Williams College LGBTQ+ Threadline Project
Williams College LGBTQ+ Threadline Project

In 2010 Gabriel Joffe ’11 and Professor Ed Epping worked to create the LGBTQ Threadline project. The threadline is a way to view Williams College LGBTQ history in context with US LGBTQ civil rights. Interact with the threadline here.


A Quick Timeline of LGBT life at Williams

1793-1971: Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* students quietly live at Williams, rarely “coming out”.

October 28, 1971: Daniel R. Pinello’s article ” The homosexual at Williams: coming out,” where Dan came out as a gay male at Williams, was on the cover of The Williams Advocate.  Also in this edition of the Advocate was an article “Gay Liberation: a profile”.

April 9, 1976: The first LGBT organization on campus is created, WGSO, the Williams Gay Support Organization. WGSO’s call for new members in the Williams Record sparks heated debate and controversy, creating a flurry of articles in support and denouncing the new organization.  The group meets in undisclosed locations for fear of violence or disturbance.

April 16, 1976: Student stands on chair in Mission Park dining hall, actively denouncing the WGSO and the “Gay Support” platform.

December 6, 1977: Williams College President Chandler opposes change to non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

January 6, 1978: Faculty rejects a College Council proposal to amend the non-discrimination clause of Williams College to include sexual orientation. Debate ensues amongst students, faculty, and the president.

March 10, 1978: First panel by gay activists on “Coming Out.”

April 14, 1978: Gay rights supporters wear jeans on National Blue Jeans Day.

October 3, 1978: WGSO becomes GPU, the Gay People’s Union, in order to create a broader presence on campus.

March 17, 1981: “Coming Out” meeting held at Weston Language Center.

September 27, 1983: GPU sponsors AIDS talk.

October 4, 1983: Gaudino Forum on “Gay at the Movies, Gay at Williams.”

October 5, 1983: The GPU establishes a new name, the GLU – Gay/ Lesbian Union in order to avoid being stigmatized as an all-male organization. A new gay hotline is instated for students to talk about their sexuality.

April 23, 1985: Controversy erupts over a student’s statement that the Berkshire Quad is a ghetto of the College’s “misfits and homosexuals.” As a result, a crowd of over 300 students, faculty, staff, and administrators rallied in a celebration of diversity. However, issues over student housing, marginalization, and diversity persist and disputes between the student and the BSU, GLU, and Berkshire Quad members continue.

November 9, 1985: Defacement of GLU event poster.

March 4, 1986: Open panel discussion on homosexual life at Williams. Over 100 students attend a conversation on coming out and counseling assistance.

April 15, 1986: First annual Lesbian and Gay Awareness Day. The day features an information table, rally, documentary, and reception. The day focuses on acceptance, diversity, and presence of gay and lesbian life on campus. Over 150 people attend the rally.

1987: The GLU changes its name to the Williams Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Union (BGLU).

February 24, 1987: Students protest CIA’s discrimination in hiring as it recruits on campus. CIA responds in Record Article, citing that the CIA does not discriminate against any group, but that “it examines the whole person.”

May 5, 1987: Second Annual rally on Lesbian and Gay Awareness Day.

October 13, 1987: Disputes on whether Williams should allow the Marines to recruit on campus, considering their ban on homosexuals joining the Navy.

October 17, 1987 Gay and Lesbian alumni organize to form first network, The Williams Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Association. An organizational meeting and dinner on campus is held. The network is originally created to address a deficiency in alumni events, with its focus on children and spouses.The initial directors were Rosenbaum, Mary Agnes Sheehan ’82, Wright, Zeuner, and Daniel Pinello.

December, 1987: First openly gay faculty member receives tenure.

April 19, 1988: First Gay awareness week. In the words of a BGLU student leader, “We wanted to challenge the campus to examine their homophobia. A week makes more of a coninuous confrontation, while a day is easily dismissed.” Events include a rally, men wearing skirts to class, and stickers proclaiming “Why Assume I’m Heterosexual?”

