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Early Gay Liberation Movement at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 1971-1978
Lambda Line

Early Gay Lib in Ames

Harold Osler in 2005

Harold Osler in 2005.

So my friend Dennis has this website with all these memories about early gay lib in Ames and he's been nagging; insisting; encouraging the rest of us to add our own memories to it. And not being all that subtle about it either.

Anyway, I was trying to collect my thoughts and put them in some sort of order. And apparently I'm not as linear as I thought -- my mind jumps from one reference point to another. Trying to remember the first meeting I attended leads to Frisbie House which reminds me of Terry Rice's apartment which leads me to the whole mountain-climber/backpack look where you couldn't tell the straight boys from the gay ones . . .anyway, memory is not sequential so here goes.

When I look back I can't believe how naïve I was then. I was in Ames for three months in fall, 1972, before I had any inkling that there were other gay men there. I had read books in the library ("The Gay Militants" comes to mind) and knew that there were groups on other campuses like Iowa City or Madison but didn't have the slightest clue as to how to find them at Iowa State. I'd even written a letter to Troy Perry after reading his book ("The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay"), but never heard back. Of course, when I finally did meet other gay men it was amazing just how much was going on below the surface. If only my "gaydar" had been up and running, I could have saved myself the time. I did see an ad for Lesbian Alliance -- ("Join Your Sisters!") but for reasons I don't recall, I never contacted them.

Eventually there was an ad in the Daily for the Gay Men's Rap Group and I wrote asking for more information and spent the next few weeks (it seemed like weeks anyway) positive that I had walked into an elaborate trap that was going to ruin my life. But, one night I got the phone call -- my memory says it was Jimmy Bickford -- telling me that there was going to be a meeting at Frisbie House on Lincoln Way Sunday the 14th. At least I think it was the 14th. I do remember that it was cold and the snow was piled up all over. I was a wreck all day and when it was time to show up, I had to go around the block and get my nerves calmed down enough to enter the building. I finally just sort of rushed my way into the building and immediately to my left was a large room with a couple of couches and various chairs for seating and several people already chatting. When I paused in the door, someone asked me if I was there for the Gay Men's Group and "have a seat" (I think it was Allen) and that was the beginning of my descent into the gay scene [snicker]. I don't know what was discussed or if I even said a word. MY memory tells me that Dennis, Allen, Joey and Steve Court were all at that first meeting (along with others who I don't recall). I don't recall if we went out after for coffee -- seems to me that some people were going to Sambo's but I'm not sure.

But it was the first time I'd been around other men who were gay and didn't seem crazy or weird (that came later). I wasn't the only one any more and some of these men have remained friends all these years later. And while it's annoying that they know and remember WAY too much, I wouldn't have it any other way.

—Harold James Osler

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