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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ian Thomas Palmquist, June 27, 2001. Interview K-0848. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Prevalence of T-rooms on the UNC campus

Palmquist discusses the prevalence of T-rooms on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when he was a college student in the late 1990s. Palmquist describes how he learned about T-rooms and offers a humorous anecdote about his initial confusion regarding the name. He also mentions other venues of socialization for gays in the area during those years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ian Thomas Palmquist, June 27, 2001. Interview K-0848. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CHRIS McGINNIS:
You obviously got kind of involved in the activist scene, there are obviously other venues where gay people interacted. Did you know about any other places where people went? I know that Chapel Hill did not really have that big of a bar scene, but.
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, I mean, plenty of guys drove on down to Raleigh every weekend to go to Legends, sometimes multiple days of the weekend, and of course there is Café Trios scene which overlapped a lot with the activist community, but not completely.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
That was always kind of bizarre to me, Café Trios—
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Coffee doesn't seem to be very faciliatory to socializing. Was that just a place where people would hang out?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, Café Trios—I don't drink coffee, actually but I was there every night for most of my sophomore and Junior year. That is just the place that I would go. You never knew exactly which of my friends would be there, but there were always folks around.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Did students ever—Did you ever get any kind of pressure, did QNC ever get any kind of pressure about the T-room scene. About those homosexuals have sex in the bathrooms and what did you know about it.
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
We—well, I think that everybody hears the rumors and has some idea of which buildings have—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Which ones were rumored when you came?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
God, when I came, actually, when I first came there was a map on the wall in the B-GLAD office that someone had shaded in pink [Laughter] buildings that had that reputation, which amused me and struck me as not exactly being what I would have put on the wall. [Laughter]
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Buildings were just kind of highlighted in pink?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
It did not say what the are, there are just these buildings which are highlighted in pink and you look at them and you are like, "What do these buildings have in common?" Hmmm. [Laughter] At that point, I think Bingham, Bingham basement all the way through you would hear stuff about that. Gardner, Dey, although they started locking the bathrooms in Dey, which as someone in the linguistics department with lots of foreign language classes always pissed me off. [Laughter] It was like, "How am I supposed to pee?" I think that those were the main ones.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Did anyone ever approach you as the spokesman for the gay community and that they felt like there was a problem and they needed you to handle it.
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
No, but I have heard of this in the past.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
In the past people did.
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
I have heard, you know, nightmares.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Yeah, Joe Herzenberg was called to the meetings. [Laughter]
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Susan Erhinghaus. You know there was this overlap between the people who are out and involved in B-GLAD and the people who are in the T-room scene is really minimal.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Usually those folks are really closeted.
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, and I don't think, there was nothing B-GLAD could do about it if we wanted too. But no, we really did not get a lot of that.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Yeah, because I got a speech when I first came to UNC and people said, "If anybody calls and wants to talk to you, fine," because we would get a lot of prank calls. But they would say, "Never talk to anyone about T-rooms." And I was like, "What are T-rooms?" And this lesbian said, she said, "Well, they are places where gay men meet and interact… "It was very PC. So I was picturing something like the Carolina Coffee Shoppe. I was like, God I want to find the T-rooms! [Laughter] The must serve Tea and not coffee. [Laughter]