Our History

Recollecting Our History

More than a century’s worth of UC queer lore — from 1882 to the early 21st century — has been documented and archived at “Gay Bears: The Hidden History of the Berkeley Campus.”  This fascinating tour of people, places, events, and dates is available thanks to library staff archivist Bill Benemann and collaborators.

For at least the last 35 years, LGBTQ staff and faculty have been out and about on campus in various fashions befitting the times.  A reminiscence, circa 1978, of earlier days of faculty convening is offered courtesy of emeritus professor of philosophy Bruce Vermazen. 

Collective organizing emerged with heightened visibility in 1989.  The following capsule history is courtesy of staff member Cathy McIntosh:

   The LGBT organization that is now called LavenderCal was originally called LeGaSEE (pronounced "legacy"), which stood for Lesbian Gay Staff Empowerment and Enlightenment.  LeGaSEE was co-founded by Jessea Greenman and Cathy McIntosh on October 11, 1989.  After Cathy's speech at the National Coming Out Day rally in Sproul Plaza, flyers were distributed to interested staff members, and a flyer was sent to every department/unit listed in the campus directory (nearly 500).   Within a couple of months, about 50 staff members had joined the organization.  The co-founders sent those people a flyer featuring a map of the campus with a triangle indicating each person on the LeGaSEE mailing list (at least one in nearly every building), inviting them to a first meeting (an after-5:00 pm meeting held in a classroom).  LeGaSEE became an officially registered/recognized staff organization and active member of the Council of Staff Organizations (CSO).  Cathy served as LeGaSEE Coordinator on CSO while Jessea served a three-year term on the Chancellor's Staff Advisory Committee (CSAC).  For a few years, "monthly" lunches gathered on the lawn by the Campanile (or other lawns on campus) and a newsletter was printed, but eventually only the e-mail list continued.

   In the mid/late 1990s, the name of the organization was changed to LeTsGaB/"Let's Gab" in order to include a "B" and a "T" in the name.  In June 2004, the name was changed again to LavenderCal.

   Along the way, various Cal faculty and staff activists were instrumental in winning expanded non-discrimination protections, including domestic partner benefits, for the UC system.  

A Work in Progress

Can you help recollect more chapters of LGBTQ activism and organizers at UCB in recent decades?  Remember any vignettes of our history at Cal in the last 35 years?  Did you take part in a particular campus or UC action or initiative?  Know a staff retiree, an emeriti faculty member, or a long-time current employee who might have tales to share? 

Want to honor the memory of a community member who has passed?  Want to salute long-time activists who are too modest to speak up for themselves?

If so, please get in touch with LavenderCal’s historians and herstorians by emailing lavmail@lists.berkeley.edu .  Let's recall and preserve our collective recent evolutions as staff and faculty at the most eminent public university in the country and the world.