Virginia’s history is rich with Queer people in all aspects of life and culture, crossing gender, racial, economic and geographic barriers. Great examples of this are LGBTQ+ history walking tours, notable in Norfolk, Roanoke and Richmond. Each year, so many Virginians find and share more, further connecting us with our Family, and how they shaped our lives today. 

We are lucky enough to have shared a conversation with an interesting and important figure in this lineage and work ⎼ former Virginia resident JD Doyle. A Norfolk resident between 1978 - 1981, JD, then a chemical engineer, followed his heart and father’s advice to travel cross country and expand experiences. In his new book 1981—My Gay American Road Trip: A Slice of Pre-AIDS Culture, JD shares stories of the places, people and experiences during his journey. Among many awards and accomplishments, including the 2019 Mention the Library of Congress selected the JD Doyle Archives for inclusion in their internet LGBTQ studies web archive, the 2021 Trailblazer Award from the Texas Conference on Digital Libraries, the proclamation of “JD Doyle Day” from Houston’s May in 2022, and 2023 Legacy Award from the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Be sure and join JD Doyle at Old Dominion University (Batten Arts & Letters Building, Room 9024) on Tuesday, February 27 at 6 PM for a reading from his memoir "1981 - My Gay Amercian Road Trip"

JD Doyle
JD, tell us a little bit about your own history, your life, when, and what brought you to Virginia? 

I was working for Kodak in Rochester NY for 8 years and just could no longer take the winters, so found a job in Norfolk. I arrived in Sept 1978 and served as editor of the gay community publication Our Own Community Press 1979 and 1980. Norfolk was a good gay community in which to live. My involvement in the UUGC (Unitarian Universalist Gay Community) was the center of my social life and activist work. I did not really think of myself as an activist then. We were all just trying to help as we could, and work together for the gay good and learned and loved. I have a large chapter of my book going into much more detail.

Your passion for music has resulted in the creation of so many stories, resources and sound archives, across decades and genres. When and how did the music bug first grab you? 

I started seriously collecting records in the early 1970s. I loved digging into the history of many genres. I had accumulated and then sold several collections over the years, but always kept the queer stuff. In 2000 I was offered the radio show, which was a joy to do, spotlighting music from the 1920s on, mostly independent artists, who never got a chance to be heard on the radio. And I also captured interviews with our pioneers, a very unique show, lasting 15 years.

Queer Music History 101 @JDDoyle
Where can we access your work and archives?   

JD Doyle Archives

Drag Discography

Queer Music History 101 * a lesson for university use

Queer Music History wiht JD Doyle
You’ve invested so much of your time listening and chronicling music. Do you have any tidbits from the book you can share to wet our appetites until we all have our copies? Perhaps challenges you’ve overcome, wins you have celebrated, and the people you met along the way? 

Most of the book is from a journal kept on my trip, which I put away and did not look at for decades. I never intended for anyone to read it. It gets very personal. But now as a historian I realized the importance of sharing a look at our culture just before AIDS changed everything. So I decided to make it into a book, a process that took five years. It is a very personal memoir, one I hope is of use to others.

How did your upcoming trip to Virginia come about? Will you be visiting friends and any familiar places?

I am attending the Queer History South conference in Charlotte, NC, (Feb 22-25) essentially one for archivists and history nerds. As I would be that close to Norfolk, I expanded the trip into also visiting my old stomping grounds. I could not resist the chance to see old friends and also give a talk at ODU on my new book. It has been 21 years since my last visit.

JD Doyle at ODU
Be sure to join JD Doyle at Old Dominion University (Batten Arts & Letters Building, Room 9024) on Tuesday, February 27 at 6:00 pm for a reading from his memoir "1981- My Gay American Road Trip."

JD will also be joined by panelists Scott Wyatt and Charles Ford to discuss gay life in Norfolk and the surrounding areas in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

You can follow JD Doyle on his Instagram (jddoylearchives) and LinkTree ( to purchase his new book, hear his Spotify playlist and LGBTQ+ history and music archives