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LGBTQIA+ Rights and History

This guide has resources for researching the social and historical aspects of LGBTQIA+ people's experiences, history, and activism.

This guide is designed as a starting point for researching LGBTQIA+ History and Queer Theory.

  • Welcome: Find campus resources and research tips
  • Early Queer Theory: Find foundational research and and literature in Queer Studies
  • Primary Sources: Find links to LGBTQIA+ primary source collections. Includes how-to videos on searching for primary sources online
  • Books and Articles:Find a curated list of books, journals, and search tools for finding scholarly and non-fiction sources related to LGBTQIA+ history.
  • Art and Streaming Media- Find search tools and curated sources including novels, art collections, news sites, and documentaries.

People in the LGBTQIA+ community use different language to describe themselves than Libraries use to describe materials about LGBTQIA+ Studies.

Why is this?

This is because Libraries use standardized sets of words, sometimes called controlled vocabularies, to describe and organize books and media in their collections. This standardized language is designed to help people find sources related to their topics consistently. However, marginalized communities do not choose the terms libraries use to describe sources, and the language used in library search tools isn't updated as quickly as our cultural discourse changes.

Why is this a problem?

It is very common to encounter offensive and harmful language used to describe and categorize library sources about LGBTQIA+ Studies. It can also make it harder to search for sources related to LGBTQIA+ topics because the language you are familiar with doesn't match the language to describe the sources. 

What are librarians doing about this issue?

Libraries using controlled vocabularies that are inaccurate, outdated, or offensive is an issue that impacts collections related to lots marginalized communities, not just LGBTQIA+ themed materials. Within the field of librarianship, there is a movement to combat harmful controlled vocabulary use called critical cataloging. Some strategies critical catalogers use to describe and organize materials include: making offensive descriptor terms less visible in public-facing search tools, employing alternative (more inclusive) controlled vocabularies, and creating more humane language systems for describing library materials.

For more information on critical cataloging, visit:

What search strategies can I use to find sources on LGBTQIA+ topics?

The good news is: many library search tools are more powerful than ever before. Search@UW will match your search terms with language used  the text of abstracts, titles, and content. Here are a few strategies you can use to maximize your searching success: 

  • Brainstorm and try a wide variety of search terms, and keep track of which search terms work well.
  • Pay attention to the language used by experts in the sources that you read. Keep track of this "jargon" or special language and repurpose this language as search terms.
  • Search in Women's and Gender Studies databases (see the Books and Articles page for database suggestions)
  • Search in a database, like Google Scholar, that recognizes "natural language"-- this means the database recognizes language that isn't academic or part of a library controlled vocabulary.

What language should I use in my writing?

In your own writing about your research, try to use inclusive language and language that reflects current terminology being used in Queer Studies. If you are unsure about what terminology your should use, contact your instructor for clarification about their expectations.

Here are some resources on best practices for LGBTQIA+ inclusive writing and communication:

Campus and Local Resources