Celebrating Forty Years of LGBTQ Activism at VCU

Forty years ago VCU’s first LGBTQ student group, the Gay Alliance of Students, secured official recognition as a student organization following a two year legal struggle. This year we celebrate that victory, which coincided with the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence, as an important milestone on the path toward inclusion and acceptance for LGBTQ students, staff, and faculty at VCU. This Humanities Research Center speaker series examines the 1974-76 struggle at VCU, puts that local history into a broader national context with a talk by acclaimed historian Professor Marc Stein, and concludes with a keynote address by tennis superstar and advocate for women and LGBTQ people, Billie Jean King. Admission is free and all are welcome!

This series is co-sponsored by the Office of the President, the Division for Inclusive Excellence, the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences, the Division of Student Affairs, VCU Athletics, the VCU Libraries, VCU Alumni Rainbow Rams, the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Equity and Access Services, and Equality VCU, to whom many thanks!


Trials and Triumphs, 1974-76:  The Struggle for Recognition of VCU’s first Gay Student Group 

Tuesday October 4 at noon
Cabell Library Lecture Hall, 901 Park Avenue

Current VCU faculty and students who have been exploring this dramatic episode will tell the story of what prompted the lawsuit against VCU’s Board of Visitors, and the twists and turns leading to eventual victory in 1976. A panel of alumni, including the first two spokespersons for GAS, will then share their memories of that struggle and of life for LGBTQ students in the 70s.

This event will be followed by a reception and then the 2016 Burnside / Watstein LGBTQ Awards Ceremony at 3pm.


Dr. Marc Stein
Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Professor of History, San Francisco State University

Thursday October 13 at 4pm
Richmond Salons I & 2, University Student Commons, 907 Floyd Avenue

Students, Sodomy, and the State: LGBT Campus Struggles in the 1970s


A Conversation with Billie Jean King

Thursday October 27 at 6pm
Siegel Center

Billie Jean KingIf through her words and deeds one woman can truly make a difference for thousands of others in change-making ways, then that singular individual would be Billie Jean King. Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life and a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, King is a pioneer for equality, and the advancement of women and LGBTQ people.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the two most significant cultural athletic figures of the twentieth century are Jackie Robinson and Billie Jean King.” — Frank Deford, American sportswriter

King, who has won an astounding 39 Grand Slam titles during her career, blazed trails for women everywhere in 1970 when she became one of nine players to break away from the tennis establishment and accept a one dollar contract from tennis promoter Gladys Heldman to compete in the newly created Virginia Slims Series. The revolt led to the birth of women’s pro tennis and the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association.

In 1973, King produced one of the greatest moments in sports history when she defeated Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. In 2008, she authored Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes to commemorate the 35th anniversary of that historic match.

In 1974, she co-founded World Team Tennis, the revolutionary co-ed professional tennis league, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 2006, the National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court.

King was outed in 1981 and lost all of her endorsements and sponsorships overnight. Over her career she has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ people as well as for women in sports and society. King has created new inroads for women and LGBTQ people in and out of sports throughout her legendary career, and she continues to make her mark today as her enduring accomplishments reverberate far beyond the tennis courts.