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Timeless Pride

A two-part history timeline of the LGBT Carolinas

The history of the LGBT community is a tough subject to study. The community has been oppressed and maligned for so long, that much of the history is forgotten. In most schools, LGBT youth never learn about the legendary events and people who helped to shape the queer community, the entire nation and its political and social landscape.

The story of LGBT people is nothing less than a truly American story — it is a part of the fabric that makes this nation great. And, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

From archived issues of The Front Page, Q-Notes, Lambda and other sources, Q-Notes staff compiled this two-part Carolinas LGBT history. Part One, below, traces our community’s successs, setbacks, sorrows and joys from 1971 — two years after the Stonewall Riots — through 1986. Part Two, published in our July 11 print issue, explores history from 1987 to the present.

1971 — North Carolina native Bob Bland moves back to his home state from New York and founds the Triangle Gay Alliance. He and others rent a home for the group, which acts as an early social, activism and support organization for LGBTs across the state.

Fall 1973 — Concerns about the growing organizing by the “Gay Liberation Movement” by students on University of North Carolina-Greensboro campus prompt the chancellor to seek advice on the matter from the UNC System president.

1974 — Phillip Pendleton and Jim Baxter, future Front Page

editor and publisher, establish the Guilford Gay Alliance on the campus of Guilford College and an off-campus group, the Greensboro Gay Alternatives.

February 1974 — The Carolina Gay Association, the gay student group at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is established. It is the first such group in North Carolina and among the oldest LGBT student organizations in the nation.

November 1974 — Students at the UNC-Greensboro organize a gay student organization unaffiliated with the school.

1975 – North Carolina’s first gay newspaper, The Free Press, is published in Charlotte.

1975 — The first gay church in Charlotte is formed by a non-parochial Catholic priest, Friar Bruce Wood.

1976 – St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh is founded.

April 1976 — The first annual Southeastern Gay Conference is held by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Gay Association.

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August 1976 — The first issue of Lambda, the newsletter of the Carolina Gay Association at UNC-Chapel Hill is published. It is the nation’s oldest, student-run, LGBT publication.

1977 — A local chapter of Dignity, a gay Catholic organization, is formed. Later, the group morphs into the more inclusive Acceptance.

1978 — The Gay Academic Union, a social and professional organization for LGBTs in Greensboro is established.

October 1979 — The first meeting of the fully-University-affiliated Gay Student Union is held. Alumni and students protest the school’s decision to recognize the group through virulently anti-gay letters to the university and letters to the editor in the daily Greensboro newspaper.

The first issue of The Front Page, Oct. 25, 1979

Oct. 25, 1979 — The first issue of The Front Page is published in Raleigh.

Dec. 9, 1979 — Thirty-five men and women meet in Raleigh for the first-ever meeting of the Triangle Area Gay Communication and Planning Committee.

December 1979 — A group of 21 gay men and lesbians meet in Winston-Salem and begin steps to organize a gay support group.

May 1980 — The Raleigh chapter of the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) votes to back and present a resolution on gay rights at the statewide Democratic convention. The resolution is never presented.

March 31, 1980 — LGBT community members and members of the Metropolitan Community Church protest Jerry Falwell’s “I Love America” rally in Columbia.

June 2, 1980 — The White House, a gay bar in Myrtle Beach, is torched after receiving harassing phone calls and a bomb threat two days prior. The bar had only been in operation for a week.

Fall 1980 — Students at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee establish their Gay Students Association. Shortly thereafter they battle their student government over a loss of student organization funding.

1981 — Queen City Quordinators, a group of LGBT community members and leaders in Charlotte, is established by gay activist Don King and lesbian activist Billie Stickell.

1981 — Metropolitan Community Church congregations are founded in Charleston and Charlotte.

April 15, 1981 — One man is killed and three others are injured in a gay bashing at a popular gay sunbathing and swimming location on the Little River near Durham. Two men in their 20s are arrested and charged with murder. One man is later found guilty of second degree murder. The other pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for his cooperation and testimony against the other.

May 5, 1981 — Charlotte Boys Choir accompanist John George is forced to resign from his position after appearing on a local WPCQ News Channel 36 news special, “Charlotte’s Closet: Charlotte Gays.”

May 13, 1981 — New rules established by the High Point, N.C., Housing Authority bar gay and lesbian couples, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples, from qualifying for public housing.

June 27, 1981 — “Our Day Out,” the first gay Pride parade in North Carolina, is held in Durham. The mayor of Durham attends.

Aug. 25, 1981 — Bob Hoy, an openly gay graduate student at N.C. State University, announces his candidacy for the Raleigh City Council. He is later defeated in a primary, garnering only three percent of the vote.

September 1981 — Charleston’s LAMBDA, a counseling, health, legal referral and social organization is established.

Oct. 1, 1981 — The first issue of The Newsletter for lesbian women is published in Durham.

