The first LGBTQ undergraduate student group at The University of Alabama, the Gay Student Union (GSU), was officially recognized by the University in September 1983. The group has gone through seven total name changes from then until now—each one reflecting a growing understanding of who made up this community of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight allies. Today, the student group is called Spectrum, a name it adopted in 2007 to align with a national student organization. Tuscaloosa has also been home to other LGBTQ groups, including the Tuscaloosa Lesbian Coalition (TLC). The coalition was founded in 1986 by Margaret Rose Gladney, an associate professor of American Studies at The University of Alabama, and her partner, Marcia Winter. The group has held regular meetings and sponsored cultural events in the Tuscaloosa area, including film festivals, plays, and music performances that took place on The University of Alabama campus. The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa is also home to the Capstone Alliance, an organization on campus for LGBTQ and allied staff, faculty, and graduate students.
In February 1983 The University of Alabama’s student newspaper, the Crimson White, ran the first of many articles about the GSU’s attempt to pursue a charter as a recognized student organization. Many more articles, columns, cartoons, and letters to the editor followed that addressed the group’s efforts and the students’ reactions to their presence on campus. When the UA Student Government Association did recognize the GSU seven months later (after the threat of potential ACLU intervention), the group’s first faculty adviser was English professor David Miller. Annabel Stephens, a professor in the university’s School of Library and Information Studies, was the group’s adviser from 1988-1996. The collection of Spectrum materials is named for these two early advisers. Joshua Burford, a former Capstone Alliance president and Spectrum adviser, was instrumental in gathering the materials for the collection from various individuals involved in the organization. The resources in this section of Empowering Voices, mostly from the Miller-Stephens and Tuscaloosa Lesbian Coalition collections, give a snapshot of some of the LGBTQ events at the University and in the city of Tuscaloosa over a period of about three decades, as UA students participated in statewide events like the first Birmingham Pride Parade, organized celebrations for LGBT History Month, and supported LGBTQ students at other Southern universities who sought charters for their own organizations.