LGBTQ+ Living History at Berkeley

In a six-part series, we highlight a few of the moments, movements, and people that made their mark on Cal’s LGBTQ+ history. We move through the decades, beginning in an era of secrecy and continuing through today.

The Early Years

For much of the 20th century, many people felt they couldn’t admit they were anything but straight—to others or to themselves. In an oral history interview, Ann Wansley ’44 said she and one of her college roommates fell in love, but she resisted adopting the term “lesbian” until decades later, when she was 68 years old. Continue reading The Early Years.

The Turbulent ’50s

Few organizations existed for LGBT individuals. If you were lucky, you found a social circle or an underground community in Berkeley, San Francisco, or Oakland. “It could be a lonely life,” says William Benemann ’71, M.L.S. ’75, former Berkeley Law archivist, author, and founder of the Gay Bears Collection in the University Archives. Continue reading The Turbulent ’50s.

The Transformative ’60s and ’70s

In the 1960s, activism percolated. It exploded, in a sense, in June 1969 with the Stonewall Riots in New York City—a response to a police raid that took place at the Greenwich Village bar The Stonewall Inn. On the UC Berkeley campus, two groups formed: Students for Gay Power and Gay Liberation Front. Continue reading The Transformative ’60s and ’70s.

Coming Together in the 1980s

As the AIDS crisis hits San Francisco, Berkeley becomes the first city to mail AIDS information packets to every household. At UC Berkeley, Michel Foucault and June Jordan take up professorships that explore intersections of philosophy, activism, and identity. Continue reading Coming Together in the 1980s.

Toward Equality

When Billy Curtis arrived at Cal in 1999 as the first full-time LGBTQ programs and services director, he stepped onto a campus where the LGBTQ+ community was “organized and coordinated among students, faculty, and staff.” “Activism was alive and well,” he says. “Could it have been better? Yes. But I wasn’t starting from scratch.” Continue reading Toward Equality.

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