A Chronology of Events Connected with GLBT History in Denton (1975-1985)
1975. Two Denton women attend the second state-wide Gay Conference, held this year in San Antonio. From this time on till the last such conference in 1984, a varying number of people from Denton attend. The first statewide gay rights group arises from these meetings , the Texas Gay Task Force (after 1982, Texas Gay/Lesbian Task Force). Political action, lobbying and educational activities sponsored by T.G.T.F continue through 1984. Its spin-offs, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby and Lesbian/Gay Democrats of Texas, are still active. The official records of the group are a part of the Women's Collection at Texas Woman's University, as are many other documents connected with the history of gay rights in Texas.
1975/1976. The Denton Gay Alliance organizes at N.T.S.U. under the leadership of student Ruben Salinas. It asks for campus recognition, but at President C. C. Nolan's cabinet meeting of February 24, 1976, the motion to recognize is tabled. Campus rules for recognized student groups are immediately revised so that such groups must exclude anyone not connected with the university. Since the D.G.A. has non-student members, it drops its contemplated legal action for recognition. The group continues for several years with a primarily social function, but when Salinas graduates and moves away, it dies out. (NT Daily, Feb. 24, 1976, and personal knowledge.)
December 1975/January 1976. Associate Professor of English Edra Bogle becomes newsletter editor for the Gay Caucus for the Modern Languages at the annual Modern Language Association convention held between Christmas and New Year's. In January this appointment is published in the campus newspaper and faculty newsletter. According to Howard Smith, long-time Vice President and occasional Acting President, the Board of Regents questioned this activity, but was told firmly that it was a matter of academic freedom. She was one of the first three faculty members in the state to come out publicly, each in connection with academic activities.
October 20, 1976/December 1, 1976. A student identifying himself only as MWF writes a letter to Terry Pair, editor of the North Texas Daily. The writer says he came out at the age of seventeen, and asks: "What about the loneliness or the sneers if someone finds out? Or the fear that parents or special friends will find out? I know that the enlightened gay would quickly shoot a rebuttal in my direction. I don't really care. I've had worse experiences." Over the next few days, MWF writes more letters, saying "I have about a 3.7 or 3.8 G.P.A." and that he is interested in tennis and football, but "the only kind of sports gays are supposed to be interested in are indoor."
Pair, in an editorial published November 17, says MWF states that "there is no such thing as a well-adjusted homosexual. He said that he had considered killing himself. . . . He talked about insecurity and marriage for security's sake." Another column by Pair appeared two weeks later, on December 1. MWF had given more information about his life in a cassette recording, as sad as the letters. This was the last that Pair heard from him. The editorial concluded: "He doesn't understand himself. He doesn't understand how gays can blend into American society. Perhaps, on both counts, nobody does." (Terry Pair, "'MWF' Letters Give Homosexual Insights," NT Daily, Wed., Nov. 17, 1976, 2; "Turmoil Leaves MWF Confused, Frustrated," NT Daily, Wed., Dec. 1, 1976, 2.).
June 13, 1977. An anonymous letter, actually written and signed by Edra Bogle with a request that the name be withheld, appears in the conservative small newspaper The Denton County Enterprise. Editor Jerry Stout had questioned why gays and lesbians wanted to make themselves known; this letter explained. This was the first such dialogue to appear in a non-campus Denton county newspaper.
1977-1978. Several related news items appear locally concerning Texas Woman's University. In September 1977 a woman named K. Kaiser publicly protests her dismissal from the Occupational Therapy program there, saying it was because she had come out as a lesbian. The school denies this, saying it was because she had failed her practicum after two tries. Her law suit came to nothing. On January 27, 1978, T.W.U. Student Government Association President Denise Whylly publicly protested dorm searches held there. These were looking for incriminating material, and rumors said that several women were forced to leave the university after such items had been found. The rumors said that the women were told if they left quietly their names would not be made public. (Lasso article, personal knowledge.) These rumors persisted for years, with the background that T.W.U. President Mary Evelyn Blagg Huey was particularly concerned that the school not be thought by parents to allow such behavior. Some time later a very successful intercollegiate women's baseball program there was suddenly abandoned. Gossip said that it was considered to be too "butch" an activity and that there were too many lesbians on the team.
