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

The Early History of the Gay Liberation Movement
at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Allen Bell, left, and Steve Duhr, right

Allen Bell and Steve Duhr, 1973
Allen on the left, and Steve on the right, were likely dressed and ready for a trip to the gay discos of Des Moines; taken on North Hyland Street, Ames.

In December 1971 about a dozen people met at an informal press conference at the Y.W.C.A. building on the campus of Iowa State University. The meeting was announced in the school paper, the Daily. At this meeting the announcement was made of a new group forming on campus, part of the Gay Liberation movement that was sweeping the U.S. since June of 1969, one and a half years earlier, when riots against police brutality occurred over raids of a gay bar, the Stonewall, in New York City.

I was a very scared, barely out-of-the-closet, college sophomore, still living in the closet in a university dormitory at that time, who mustered up the courage and went to this meeting at the Y.W.C.A. that evening. The political movement and social aspect of gay liberation would be a defining part of my life for the next few years, and is certainly a root of who I am now.

I kept a scrapbook of many things gay liberation and local to the Iowa State community over the next few years, and share them here. Along with my own artifacts, I have other information from other friends and old friends who surfaced to share more of the time period. I hope the history will be of use and interesting to people who might like it just to read or for historical re purposes, although I believe the school library at Iowa State has a lot more complete archives than this.

Most of this deals with a specific time period, 1971-1978 (I left Ames in 1978). I know there were other groups afterwards, and would gladly share parts of their history too if anyone chooses to share it, but I have received an occasional angry email through the years for leaving these groups out of my history. I cannot share what I do not have or do not know.

This version of these pages is being revised in October 2011 so that it will more correctly conform to css coding, and hopefully some parts of the site will be better designed for viewing images. Otherwise, it is mostly consistent with the original information first put online in about 2001.

I encourage others with ISU/Ames connections to make additions, subtractions, and contributions to this tale so we can make it more complete and give it more than just my own perspective. There are now 40 years of openly gay history at Iowa State University. Though much is preserved, personal accounts and recollections are not, and perhaps even many of our mementos are not.

Email me if you want to contribute. If you do choose to write, be gentle and considerate of those who might read this journal and be unhappy to have their names or stories included.

—Dennis Brumm
Lambda Line
Cy Leaning on Lambda

Historical Resources, Articles, Personal Recollections, and Submissions

Text renditions of most of the articles are available on the individual pages. Many of the photographs in this section of my website were taken with relatively inexpensive cameras of the 1970s (most of us had Instamatic cameras and so forth), so they are not of the highest quality. Unfortunately, by autumn, 1974, I had become less fanatical about saving every clipping and article referring to our groups and activities. Submissions of missing information are always welcome, though sometimes it takes me a while to get them posted.

The guy, er, bird, over to left will be recognizable to everyone of my generation as the Iowa State mascot, "Cy," but this version of him is now known as "Retro Cy," and a more grisly, violent-looking, teeth-gnashing Cy is running around campus these days.

Ames/ISU Gay Liberation Group Names: 1971-1974

Lambda Line
Lambda: Unity in the Face of Oppression Pink Triangle from Concentration Camp, World War II


Two images are frequently used in these pages, the lambda and the pink triangle. The Greek letter lambda in early days of gay lib signified "Unity in the face of oppression." The pink triangle was chosen as a symbol as it was the patch that known gays were forced to wear in the Nazi concentration camps in World War II. Click on the pink triangle to the left to see the entire color and patch codes used by the Nazis (in German).

1971-1972 School Year

1972-1973 School Year

1973-1974 School Year


After 1978

Newsletters, Pamphlets, and Magazines:

Disco Music:

Relevant Photographs:

Related Offsite Links:

Clicking on these links will spawn a new window or tab to load the link. Though periodically I check the links, no guarantee is made for the current status of information on any offsite links.

Intersecting Symbols Line

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