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Timeline chronicles pivotal moments in LGBTQIA+ history

Jeffrey Makala, Furman University Libraries.

Last updated June 21, 2023

By Tina Underwood

For Jeffrey Makala, the idea for a public-facing LGBTQIA+ timeline at Furman University percolated for years. “As university archivist, I wanted the resource to show everyone that Furman is a welcoming place, and to show Furman’s diversity and inclusivity over time,” he said.

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A member of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) oversight committee, Makala strategized with English Professor Nick Radel to flesh out the concept. But Makala didn’t have the “bandwidth,” he said, to bring the project, spanning five decades, to fruition. Enter Nashieli Marcano, archivist for Digital Collections, the brains behind the timeline’s design who also lent her expertise to the editorial content.

They eventually circulated a working version of the timeline to faculty, both current and emeritus, involved in the WGSS curriculum for feedback. The team was overwhelmed by the response and delighted to receive new documents, stories and photos to enrich the chronicle. By November 2022, the timeline was published on the Special Collections website for James B. Duke Library.

“It really was an inclusive effort by a lot of people who helped make it a reality and who were involved in this history, and rightly so,” Makala said. He said the WGSS program and student groups like Furman Pride Alliance injected a sense of change on campus with respect to acceptance and academic study.

“We want to invite further contributions from alums and other viewers to make it even more deep and rich; it’s certainly not finished,” he added.

To commemorate Pride Month, here are a few of the pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history at Furman. Be sure to visit the full timeline for clippings from The Paladin newspaper, posters, photos and more.

  • 1970: Panelists at Talk-A-Topic event (a precursor to Cultural Life Program) discuss homosexuality
  • 1974: Robert McLane ’65 stars in groundbreaking film “A Very Natural Thing
  • 1990: Indigo Girls in concert at Furman
  • 1996: The first gender studies/queer theory course is taught
  • 1997: Women’s Studies becomes first interdisciplinary minor
  • 1998: Richard E. Prior (who died in 2010), associate professor of classics, and Scott Henderson, professor of education, become the first openly gay couple to teach at Furman
  • 2001: Furman offers benefits to domestic partners
  • 2004: LGBTQ Concerns Committee is formed
  • 2005: CLP “The Changing Faces of Diversity: Transgenderism” is hosted
  • 2007: Kinsey Sicks a cappella quartet performance stirs controversy
  • 2008: Religion and Sexuality, now Sexuality and Christian Theologies, is offered by Roger Sneed
  • 2012: Introduction to Queer Theory and Sexuality Studies by Vincent Hausmann becomes first LGBTQIA+ studies course offered
  • 2012: Nick Radel proposes new paths for recruitment and retention of LGBTQ faculty members
  • 2014: Furman hosts inaugural biennial conference on Women’s/Gender Studies
  • 2016: Student Diversity Council Presents Furman’s first drag show, “Life’s a Drag”
  • 2017: Furman Pride Alliance is formed
  • 2018: Out at Furman is founded
  • 2019: Jesse Tompkins ’20 becomes first openly gay student body president
  • 2019: Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies grows into a major concentration
  • 2019: Scott Henderson teaches “Sexual Revolutions in America” as an on-campus MayX class for the first time
  • 2021: Furman football player Ryan Deluca comes out as gay on social media
  • 2021: Furman awards first Bachelor of Arts degrees in WGSS
  • 2022: Roger Sneed becomes first openly gay Faculty Council Chair
  • 2023: Tuğçe Kayaal and Nick Radel lead the “Queer Histories (San Francisco)” MayX course
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