Appalachian State University LGBT Life, 1989-1998


SAGA documents, 1990s

Four East Hall residents formed the Sexual Awareness Group at Appalachian in 1990. East Hall resident advisor Gary Hartz served as faculty advisor. Founded during the Queer Nation era, many early members were comfortable being out on campus and publicly showing affection to their girlfriends or boyfriends. SAGA integrated education and support into their programming and sponsored public events such as Blue Jeans Day and a school yearbook photograph. They also began a tradition of going to McAdoos on Thursday evenings after SAGA meetings.[1][2][3][4]

In 1993, two SAGA members, Troy Scheuer and Evan Smith, joined the Student Government Association (SGA). Under the direction of Student Government Cabinet Member Tom Beaman, the SGA proposed and approved the addition of sexual orientation to the campus’ Equal Employment Opportunity statement. Chancellor John Thomas and the Board of Trustees approved this change, and SGA members successfully urged the UNC System student government to pass a system-wide policy resolution. Unfortunately, the Board of Governors waited until 2010 to pass such matters.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

During the early 1990s, many other changes occurred. Due to SAGA’s contact with UNC-CH's lesbian and gay student organization which had changed its name from Carolina Gay and Lesbian Association to Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians, and Allies for Diversity, they chose to change their name to Bisexuals, Gay Men, and Lesbians Associated for Diversity.[6][12] (In 1998, the group added an additional A for Allies.) In 1992, an adjunct professor taught the campus' first Gay and Lesbian course and the following year, BGLAD made its first official request for a Gay and Lesbian Center, which was denied outright. Approximately at this time, Mary Ballard, an out lesbian, joined the psychology faculty and replaced Gary Hartz as the BGLAD faculty advisor.[13]

BGLAD members also began annually painting the "Tunnel" in celebration for National Coming Out Day. Each year, hostile students responded with anti-gay graffiti until 1995 when virulent death threats including names of gay students were painted on the tunnel walls. The campus community swiftly responded with condemnation. Sociology students whitewashed the tunnel while an ad hoc group of LGBA professors and Boone residents paid for an advertisement in the Appalachian campus newspaper condemning the act. BGLAD continued painting the Tunnel until 1997 when the high cost of paint was cited as the reason to cease.[14]

In the 1990s, drag shows were increasingly common in Boone. East Hall sponsored several with many heterosexual male participants. Also, BGLAAD member Jimmy Smith was on an episode of The Ricki Lake about drag queens. In the mid-1990s, the community-based, biracial gay fraternity Delta Love Delta incorporated a Miss Gay Boone pageant. Realizing drag shows' potential for fundraising and community building, BGLAAD leaders began hosting annual drag shows by 1998. Many of the female impersonators are ASU alumni. By 2008, amatuer and professional drag shows took place each semester.[15][16]


  1. Undated SAGA charter, Box 27, Women’s Studies Program Files, University Archives, Appalachian State University.
  2. Lee O’Malley, Interview with Kathy Staley, 31 December 2006.
  3. Sparks, “Awareness Nurtured,” Appalachian, 19 February 1991, p. 6
  4. John Magers, Appalachian Memory Project Records, Special Collections, Appalachian State University.
  5. Tom Beaman, interview.
  6. Evan Smith, interview.
  7. Dan Gurley, interview with Kathy Staley, 24 September 2006.
  8. Keith Van Wagner, interview with Kathy Staley, 29 September 2006.
  9. David Cox, interview with Kathy Staley, 19 October 2006.
  10. Marty Minchin, “Congress OKs Sexual Orientation Bill,” The Daily Tar Heel, 1 April 1993, p. 3.
  11. “Student Government Re-addresses Sexual Orientation Bill,” The Appalachian, 17 September 1993, p. 1.
  12. Personal knowledge of author, Kathy Staley.
  13. Mary Ballard, interview with Kathy Staley, 19 June 2006.
  14. Damien Carper, “Anti-gay Graffiti Covers Tunnel Walls,” The Appalachian, 21 October 1993, p. 1.
  15. Freddie Grant, interview with Kathy Staley, 1 September 2006.
  16. Ricki Lake Show, Season 4, Episode 4114.