Happy Pride Month, Noles! This month, people across the world are commemorating the Stonewall riots of 1969 by rejoicing in the wide spectrum of gender identities and sexual preferences represented in humankind.
To celebrate, I went digging for poetry in our Pride Student Union Records, part of the Heritage and University Archives. I came across evidence of FSU’s past celebrations of Pride month (June) and LGBT History month (October, as National Coming Out Day is October 11th).
Additionally, I found this poster signed by Andrea Gibson, poet extraordinaire and LGBTQ+ activist, who visited and performed at Florida State University in April of 2012.
Gibson is brilliant enough on paper, but their pieces are best consumed aurally, as the FSU students in 2012 had a chance to do; YouTube videos, fortunately, abound! Here is the love poem “Maybe I Need You”:
Andrea’s voice is one of hope and community, reminding readers and listeners that they are not alone in their feelings or experiences. I leave you with another example of Andrea’s stirring work, which pairs poetry to music and creates a moving, motivating portrait of a young person discovering who they are and who they want to be.
We are excited to announce our most recently processed collection, the Pride Student Union Records, 1964-2015. Now a major fixture in the Student Government Association, the collection documents Pride’s predecessor organizations and their steps towards becoming an official agency, introducing non-discrimination policies on campus, and empowering FSU’s LGBTQ+ population.
In 1969, gay and lesbians in Tallahassee organized the People’s Coalition for Gay Rights, which later became the Alliance for Gay Awareness, as a response to the Stonewall Riots. The group was primarily a political organization active in the gay rights movement of the 1970s. In 1973, staff of the University Mental Health Center (now the Student Counseling Center) formed Gay Peer Counseling to provide support and counseling for gays and lesbian students. It became the most active LGBTQ+ group on campus in the early 1970s. In 1978, the group evolved into the Gay Peer Volunteers (GPV), which provided students opportunities for services in the community outside of the counseling environment. To include all students directly served by this student organization, the Gay Peer Volunteers changed its name to the Gay/Lesbian Student Union (GLSU) in 1989, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Student Union (LGBSU) in 1994, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Student Union (LGBTSU) in 1998, and finally Pride Student Union in 2005.
There are several other auxiliary groups at FSU that have served the LGBTQ+ population. In 1984, Gay/Lesbian Support Services formed to continue and expand upon the goals and services of the preceding organizations. In the 1990s, a specialist in student counseling continued the mission of GPV by founding Gay and Lesbian Allies (GALA), which was later absorbed by Tallahassee LGBTQ+ community center, Family Tree. Safe Zone-Tallahassee was founded in 1997 as a response to FSU administration to fund an LGBTQ+ committee or office space. In 2012, Safe Zone was revamped into Seminole Allies & Safe Zones, and provides workshops to students, faculty, and staff.
The collection contains administrative records, promotional materials, artwork and banners, newspapers, and journal and magazine clippings produced and collected by the organization since the late 1960s. Spanning from meeting minutes to posters for drag shows, protest banners and queer literature, the Pride Student Union Records provide a varied look at the voices of the LGBTQ+ community in Tallahassee.
FSU Heritage Protocol & University Archives, a division of Special Collections & Archives received a donation from The Pride Student Union in June 2013. The donation included over five decades of history from this student organization. The history between FSU and Pride is a story of a brittle, sometimes broken relationship, but the passing of their records from Pride to Heritage Protocol & University Archives documents how much the relationship has massively improved.
Before the records were relocated to Heritage Protocol & University Archives, they were “sitting idle & unorganized in four file cabinets,” said former Pride Student Union Secretary Jason Miller. Now the fifty plus years of history is in its final stages of processing (archives jargon for arranging, organizing and sorting a collection) and is almost ready for public viewing.
As the processor of this collection, along with former Graduate Assistants Rebecca Bramlett (until July 2015) and Katherine Hoarn (until August 2015), I can tell you that not only has it been a complete joy to organize and arrange this history, but it has also been an educational and eye-opening experience.
This is the history of not only The Pride Student Union, which had undergone eight name changes since their formation in the late 1960s, but the history of FSU. As Jason Miller stated in a 2013 article with FSUNews news editor Blair Stokes,
“What it comes down to is making sure students at Florida State know that our history is part of Florida State’s history. Even though we aren’t the majority, we’ve always been here. Our history needs to be preserved and understood for future generations to appreciate.”
Appreciation, scholarship, stewardship and respect for the history of this student organization and their records is the way I’ve approached organizing and processing this collection. The Pride Student Union Collection contains administrative records, correspondence, events, legislation, activism, photographs, promotional materials, newspaper, journal and magazine clippings produced and collected by the student organization since the late 1960s. The collection is arranged chronologically and includes issues that affected the student organization, local LGBTQ+ organizations and the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and throughout the United States.
I cannot say enough how much of a joy and honor processing this collection has been and how much I’ve learned both professionally and personally from this experience.
October is LGBT History Month which gives us all the opportunity to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and its history around the Tallahassee and right here at Florida State University. LGBT History Month began in 1994 when Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher who believed that a month should be dedicated to teaching the history of the gay and lesbian community. He organized teachers and community leaders where they picked the month of October because public schools were in session and existing traditions (such as National Coming Out Day on October 11th) already occurred during October.
Gay & Lesbian History Month was recognized and endorsed by a number of national organizations including: GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, National Education Association and others. By 2006 the Equality Forum took over the responsibility for providing content, promotion, and resources for LGBT History Month.
FSU Special Collections is currently processing the records of FSU’s Pride Student Union. The collection is part of FSU Special Collections Heritage Protocol & University Archives. This collection shows the rich history of members of the LGBTQ+ community in Tallahassee and at FSU fighting for their civil rights as members of this community and as students fighting to be recognized as a student organization by the Student Government Association.
This year has been an effective year for positive change though there’s still so much more work and education that needs to be done. So far 2015 has brought increased awareness to transgender visibility (though #KeishaJenkins has become the 18th transgender woman of color killed in the United States this year). The Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing nationwide marriage equality earlier this year. For the second time ever (EVER!) the White House held a briefing on challenges facing bisexual people.
Research shows that incorporating LGBT history into our curriculum and conversations contributes to a safer environment for LGBTQ+ students.
There are a number of events you can attend this month right here at FSU to show your support!