"Box 2575"

The Gay Discussion Group, 1981-1983

One can only hope that if it was a community that "Name withheld for obvious reasons" was searching for, they were able to find it in the Gay Discussion Group, who began advertising their meetings in the Concordiensis on May 7, 1981. 

The first advertisement for the Gay Discussion Group to appear in the Concordiensis, dated May 7, 1981, reading: "Gay discussion group. Monday, May 11, 8:30 p.m., Hu[manities] Lounge (second floor)."

The second advertisement for the Gay Discussion Group to appear in the Concordiensis, dated May 14, 1981, reading: "Gay discussion group. Monday, May 18. 8:30 p.m. For place and information call: Chip - 374-8237 or 370-6207 or Dana: 370-6592."

The May 14th advertisement marks the very first time that any discussion of LGBTQ+ organization was not published entirely anonymously in the Concordiensis - "Chip" and "Dana" are listed mononymously as points of contact for the group. In subsequent ads throughout 1981 and 1982, these two names appeared sporadically in Gay Discussion Group Concordiensis advertisements, sometimes just one of them, sometimes both of them. 

On June 1, 1981, the student-led publication Union Views ran a piece about the first meeting of the Gay Discussion Group. One of the most immediately striking things about this piece is that it states the first meeting of the GDG was in April. As mentioned, May 7th is the first time an advertisement for the group appears in the Concordiensis. This makes it clear that there were means of communication and advertisement that the GDG employed which eluded formal campus publications and records. The article provides an overview of the topics of discussion at the very first meeting - a handful of quotes portraying vastly different experiences have been pulled.

The title page of the June 1, 1981 edition of the student publication the Union Views, which includes a piece about the advent of the Gay Discussion Group. 

The second page of the June 1, 1981 edition of the Union Views. This features an "inquiring photographer" who asks four students and one faculty member their personal reaction to the formation of the Gay Discussion Group and their opinions on the prejudices that LGBTQ+ individuals face at Union.

Page seven of the June 1, 1981 edition of the Union Views, a continuation of the story that begins on the very first page. 

Because Union is such a conservative campus, many homosexual students feel that they are not understood or fully accepted by most of the other students. The tone of the meeting was a bit tense as many of the participants were a bit apprehensive about attending. Many of them had not yet ‘come out’ on campus and were afraid that many heterosexuals would show up to ‘see who was there.’

One woman… feels that while most students do not understand homosexuals, she does not feel that most of them are outwardly hostile.

A senior… said that he felt a great deal of hostility and anger on campus. As a result of certain experiences and the general attitude on campus, he commented that, ‘Being at Union has hurt me very much.’

A homosexual professor said that he had never encountered any outright prejudice, although he did not socialize much on campus, and therefore did not overhear students’ remarks…Although he had never formally announced his homosexuality in class some students have commented on it in evaluations.

Many of the students present discovered their sexual preferences while at college. Most of them had inklings that they may have been gay but chose to repress them until recently. Like many heterosexuals, they had believed much of the stereotypes about homosexuals before they realized that they were gay.

His friends… wanted to be liberal, but their emotional reaction was ‘gross me out.’ They understood, but in a very patronizing and condescending way.

‘Most of my friends know and are still my friends.’

Although he felt that he could handle the prejudice much better than before, he now lives off campus and rarely socializes here. This is mainly because he doesn’t feel that the social atmosphere is supportive.

One woman said that she had chosen to limit her relationships on campus to superficial ones, because she didn’t ‘want to challenge most people’s perspectives. If people don’t bother me, fine. I don’t push it.

Some homosexuals feel that the idea of creating a visible ‘community’ on campus is detrimental, because it hinders them from being considered as individuals and that they will solely be looked upon as a member of a group that ‘doesn’t quite fit in.’

A sophomore said that she ‘had a really rough time’ last year and that she felt ‘very alone.’ Consequently, she contacted off-campus organizations such as the National Gay Task Force and sought support in other places. She said that she would have had a much easier time of it had there been some type of support on campus.

It should be stressed that the only difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals is a sexual preference. This difference does not affect other aspects of their lives, but rather the only thing for which they are asking is for people to accept them as they are an [sic] not to judge them according to preconceived notions. As one student put it, ‘I wish it weren’t an issue, but it is.’

