Appalachian State University LGBT Life, 1969-1978

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When Chancellor Herb Wey officially recognized the Appalachian Gay Awareness Association in 1979, lesbian and gay professors and students had already established informal social networks on campus. The earliest known LGBT campus member was hired in 1929 and actively participated in ASU’s gay subculture during the 1960s. Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag He and gay and bisexual professors socialized with lesbian and gay students while it is rumored that a lesbian professor regularly socialized with her athletes. [1] [2] [3] Mid-century campus members recall a toleration of the lesbian and gay subculture as long as certain lines were not crossed. Although ASU lacked explicit rules forbidding homosexual behavior, the 1969 men’s resident assistant manual stated that hall counselors should immediately report homosexual cases to the Dean of Men.[4] This manual validates anecdotes of few former students who recall dorm mates being discovered in compromising situations and shortly after, leaving campus.[2] By the early 1970s, gay students began coopting the Wesley Foundation as a social space while lesbian students threw all-girl parties. Watauga College also served as a safe space for lesbian and gay students. [5] [6] [7]

By the mid-1970s, the university began to publicly address lesbian and gay issues. In 1976, the university’s counseling center began a homosexual counseling group to discuss “everyday problems due to homosexual preference.” [8] Then, in 1979, freshman art major Jeff Isenhour requested formal recognition of the Appalachian Gay Awareness Association. This group met with a lot of difficulty. Isenhour could not find a gay or lesbian professor willing to act as faculty advisor and resorted to straight art professor Bill Dunlap. Although the student body was generally complacent, or perhaps apathetic, to the group, the administration and community resisted its approval, and 8% of the student body voted in a referendum that rejected AGAA's recognition. Wey repeatedly sought legal advice stating he did not want to approve AGAA; however, with gay student groups at four other UNC System schools, he eventually recognized the group. [9]

Unfortunately, both Isenhour and Dunlap left ASU over the summer and the group reconvened after a semester hiatus. Projects included examining campus textbooks for prejudice and hosting guest speakers. Faculty advisers included Maggie McFadden and Cheryl Claassen. Due to a lack of direction and discomfort with being attached to a gay organization, AGAA never thrived. However, the counseling center’s support group drew double AGAA's numbers. By 1986, AGAA died. [10] || | | | | | | | |

  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Sparrow
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nanci Tolbert Nance, Interview with Kathryn Staley, 26 July 2006.
  3. Alice Sherman (pseudonym), Interview with Kathryn Staley, 6 April 2006.
  4. Handbook for Men’s Residence Hall Staff (Boone, NC: Appalachian State University, 1969), 7.
  5. Sharon Price, Interview with Kathy Staley, 10 January 2006.
  6. Anna Beaver (pseudonym), Interview with Kathy Staley, 21 July 2006.
  7. Max Smith, Interview with Kathy Staley, 3 July 2006.
  8. Carol Ferguson, “Counselors Offer Discussion on Homosexual Problems,” The Appalachian, 4 February 1975, 4.
  9. Kathy Staley, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life at Appalachian State University,” master’s thesis, Appalachian State University, 111-121.
  10. Staley, “LGBT at ASU,” 136-137.