Hugh Ryan
"Themstory" Columnist, Queer Historian, Founder of the Pop-Up Museums of Queer History

Writer and curator, Hugh Ryan is the author of When Brooklyn Was Queer, the first-ever LGBTQ history of Brooklyn. His writing has appeared in the New York TimesTin HouseBuzzfeed, the Los Angeles Review of BooksOut, and other venues. He earned an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and he received a 2016-2017 Martin Duberman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a 2017 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature, and a 2018 residency at the Watermill Center. In 2010, Hugh founded the Pop-Up Museums of Queer History which spearheaded his organization to better represent communities and their history throughout the greater New York City area and across the country.


Hugh Ryan is a regular speaker at colleges, universities, and community centers. Hugh has given numerous lectures and has run writing workshops on topics ranging from the queer history of New York City to writing postmodern nonfiction while preaching to his audience the importance of knowing your community’s roots. Some of his talks have included queer history, AIDS activism, and museum praxis at museums, colleges, community centers, and punk houses of all kinds. He sits on the Board of Advisors for the NYC LGBT Center Archives, the academic journal QED, and the Museum of Transgender History and Art.


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St. Martin's Press

Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer is a groundbreaking exploration of the LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the 1850s up through the queer women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, and beyond.

When Brooklyn Was Queer Hugh Ryan unearths the forgotten, erased, and destroyed queer history of New York City's most populous borough, starting with Walt Whitman in the early 1800s and continuing all the way up through the tumultuous 1960s.
The Real History of Stonewall Hugh examines the origins and ramifications of the Stonewall Riots, demystifying one of the seminal events in LGBTQ+ history.

Out reveals the cover art and an interview with Hugh Ryan for his book When Brooklyn Was Queer.

Hugh Ryan writes a column “Themstory” for Conde Nast’s LGBT publication Them.

Towleroad featured Hugh Ryan and the writing of his historical book When Brooklyn Was Queer.

Read NewNowNext’s Q&A with Hugh Ryan.

The Guardian reviewed Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer.

Leonard Lopate at Large interviewed Hugh Ryan on WBAI Public Radio.

Hugh Ryan was featured on Slate’s Outward Podcast: The “Town and Country” Edition.

The Bay Area Reporter mentioned Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer in their feature “Early Bird Gets the LGBTQ bookworm.”

Read what the New York Times Book Review had to say about Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer.

Shelf Awareness reviewed Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer.

When Brooklyn Was Queer received a starred review by Kirkus.

The Watermill Center profiled Hugh Ryan as a resident artist.

The New Republic highlighted Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer.

Publishers Weekly highlights Hugh Ryan’s great efforts in story-telling in his historical nonfiction work When Brooklyn Was Queer.

Visit Hugh Ryan’s personal website.

"Hugh Ryan is passionate, thoughtful, analytical and eloquent when he speaks about the history of Queer Brooklyn. There is no one who knows more about the subject, and his storytelling skills mean that his audience is thoroughly riveted. We look forward to having Hugh return often to present programs that captivate our public."
- Deborah Schwartz, President, Brooklyn Historical Society

"Hugh Ryan has a knack for bringing queer history to life. His talks at the Library have been standing room only. He is dynamic, sassy, and erudite. His talks inspire audiences to re-imagine the past, as well as possible queer futures."
- Jason Baumann, Coordinator of the LGBT Collection at the New York Public Library

"Hugh Ryan is a new voice in queer history for a new generation. His work is grounded in meticulous archival research, which he turns in to beautifully written and sophisticated narratives about the lives of queer folk. Hugh brings these nearly-lost people to life in his writing and his performances. I've never known an historian who could mesmerize a room like Hugh Ryan."
- Marvin Taylor, Curator, Fales Library at NYU

"Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer diligently and lyrically tells Brooklyn’s queer history from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century and his presentation of that research is equally masterful. At my college, he captivated an audience of academics, students, and community members alike—fielding technical questions about archives and methods, thoughtfully responding to complex inquiries about race and gender, and entertaining the crowd with a well-placed bit of humor or compelling historical detail. Ryan is an excellent storyteller. His speaking engagements make this vibrant history truly come to life."
- Meg Devlin O’Sullivan, Associate Professor of History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the State of University of New York at New Paltz

Praise for When Brooklyn Was Queer “[A] boisterous, motley new history…an entertaining and insightful chronicle.”
— Caleb Crain, New York Times Book Review

"This evocative and nostalgic love song to the borough and its flamboyant past offers a valuable broadening of historical perspective."
- Publishers Weekly

"Employing a dynamic combination of meticulous research and impassioned prose, Ryan familiarizes readers with the precarious post–Prohibition-era atmosphere before moving on to World War II, when control and arrests of queer Americans precipitated a great vanishing of the culture in Brooklyn and beyond. The author insists on its overdue appreciation, and he offers a richly evocative chronicle filled with notable queer game-changers."
- Kirkus Reviews, a Starred Review