The cover of the Freshman Record produced for the Union class of 1985. The cover is white with red, block lettering.

Page 86 of the Class of 1985 Freshman Record. The Gay Discussion Group appears last on the list of campus clubs and organizations.

The Gay Discussion Group appears in the list of extracurricular activities provided in the fall of 1981 (to the class of 1985) in the Freshman Record. 


The blurb about the group states:


"This group was formed by students to provide social, political and psychological support for Gay and Lesbian students at Union College. Discussions are held every week with topics of interest as an informational and consciousness raising format. We will serve the college community with speakers, films and literature donated to the library."

Tracing mentions of the Gay Discussion Group in the Concordiensis shows that the club remained active throughout 1981, 1982, and 1983, and they delivered upon many of their goals that they listed in their blurb in the Freshman Record.

A February 4, 1982 advertisement posted in the Concordiensis for the Gay Discussion Group that reads: Gay Group Trip to Albany! (Central Ave.) Saturday, Feb. 13 at 11:30 p.m. Also look for NY City News-alive in the library. For more details call Dana 6860. Our box number is 2575.




Knowledge of the city of Albany’s queer history indicates that the Gay Discussion Group's "Trip to Albany! (Central Ave.)" that they held on the evening of Saturday, February 13, 1982, was likely a trip to the oldest LGBTQ+ community bar in Albany: Waterworks Pub, which was previously known as the Central Arms [1]. 

In the February 18, 1982 edition of the Concordiensis, a spokesperson for the group listed off some of their contributions to the campus community from the previous academic term, which included two film screenings (pictured below) and subscriptions to two LGBTQ+ centered news outlets that were made freely available in Schaffer Library: NYC News-Alive and Gay Community News-Boston.

The February 18th piece also gives some insight into the Gay Discussion Group’s interpersonal dynamics. Participants in the GDG did not see themselves necessarily as members of the GDG. This once again highlights the vast diversity of opinions, beliefs, and experiences among LGBTQ+ identifying individuals at Union. The spokesperson says:

The group is more or less considered a network of people who want to get together and talk. Because of different political views and various stages of ‘coming out’ we have decided not to solidify. We consider ourselves as separate entities and would like to encounter situations on an [sic] one-to-one basis [2].

In May of 1983, following a campus-wide Colloquia on Homosexuality that was well-attended, the Gay Discussion Group advertised in the Concordiensis and gave an overview of their project for the year, which was donating various books to the campus library.

An advertisement for the Gay Discussion Group that was published in the Concordiensis on October 13, 1983. This advertisement gives an overview of the club's goals and activities, and provides a mailbox number for interested students to write to if they want to learn the off-campus meeting location. 



Often people stereotype gays and say cruel things without realizing that gays are all around us. Comedians tell jokes about us and fail to see us sitting in the audience. Family members create harmful slurs about us and fail to see us in their own family. Mystery and misinformation about the unknown breed fear. Fear breeds prejudice and cruelty. 



The Gay Discussion Group welcomes all interested students to join. All meetings are held off-campus and are completely confidential. For more information write to Box 2575.

I would also like to highlight an alumnus perspective from someone who was a student around the same time period that the GDG was active: David L. Fox of Chicago, Class of 1983. His blurb from the Class of ‘83’s 25th ReUnion Booklet highlights the experience of being closeted, maybe even to oneself, during college.

The cover of the 25th ReUnion Directory for the Class of 1983, printed on white paper with garnet lettering. Graduates of the Class of 1983 were invited to send in blurbs about their lives after graduating.

The blurb submitted by David L. Fox of Chicago about his life after college.


It has been a full and fast moving 25 years to say the least. Most importantly, I met my life partner (Mark) 16 years ago, and we have been navigating growing old together ever since.


I certainly look back at my Union years with fond memories of some wonderful friendships and lots of fun times . . . My only regret is that I wasn't ready to be an out and proud gay man during my 4 years at Union. Alas, growing older and hopefully a bit wiser has certainly eliminated that issue!!

[1] To learn more, visit https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Gay-bars-for-years-a-safe-place-in-Albany-LGBT-8105967.php

[2] February 18, 1983, "Gay Life at Union: Questions and Answers," published in the Concordiensis. 

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