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Queers and Allies: LGBTIQ Services of Kansas (Q&A), is the University of Kansas officially recognized student group for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer and for those in the straight community who support them as allies. For over 35 years, Q&A has been the hub for queer education, support, community, and activism at KU.
Queers & Allies: LGBTIQ is based upon fundamental principles of equality and dignity:
Discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong, and degrading to all persons as individuals and as a community. We believe in the inalienable right of all people to live and love without being judged by his or her gender or the gender of those with whom he or she chooses to have a loving, consensual relationship.
Queers & Allies is an inseparable and dynamic part of the University of Kansas. People of all genders and sexual expressions add invaluable diversity to the existence of the university, and its students should be encouraged to express themselves and their lives freely.
Lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, and intersex people (and those who support them) must have a healthy, positive support organization in the university community. Queers & Allies, in existence for over three decades, aims to provide such support in all it does.
Each and every member of the human race has a right to live free from fear, oppression, discrimination, and harassment. Everyone has a right to a university, town, state, country, and world which recognizes and values them.
For these reasons, Queers & Allies: LGBTIQ Services of Kansas, exists.
Queers & Allies offers a wide range of services to the University of Kansas and Lawrence.
- Speaker’s Bureau sends panels composed of Q&A members to speak about their experiences as LGBTIQA to other groups and class rooms.
- National Coming Out Day (October 11)
- World AIDS Day (December 1)
- Pride Week at the University of Kansas (typically in April) helps build pride, awareness, education and increases our visibility to those at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, and surrounding communities.
- Social activities in welcoming and safe environments.
- The Vanguard! The Official Queer Publication for the University of Kansas that dates back to the early years of Q&A. The Vanguard is published sporadically during the course of an academic year, but typically once a semester.
The Early YearsEdit
The Lawrence Gay Liberation Front
According to an article in the Fall 1991 GALA Update (a KU LBGT alumni newsletter) by Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon: "Unattached groups of gay people existed who were interested in forming a local Gay Liberation Front. A social work student, working on a paper about alternative lifestyles, became the inadvertent founder of GLF when one of his interviewees tacked a message with his name and phone number at strategic places on campus frequented by gay men."
The note encouraged these men to make their presence known to the campus as a whole and to find a better quality of life as a gay person. Thus began two of Queers & Allies' central goals-educating through campus visibility, and the formation of a nurturing, supportive community.
But the rest of the University community wasn't quite as accepting.
The group applied for official recognition from the University and financing from Student Senate, but the requests were turned down. Then-Chancellor E. Lawrence Chalmers issued an official statement in September 1970, outlining the University's position: "Since we are not persuaded that student activity funds should be allocated either to support or to oppose the sexual proclivities of students, particularly when they might violate the law, the University of Kansas declines to formally recognize the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front."
In 1971, the group took the University to court for infringing on students' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The American Civil Liberties Union took the group's case. Outspoken liberal lawyer William Kunstler (famous for defending the Chicago Seven after the 1968 Democratic Convention) was brought on to argue for the Front.
Kunstler couldn't speak in court, however. When Lawrence Gay Liberation v. The University of Kansas reached the Topeka District Court in January 1972, Judge George Templar refused to let Kunstler-who was not licensed to practice law in Kansas-speak in court. Lawrence attorney Jack Klinknett argued for the group instead, which lost its case.
Although press coverage of the incident spread across the country (even reaching the New York Times), the University had won its battle to suppress the Front. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Templar's ruling in 1973 and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
The Lawrence Gay Liberation Front spent the next decade as an unofficial, unrecognized group.
Gay Services of Kansas
Despite its legal victory against the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front, the University and its Student Senate weren't content to let the issue rest. In 1973, the Student Senate issued new guidelines concerning student groups. All could be registered, but they couldn't all be recognized.
The new policy on recognition stated: "To be recognized and eligible for Student Senate funds, an organization cannot be substantially oriented in support or in opposition to: a.) particular religious institutions, activities or beliefs, b.) particular political party activities or programs, or c.) particular and customarily private activities, habits or proclivities."
