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In her research, Dana McLachlin, '14, reached out to faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the University of Richmond who were mentioned in yearbooks, archives of The Collegian, and University documents. In her conversations, McLachlin asked each person to recall their own experiences at the University, including activism, campus involvement, the coordinate college system, and personal stories. While there is still much work to do, McLachlin says these conversations demonstrated the amount of progress for LGBTQ individuals over the last few decades, as well as the incredible accomplishments of past queer activists at UR.

Below are selected quotes from McLachlin's conversations with her contributing sources.

Judd Proctor, ’72
“There was no LGB activism at UR. You had to be very closeted to be at UR. I didn’t know then—I started to come out very late after school—it wasn’t unusual at that time to come out so late. The school was still Baptist affiliated. It was a Baptist college and they felt obligated to snuff that ‘stuff’ out.”

Beth Marschak, ’72
“I was sent to the Dean's office for wearing pants to class. They didn’t punish me because it turned out to be an unwritten rule, but I felt one of the reasons it was frowned upon was the association of it with lesbianism.”

Bill Hall, ’75
“People were terrified what might happen if they came out. It might short circuit their schooling and career. To most people, it simply wasn’t worth it to come out.”

William Poarch, ’82
“Gay life did not exist at UR when I was there. It wasn’t discussed at all.”

Elizabeth Stott, faculty, 1989-2012
“LGBTQ issues were not a ‘popular’ issue at the time. During the 90s there was this cultural fear of ‘the gays are recruiting’, so faculty had to be very careful of what they say in case they seem like they are recruiting to the cause.”

Ladelle McWhorter, faculty, 1992–present

Rafael de Sa, faculty, 1992–present
“When we founded Safe Zone we had to try to figure out what we wanted as a group, to fill the gap that the University hadn’t filled. We didn’t have anything in place, no one to report discrimination to.”

Matt Beams, ’94
“After a couple of months at UR I realized, ‘I need to find some other gay people or I’ll go crazy.’”

Bob Rodgers, staff, 1994–present
“My workplace has been very supportive and not hostile. I consider myself very lucky to work with enlightened people. Being gay has never been a problem. I came out to my supervisor a year after I had been at UR and it was handled very well.”

Crystal Colter, ’95
“We [an LGB organization] met in secret locations and moved around a lot, because there was this real concern that people may find out who the gay and lesbian students were.”

Jane Geaney faculty, 1997-present
“UR would be a hard place to come out. It’s such a heteronormative place. One would have to have a high amount of self-confidence to be out here ... I'm not proud of this, but before I had tenure, I taught a class about sex, Body/Sex in World Religious Literature, with a focus on heterosexuality, because students were not out at that point. I presumed their sexuality, and because they were not out, I treated them as straight."

Michael Coe, ’98 “There was a certain politeness to the school. Any backlash we got was to be looked down and frowned upon. People wouldn’t get in your face and be homophobic or heterosexist ... the topic was just never around, never there, never present, so nothing to talk about.”

Peter Goldin, ’98
“I think that’s one of the things that made it easier for me, especially while coming out ... it wasn’t like I was tattooed and dying my hair. I was just another guy in khakis and a sport coat. Being gay just happened to be the only thing that was different about me.”

Jonathan Zur, ’03
“When I came to campus, there was Safe Zone and I knew it existed, but it felt pretty insubstantial and small, with very few students, and that was really it. It felt like there was this one gay kid and he was on every panel. It was a very tokenizing experience.”

Jill Crocker, ’04
“When New Directions was at Richmond, the institutionalization of LGBTQ issues, from students perspectives, often felt nascent in many ways, especially prior to 2002. There were really visible things to go up against. It was stressful for students, but good for organizing since we had something to be up against. Kind of like that old labor joke, that ‘management is the best organizer.’ Once we had more allies it almost became more difficult, since we didn’t know where New Directions was going to head next. We didn’t do a good job creating a mission beyond visibility.”

Haven Herrin, ’04
“I just did not see a lot of queer people at UR ... being gay or queer was not a part of the main social scene at all. If it was there, it was segmented away from social life on campus. Social life was dominated by the fraternities, which are also super invested in the boy/girl gender binary and conformity to that binary. It never felt safe to be different at UR. It wasn’t normal to be queer.”

Austin Scharf, ’06
“When I first arrived at UR, I had just very recently come out and UR’s LGBT life felt big to me because I had never experienced any. But in retrospect it was a pretty tight knit bunch of people not well received by the campus community.”

Matt Rafalow, ’06
“The climate at UR was really pretty hostile. The most hostility was from other students. I felt isolated. When I was in the closet, people didn’t believe me that I was straight, so it often felt like other people didn’t feel comfortable around me ... since UR was so repressive, it galvanized me to come out.”

George Jones, ’06*
“At the time I identified as a transgender MTF. I no longer do, but I was very visible on campus and couldn’t really hide. There was a lot of feeling of, ‘what is wrong with you, you don’t belong here.’”

John Frank, ’09
“There was only a small circle of people on campus who knew I was gay. My first impression of the climate was that it was conservative and that it wasn’t really a safe space to be openly gay. These perceptions informed my decision to come out (or not). I never felt as though my sexuality was something I would feel comfortable advertising ... I think it is hard to develop a social life on the UR campus in which being gay is celebrated and there are numerous opportunities to meet other queer people.”

Vickey Allen, ’09
“When I first started, the only out people were guys. There was a strong gay male community, so it was hard to meet other out girls. You’d meet one girl and she’d introduce you to another. In certain ways, it was much harder to be female and queer than male.”

Emily Miller, ’10
“The atmosphere of UR was never hostile. If it ever felt hostile, it was probably because of my own paranoia. But I didn’t feel like I could do the identity work I needed to do at UR. I needed to be around queer women, which is why I took to the city. UR wasn’t welcoming but it wasn’t unwelcoming. I wanted to be able to relax around queer people in a community, and it just wasn’t there on campus, especially for women.”

Jon Henry, ’12
“What really revolutionized activism on this campus is when SASD brought in Against Equality. It really helped shift thinking and helped to create and sustain a connection with VCU.”

Alex Rooke, ’12
“The campus culture is sort of apathetic. Within other non-queer activist groups there is a lot of support, but from the general community you don’t really hear anything. The people I hang out with have been welcoming.”

*pseudonym