For Pride Month, a Look Back at Duke’s LGBTQ+ Community

Group of students standing under a rainbow of balloons.

That’s not to say Duke has always been a mecca for the LGBTQ+ community. In a 1994 editorial in The Chronicle, then-Trinity senior Tim'm West blasted a decision by the Gay and Lesbian Association to broaden the scope of Blue Jeans Day, “inviting so-called ‘sympathetic straights’ to wear blue jeans in support of  ‘civil rights,’” rather than reserving it exclusively for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals whose identification as such is continually met with intolerance,” he wrote.

West, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Duke, is now executive director of the LGBTQ Institute in Atlanta.

“As an institution within a larger culture, it’s not surprising that the Duke of older times was saturated with homophobia.”

Richard H. Brodhead, 2013

In 2013, then-President Richard H. Brodhead, at the opening of the renamed Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, apologized for the university’s past transgressions when it came to recognizing and supporting gender diversity.

“As an institution within a larger culture, it's not surprising that the Duke of older times was saturated with homophobia,” Brodhead said.

The center’s renaming wasn’t just symbolic, it also moved from the basement of the Brodhead Center to a more visible space in the Bryan Center, which also houses the University Store, bookshop, dining facilities and various other organizations.

A history of homophobia at Duke from the 1960s until 2010 provides readers with a closer look at how the university has evolved via an online exhibit by Duke University Libraries, titled “Queering Duke History.”

In the years since, Duke has provided resources to create a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty.

Students needing support are encouraged to reach out to LGBTQ+ or allied faculty/staff across campus via its Outlist. There also are numerous undergraduate and graduate student groups affiliated with the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

As part of Pride Month, there are numerous activities, as outlined in Pride: Durham, that students, faculty and the community can attend.

For a comprehensive look at the history of LGBTQ life at Duke, go to this timeline created by Duke Student Affairs.

Janie Long was the director of Duke’s Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity from 2006 to 2014. Long left a legacy of inclusion at Duke, having created such events as the Lavender Graduation celebration for LGBTQ+ students.

Lavender Graduation 2017 at the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity

A rainbow flag flies on the Bryan Center Plaza on Coming Out Day in 2018.