September 1978. A few lesbian and gay Denton persons participate in the state Democratic convention in Fort Worth, particularly in the first gay-sponsored hospitality room and open floor presence at such a meeting. The next winter the first legislative information packet is distributed by T.G.T.F. to all Texas state office holders.
Fall 1978. Del Martin, long-time lesbian activist and battered women's advocate; and organizer with her partner Phyllis Lyons, of Daughters of Bilitis; visits Denton and speaks to a large group of N.T.S.U. sociology students about her experiences counseling battered women. That evening she, along with activists Leonard Matlovich, Troy Perry and Dave Kopay, appear at a fund-raiser in Dallas to raise publicity about and funds to fight an anti-gay initiative in California.
February/March 1979. Several N.T. students and faculty attend one or more sessions of a six-session course held in Dallas called "Being Gay in Contemporary America." This is sponsored by the First Unitarian Church of Dallas and the Gay Academic Union/North Texas. Edra Bogle of N.T. and Bill Beauchamp of S.M.U. are co-coordinators, and over 30 professionals in various fields appear in the course. Well over a hundred audio cassettes of these sessions are eventually sold to people all over the country.
April 1979. Dallas Gay Alliance President Steve Wilkins speaks to sociology students at N.T.S.U. and an article appears in the N.T.Daily. This was either the first time or a very early time when an actual homosexual was asked to speak to a class. Such speeches, first sponsored by the D.G.A. and later by Denton groups, (such as G.L.A.D.) became more and more common after that. Individual faculty members also sometimes invite persons whom they know to address their classes.
August 29, 1979. The first meeting of the Gay/Lesbian Association of Denton is held at a private home with seven persons in attendance. On September 12 the second meeting includes eleven, on September 26 twenty-two, and at the fourth, held at a member's apartment in "cement city," attendance is over 100. This group never asks for campus recognition because it includes students from T.W.U. and community members, some in their fifties and sixties, from Denton and other towns in the county, and a few from as far away as Gainesville.
Activities during that and the next years are social, political and educational. Parties held at various apartment complex hospitality rooms often have over 200 in attendance; G.L.A.D. officers asked the Denton police to patrol to make sure there was no trouble from outside elements, as they asked the Sheriff's office to patrol a summer picnic at "Queen's Point" on Lake Lewisville. These, and the regular meetings, are announced in the "Notepad" section of the Denton Record-Chronicle.
A personal ad for a phone line appeared in that paper. Routine requests were for local bar locations, fears over "coming out," and questions concerning callers' sexual orientation. Occasional interventions occurred. For instance, in July of 1983, an Oklahoma City man was arrested for D.W.I. in Lake Dallas. He was held in jail there for over a week with no hearing nor setting of bail. He saw the G.L.A.D. advertisement in the newspaper and eventually was permitted to call that number. G.L.A.D. got him an attorney who forced a hearing and setting of bail. Members and a straight man he met in jail helped him to raise money to pay his bond and the charges on his rental car, and to get home to resume his job.
December 1979. Edra Bogle chairs a session at the Modern Language Association convention proposing a bibliography of research concerning gay and lesbian writers. The panel includes two gay and two straight bibliographers, some with international reputations. Unfortunately this projects dies as she becomes increasingly involved in political activities.
March 1, 1980. "Meeting the Needs of Gay and Lesbian Students: A Conference for College Counselors, Chaplains and Administrators," is held at the First Unitarian Church in Dallas, organized by the Gay Academic Union/North Texas. Several people from Denton take part: N.T.S.U. students Suzan Davis and Marc Lerro, faculty member Edra Bogle, and University Ministry Center Director Ted Karpf. The conference features Don Clark of San Francisco, author of numerous books. About fifty professionals from fifteen area colleges attend, including three from T.W.U. No personnel from N.T.S.U. attend except for the participants.
October 1980. Texas Gay Conference VII is held in Denton, using facilities at La Quinta Inn and the Civic Center. Speakers include Ginny Apuzzo, former chair of the National Gay Task Force and later a candidate for the California State Assembly; long-time California activist Morris Kight, and Deralyn Davis, Vice-Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, who refuses payment for her expenses. Over 100 persons from throughout the state attend. Afterwards letters criticizing the city for allowing such use of the Civic Center appear in the Denton Record-Chronicle, and the newspaper eventually drops G.L.A.D. activities from the "Notepad" section, although it continues to run a paid advertisement and to accept news items.
