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Holly Hughes and Esther Newton are radical in their fields and a couple for more than 30 years. In this Pride special, they talk with Laura about the anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminist backlash we’re seeing today and their own experiences making ground-breaking work and surviving unfriendly times thanks to their queer kinship ties. Hughes is a writer and performer probably best known for being one of the artists targeted by the religious right in the culture wars of the 1990s. Esther Newton is a pioneering anthropologist and the subject of the recent documentary film ESTHER NEWTON MADE ME GAY, which explores her introduction to gay life in the 1950s and its impact on her field and her life’s work. Hughes and Newton are cultural icons, dog agility enthusiasts and without a doubt makers of history. What can this long-lived lesbian couple teach us about community survival? Tune in to find out why love, community and kinship are essential for all of our survival, plus a commentary from Laura.

“Some of the arguments that used 30 years ago, that we were supposedly attacking children and we were a cabal of child pornographers and pedophiles . . . They haven’t really bothered to update it. They’re concerned about a stigmatized group that begins to have the means to talk to a larger community.” – Holly Hughes

“Traditionally, primary ties were supposed to be ‘blood family.’ Gay people have built structures outside of that . . . There’s always going to be gay and trans people because as an anthropologist, I’m aware that we’re found all over the world in many, many cultures. It’s not that they’ll be able to stamp out the phenomenon, but they can do a lot of damage . . . We have to maintain those ties. This is critical.” – Esther Newton


  • Holly Hughes: Performer & Writer; Professor, University of Michigan
  • Esther Newton: Professor of Anthropology, Founder & Leading Scholar LGBTQ Studies; Professor of Anthropology; Author, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America & My Butch Career: A Memoir

Portions of this interview are featured in our episode, “Pride Pioneers Holly Hughes & Esther Newton: How Queer Kinship Ties Help Us Survive