Uncovering the Untold Stories: A Groundbreaking New Book Dives into Evansville’s LGBTQ+ History
An Evansville native has just published OUT in Evansville: An LGBTQ+ History of River City, a book about the history of the LGBTQ community in the city, detailing the lived experiences of not only himself but other members of the LGBTQ community as well.
The Making of OUT in Evansville: An LGBTQ+ History of River City
Born in Evansville, Indiana, and a graduate of the University of Southern Indiana, Kelley Matthew Coures is an exceptional storyteller, and in his new book OUT in Evansville: An LGBTQ+ History of River City he shares accounts of the lived experiences, some quite unsettling, of the city's LGBTQ community. OUT in Evansville is the final result of two years of research and interviews.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, while the whole world seemed to stop, Coures took that opportunity to dive into researching and documenting the stories he shares in his book. In 2021, he conducted interviews cataloging the personal accounts of others. When asked what his biggest hurdle was for the project, he revealed that it was finding older members of the LGBTQ community who were willing to share their stories "of the premodern era," as Coures explained. Those that did choose to share did so with the promise of anonymity.
It Gets Personal
Included in the book, Coures shares his personal experiences as a 22-year-old man living in 1981, just before the global AIDS epidemic began. He says that sharing these stories is important, especially from the perspective of someone who was living in Evansville "at the time that AIDS became part of our lives."
"Things Like That" Do Happen in Evansville
Coures shared one chapter of the book with me that recounts the events that took place in 1963 that resulted in the tragic and untimely death of an Evansville business owner at the hands of three other men. It is a truly heartbreaking story from our city's history. While Evansville is the third largest city in the state of Indiana, it still has a quaint, small-town feel, and I think many of us believe "things like that don't happen here..." except they absolutely have and they most certainly do.
The jacket notes of the book explain,
In the early days of the city, local newspapers harassed and bullied members of this group, even going so far as to encourage them to commit suicide. A series of murders in the 1950s and 1960s left Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender population of Evansville without justice and validation. The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s did the same. Happily, things have changed. Today, the city's LGBTQ community is out and proud, and thousands attend the annual Pride parade down Main Street.
Looking back on more than a century of uneven progress, Kelley Coures unfolds this often tragic yet at times hopeful story.
How We Can Do Better
Admittedly, as a cis-gendered, straight woman, I cannot for a moment pretend to fully comprehend what it's like to live in a world where my physical safety and basic human rights are threatened because of who I love or how I show up to the world as my most authentic self. However, as someone who has friends, family, and loved ones who identify as gay, lesbian, trans, and queer, it is incredibly important to me that I use my voice to elevate theirs.
There is still so much work to do as a society to eradicate the bigotry, hate, and violence against the LGBTQIA+ community and it starts here, with us - with you, with me, with our neighbors and community leaders. It starts by no longer turning a blind eye to the horrendous realities that many of our friends and neighbors have endured and continue to endure.
OUT in Evansville is Eye Opening
Philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." We have to pay attention and stories like the ones found within the pages of OUT in Evansville are helping to open our eyes. It is abundantly clear that there is still a great deal of work to be done to protect and preserve the rights of our friends and family in the LGBTQ community. When asked how we as a collective can do a better job, he replied, "Be there when they need you," but he also shared some wisdom for members of the LGBTQ community as well:
We still have racism ageism and body shaming in the lgbtq community. Two words: stop it
Get a Copy of OUT in Evansville
A portion of the sales from OUT in Evansville will go to benefit River City Pride, the city's LGBTQIA+ organization focused on uniting, educating, and serving the community. Coures is a retired member of the organization but still serves on its board in a non-voting capacity. While OUT in Evansville is available to order from major online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart, it is available locally at Your Brother's Bookstore located at 504 Main Street in downtown Evansville. Coures will be onsite at Your Brother's Bookstore on Friday, April 28th to sign copies of the book as well. A documentary film is also in the works.
More About Kelley Matthew Coures
During the 1990s, Coures served on the board of directors for the AIDS Resource Group and he has been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards over the years. His work within the LGBTQ community earned him the Sadelle Berger Civil Rights Award in 2011 and was awarded by the Mayor's Human Relations Commission. In 2012 he was presented the Social Service Award by Leadership Evansville. Coures has served as the Executive Director for the Department of Metropolitan Development for the city of Evansville since 2014. He and his partner Justin Allan Coures have been married since 2017.
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