IU Bloomington Chancellor Ken Gros Louis called the controversy the most divisive student issue he had seen in all his years as a university administrator. So stated an article in the Indiana Daily Student on Nov. 28, 1994. That was four days after the opening of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Student Support Services Office on the IU campus (GLBT Office, for short). Self-identified gay and lesbian students argued and rallied for days and faced opposition from conservative students, some claiming objections to the establishment of the office based on religious grounds. A brand new president by the name of Myles Brand faced protests and press coverage just days after taking office.
And a state legislator from Greenwood threatened to hold the university hostage to the tune of $500,000 if this new support service was publicly funded, according to local news reports.
It hardly seems possible that it was 10 years ago, but so it was. And since that time, hundreds of students and their parents, faculty members and staff, alumni and people from the larger community have contacted the GLBT Office on the IUB campus and have found current information on GLBT issues and solid support when those issues were personal.
Last month, an IU undergrad who has quietly identified as gay for years sought counsel and advice from the GLBT Office staff as he contemplated sharing this truth with his family. That same day, staff met with graduate students to assist in designing a class on homosexuality and religion for a course at the School of Education. That afternoon, a social worker from a Bloomington elementary school E-mailed the office seeking advice on a child whose teachers and parents were concerned because he seems to be gender-variant (desiring to live his life as a girl).
On any typical day, staff may meet with students who are doing research on gay marriage, students who have been harassed in their residence hall, or students who have been cut off from their parent’s financial support because they decided to “come out” to them.
And, while the majority of the scenarios which unfold in our tiny office on East Seventh Street involve IU students, staff also has provided support and information to individuals and entities in Bloomington and beyond. That would include providing training on GLBT issues to teachers in the Monroe County School Corporation; organizing dialogues with various faith communities; collaborating with the Bloomington Human Rights Commission or the Mayor’s Office.
Our office has also assisted in organizing two national conferences to assist youth-serving professionals to be more sensitive to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity; has consulted with dozens of campuses around the country seeking to establish services for GLBT students; and, in cooperation with the IU Alumni Association, created a GLBT affiliate group which now numbers over 700 members.
Perhaps the most unique town/gown connection, however, began last April when the IU Department of Theatre and Drama contacted our office to organize a panel on GLBT issues following their first performance of The Laramie Project, the story of the life and death of gay student Matthew Shepard of Laramie, Wy. Among the people who appeared on the panel was the Rev. Mary Ann Macklin, a former board member of the GLBT Alumni Association and one of the pastors at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Bloomington.
The panel event was well attended and well received, but when Mary Ann went home that evening, she found a note that someone had slipped into her purse without her knowledge. The note read: “The Bible condemns you!” Mary Ann’s initial reaction to this invasion of her privacy was more one of anger than of fear. As she reflected on the experience and considered the way in which GLBT students still face discrimination and harassment on a daily basis, she wanted to turn this incident into something creative. She decided to preach a sermon on the manner in which holy texts are often used to abuse groups and individuals. When her sermon ended, she invited congregants to slip notes of affirmation into her purse which she would, then, deliver to the GLBT Office with the intent of having struggling students know there were people in the community who cared about them. Those notes now sit in a large heart-shaped box and are regularly shared with students seeking a word of encouragement in their struggle to be true to themselves.
There have been a host of changes in society’s attitude toward “gay” issues over the past 10 years. Gay weddings, the election of a gay bishop in a mainline church and such shows as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have caused all of us to look at life in new ways. And, during a recent lunch with that state legislator from Greenwood, I even heard words of understanding that could not have been spoken 10 years ago.
Ten years of advocacy for another aspect of diversity has had an impact on this campus and, indeed, beyond the Sample Gates. We trust the next 10 will provide us with even more opportunities for understanding.
For information on our 10th anniversary celebrations, log in at:
For more information on GLBT campus groups, go to:
IU South Bend: Out meets weekly to discuss issues of relevance to the GLBT community. For information, E-mail: email@example.com
IU Kokomo: A Web resource for GLBT students and their allies is available at:
IUPUI: The Advocate group provides a community of supportive students and provides a center for diversity activism for GLBT and ally students. Web site:
IU Southeast: The Lambda Student Union was founded to provide a means of communication among GLBT and heterosexual students, faculty, staff and alumni. For information, leave a message at 812-941-2333 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site:
IU East: Rainbow Alliance provides a forum which enhances the self-esteem, self-awareness and overall well-being of the gay, lesbian and bisexual student population as well as educating the campus community about the needs and concerns of people with varying sexual orientations. Web site:
IPFW: United Sexualities is a social, support, education and advocacy student organization serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied communities of IPFW and the Greater Fort Wayne area. Web site: