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"We Are/We Have Always Been"

A Multi-Linear History of LGBT Experiences at Bryn Mawr College, 1970-2000

Brenna Levitin, Author
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Gay People's Alliance

The Gay People's Alliance was a bi-college group founded in 1975. The GPA had a space in a basement at Haverford, and for the first few years was made up of primarily gay Haverfordians. In about 1977, the composition shifted radically to primarily lesbian and bisexual Mawrtyrs, and stayed that way until the bi-college group split into two single-college groups.

Listen to Denise Kulp '80 discuss the gender balance of the GPA and her experience leading the group in its early years here.

Gay People's Alliance dances were famous outside of the bi-college network. Students regularly attended from Swarthmore, Penn, and other area schools. According to several alumnae/i, they were even featured in a famous college review book at the time, described as the best parties at Bryn Mawr College.

Several of the GPA logbooks now live in the Haverford Special Collections. The books documented visitors of the physical space and served as a general journal for GPA members. Read more about the collection on page 142 of this finding aid.

The GPA became BGALA in fall 1988.
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GPA Halloween Dance Incident [1986]

In 1986, there was an incident where a Gay People's Alliance dance was rescheduled by the President's office.

GPA dances were famous well-beyond the bi-college consortium, and the Halloween dance was the most famous of them all. Traditionally a costume party, the Halloween Dance drew students from Penn and Swarthmore and even further afield.

In fall of 1986, the leader of the GPA was Ian Carter. In early September, he put in his room request, which got approved without issue. Early in October, he was making a routine check while putting together a flyer, and noticed that the college events calendar listed the date of the party differently from the previously-approved room request. He called Chuck Heyduck, then Director of Student Services, who did some questioning and found out that it was not a typo and indeed, the dance had been moved. Ian was incredulous, and reminded Chuck that the publicity was already done and everyone was expecting the (former) date.

Ian noticed that the dance was originally scheduled for Parent's Day, and he pieced together the fact that the decision came from an administrative level. He began to talk to other students and found that the collective perception was that "the upper administration tried to de-dyke Bryn Mawr for Parent's Day."

He called a meeting with President Mary Patterson McPherson, which did nothing. Ian felt backed into a corner, and felt his only option was to draw attention to the problem. He found someone at the College News who decided to write an article about the situation. The journalist interviewed Mary Pat for the article, and her official response was, "It's not a bad thing to learn to be discreet."

The quote spawned many generations of t-shirts, and lives in infamy still.

If you've kept a shirt with President McPherson's quote on it, let us know! Send pictures to greenfieldhwe AT brynmawr DOT edu.

Posted on 19 August 2014, 11:06 am by Brenna Levitin  |  Permalink

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