New LibGuide showcases the history of the LGBTQIA+ community at Stanford University

June 30, 2021
Dinah Handel
Members of the Gay People’s Union (GPU) pose in front of the old firehouse with a sign that reads “gay freedom” during the GPU conference and gay pride week in June of 1974.

Image credit: Members of the Gay People’s Union (GPU) pose in front of the old firehouse with a sign that reads “gay freedom” during the GPU conference and gay pride week in June of 1974. See this image in SearchWorks.

I’m excited to announce a new libguide on the LGBTQIA+ community at Stanford. The guide shares information about resources available in Stanford's Special Collections and University Archives to support research into the history of LGBTQIA+ students and community at Stanford University. 

LGBTQIA+ people have been part of the Stanford community since its inception. Over the years, Stanford has been home to many queer faculty, students, and staff, whether or not they were public about their sexual preferences and identities. Although there is less documentation of queer life at Stanford than other dominant identities, research by historians and primary source material found in the guide provide evidence that queer life always existed in and around the Stanford community. 

The guide contains collections that are both explicitly and implicitly about queer life at Stanford. The Queer Student Resources records, the Stanford University LGBT alumni oral history interviews, and the Charles H. Durham Diaries demonstrate how the LGBTQIA+ community changed over time, depending on politics and broader societal trends and cultural norms. The collections also serve as invaluable resources to understanding the lived reality of LGBTQIA+ students, faculty, and staff.  In contrast, collections like the Stanford University video collection and the Stanford Daily archives contain primary sources related to all of Stanford, which includes the LGBTQIA+ community. By searching those collections with community-based terminology, or even in some cases terminology contemporary members of the community might find antiquated or offensive, you will find articles and video programs that document queer life at Stanford. 

Some of my favorite collections highlighted in the guide include personal narrative about the complexity of emotions queer people have in exploring their identity and place in the world (the Richard William Weiland papers), fun and colorful graphics and joyous imagery (the Queer Resources center), and audiovisual works that feature interviews with LGBTQIA+ identified students (Stanford Pride Oral History collection, Out on the Farm, Gays and Lesbians in the residencies).

It is important to note that historically, materials by and about LGBTQIA+ people have not been prioritized for collection in archives and libraries. Although this has changed drastically in the last 30-40 years, there are still absences, gaps, or silences when it comes to representation of LGBTQIA+ life and community in non-subject specific libraries and archives. When doing research about marginalized identity groups like LGBTQIA+ people, it is important to read between the lines, identify sources that may not be explicitly about LGBTQIA+ people, consider the broader context your direct subjects or research questions are part of, and identify the terminology that is used in library systems, which might be different than terminology used within the community. 

Stanford Libraries is privileged to have the collections it does, documenting both the LGBTQIA+ community at Stanford, and people and movements for LGBTQIA+ pride and freedom globally. This is a testament to the hard work of students, faculty, and staff (including in the libraries) in agitating for and committing to collecting, describing, and preserving these records of LGBTQIA+ community members. However, there is always more work to be done when it comes to the acquisition, description, and provision of access to the collections. We welcome feedback on the guide, as well as opportunities to discuss how we can partner to better document the LGBTQIA+ community, and ensure records of activism, community, and scholarship can support the work of future Stanford students!