Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance
In the 1970s, following the beginnings of the national second-wave feminist and gay liberation movements, lesbians at Smith slowly began to emerge as community. According to one student, in 1971 “an awareness of lesbianism simply did not exist” at Smith. In 1973, at the college’s first Women’s Weekend, a number of women came out during a workshop on bisexuality, and formed a support group called Sophia Sisters. They had low visibility on campus, faced a good deal of discrimination, and had disbanded by 1975. The Lesbian Alliance was founded in 1976, in a new political climate. “We turned away from personal growth and socializing to get down to political brass tacks. Some of us were very angry—the issue of how we would deal with the world outside Smith as lesbians became very real to us.” Their stated goals were support for lesbians at Smith, communication with the college community, and distribution of information. They received an official charter and funding in their second year.
Among the activities that the Alliance organized in its early years were discussions of lesbianism with the Head Residents of houses, speakers and workshops, and poetry readings. They struggled with the Student Government Association over funding, and with the administration, particularly President Jill Conway, over the college’s attitude toward lesbian students. The group had a space in Capen Annex, next to what was then Davis Student Center.
In the early 1980’s, the group became more radical, and one of the coordinators, Linda McRoy urged, “Remember better blatant than latent,” encouraging visibility, involvement with other political groups on campus, and networking with the larger Valley lesbian community. In 1982 a statement declared, “The Lesbian Alliance is not a social club. By nature an organization of allying lesbians is political… It is an aggregation of women who are purposefully ‘maladjusted’, who expect to be an offending and challenging presence.” In 1983, the Alliance conducted a survey of the 124 “Smith women who have been, are, or might be involved in sexual relationships with other women” whom they could identify through social networks. A 1984 controversy concerned the college’s closing of Hover House, a campus co-op house identified as primarily lesbian. In order to deal with the stated need for extra rooms for incoming students, the house was changed to Parsons Annex. The group’s name was altered in 1989 to make it the Lesbian Bisexual Alliance.
The Alliance’s radical attitude had shifted somewhat by the 1990’s. While still prioritizing issues such as awareness and visibility, inclusion of LBG issues in academia, and connecting with alumnae and other groups within the Five Colleges, the Alliance also held numerous social events, such as dances and a ‘Gayla’ week. Around this time, several homophobic incidents in the houses prompted the vigil that became the gay pride event Celebration, but the Alliance’s official records make no mention of the group being specifically connected with it. The structure of the group had become more formal, with official leadership roles as opposed to the ‘co-facilitators’ with which it had begun. There was also more discussion of inclusiveness, for bisexuals and women of color, and commitment to “bringing women of color and bisexual performers/speakers to LBA events.”
By this time, the community which the Alliance served had expanded in both size and scope, and smaller groups were beginning to splinter off. The group had changed its name again to include ‘Transgender,’ but there also existed a separate ‘T-Committee’ that met in the LBTA space, and Prism, a group for queer women of color. In 2003, a motion to alter the SGA constitution to include gender-neutral language was put to a campus-wide vote. At the same time, the members of the LBTA voted to change their name to Spectrum.