Several years ago, I began posting candid photos from the last forty years of my life on Instagram. I had no big scheme or vision in mind. I just wanted to share them. The photos were mostly from my vacations with gay male friends at gayish holiday destinations. I quickly started getting a lot of comments in reaction to my photos, which spurred me to post daily, adding extended stories to accompany them. People seemed to like it.
I started hearing from viewers around the world how they loved my stories. Some even sought to meet me when they came to New York. And on trips I took to other cities in the US and abroad, I met even more fans. I’d never thought of my life as particularly unique or interesting to others, but, I had tapped into something unexpected.
Today, 14,000+ devoted followers from around the world regularly visit my Instagram account, BAMMER47, drawn by the visual experience of those photos, the look back into LGBTQ history, and evidence of a tight-knit camaraderie that existed among urban gay men and lesbians in the 1960s through 1990s.
People suggested I create a book featuring my photos. A friend introduced me to an ex-New Yorker, Tom Walker, a photographer, designer, and producer of coffee table books, as a potential curator/editor of my book. Strangely, Tom and I had moved in the same circles in NYC over a long period, but we’d never met. Having shared similar experiences to mine over the past few decades, Tom lamented the present-day lack of community, compared to what had existed before, and suggested there was perhaps something bigger and more impactful I could achieve with my efforts.
He explained that what I was offering wasn’t just photos, but stories told by a gay man who had lived through the momentous era of “gay liberation” and the AIDS crisis over the previous decades. And he pointed out that sharing my personal experiences with others was what had resonated so profoundly with them.
What if we could get others to share their personal experiences, too? Just as my stories have connected me to people all over the world, perhaps we could create a place where others share their experiences and get similarly connected. And we could create a community based on storytelling and shared experiences.
In addition, we both feel strongly that there are many incredible stories from our collective LGBTQ past that will be lost to time, if they aren’t shared now—NOT the big stories of the Stonewall Riots, the AIDS crisis, and marriage equality, but the smaller, personal stories of our lives as LGBTQ people.
Initially, we called the site Capturing Rainbows, but as our efforts grew beyond just preserving stories of our past, and as BAMMER47 continued to expand, we renamed the site BAMMER.co to more closely align the two efforts.
That is how the BAMMER community began. We look forward to your stories and you becoming part of us.
The idea that sexual preference and gender identity naturally include a spectrum of variations is becoming more widely accepted in more parts of the world than ever before. Yet, ironically, our acceptance and resulting “assimilation” in some places has led to greater repression in others like Russia and parts of the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, in America, it has eroded the real-world LGBTQ community we fought so hard to establish—places that offered safe havens where individuals could explore and define their sexual and gender identities, and which have been a crucible for political and cultural change.
Furthermore, the barrage of new technology and media in today’s world has led many within the LGBTQ community, as well as in greater society, to lose sight of our past. So much of what we have experienced and fought for is now being taken for granted or just plain forgotten— and, in the classic words of the great philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”
Bammer’s goal is to keep our unique heritage alive and vibrant. We believe that through collective storytelling—encouraging and assisting people in writing down, recording and sharing their experiences of growing up, coming out and being LGBTQ over the last 50+ years, both in America and around the world, we can strengthen the bonds of our community by:
• Infusing new LGBTQ generations with a greater sense of their LGBTQ heritage.
• Highlighting the uniqueness and value of LGBTQ community and its place in society at large as a source of creativity, culture, and change.
• Fostering increased social interaction and new bonds of friendships among members of the LGBTQ community through shared experiences—especially between older and younger members of the LGBTQ community.
• Providing historical context and understanding of current events relevant to the LBGTQ community.
While the larger moments of our history—the Stonewall Rebellion (and the gay liberation movement that followed it), the AIDS epidemic (and the devastation it caused), and marriage equality (which allowed our love to be recognized legally)—have entered into mainstream history books, the small moments of our lives—the personal experiences—are the ones most often lost and forgotten. Yet, these stories typically leave a more indelible impression and touch more hearts.