Spring 1981. Kim Youngblood, an open lesbian, graduates from T.W.U. She has appeared on panels before classes there and at N.T.S.U., and filled several offices in G.L.A.D. However, that winter another woman, who had remained closeted, is quietly forced to leave T.W.U. after a woman she approaches complains to the Dean of Students. This sort of thing continues to happen: those who are bold have no trouble, but those who allow themselves to be bullied sometimes end up unfortunately.
December 1981. An Associated Press story by Daniel Q. Haney brings nation-wide attention to a new "fatal illness that mostly attacks gay men." 180 cases from 15 states have been identified by this time; it has no name, but is soon to be called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Over the next years, finding out about this disease, helping its patients, and fighting discriminatory measures against its victims becomes a priority of the gay community, in many cases diminishing other political efforts. A nurse at Flow Hospital (then a public general-purpose facility) during these years says that she believes a patient who died there in early 1982 was probably an early victim of AIDS before there was any test for it.
February 1-March 8, 1982. The 1979 GAUNT course is repeated in Denton at the University Ministry Center, with the co-sponsorship of G.L.A.D. It is coordinated by Edra Bogle and James T.F. Tanner of the English department. The U.M.C. pays for a videotape of the course, which is given to the N.T.S.U. library but which they never get around to cataloging.
April/June 1982. Political education for G.L.A.D. members is emphasized, with the help of local Democrats Lon Darley and Nancy Brannon. Members make an effort to be elected as delegates to the Denton County Democratic Convention held at Strickland Junior High School. About fifteen open lesbians and gay men attend and distribute fliers supporting three resolutions introduced in April at precinct meetings: one supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, one supporting the repeal of 21.06, and one asking for a general law forbidding discrimination against gay and lesbian Texans. All three resolutions pass with good-sized majorities. Over subsequent years these resolutions or similar ones become standard at county conventions. This means the resolutions are forwarded to the state party conventions with the endorsement of the Denton County Democratic Party, putting it on a par in gay rights support with Travis, Dallas and Harris counties. The state party passed its first platform plank asking for the repeal of 21.06 in 1980.
1982 in general. Several positive events occur this year: a judicial appointment by Ronald Reagan is widely criticized because of Justice Hart's anti-gay statements; Norman Lear includes homosexuals in a television special as a group that endures discrimination; various professional organizations, including the M.L.A., pass anti-discrimination statements; movies featuring positive openly-gay characters appear. Most of these are "firsts." On January 16 Austin voters defeat an ordinance backing housing discrimination; the first state-wide lobbying group forms; Wisconsin becomes the first state to add "sexual orientation" to the state laws forbidding discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation, National Guard, and administrative rulings of the state government and any contractors with the state. On August 17 Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, in the case of Baker vs. Wade, rules that Sec. 21.06 of the Texas Criminal Code is unconstitutional.
February 26, 1983. A debate on the topic "Resolved: That Homosexual Practice is Consistent with a Christian Life-Style" is held in the U.N.T. Auditorium under the co-sponsorship of the Philosophy Department and the Texas Gay/Lesbian Task Force. Participants are Dr. Ralph Blair of Evangelicals Concerned, centered in New York City, and local University Church of Christ Evangelist Dan Billingsley, with Dr. Pete Gunter as Moderator. Over 1000 people attend.
1985. G.L.A.D. disbands because of lack of willingness to take on responsibilities for activities by its membership. Its speakers' bureau continues to address classes for several years. Another organization appears at U.N.T. and is recognized without effort as a campus activity. Its emphasis is purely social. It lasts for a year or two and dies, to be replaced by Courage in 1988.
By this time there are dozens, if not hundreds, of specialized organizations in the larger cities, and groups in such out-lying areas as San Angelo and East Texas. The need for state-wide get-togethers has disappeared and TGLTF dies. AIDS has become a serious concern of the community and much of the effort that might have gone towards education or legal action is channeled into AIDS activism.