Throughout the twentieth century, New Mexico’s LGBTQ+ residents inhabited a wide spectrum of spaces, from Santa Fe’s nascent bohemian art scene to the secretive military developments at Los Alamos. Shifting focus away from the urban gay meccas that many out queer people called home, Wide-Open Desert brings to life a vibrant milieu of two-spirit, Chicana lesbian, and white queer cultural producers in the heart of the US Southwest. Jordan Biro Walters draws on oral histories, documentaries, poetry, and archival sources to demonstrate how geographic migration and creative expression enabled LGBTQ+ people to resist marginalization and forge spaces of belonging. Significant figures profiled include two-spirit Diné artist Hastíín Klah, literary magazine editor Spud Johnson, ranchera singer Genoveva Chávez, and Cherokee writer Rollie Lynn Riggs. Biro Walters explores how land communes, art circles, and university classrooms helped create communities that supported queer cultural expression and launched gay civil rights activism in New Mexico. Throughout, Wide-Open Desert highlights queer mobility and queer creative production as paths to political, cultural, and sexual freedom for LGBTQ+ people.
Jordan Biro Walters is associate professor of history at the College of Wooster.
"Centering the voices of Pueblo, Navajo, Neuvomexicanx, and white LGBTQ people, the book offers significant new insights into the role that cultural activism has played in the struggle for queer equality and should become required reading for anyone interested in U.S. queer history."
~Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"Breaking ground through its careful intersectional readings of White, Latinx, and Native two-spirit and queer lives, Wide-Open Desert compellingly expands the history of sexuality in the West."
~Western Historical Quarterly