LGBT Issues in Records at the National Archives

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Records

The National Archives’ (NARA) engages, educates, and inspires multiple audiences to discover and explore the records of the American people.

Its collection documents the experience of the full range of our diverse society. Its records constitute a rich documentary history of the experience of LGBT individuals.

NARA's holdings include:

  • 1778 documentation of the expulsion of a gay officer, Lt. Frederick Enslin from the U.S. army during the Revolutionary War
  • Personnel records of former federal employee Walt Whitman
  • Patent applications of Alan Turing, the British mathematician widely considered the father of the computer age, and subject of the docu-drama Codebreaker and feature film The Imitation Game;
  • Court filings from pioneering DC political activist Frank Kameny protesting his dismissal from government service because he was gay.
  • A letter to President Carter from Harvey Milk, one of the first openly-gay elected officials in the United States;
  • The legislation that overturned the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy.
  • The Defense of Marriage Act and the Supreme Court decision which overturned it.

NARA has begun to identify, describe, and digitize hundreds of items in its holdings on LGBT-related topics. This webpage will provide quick access to digitized items and descriptions of records not yet scanned but available to researchers.

Federal Employment

National Archives documents show that LGBT Americans have served in the federal civil service at least since the Civil War. By the 1950s, in the political and social climate of the Cold War, hundreds of gay men and lesbians were fired from or refused federal jobs. This policy was not overturned until the mid-1970s.

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Gay men have served in the U.S. armed forces from the American Revolution to the present day; lesbians since at least World War I.

The National Archives holds thousands of pages of documents related to U.S. policy towards homosexuality in the military.


Protest and Reform

Find out how you can tag and transcribe historical records online.

With a variety of activities to choose from, you can help us make our historical records more accessible today!