LGBT Oral Histories of Central Iowa: Narrator FAQ
Compiled by May Kurata
1. What is this project about?
LGBT Oral Histories of Central Iowa is an
archival project made up of interviews gathered by students of Grinnell
College. Our goal is to record the memories of people in our local
community who identify as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender). We want to ensure that the histories of LGBT Iowans are
preserved and shared into future generations.
2. Who can participate?
We’re interested in hearing the life stories
of anyone who has a connection to Iowa and identifies with LGBT community
(including allies who have been involved in local LGBT issues and
politics)! Most our interviews are conducted in-person, which tends to be
the most comfortable setting for interviewees. But if you no longer live
in Iowa, or if you live in part of the state that’s far from our home
base in Grinnell, or if travel simply isn’t viable, we can arrange Skype
or phone interviews. We especially invite participation by working-class
LGBT people, LGBT people of color, trans and nonbinary people, LGBT
people with disabilities, and LGBT immigrants. If you’d like to
participate by sharing your experiences, please shoot us an email or
3. Who will interview me?
You may have been contacted by a student
already (who might be sending you this FAQ!) and that student is
available to interview you. But whether or not you’re already in touch
with an individual student, we think it’s important to note: oral history
interviews are in-depth conversations, in which the interviewee shares a
lot about their life. We want participants to feel comfortable with the
experience. If you would prefer to be interviewed by a student who shares
an identity or background with you, we can work to arrange that (for
instance: if you identify as lesbian and would simply feel more
comfortable being interviewed by student who also identifies as lesbian;
or if you’re trans and would prefer a trans student interviewer, a
student of color, working-class student, a student of non-U.S. national
origin, etc). Just let us know if you have any preferences. All student
interviewers currently working on the project identity as LGBT.
4. What will the interview be like?
The style of our interviews is narrator-driven, meaning that the narrator (i.e., interviewee) can decide what or what not to talk about. Our project focuses on LGBT issues, experiences, identities, and community—broadly defined. So we ask a lot of questions about those topics, but narrators should decide what feels important for them to talk about. We don’t discuss anything a narrator doesn’t want to. Usually, we like to chat or email briefly with narrators before the actual interview—so you can tell us about what you’d like to discuss, which helps us prepare questions.
We mostly conduct “life-course” interviews,
meaning that we usually start by asking questions about your early life,
and move from then to now. But if you’d prefer to give an interview
focusing on a specific issue, theme, a particular stage in your life,
etc, we’re happy to do that too.
Your interviewer will bring an audio
recorder—we won’t video you!—and will record the interview from beginning
to end. We can pause the interview at any time to take a break.
Interviews usually around two hours, but it’s
up to the narrator to talk more or less than that if they want. In
addition, your interviewer will spend maybe 10 minutes before the
interview going over release forms and answering any questions you
have. We also ask that narrators provide us with a photo of their
choosing so we can post it with the interview (your interviewer can also
take a photo at the interview). Usually, this would be a photo of
you. But if you prefer not to use your own image for whatever reason,
you’re welcome to choose a photo of anything else to post with your
5. What will happen if I choose to contribute to the
Narrators have full intellectual property
rights to the stories they share. If you agree to contribute to the
archive, you’ll sign a release form authorizing Grinnell College to use
your oral testimony for non-commercial purposes. You can choose whether
to make your interview fully accessible to the public, or limit it to
those who have Grinnell College email addresses. You can also limit when
your interview would become available, such as publishing it a couple of
months after the interview took place. You can also have the interview
taken down at any point on request.
6. Can I protect my privacy or remain anonymous?
You can choose not to reveal too much
personal information about yourself and others. Before recording, your
interviewer will discuss with you what, if anything, you don’t want to
talk about. Additionally, we can make little edits to the audio if, after
the fact, you realize you said something you want to remove from the
recording. But because we want to retain the integrity of the interview
as much as possible, we do not do major edits—we ask that narrators keep
in mind that they’re speaking on the public record (or, if you choose for
your interview to be restricted access, you’re speaking to the Grinnell
College community at large).
Regarding anonymity, full anonymity is
difficult because if someone talks for two hours about their life, it’s
extremely likely that identifying information will emerge. However, there
are options for creating degrees of anonymity. For example, narrators can
choose what name they want to publish with the interview, you can choose
whatever photo you want to use for the website, and you can choose to
restrict access to your interview to individuals with Grinnell college
email accounts. We will also be working to generate written transcripts
for interviews, but narrators can request that their interviews not be
transcribed, which makes the interview content more difficult to