• WSU will host an event highlighting its LGBTQ history on Tuesday, June 12. One of its panelists, Dr. Tim Retzloff said about this image: "There was a gay liberation front group at Wayne State and they built this purple wooden fruit cart emblazoned with the phrase ‘gay fruit.’ They sold apples to raise money for the first pride celebration in Detroit which was in 1972."

WSU Hosts LGBTQ History Panel in Honor of the School’s 150 Years

Eve Kucharski
By | 2018-06-11T09:15:48+00:00 June 6th, 2018|Detroit, Michigan, News, Pride Guide|

A lot can happen over 150 years, and in honor of a timeline that spans over half of modern U.S. history, Wayne State University is presenting several panels throughout the year in honor of its sesquicentennial. And, coming up on Tuesday, June 12, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the David Adamany Undergraduate Library is the “Our History at Wayne: LGBTQ Life at Wayne State University panel.” WSU Archivist Alison Stankrauff has been the main organizer of these events, and she said she’s excited to provide a platform for several LGBTQ activists and historians to speak to WSU’s successes and failures in the fight for LGBTQ equality.
“I should say, too, that part of the reason that I got into this profession is because I really believe that archives and historical records can help write the historical record and bring justice where there hasn’t been, and wright people into history that haven’t had a voice,” Stankrauff said. “That’s a big part of why I wanted to do these panels.”
The panel will talk about LGBTQ history through the mid-20th century and will include the voices of Rev. Dr. Renee McCoy, the founder of the Full Truth Fellowship and an WSU alumna who will speak about her experience as a lesbian African-American woman attending school in the ’60s; Kim Ferguson, a WSU alumni who began the Wayne State Gay Liberation Front; Lynne Rose, who was the university’s first paid staff member devoted to counseling LGBTQ students and Ashton Niedzwiecki, a pansexual transgender WSU alumni who served as the president of the GLBTA Student Union.
BTL contributor Dr. Tim Retzloff, an LGBTQ historian who teaches LGBTQ studies at Michigan State University, will be among the voices heard as well. He said that although he didn’t attend WSU, he hopes to talk from the perspective of LGBTQ professors.
“One of the things that’s interesting to me as a historian is — and something that I’ll bring to the discussion — is that in the 1940s and ‘50s a professor could actually be fired for homosexuality and students could be expelled for homosexuality,” Retzloff said. “People did have their lives disrupted. And during the same decades it was also a place where people who we would now look at and see as LGBTQ could meet and find each other, and the first organization in Michigan having to do with LGBTQ movements, the first organization ever, was a chapter of the Mattachine Society in Detroit which started in 1958 and the three founders, the officers, all met each other at Wayne State as students.”
Retzloff said he is excited to have a deep discussion about the school’s history with each of the panelists because much of this history isn’t widely known by the public.
“So, there’s a lot of this history that’s not known because we haven’t pursued and asked people their stories,” Retzloff said. “For me, one of the purposes of panels like this is to share those stories so that we know those stories and that while we can, we get it firsthand.”
According to Stankrauff, there is also a chance that WSU Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Marquita Chamblee to make opening remarks at the event.
For more information about the event, visit wayne.edu or find the event’s Facebook page. The event will be held on the 3rd floor of the David Adamany Undergraduate Library’s Community Room.

About the Author:

Eve Kucharski
Writing became my life when I enrolled at Michigan State University's journalism program. In May 2017, I earned my bachelor's degree in journalism with a concentration in electronic news media. I am thrilled to be working as an editorial assistant at Between The Lines.