Pride Month 2015: LGBT History on Campus

Now that it’s June, we’ve begun Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month). Pride Month is celebrated in honor of the Gay Liberation Movement’s Stonewall Riots, which occurred in New York City in late June 1969 [1]. After the riots in Manhattan, Pride groups formed at the U of I to fight for acceptance and change.

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The announcement for the first meeting of the Gay Students’ Alliance, which became Gay Illini

The Gay Illini organization was formed in 1975 and Illini Pride was founded in 1977, both growing out of the work of the Gay Liberation Front. [2] Gay Illini was announced in the Daily Illini on January 29, 1975 [3]. By April 1975, the group was holding Gay Forums, offering panels discussing topics related to gay students and queer life. The group also hosted a number of social events, including dances, picnics, and movie nights.

The group acted as advocates on campus. Gay Illini often raised money for efforts like the Gay Information Switchboard, which ran on campus every night from 7 pm to 1 am [4]. They also formed a discrimination committee to “investigate discriminatory racial and sexual practices and policies at public places” [5]. Gay Illini marched in the Chicago Gay Pride Parades.

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Gay Illini students marching in the Chicago Pride Parade, 1976

The visibility and work that Gay Illini did helped to shape a more inclusive campus and community. Even by summer 1976, in fact, the Gay Illini group noted a significant improvement in the response of Champaign police officers in stopping homophobic attacks [6]. Local churches offered services especially for gay men and women [7]. The University’s first Gay-Lesbian Week was held in April 1977. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, members of the group wrote influential op-eds in the Daily Illini to encourage thoughtful discussion on campus.

Despite the increasingly accepting climate of the campus community, however, the group was subject to discrimination from the community. In 1977, the group’s office on campus washit by smoke bombs [8] and the group’s funding for advertising and programming was cut drastically for 1980. The group met significant opposition to its rallies and awareness days throughout the 70s and 80s. By the 1990s, the group was called “Spectrum” and represented bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender concerns on campus. The group was hosted by the Office for LGBT Concerns in the Illini Union [9].

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Promotional card from the 20th anniversary of the LGBT Resource Center

The number and scope of Pride and organizations has developed since they began in the 1970s.  In 2013, the Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center celebrated its 20th anniversary. The resource center continues to host LGBT speakers, ally events, diversity roundtables, and advocacy events, while offering a safe space for LGBTQ members of the campus community.

For more information on the history of Pride Month and LGBT history, we suggest this reading list compiled by the Undergraduate Library. More information on current student organizations affiliated with the U of I and the LGBT Resource Center on campus is available here.

 

 

[1]-[6] 41/2/46 Box 1, Folder “Gay Illini Archives, 1975-1976”
[7]-[8] 41/2/46 Box 1, Folder “Gay Illini Archives August 1976-July 1977”
[9] 41/2/46 Box 2, Folder “Pamphlets/Information Sheets, 1994-1998”

 

 

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