Unhinging the Closet Doors: The Evolution of Mount Holyoke College’s LGBT Movement



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This thesis began with the hope of chronicling Mount Holyoke’s hidden transgender history in the twentieth century. But as I combed through the College’s archives, I found myself engrossed in the evolution of the college’s LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) movement. It’s no secret that lesbian and bisexual women were and are a part of Mount Holyoke’s campus, but when did students have the courage to push for campus dialogue? For open discussion and advocacy of lesbian, bisexual, and eventually transgender rights on campus? To me, that is when change truly occurred on Mount Holyoke’s campus. When students refused to suffer in silence, and their anger, fear, and pain surfaced to challenge a deep-seated homophobia. The primary objective of this thesis is to explore the evolution of Mount Holyoke students’ advocacy for LGBT issues and begins with one student’s anonymous letter published in the student newspaper in 1975. This letter initiated the formation of the College’s first LGBT group and created the space for all subsequent ones. After the gay liberation movement breached Mount Holyoke’s gates, students and administrators alike urged a culture of acceptance that ultimately would extend far beyond lesbians.



LGBT, Transgender, Lesbian, Electroshock Therapy, Homosexuality in Pop Culture, Lesbian Feminism, Transgender History, Sodomy Law, Cultural Shift, 1970s, Gender Nonconformity, Butch and Femme Culture