The Homosaurus was originally created in 1997 by IHLIA LGBT Heritage as a Dutch and English gay and lesbian thesaurus that was used as a standalone vocabulary to describe their collections. Over time, terms relating to bisexuality, trans, gender, and intersex concepts were added, but not methodically. This original version of the vocabulary (which we refer to as version 0) had an overly flat structure and, due to the lack of connections, terms were too isolated from one another and therefore easily missed. But, it became apparent that a vocabulary developed by an LGBTQ archives to describe LGBTQ resources could be a powerful tool.
In 2013, Jack van der Wel, with the help of Ellen Greenblatt, transformed the original Homosaurus into a more inclusive and hierarchical thesaurus (version 1). Hundreds of terms were added and each term was put in relation to others in a hierarchical structure. At this point, the vocabulary only existed as an offline document that was circulated as a Word document or PDF. The results of this major editing project were presented at numerous LGBTQ ALMS Conferences and the vocabulary began to be used by other LGBTQ archives, libraries, and documentation centres throughout the world.
In 2015, the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) became one of the handful of LGBTQ archives using version 1 of the Homosaurus to describe resources in their collections. When it became apparent to the DTA’s Director, K.J. Rawson, how useful the vocabulary was and how many institutions could benefit from using it, he collaborated with Jack van der Wel to transform version 1 into an online linked data vocabulary. This dramatically increased the accessibility of the vocabulary and allowed cultural institutions from around the world to link to a common vocabulary.
In 2016, Rawson and van der Wel then established an Editorial Board to oversee a second major revision of the Homosaurus. The board ultimately decided to transform the Homosaurus from a broader, standalone vocabulary (which included hundreds of non-LGBTQ terms, e.g., “advertising” and “literature”) to a narrower, LGBTQ-specific vocabulary that was intended to supplement existing thesauri (primarily the Library of Congress Subject Headings). This was a major conceptual shift and this revision resulted in version 2, which is the current version of the vocabulary.
In May, 2019, version 2 of the Homosaurus was released as a linked data vocabulary and is still accessible at https://homosaurus.org/v2.
In September 2021, version 3 of the Homosaurus changed identifiers to be more consistent along with adding some initial language support. This is the current version of the volabulary available today at: https://homosaurus.org/v3. The Editorial Board is now focused on publicizing the project and making ongoing edits to the vocabulary.
The Editorial Board would like to thank our fabulous collaborators: AVEN, the Black Lesbian Archives, COLAGE, InterACT, the Leather Archives & Museum, and the Sex Worker Project. We would also like to thank the many users of the Homosaurus who have suggested terms and provided feedback over the years. In particular, we are grateful to Orla Egan, Alice Galvinhill, Ellen Greenblatt, Juniper Johnson, Dee Michel, Cailin Roles, and Lydia Willoughby for their contributions.