Act OUT, the Lesbian Avengers, and the New Queer

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As the '90s began to take on its own distinctively queer flavor, Bloomington residents and Indiana University students founded several organizations that reflected the confrontational, counter-cultural approach to queerness and queer activism that prevailed in the US in the first half of the 90s.

Act OUT and Kiss-in: Queer Spectacles

IDS front-page photograph October 13th, 1992.

Beginning in 1992, several new activist organizations erupted onto the scene, including Act OUT, the newly-formed action-oriented branch of the previously-existing group OUT. Whereas OUT was rooted in an older style of activism that persistently advanced a gay and lesbian minority agenda by "asking" for inclusion, Act OUT embodied the new sensibility of simply asserting that queer people were already present, and were already "included," albeit in unjust, unequal, and oppressive ways.

On October 12th, 1992, Act OUT organized a "kiss-in" outside Ballantine Hall, a heavily trafficked building on the Indiana University campus. The event proved to be a "surprising wake-up call" for the students walking to class at 9AM, and the individuals involved in the kiss-in worked actively to engage with and confront the assumptions that made the sight as shocking as it was, shouting "We're here! We're queer! Get used to it!", among other proscriptive and accusatory phrases.

This event, and the similar ones that Act OUT engaged in during its brief existence, exemplify the sensibilities that ruled the Queer Moment: an angry, loud, self-assured, (and sometimes self-righteous) rejection of the oppressions that characterized queer life experiences.

A Lesbian Avenger protesting the decision to use private funds for the GLB Office. "Zero Tolerance" was a campus umbrella group for all queer-interest organizations.

The Lesbian Avengers

In October of 1994, an IU grad student, Carol Guess, organized a Lesbian Avengers chapter in Bloomington. The group engaged in activism along with OUT and the campus group QUEST (Queers United for Equal Social Treatment); along with Act OUT and QUEST, the Lesbian Avengers took a confrontational approach to activism in line with most of the organization's other chapters. When protesting the administrative decision to use private rather than university funds for the soon-to-be-established GLB student services office, one Lesbian Avenger member carried a sign declaring "Hey Myles [Brand, then-president of the University], wake up and smell the queers".

QUEST: Queers United for Equal Social Treatment


Zero Tolerance



Thompson, David. “Campus ‘Kiss-In’ draws a reaction”. Herald-Times, October 13, 1992, Sec. A, p.2.

Rowland, Marijke. “GLB groups protest Brand’s decision”. Indiana Daily Student, October 18, 1994, p. 1

Egherman, Dara Joy. “Avengers focus on lesbian issues”. Indiana Daily Student, October 7, 1994, p. 2

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