The GLF was the only student group to ever fall under section "c" of the policy. Although the group continued applying for student senate recognition each year, thanks to regulation they continued to be denied. Money to sustain the group was raised through dances held at the Kansas Union ballroom.
As Ruth Lichtwardt wrote in "A Stroll Down Gayhawk Lane," the introduction to a volume of KU gay and lesbian history:
"The dance was in the Union ballroom. Several hundred people were already there when we arrived, including many from Kansas City who would normally have been at the bars. A DJ with a huge light and sound system was at one end of the room, booming out disco music (yes, it was that era). Crowded tables were set up around the sides, and beer was being sold from a booth.. People we talked to had come in from Manhattan, Topeka and even Omaha for this dance."
A few posters from dances of that era have survived. Themes for the dances included "In the Mood"-the coyly retro 1972 edition of the event. September 18, 1976 saw a no-nonsense "disco dance." By 1979, the "Too Hot to Stop: First Annual Summer Fling" dance was advertised with a picture of a chic couple (male and female, although facing away from each other, and with male-male and female-female symbols on their skimpy shirts).
The dances continued through the '90s-although they slowly lost the importance and prominence of these pioneering efforts in the '70s.
In 1976, the name of the group officially changed from the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front to Gay Services of Kansas. It's not clear why the change was made. No documents in the Queers & Allies office offer any clue why, although it's easy to guess that the emphasis of the group was shifting from late-'60s radical activism to lower-key supportive roles.
In 1977, the group sent a letter to David Ambler (then Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University) detailing its services. According to director Todd VanLaningham and coordinator Jean Ireland, Gay Services of Kansas offered: counseling, a legal referral service, information on venereal diseases, 5-6 dances a year along with other social events, speaker's bureau services, a newsletter, a resource center, regular meetings, and a chance to become involved in political activism.
"We are a unique organization and our services generally are not duplicated anywhere else within the University," VanLaningham and Ireland wrote. "It is our concern that these services be maintained and that the Student Senate be able to fund them, at least partially."
The group was still pressing for official recognition. But it didn't come from the meeting with Ambler referred to later in the same letter. Gay Services of Kansas would have to wait until the 1980s for that to happen.
Gay and Lesbian Services of Kansas
After the radical late 1970s, the '80s were a peculiar combination of advancement and gay bashing for the group.
The University never actually recognized the group. Instead, the rules governing student organizations at KU changed. Any group of students that followed student senate rules and regulations became "official." The change only came about after a number of court cases suggested that denying Gay and Lesbian Services of Kansas (GLSOK) official recognition was unconstitutional.
David Ambler, then Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, proposed to end the recognition-funding policy. Student Organizations and Activities Director Anne Eversole developed the system, which was then approved by Chancellor Archie Dykes (who was less-than-tolerant on queer issues, despite his unfortunate last name).
1980 was the first year the University of Kansas-supposedly one of the most progressive universities in the state-recognized a group composed of LBGT students. Funding didn't come for another two years.
The push for actual funding coincided with a decline in the importance of the famous dances. Kansas liquor laws changed in the early '80, and the Kansas Union stopped allowing 3.2 beer at its student functions. Fewer people came (only 200 per dance), and less money was raised, according to Ruth Lichtwardt.
The dances were therefore moved off-campus to the Off-the-Wall Hall (now the Bottleneck). The Union Ballroom or Liberty Hall held less-frequent dances on Halloween and Valentine's time. But the time had come to get money for the group through other sources.
With the approval of GLSOK members, officers went before the Student Senate finance committee for funding. Senate agreed to fund the group-allocating $493 in the 1982-1983 school year. The budget request went through without a hitch, Lichtwardt wrote.
Two years later, however, an array of forces had allied against funding GLSOK. The Freedom Coalition (not to be confused with the later Lawrence LBGT-rights group), a right-wing religious organization, had placed several of its members on the Senate Finance Committee. What's more, a student named Steve Imber began circulating a petition to cut the group's funds. He managed to get more than the required 10% of the student body to sign it.
