These days, most people wouldn’t think twice if they saw a gay couple showing affection for one another in public. But that wasn’t always the case.
This picture was taken inside a photo booth in 1953, during a time when police used to target gay and lesbian for being “sexual deviants.” Had these two young men been caught, they likely would have been arrested and thrown in jail.
Time reports that the photo was once owned by J.J. Belanger, who is featured on the right-hand side of the picture. Belanger was born in Edmonton, Canada in 1925, and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1942 to 1944.
When he was in his 20s, Belanger moved to California. In the early 1950s, he was one of the original members of the Mattachine Society, one of the first LGBT organizations in the country.
In addition to that, Belanger was the Los Angeles coordinator of the Eulenspiegel Society, oldest and largest BDSM education and support group in the United States, in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he was involved with the San Francisco chapter of the Stonewall Gay Democratic Club, as well as Project Inform and the Quarantine Fighter’s Group.
Throughout his lifetime, Belanger was a devoted collector of historical LGBT artifacts and materials. These two photographs of him are now part of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries, the largest repository of LGBT materials in the world, along with several of Belanger’s letters, notebooks, and audio recordings.