In honor of National Coming Out Day (October 11) and LGBT History Month this post explores the the correspondence of Tom Miles, a St. Louis native and leader among allies of the LGBTQ community, provides an intimate window unto the LGBTQ rights movement of the 1990s and early 2000s. Miles, who was also a life-long Catholic and tireless activist for gay rights within the Catholic community, was in part motivated to campaign for the LGBTQ community because his daughter identified as lesbian.
“Congratulations on your pride in your daughter and for your participation in the very important P-FLAG organization. Your letter is a great encouragement to me.
Click here for full transcription of Barnet’s letter to Miles.
The letters featured here – from Vern Barnet, reverend of the Center for Religious Experience and Study, from Miles to a Missouri state senator, and between Miles and members of his Catholic church featuring his letter to Archbishop Burke – outline Miles and others’ efforts to support the gay rights movement.
“As practicing Catholics (and, we believe, compassionate people), we were appalled at your comments regarding homosexuals. We have a 39-year old daughter (5th of our 6 children) who revealed (“came out”) that she is lebians 15 years ago. Our family loves and totally supports her and her life-partner.
…You must know that the American Psychiatric Association determined (some years ago) that homosecuality is not a mental condition…something which, apparently, our Church has chosen to ignore.”
-Tom Miles to Archbishop Burke, February 22 2004.
The correspondence, and the collection as a whole, chronicles the victories and setbacks LGBTQ activists experienced during two critical decades of the struggle towards achieving equal rights in the United States.
“Please,” Audrey and Tom Miles urged Speaker Gaws, “do not allow religious political extremists to use the human rights of a group of people as election year fodder.”
This post is part of an occasional series, “Special Delivery – Letters from the WUSTL Archives and Special Collections.”
For more information about the letters and documents displayed here, or in general about Special Collections please contact us.