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New app 'Quist' delivers LGBT history on the go

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Thirty-two years ago this week, tennis pro Martina Navratilova was outed in a New York Daily News article. Ten years before that, lesbians picketed outside a lesbian-oriented bar whose owner was reportedly hostile to the growing gay liberation movement.

That's according to Quist, anyway.

A new mobile app created by Maryland resident Sarah Prager and designed by Baltimore-based firm Natural Fusion, Quist draws on the "today in LGBT history" model to provide an interactive look at events and milestones often left at the margins. While focusing on specific events, the app (which can be downloaded for free through iTunes and the Google Play store) looks to trace a broader trajectory in shared queer history.

That mission is hardly a new one. Books and movies attempting to record and share queer history abound, especially since LGBT rights and the gay liberation movement tend to be absent from the classroom. But Prager wanted to compile and adapt available resources in way that catered to a growing demand for mobile information.

"I really want to bring these stories to the next generation ...  and make sure they're accessible," she said. "We're meeting people where they are, not asking them to seek it out extra by Googling it themselves."

Taking that step to hand younger audiences a shared LGBT history is particularly important to Prager, who knows first-hand how a broader perspective can comfort and connect queer youth.

"I came out as a lesbian when I was 14, and I read LGBT history books in high school," Prager said. "Even though I was the only out person in my school, hearing these stories of people before me made me feel like I wasn't alone, and that other people had gone through this. ... That was a feeling I hope to bring the next 14-year-olds coming out."

Still, Quist's youth focus doesn't preclude it from offering a fuller picture of the push for LGBT equality. Sodomy-related news, references to male harems and mentions of sexual liaisons are all sprinkled through the app's database of roughly 750 events.

Similarly, in response to recent complaints that the LGBT movement's mainstreaming has whitewashed its flamboyant and rebellious beginnings, Prager said she made a "conscious effort to keep the drag queens and leather daddies in." Also included are queer people of color, the transgender rights movement and bisexuality, which many accounts of LGBT history often subsume.

As both Quist and the LGBT community move forward, Prager wants to expand her app's collection of events, and she's aware that her own contributions may play a part. By way of example: When she and her wife relocated to Maryland from Massachusetts, both women volunteered in the campaign to help marriage equality pass a 2012 ballot question.

"It was a very humbling experience to ask people to vote for my civil rights, and even more so for them to say no to my face," Prager said. "Moving to Maryland is what kicked this off."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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