous intentions,” (David Wojnarowicz)

Our last stop was the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art. Admittedly, I was getting pretty tired. In the gallery I saw beautiful depictions of queer domesticity, artifacts of cruising culture, and contemporary queer works in photography.

It was such a privilege to be led by Dr. Katz. At one point while we were walking, I asked him about what got him into studying art history, specifically queer art history. He talked his desire to help people understand context and know why things are the way they are influences his eye for art. It fascinates me how in America, because the vast majority of art is privately-held, the culture of the 1% that owns artwork dominates the narratives and context shared with a piece. Even though an artist’s queerness may provide so much value and understanding to a work, those realities are still censored. This impacts who and what our culture deems worthy of knowing, and whether marginalized individuals can see their existence in the majority culture’s artifacts. One of the most important places where a young person can see their reflection in a wall is in a museum.

I hope that as we go throughout the trip, we find spaces that draw more attention to queer people of color, trans people, and women. Today reminded me that a disproportionate amount of the queer art in the historical record and exhibited today is gay and male. I look forward to better understanding the disparity here and learning from others in the cohort.

In other news, our fearless leaders seem to be doing well and have not yet disowned us: