Gay and Lesbian Community Switchboard

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Bloomington community volunteers outside the University developed many resources to assist the gay community. Throughout the 70's and 80's, and into the 90's, one such resource was the Bloomington Gay and Lesbian Switchboard. A volunteer service whose primary mission was to help gay men and women while they were coming out or in a crisis situation, the switchboard also referred callers to authorities on subjects the staff was not capable of handling. The Bloomington Gay and Lesbian Alliance-sponsored switchboard was officially founded in 1978; however, there had been a sporadically-staffed gay and lesbian crisis and information line since 1970, originally organized by the Bloomington Gay Liberation Front.


Starting in 1978 the switchboard was staffed by 20 volunteers who were trained in listening skills, role playing, and peer counseling, to assist callers with problems. Additional training was done through Listening Line and Middle Way House’s 24 hour crisis line. Although harassing phone and hang-ups calls were the most common made to on the switchboard, the volunteers otherwise mostly answered questions regarding places to go that were gay friendly in Bloomington. The switchboard received approximately 80-100 calls per day from lesbians and gays in the local Bloomington area. Many of the callers called to inquire as to whether area restaurants and bars welcomed gay clientele.

In 1988, the switchboard joined Doris and Bob Fox to help found the “Friends Indeed Project”, otherwise known as “Project FIND.” FIND was a networking, support, and resource-locating tool for Monroe County residents with AIDS.

Community Recognition

During the year 1990, the 7 volunteers who worked a total of 800 hours and answered over 2,000 calls on the switchboard were nominated for and won the Bloomington-wide award for Volunteer Group of the Year.


In 1987 the Bloomington Herald-Telephone newspaper made a wish list for supplies needed by nonprofit groups. The Gay and Lesbian switchboard requested several items related to their phone system. The Herald-Telephone found itself the target of significant disapproval for having "supported" a primarily gay and lesbian organization, but defended its decision to offer aid to the switchboard.

Homophobic harassment in the community and at IU became a significant issue for the Bloomington’s Gay/Lesbian Switchboard; the most common types of calls throughout the 80's were attack calls and hangups, which wasted the time and effort of the volunteers working the board.


Creek, Julie. “Miller Wins Volunteer Award for Lifetime Contributions.” Herald Times, April 3, 1990. (Accessed 9/24/09)

Dorn, Martin. 1987. “Wish List” sparks controversy. The Open Door, February 4, H-T

Whitaker, Kimberly. “Switchboard offers advice for local gays.” Indiana Daily Student, Feb 18, 1981, News section (accessed September 15, 2009).

Zollman, Kim. “Local homosexuals fighting homophobia.” Indiana Daily Student, March 7, 1989.

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