History

A Historic Beginning

The beginning of Carbondale's gay movement can be closely traced to the Stonewall gay riots of 1969. Before Stonewall, the only visible gathering place for gays and lesbians in Carbondale was the Flamingo, a bar/nighclub active during the 1950's and 1960's. However, the spark that ignited the Stonewall rioters also inflamed the gay community of Carbondale. Nationally, college campuses became the focal point for gay organization, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale was no exception. Just two short years after Stonewall, students chartered the Gay Liberation Organization (G.L.O.) on April 14, 1971, with seven members and one advisor. G.L.O., which started out mainly as a gay men's support group, has evolved into one of the oldest gay, lesbian and bisexual student groups in the United States.

1970's: The Building Years

As with other new orgnizations, G.L.O. experienced growing pains during its initial years after founding. A new name, Gay People's Union (G.P.U.), and a new mission in 1975 solidified the group's presence on campus, and the gay community began to take a more active role in Carbondale and University Affairs. The Feminist Action Coalition (F.A.C.) was chartered, and indirectly became a core organization for the lesbian community as the push for all women's rights was initiated during the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. Several Speakers visited SIUC during the mid 1970's, including Leonard Matlovitch, the Vietnam War veteran who was dishonorably discharged for being gay, and Christine Jorgensen, who gained international attention after undergoing surgery to become one of the first transsexuals. Lane Bateman, a G.P.U. member and SIU student, authored "lyring in State", a play with gay themes that placed second in a national collegiate competition for playwrights.

In the late 1970's, community women began to become active within the campus group, and G.P.U. changed its name to G.L.P.U. (Gay & Lesbian Peoples Union), to represent its inclusive membership. This was a time of intense activity for the group, with pride marches, picnics at Giant City State Park, and the celebration of the first "Awareness" week.

1980's: Continued Growth

The early and mid 1980's saw an explosion of social activities for the gay community. The English Beat, Blockhead, and lesbian performers Jasmine, Theresa Trull, and Barbara Higby played live, and comic Kate Clinton, performed. A women's rugby team organized, and who can forget, "Teen Tragedies at The Bar".

In the late 1980's, G.L.P.U. began to sponsor gay-themed speeches in the Free Forum area on campus, and co-sponsored movie nights with the Student Programming Council. G.L.P.U. was also one of the original sponsors of the "Take Back the Night" rallies, and held a "Die-In" in the middle of the Student Center to help dramatize the effects on the gay community of the AIDS epidemic.

1990's: Continuance, Determination, and Perseverance

Although the group celebrated the new decade with a new name, "Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals & Friends" (G.L.B.F.), the next two years were not to live up to the group's early promise. Inactivity sat in, and the group became almost exclusively male. In debt, G.L.B.F. almost lost its status as a registered student organization. Fortunately, the group made a comeback in 1993. Women began to join G.L.B.F. again and under new leadership, G.L.B.F. became stronger than ever. Jay T. (Art, 1997), an almnus of the group and the University had this to say about his service in G.L.B.F.:

"GLBF was a large and active group that included all races, genders, and every step on the Kinsey scale. (I don't recall any transgendered students back then, but we would have welcomed them if there had been any.) We held regular meetings and organized frequent events. A large group of us travelled to Washington DC for the The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation in June 1993, and we organized many peaceful protests on campus. 

One particularly memorable protest was organized at the last minute when we realized that an ultra-conservative anti-gay religious figure (I forget his name) had been scheduled to appear as a campus-sponsored event that turned out to be a religious tent-revival without the tent. Other peaceful protests included chalking the campus for National Coming Out Day, and shrouding the artwork in the Student Center on December 1st for "A Day Without Art/National AIDS Awareness Day". And we staffed an information table almost daily in the Student Center, and handed out free condoms.

I also remember it as a tumultuous time... the GLBF office was frequently the target of homophobic slurs on the door or on the answering machine, and one time someone even tried to set the office on fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and the would-be arsonist only succeeded in scorching the door a little, and burning the event calendar and fliers posted there.In the mid 1990's, G.L.B.F. has accomplished many ambitious projects, including sponsoring the 1995 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian & Gay College Conference, which brought together 300 college students from 30 states with speakers like Urvashi Vaid and Troix Bettencourt. 1995 also saw the group hold "Coming Out" rallies on the steps of Shyrock Auditorium, the first AIDS Candelight Vigil Rally, and a G.L.B.F. retreat to Touch of Nature, making it one of the most successful years in G.L.B.F. history."

Present Day

Although our organization has changed its name to the current, Saluki Rainbow Network (SRN) our legacy and committment still remains unchanged. We're here, We're Queer (well, some of us are) and we fight for and strongly advocate for equal rights for our community and the equitable treatment of all people. Our mission is dedicated to the joint purpose of providing services, activities, support and encouragement to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning members of our community, and providing educational outreach, support & social interaction in the GLBTQA community.

The members of SRN (and its precursors) are proud of its history, and appreciative of the many accomplishments the group has made (and will continue to make). Collectively, we form one of the oldest Gay/Straight Alliances in the nation!

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