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The fierceness of queer youth: LGBT student organizations

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LGBT student organizations - Columbia University

The fierceness of queer youth: LGBT student organizations

LGBT student organizations - Columbia University
In the 1970s, the school campuses were a hotbed of protests– and LGBT students were not content to sit at the sidelines thanks to LGBT student organizations like the Student Homophile League (SHL).

The oldest of the LGBT student organizations

In 1966, the SHL– the oldest of the student organizations, later known as the Columbia Queer Alliance– was established to represent LGBTQ students at the Columbia University.

It was founded by Stephen Donaldson, a bisexual-identified LGBT rights activist.

During its first year, the SHL had only ten members and it had to fight with university administrators for official recognition.

Because the SHL insisted on using pseudonyms and anonymity, the university refused to sanction them.

As such, the SHL functioned as an underground organization during the first two years of its existence.

They later received an official charter in April 1967 after recruiting prominent student leaders to public liaisons so that the group’s actual participants could remain anonymous.

Forming other LGBT student organizations

To reach out to more LGBT people, Donaldson sent an announcement to every media outlet he knew.

Thanks to the publicity, a second chapter formed at Cornell University on March 1968 in response to an article in the Cornell Daily Sun.

Interestingly enough, this chapter began with more heterosexual supporters than gay students.

Within two years more groups similar to the SHL were formed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the New York University, Rutgers University, and Stanford University.

By the end of four years, more than 150 such student groups had been established thereafter.

The LGBT student organizations make their move

Given that the ’70s was was a period of unrest, a number of students within the Cornell SHL began to debate on the focus of the organization: fight for civil liberties or promote gay culture.

That’s why when the Stonewall riots in New York City happened, it kicked off a militant gay liberation movement– and the Cornell chapter followed.

This group aligned themselves with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to address queer issues.

Influenced by the Black Power militants and the campus chapter of the Black Liberation Front, the Cornell SHL changed their name to the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and patterned themselves after this major group to organize sit-ins and boycotts.

Moreover, they brought in lesbian activist and bibliophile Barbara Gittings to their campus in 1969 to speak before the students.

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