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

Gay Liberation and the ISU School Year, 1972/73

Growth, Men's Rap, Lesbian Alliance, Evolution

Frisbie House, Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa

Frisbie House on Lincoln Way
photo courtesy of Harold James Osler


1972-73 was not a terribly outwardly political year for the men or women's groups in Ames - Gay Liberation Front had toned down its name to Gay Men's Rap Group and that made a lot of people more interested in joining up with us because rapping was less scary than liberating was. In fact it was just an evolution from most of what had happened the year previous. Often times we spent meetings having weekly meetings to discuss what we weren't discussing properly in the meetings and supporting each other through all the day to day trials we were having among ourselves or the tribulations we felt up against living in a hostile world. We developed a pretty strong group dynamic. It may sound boring but it was far from it, it was fascinating at the time and an experience I doubt any of us would have wanted to miss. The group grew in numbers, in fact a big influx hit us first meeting of the year at Frisbie House, but as a group we weren't exposed to Daily reporters and articles as much during the second year of the organization as we were in the group's first year, and it was a good growing time for the new people who didn't necessarily feel they wanted to be overtly political animals. Joey Franko sat back some and let grow what he started, though he withdrew more so the next year, and many of that bevy of new members that had come into the men's group remained throughout the year. In fact I think Allen Bell and I got the group going at the beginning of the second year after we had a meeting that summer before school started. He was living in the old "Lincoln Apartments" on Lincoln Way, I remember visiting him there. I think he was in a basement apartment if memory serves right. I was a bit ambivalent, but I remember Allen wanting the group to continue, so he should be given full credit.

Lesbian Alliance was, far as I know, in its first year in 1972; for women separatism was the calling card of the day. From the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front the year before, or after that first public meeting which featured men and women together, the men and women were essentially separate groups. There was a men's and women's group roller skating party in Des Moines, I believe, during this school year. Most of us were exposed to the gay bars in Iowa's capitol city for the first time during the year as Iowa had lowered its legal drinking age down to 19 in 1971 and further to 18 in 1972. I think the gay people in Des Moines were playing volleyball in some gymnasium on Sunday afternoons that year too, if memory serves me right, because I remember traveling down there to participate on a few Sundays. There also was a radio call in show with Betty Lou Varnum on station WOI during the late winter or early part of spring quarter.

Dugan's Deli on West Street in Ames, Iowa

Ad from Dugan's Deli, on West Street in Ames

The restaurant with the dubious name, Sambo's, on Lincoln Way east of campus was a hangout for many different groups of people. Dugan's Deli/Bar had opened up on West Street just west of campus. Before that lots of the Ames Counterculture was most comfortable in a bar off Welch Street near campus called Rippey's Orchard. Lots of gay people who had no intention of being political still found themselves having contact with our group due to the inevitability of being in a minority group in a relatively small town, and I was exposed to a whole social structure and fabric of gay men and lesbians unknown to me before. Families and what constituted a family suddenly seemed to be quite different groups of people than they had been just a year before.

Lambda Line

The Personal is the Political

I was not a student during the full entirety of this school year. As was mentioned on an earlier page, my finances had been cut off late in spring quarter of 1972, and gone was my car, taken back by a father, who, was still furious his control had ended over my life. When he cut me off he swore I would come back begging at his feet someday. He was wrong. The rare times I went home in the months following that period when I'd first told him I was gay, he would try anything to regain control over me; I remember once he told me I had to be in by 10 if I left his house. I told him to eat shit because I was an adult who was making up my own rules.

We were not getting along particularly well.

Another odd thing happened while he was busy grasping at fleeting shadows. As summer neared he accused me of telling him I was gay to keep him from getting remarried (my own mother had died in 1967). There was one major problem with his theory right then, that being I didn't know he was planning on getting remarried nor did I even have an inkling he was seeing anybody. Finding out about the happy occasion, I begged him please to get remarried soon and devote his energies to the marriage, and please to leave me alone. At least he followed the first part of my suggestion. Until the final days before the wedding, though, he was convinced I would not come back home to be in it. I reassured him but he was living in his own world of denial. I did go back, although it was a hassle because I had to hitchhike to get there since he had taken away the car I had previously used to travel between my home and his home. The wedding was in a house in Illinois at a relative of my new stepmother. I was pleasant but I was on guard the whole day; it was being thrust into a situation the furthest thing possible from the life I was then living.

I had changed since my first trip to Minneapolis.

Even my father, the rigid one, mellowed a bit after the first year's explosion subsided. Within a year or so (probably because I just wasn't bothering to hitchhike home much), he gave me the old car back to use, but only after I made sure its ownership was put in my name before I'd consider taking it. Up until he died in 1986, things seemed to always be somewhat tense, but thinking back on it they probably were like that even in high school before I came out.

—Dennis Brumm

Intersecting Symbols Line