Early Gay Awareness Conferences

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The Bloomington Gay Alliance sponsored at least two state-wide gay conferences, in 1974 and 1975.

The First Conference

Between March 29-31, 1974, at the IU Memorial Union, the Bloomington Gay Alliance sponsored the Indiana Gay Awareness Conference, which it described as the first statewide gay gathering. Invited speakers included civil rights activist Franklin Kameny, who had been fired from a federal job during the McCarthyite purges of the 1950s, Troy Perry, founder of the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church; Phyllis Lyon, co-founder of the pioneering lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis, and Peter Fischer, author of The Gay Mystique, which won the American Library Association Gay Task Force Award in 1972. Local sex research Marty Weinberg from the Kinsey Institute also spoke, as did a faculty member from the IU Law School.

The conference program began with a Friday night dinner for community leaders at the Poplars Hotel, where Kameny delivered the keynote. Programs the following day included a discussion of “Homoerotophobia” that sought to answer “what it is, how it affects an individual, and how we can better deal with this problem in ourselves and others;” another discussion session on “Gayness and the Law” asked how the law affected gay Hoosiers, and “how we can bring about fairer legislation and law enforcement.” A third discussion on “Gayness and Religion” explored whether a gay person can “accept him or herself and love God,” and whether “modern religion” was “moving towards acknowledging the civil and human rights of gay people.” A film program

The schedule for the first Indiana Gay Awareness Conference

screened short films about homosexual activism in prisons (Jail), lesbian relationships (Lavender), and the ordination of Rev. Bill Johnson, (A Position of Faith, which billed Johnson as the first “self-affirmed homosexual in the Christian Church”). Rev. Troy Perry led an ecumenical worship service on Sunday morning, followed by a final discussion on “Gayness and Sex Roles” that asked whether “nuclear family” was “the only viable unit of society” and whether “gay men and women” were “acting out sex roles.” An afternoon arts program brought the conference to a conclusion.

The film A Position of Faith is now available on YouTube in two parts.


The Second Conference

The second Indiana Gay Awareness conference took place October 30-November 1, 1975. Perhaps because the first conference catered so heavily to men’s issues, the second one was primarily oriented towards lesbians. The keynote speaker was Elaine Noble, a Boston-area lesbian activist who, earlier that year, became the first out gay person in the United States to be elected to public office (beating out the better-remembered Harvey Milk of San Francisco by two years) when she won a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Conference workshops included “Lesbians and the Law,” which focused on child custody disputes, as well as “Lesbians in Literature,” “Body Awareness for Women,” and “Gay Men and Women’s Lib.” Other workshops discussed bisexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, and religion. A women’s dance was held on Friday night, with the Bloomington Gay Alliance’s annual Halloween Dance on Saturday.


Indiana Gay Awareness Conference Program, 1974. GLBT Student Support Services Office Files

New Horizons Newsletter 1:1 (August 1975), p. 2.

March 28th, 1974: Gay conference to educate. Indiana Daily Student.

Wilson, Bill. March 30th, 1974: One out of ten a homosexual, gay tells crowd. Indiana Daily Student.

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