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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Robin Bachin

Second Committee Member

Richard Godbeer

Third Committee Member

Brenna Munro


This thesis examines gay student organizing to understand the role of college students in the burgeoning lesbian and gay movement of the 1970s. Although students are widely recognized as participants in gay activism in this period, few studies have attempted to explore their particular role. The Gay Academic Union (GAU) at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL, is presented as a case study, using archival and oral history research. Lesbian and gay students participated in the construction of a new political strategy based on visibility and community, which positioned “coming out” as its central metaphor. During the early to mid-1970s, students were especially well positioned to play a role in the gay movement, which relied on small, local organizations to spread gay politics throughout the nation. However, in the wake of the Anita Bryant-led effort to repeal Miami-Dade’s gay rights ordinance in 1977, the growth of national gay organizations and a national media discourse on homosexuality began to eclipse the type of organizing at which college students had excelled. By extending the narrative of gay organizing in the 1970s outside of urban centers, the story of the GAU at Florida Atlantic demonstrates that college students played a crucial part in disseminating the new forms of gay identity and culture associated with the gay movement.


Gay and Lesbian Students; LGBT Rights Movement; Student Activism; Colleges and Universities; Gay Academic Union; Florida Atlantic University