Closet, community or bubble? : queer life at Whitman College from 1975 to 2011
May 19, 2020
Department or Program
College campuses have always been a space for exploration, whether that was with one’s future, one’s beliefs or one’s sexuality, and for forming one’s own identity. Especially at smaller residential colleges, the campus becomes a place to develop close communities. Despite this, college campuses, and institutions of higher education as a whole, have had little presence in LGBTQ+ historical research. Since the 1960s, LGBTQ+ student organizations have made strides forward, bringing acceptance and inclusivity to their own communities. In this thesis, I take a look at Whitman College as an example, using oral history interviews conducted with alumni, staff and faculty. At a small, and small-town, school like Whitman, it took longer to reach the point at which students were willing to be out and open about sexuality and gender issues. In particular, the community at Whitman has dealt with relative isolation, heteronormativity, resistance to change and a tightly knit community that limited this development. However, queer students and faculty of the early nineties made an impact on campus and set the stage for a consolidated LGBTQ+ community at Whitman, which has adapted to its circumstances and become more inclusive over time.