Oct. 2, 1981 — Openly gay Lightning A. Brown files to run for Chapel Hill Town Council. His partner, Joe Herzenberg is closeted at the time and is seeking re-election to an appointed council position. Both are unsuccessful in the primary.

Winter 1981 — Students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia establish their Gay Students Association.

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Sept. 28, 1982 — The Front Page reports on a “baffling illness” primarily affecting gay men and surfacing in the Chapel Hill area. Known as GRID, or gay-related immunodeficiency, at the time, more than 500 cases had been reported nationwide.

Dec. 8, 1982 — USC’s Gay Students Association sues for official recognition from the university. The complaint is filed as a civil rights violation in U.S. District Court. A federal judge later rules in favor of the organization and they are granted official university recognition.

March 27, 1983 — Nineteen Democratic Party activists gather in Chapel Hill to establish the group, Lesbian and Gay Democrats of North Carolina.

June 28, 1983 — On the 14th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, The Front Page newspaper’s entire front page of news, for the first time, is devoted to coverage of the AIDS outbreak. At the time, 13 cases has been reported in North Carolina, including seven dead victims of the disease, and three cases had been reported in South Carolina.

The Front Page cover on July 12, 1983

The Front Page cover on July 12, 1983

July 12, 1983 — A second issue of The Front Page devotes its entire front page of news to “The AIDS Crisis,” the first time the phrase appears prominently in the newspaper. The paper includes an eight-page Charlotte Observer “special report” on AIDS as an insert. The reported number of cases nationwide rises to close to 2,000.

October 1983 — Q-Notes, at the time a newsletter of Queen City Quordinators, reports on the first case of AIDS in Charlotte.

Nov. 7-11, 1983 — News station WECT-TV broadcasts a five-part series on Wilmington’s gay community.

December 1983 — New Life Metropolitan Community Church in Charlotte is established.

February 1984 — UNC-Chapel Hill’s student government passes a resolution calling for a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the activities of student organizations.

April 10, 1984 — The Front Page continues its coverage of the growing AIDS Crisis, as South Carolina ranks seventh and North Carolina ranks eighteenth in AIDS cases nationwide.

May 1984 — Joe Herzenberg, a formerly closeted Chapel Hill Town Council member, is elected as an openly gay delegate to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

August 1984 — A Naval Investigative Service inquiry in Charleston leads to possible infiltration of gay clubs and bars. NIS requests the membership roster of Charleston’s Metropolitan Community Church. The pastor refuses the request.

September 1984 — An openly gay Republican running for the Washington, D.C., City Council withdraws from the race after the Gay Activists Alliance declines to endorse him. A primary reason in the endorsement decision is the Republican’s backing out of a gay speaking engagement in North Carolina, due to pressure from the Republican National Committee.

Fall 1985 — Six gay men found Metrolina AIDS Project in Charlotte.

Fall 1985 — Five organizations in the Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point area charter the Triad Gay and Lesbian Network. Richard Gray and LGBT historian John D’Emilio are elected as the group’s first officers.

The first tabloid newsprint issue of Q-Notes, June 1986

The first tabloid newsprint issue of Q-Notes, June 1986

October 1985 — Project H.O.P.E., an HIV/AIDS service organization, is established in Asheville. The group changes its name to Western North Carolina AIDS Project in summer 1986.

1986 — Charlotte’s first PFLAG chapter is established.

Feb. 4, 1986 — Piedmont Gay and Lesbian Association, the LGBT student group at Clemson University, claims they are being censored after editors prohibit the group from placing advertising in The Tiger, Clemson’s student newspaper.

June 1986 — Queen City Quordinators establishes Q-Notes as a monthly print newspaper and the first issue is published, after an almost three-year run as the organization’s newsletter.

Summer 1986 — Triad Health Project is established in Greensboro to combat the HIV/AIDS crisis there.

July 25, 1986 — For the first time in Charlotte, media is allowed unrestricted access to cover an LGBT community event. WSOC-TV, WBTV and The Charlotte Observer covered the 105-person demonstration “American Vigil for Truth and Decency” in response to a Charlotte visit by anti-gay researcher Paul Cameron.

Dec. 22, 1986 — The first local cable show in Charlotte about gays and lesbians airs its first episode on a public access channel. The “Gay/Lesbian Forum” was produced by activist and Q-Notes editor Don King’s Closet Buster Productions

Click here to read Part Two of “Timeless Pride,” covering years 1987 through 2005.

— Information compiled from the public archives of The Front Page, Q-Notes and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill GLBTSA’s Lambda.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.

2 Replies to “Timeless Pride”

  1. Thanks for the historical milestones. I just finished a similar project for our local GLBT community in Daytona and was amazed how our history is largely undocumented. We’re going to make sure local libraries and historical groups get copies of our leaflet so that future generations will know that we existed and were trying to do something for equality.

  2. I think things in the gay community are starting to get better in Charlotte. 2010 will be the start of something great.

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