The petition was stalled throughout the summer of 1984, and was entangled in inter-Senate wrangling in the early fall. But regardless of the petition's success, a new fashion was appearing on campus:
"People were seen in a new T-shirt," Lichtwardt wrote. "It was white with a ghost in a red circle with a slash through it. It was modeled on the Ghostbusters logo, only this ghost had long eyelashes and a limp wrist with 'FAGBUSTERS' emblazoned above it. We had heard rumors which we were unable to confirm that it was Steve Imber who was selling them."
Thanks to some intrepid reporting by University Daily Kansan reporter John Hanna, it was established that Imber was responsible for the shirts. His petition drive went down in flames soon after, and was widely covered in the local and national media.
An ugly spate of homophobic incidents began on campus soon after-ranging from threats to attacks to tampering with the cars of GLSOK members. At the request of a Senate Committee, Imber and GLSOK published an ad in the Kansan asking for both sides to simmer down. The Chancellor similarly urged restraint. And by the Student Senate elections in November of '84, the situation had ended.
The "Fagbusters" era's lasting impact was in politically mobilizing GLSOK members, many of whom ran for Senate and were elected. Funding was assured for 1985, 1986, and so on. (Read more about this incident from a KU alum who was involved with the Student Senate elections in 1984.)
The group marched on for the rest of the '80s. With matters of recognition and funding finally settled, the most tumultuous and radical times of Queers & Allies had ended. In the decade ahead there would be new, subtler challenges-both from outside and inside the group.
The 1990's to PresentEdit
LesBiGaysOK - Queers and Allies
In the mid-'90s, Q & A went through the resignation of a director with a shady past and the emergence of Fred Phelps as a national media figure. At the same time, campus speakers such as Greg Louganis and Lawrence groups such as Simply Equal brought more positive attention. In 1995, Simply Equal-a collection of local activists-backed a successful queer rights ordinance. Lawrence is now the only place in Kansas where LBGT civil rights are protected.
The 90's also saw the start of what is now one of the most looked forward to traditions to take place in the spring every year at KU, other than KU Basketball. The Brown Bag Lunch Drag Show has been part of Q&A since 1995 and is included in Q&A's annual Pride Week celebration at the University. Brown Bag Drag draws an annual audience in the several hundreds which allows students, faculty, staff and local community members relax and enjoy a free drag show at the Kansas Union, typically held outside with weather permitting.
Once again, the '90s saw another name change, but twice. While dates are not fully certain, GLSOK (Gay and Lesbian Services of Kansas) was changed to LesBiGaysOK (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Services of Kansas), to be more inclusive of our bisexual community. However, in 1997, to fully included the whole queer community, the name was changed once again. A little edgy and to this day still a controversial choice, Queers and Allies: LGBT Services of Kansas was reborn. While no evidence has been cited, Q&A is thought to be one of the first, if not the first, University or College Student organization to accept Queer into its organizational title. Presently, the name still brings about debate among a few but it has so far survived by the majority of members favor. In 2008 the organization did restructure its official title to include intersex and queer identities, as noted in their constitution on their website. Today, they are officially Queers and Allies: LGBTIQ Services of Kansas.
Coming into the 2000s and the middle years of the decade, Q&A's presence thrived further and continued the track of educational and popular speakers on behalf of LGBT Issues. Some notable guests include Susie Bright, Anthony Rapp, Kate Bornstein, Dan Savage, Sabrina Sojourner, among others. In 2007, the Kansas Equality Coalition, a statewide LGBT rights organization whose mission is "to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, was instrumental in persuading the city of Lawrence, Kansas, to institute a domestic partnership registry in 2007. It is the first of its kind in the state. Lawrence is the county seat of Douglas County, which is the only county in Kansas where a majority of voters opposed the state's 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
While times have changed since the origins of Queers and Allies, Q&A still works to foster the same goals of its founders by providing educational panels, forums and information, offering support and community to its peers at the University of Kansas, Lawrence and surrounding communities, and remaining active in the queer cause of equality.
LGBT and Queer studies