Kathy Rose-Mockry
University of Kansas

KU, community partners sponsoring '51 Years OUT! Celebrating Gay Liberation History of KU and Lawrence'

Wed, 09/29/2021

LAWRENCE — The Lawrence Gay Liberation Front (LGLF), which began at the University of Kansas in 1970, has an important place in KU and local history. Join the 50th anniversary celebration of LGLF and early activism that challenged stereotypes and discrimination, changed the cultural climate and created a foundation for an LGBTQ+ community to grow and thrive. 

"51 Years Out" logoFollowing a one-year delay due to the pandemic, KU and community partners are sponsoring a weeklong celebration, “51 Years OUT! Celebrating Gay Liberation History of KU and Lawrence.” Events take place Oct. 18-22 during LGBTQ History Month and include panels, presentations, a KU Red Hot Research session, an “OUT Loud!” story-corps type project, campus tours, legal name change information table, a ’70s style dance and carillon concert.

“It is so important that we recognize this history that has long been invisible and overlooked,” said Kathy Rose-Mockry, event organizer and director emerita of the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at KU. “The Lawrence Gay Liberation Front and early LGBT activists set the stage for the development and growth of the LGBTQ community at KU and in Lawrence. They refused to be ignored as they stood up to homophobic attitudes and shook up an oppressive culture to bring about change. Their courage and revolutionary actions are an important part of the KU story and should inspire all of us to join in working for justice.”

Panels include “LGLF: The Beginnings” at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 and “The Power of Connections: Lesbian Communities in the ’70s” at 7 p.m. Oct. 21. In addition, author and journalist C.J. Janovy will be joined by Lawrence and state leaders for the panel “No Place Like Home” at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 to discuss LGBT activism that brought about local and statewide policy and legislative changes promoting equity. All three panels take place in the Kansas Union’s Big 12 Room, and a full list of presenters is below.

LGLF founder David Stout will give a reading at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Spencer Research Library from his memoirs about being gay in Kansas, and author Katie Batza, KU associate professor of women, gender & sexuality studies, will discuss her 2018 book on health care in the 1970s for a talk at 2 p.m. Oct. 22 at The Commons at KU.

For a full schedule, visit the “51 Years Out!” website or via Facebook.

Co-sponsors and collaborators include the KU Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity; Hall Center for the Humanities; the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies; Watkins Museum of History; The Commons; Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity; KU Alumni Association; KU Libraries; Lawrence Public Library; Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging; Office of Multicultural Affairs; Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs; WesleyKU; KU Law OUTlaws and Allies in partnership with Douglas County Legal Aid Society; and KU Student Senate.

Panelist and presenter bios

“Kansas Farm Boy Comes Out at KU”

3:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Spencer Research Library North Gallery

David Stout, the founder of the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front, started at KU in 1963.  Taking some breaks as he worked toward his degree, he graduated (1973) with a Bachelor of Social Work. He returned to KU in 1974, earning a Master of Social Work (1976.) He had a long career as a social worker, retiring in 2010. He lives in Taiwan. Stout will also take part in the Oct. 20 panel.

“No Place Like Home: Kansas LGBT Community Activism”

7 p.m. Oct. 19, Kansas Union Big 12 Room

C.J. Janovy is director of content at KCUR in Kansas City. Her book “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas” won the 2019 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, was a Kansas Notable Book for 2019 and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ nonfiction. 

Diane Silver is a poet, journalist and activist who led communications in the campaign for marriage equality in Kansas and helped found the LGBTQ rights groups Kansas Equality and The Freedom Coalition. Her essays and articles have been published in Ms. Magazine, The Progressive and many other venues. Her poetry has appeared in Heartland: Poetry of Love, Resistance & Solidarity.

Stephanie Byers serves as state representative for District 86 in the Kansas House of Representatives. She is the first openly transgender person to serve in the Kansas Legislature and the first transgender Native American person elected to office. She was an educator for the Wichita Public Schools for 29 years, receiving the GLSEN-Kansas State Educator of the Year and the GLSEN National Educator of the Year awards. She has advocated for legislation supporting LGBTQ+ equity and education.

“The Power of Connections: Lesbian Communities in the ’70s”

7 p.m. Oct. 21, Kansas Union Big 12 Room

Stephanie Blackwood is a development/marketing/communications professional with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from KU. But her “values” degree was earned in the Lawrence feminist lesbian community, leading to a career focused on support to LGBTQ+ people and women. In 2019, Blackwood was inducted in the KU Women’s Hall of Fame.

Martha Boyd, LPC, received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in counseling psychology from KU. She has served as a behavioral health therapist in the Kansas City area for more than 25 years. She retired as the clinical supervisor for Lakewood Behavioral Health and currently is in private practice in the Brookside area of Kansas City. 

Kathryn Clark transferred to KU from Idaho, receiving a Bachelor of General Studies, and then an MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her diverse background includes working as an artist, teacher, nonprofit consultant and at The New York Times and IBM. Clark lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

Katherine Harris (KH) attended KU in the 1970s and had an important role in the early Lawrence feminist lesbian community. She was co-founder of Spinsters Books and Webbery, a nonprofit women and children's bookstore and women's center that was collectively operated by lesbians in downtown Lawrence (1980s). She has been active in the Lawrence community as a longtime resident.

Deborah Holmes received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from KU and a doctorate from St. Louis University. She began teaching in Lawrence, followed by 30-plus years in school administration and adjunct university instruction. Currently, she facilitates trainings on anti-racism and STEM.

“Lawrence Gay Liberation Front: The Beginnings”

7 p.m. Oct. 20, Kansas Union Big 12 Room

Reginald Brown, M.Ed., began at KU in 1970, joining the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front that year. They are a queer, gender nonconforming, Black feminist, socialist social justice, faith-based activist and an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. A long-term AIDS survivor of 35-plus years, they volunteer and hold leadership positions in numerous social justice organizations.

Patrick Dilley became a student activist when he went to graduate school at KU. He later became a professor of higher education as well as a historian of gay and lesbian history. KU was a focus of two of his books, “Queer Man on Campus” and “Gay Liberation to Campus Assimilation.” His scholarship has been recognized by the American College Personnel Association and the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Leonard Grotta arrived at KU in 1970 and a year later joined the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front, becoming an active member and leader. He had a 28-year career in the newspaper industry, followed by a 12-year real estate career. He lives in Palm Springs, California.

Lee Hubbell entered KU in 1964, obtaining two bachelor’s degrees in 1968. He received a master’s degree from Indiana University (1971) and returned as a KU computer science graduate student in June 1971, joining the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front. He remains a Lawrence resident, retiring in 1971 from a health care technology career.

Ruth Lichtwardt attended Lawrence Gay Liberation Front dances as a teenager, leading her to join the group when she came to KU in spring 1981. She later served several terms as director. Her activism continued after college, and she is a longtime member of the League of Women Voters.

Joe Prados, who grew up in New York and Puerto Rico, decided to attend KU after visiting his grandfather in Kansas. He arrived in 1967 to study architecture and joined the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front in 1970. Prados is an architect in Austin, Texas.

“Healthcare and the LGBTQ Community”

2 p.m. Oct. 22, KU Commons

Katie Batza, associate professor of women, gender & sexuality studies, studies late 20th-century United States sexuality, health and politics. Her current projects explore early AIDS in the heartland, Boston reproductive justice, and gender non-conforming and disabled individuals’ health care access. Earlier publications examined pre-AIDS gay health activism, lesbian fertility politics and mapping queer health history. 

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