Empowering Narratives: Celebrating LGBTQ+ History with the Award-Winning American Heritage Center and Gregory Hinton

Preserving and celebrating diverse narratives is crucial to understanding our shared history and fostering inclusivity in society. In a remarkable collaboration the American Heritage Center at along with playwright and producer Gregory Hinton, have been recognized for exceptional work in LGBTQ+ archival preservation and representation. Recently, we were honored with prestigious awards for initiatives that include the successful Wyoming tour of the play A Sissy in Wyoming and the establishment of the “Out West in the Rockies” LGBTQIA+ archive. Let’s dive into the significance of these accolades and the impact of the work.

A Sissy in Wyoming is a compelling verbatim play that vividly portrays the remarkable life of Larry “Sissy” Goodwin (1946-2020), a Wyoming power plant operator, educator, activist, and crossdresser. He was a regular guy, a man’s man, who just happened to express himself through feminine clothing. He embraced the nickname “Sissy,” reclaiming it as a source of empowerment, taking away the sting of the slur often associated with it. Playwright and producer Gregory Hinton collaborated with AHC archivist Leslie Waggener, who conducted oral interviews with Sissy’s wife, Vickie Jones Goodwin. The play beautifully captures the complexities and triumphs of Sissy’s journey, highlighting his courage and the challenges he faced in a society that often struggles with understanding gender identity and expression.

Vickie and Sissy Goodwin vacationing at Devils Tower National Monument, June 2018.

From September 30 to October 9, 2022, A Sissy in Wyoming embarked on a statewide tour, touching the lives of communities in nine towns across Wyoming. The performances, open to the public for free or nominal charge, provided a platform for audiences to engage with the play’s themes and explore the profound issues it addresses. After each reading, Gregory Hinton and Vickie Goodwin participated in Q&A discussions with the audience, encouraging dialogue and understanding among community members. In addition to the AHC, the tour received generous support from Wyoming Humanities, the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, the Wyoming Arts Council, and the Wyoming Historical Society.

Flyer for the Cowboy State tour of A Sissy in Wyoming.

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), a national organization that celebrates achievements in historical preservation and interpretation, honored the AHC and Gregory Hinton with the Award of Excellence in the Rapid Response project category. This prestigious accolade recognizes the impact of A Sissy in Wyoming in preserving diverse narratives and promoting inclusivity in historical representation.

Gregory Hinton was also honored with the Diversity Award from the Society of American Archivists (SAA), recognizing his outstanding contributions in advancing diversity within the archival profession and the archival record itself. Hinton’s pivotal role in establishing and developing Out West in the Rockies with the AHC played a significant part in this well-deserved recognition.

Gregory Hinton reading from A Sissy in Wyoming backgrounded by an image of Sissy Goodwin wearing one of his favorite outfits. Central Wyoming College, Riverton, October 7, 2022.

Out West in the Rockies is a regional LGBTQ+ archive co-founded by Gregory Hinton and the AHC in 2015. This archive covers Wyoming and eight surrounding Rocky Mountain states, serving as a vital resource for collecting and preserving the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community. The program shines a light on the often-underrepresented LGBTQ+ narratives within the American West.

Marquee of the Broadway Theater in Rock Springs. Vickie Goodwin and Gregory Hinton pose before that evening’s reading of the play on October 6, 2022.

The recent awards bestowed upon the American Heritage Center and Gregory Hinton reflect the AHC’s commitment to preserving LGBTQ+ history, promoting inclusivity, and advancing dialogue about important social issues. Through the powerful portrayal of Larry “Sissy” Goodwin’s extraordinary life in A Sissy in Wyoming and the establishment of Out West in the Rockies, we are working to create transformative spaces for understanding.

See the AHC website at https://www.uwyo.edu/ahc/collections/topics/lgbtqia-collections.html for a highlight of collections housed as part of the Out West in the Rockies program.

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