April 22, 1988: The Issue, a student-run newspaper at Williams, has a centerfold on sexuality, including interviews with Faculty and students.

November 29, 1988: Acting Dean of the College, Joan Edwards, issues a letter notifying the Williams community of defacement to BGLU posters, signs, and notices in a display case, discouraging future hostile behavior. The vandalists remain anonymous.

April 5-9, 1989: College Council sponsors the very first sexual awareness week to deal with issues of pregnancies, date rapes, and especially STDs.

April, 1989: Sex Month! Between sexual awareness week and gay pride week, the campus tackles pertinent and provocative issues. Included in this month, a showcase of men and women in various physical contact, with an image of wrestlers causing controversy. Disputes over chalking recurs, with Buildings & Grounds first scrubbing away BGLU chalkings, then called off with an apology from the Dean.

November, 1989: Health Services and WCMA collaborate on an AIDS Awareness Week.

January, 1990: Discussions throughout month on AIDS and its role at Williams.

February 13, 1990: BGLU display case in Baxter is vandalized again.

April 13, 1991: Gay Pride Week includes movie showings, lectures, poetry readings, and a BGLU Party in Currier Ballroom.

November, 1991: BGLU chalks at homecoming, and distributes promotional pamphlets and stickers. This sparks a letter from a concerned parent MD denouncing the BGLU’s presence, and considering the BGLU’s organization one with possible chemical/ anatomical pathology.

October 5-11, 1992: BGLU celebrates National Coming Out Week with both confidential and public events.

February, 1993: Student gets expelled for impersonating a homosexual and calling two male students, pretending to be attracted to them. The calls were made in response to the two males harassment of various females on campus. Disputes result over whether this incident is homophobic, and the student pursues a civil suit against the college.

April 11-18, 1993: Queer Pride Week. Queer Bash, March on Washington, and other events.

October 7, 1994: The Queer Straight Alliance is created “to fill the void between queers and straights at Williams and the greater community.” (The BGLU is still in existence)

October, 1994: A homophobic and physically threatening letter is submitted to the Daily Advisor. The Dean’s office notifies and denounces the incident in a letter to the William’s community.

January, 2000: Queer Life Coordinator, Stephen Collingsworth, is appointed to a permanent position in the MCC staff.

August 2004: Kareem Khubchandani is hired as the new Queer Life Coordinator, replacing Stephen Collingsworth.

December, 2005: The Queer Student Union (QSU) ratifies a constitution.

October, 2008: justin adkins is hired as the new part-time Queer Life Coordinator, replacing Kareem Khubchandani.

February 5, 2009: Queer Life at Williams discussion is part of the first “Claiming Williams” Day.  The discussion is well attended.

May 2009: Daniel R. Pinello is awarded the first “Outstanding Queer Alum Award” at the 5th Annual Rainbow Graduation.

November-December 2009: Students take over Hardy House protesting the response to hateful writing left on the wall of a dorm over Thanksgiving break. Students list 5 demands.

August 2010: GSRC moves into Jenness House

August 2010: Gender inclusive housing begins for sophomores – seniors.

November 2010: Dan Savage speaks in Chapin Hall

September 2010: justin adkins named Assistant Director of the Multicultural center, with a focus on gender, sexuality and activism (a full-time position).

April 2010: Bert Leatherman ’00 named Outstanding Queer Alum

April 2011: Dr. Lisa Capaldini ’78 named Outstanding Queer Alum

April 2012: John Malcolm ’86 named Outstanding Queer Alum

April 2012: Performance artist Jiz Lee speaks at Williams as part of the Dively Committee 25 anniversary and draws controversy.

April 2012: Dively Committee 25th anniversary celebration

April 2013: Carina Vance Mafla ’99 named Outstanding Queer Alum

May 2013: Worlds of Wonder conference celebrating the queerness of childhood. Organized by Assistant Professor of History Anna Fishzon

April 2014: Angela Davis speaks in Chapin Hall