Features

UNCG’s LGBT History

4.19.17_Features_Catie Byrne_Hidden Voices_Catie Byrne

Catie Byrne

Catie Byrne
  Features Editor 

As a part of UNCG’s Pride Month, on April 13 from 4-5 p.m., the Office of Intercultural Engagement hosted UNCG librarian Dr. Jim Carmichael and UNCG archivist Stacey Krim, for “How to Access Hidden Histories.”

Though its CAP statement described the event as focusing, “on how we explore hidden LGBTQ+ narratives and histories that often occurred under a shroud of anonymity,” there was a particular focus on LGBT lives, history and activism as it existed at UNCG and how media such as The Carolinian, documented this history.

The event opened with Carmichael and Krim foregrounding the historical background of the gender-nonconforming, former UNCG student and women’s right’s lawyer, Lucille Pugh, on a power point slideshow. Born in 1885, Pugh was famous for wearing men’s attire at a time before women were even able to vote.

“We don’t know what they were doing in their life or their actions, but certainly being a lawyer was gender non-conforming at this time, living a very public life where she’s casually dressed in male attire; that is sometimes the best you have to go on,” Krim said, with regard to whether or not it was known if Pugh was transgender or a lesbian.

Carmichael then explained that it was during Pugh’s lifetime that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM-1, classed being gay as a mental illness. Given this information, Carmichael and Krim said it was possible that information regarding Pugh’s sexuality and gender was hidden and could likely only be accessed through medical records.

Carmichael then moved to discuss the way sexuality has historically been taught in UNCG’s curriculum. Gesturing to the wall behind her, Krim said that UNCG’s archives have records of UNCG’s physical education departments taking lecture notes about gayness in 1920.

“These notes,” Krim said, “are based on some 1892 material that was published on homosexuality… so this model that is being taught at our school, is modeling homosexuality as a stage in the evolutionary stage of development of sexuality… It viewed that humans went through three stages of sexuality, the first was bisexuality, and that was when you were very young, between the ages of infancy until around 13 years old. When you hit your teens and your early 20’s, you go through a homosexual stage, and everyone would go through this and then after your 20’s, when you’re a full-grown adult, you would become heterosexual.”

Being gay then, Krim explained, was seen as a stagnation of a person’s sexuality into the middle stage of human development. This mindset then, is what shaped “crush counseling” for women who had expressed attraction for other women when UNCG was a women’s college.

“And basically,” Krim said,  “what the department of Physical Education says is that [the way] you deal with this, is that you work it out of them, you exercise it out of them. ‘Direct the energy elsewhere and then she won’t stagnate, and then she can graduate and get married’.”

Carmichael then clarified that the way gayness was framed at this point in time was different for men than it was women, citing personal anecdotes as a gay man and his experiences with homophobia.

“When hormones kicked in, I never ever heard anyone say, in this country, that male same-sex relationships during teenage years were okay,” said Carmichael.  

The difficulties of burgeoning gay life at UNCG, particularly for gay men as the university evolved and allowed male students on campus, was noted in discussions about Kenneth Crump. “On November 22, almost two years off the two-year-anniversary of the Strong dormitory riot, Kenneth Crump committed suicide. Crump was a student at Strong dormitory. He was a 21-year-old freshman and a dance major and apparently he was being bullied for being gay, so he threw himself off of the 9th floor of the tower at 1 a.m.,” said Krim.

His suicide was documented by the News and Record article: “Student, 21, dead after fall from library,” and The Carolinian’s “Student Jumps from Library.”

Carmichael and Krim then showed a series of slides illustrating the relationship between the gay liberation movement and gay student life on campus and the newspaper which documented it, The Carolinian. Featuring such headlines as: “Dialogue with a homosexual” and “Morality Week vs. Pride Week,” as well as dozens of pointed Letters to the Editor regarding gay issues, gay life at UNCG became more widely recognized through the platform of our student newspaper.

The event ended on the note that UNCG has had and continues to have a strong LGBT population on campus, with, according to UNCG’s ACHA-National College Health Assessment for the 2016 Fall Health survey, approximately 25.7 percent of UNCG undergraduates identifying as non-straight or non-gender binary.

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