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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 >>

Collaborative work between gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trangender people

Palmquist offers his thoughts on the importance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people working together cooperatively. While he concedes that there are benefits to these groups acting independently, he argues that, overall, collaborative work was most effective. In particular, he stresses how this worked with B-GLAD and its policies for leadership.

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:
Another thing that I would like to address that I think is kind of interesting to me. Initially, you talked about activism, gay activism—whether you are talking about the Mattachine Society or CGA or whatever. In the beginning there were gay men, there might have been a few lesbians. They tended to be in separate organizations. Now there is this trend, probably, I think that it is fair to say—I think that it may have been happening in the mid 80s in the bigger cities, but probably in the 90s we went to gay and lesbian associations; gay, lesbian and bisexual; now it is gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Do you think that addressing these issues of multi-culturalism can kind of distract gay men from forming their own community because they are so busy in trying to address all of these groups? I think that this is kind of a sticky issue? And even when you are to limit these multi-cultural issues and come into an organization as a WASP do you feel like you are treated like the non-minority? What are those dynamics? Now, it seems that Gay men are almost like the status quo sometimes.
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Right, well within the movement, often I think we are the status quo, and I think that there is a lot of value in having a group—sort of an umbrella group which appeals to, or works for LGBT/queer all together. I also think that it is worthwhile groups to have just gay men together, or just lesbians, and I think that is something that is valuable. But I think that working together is really important too, I think. Our communities have so much in common and especially when you start talking about politics, our political goals are so much the same, and so intertwined that I don't think that it makes sense to separate that out to me.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So often organizations get formed, I think—Do you feel that there is often a pressure to be all inclusive of all the other queer people?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, I think that there is that pressure, certainly and we tried to deal with that, having B-GLAD as a whole open to everyone, but we did do some women only or men only events.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Like what?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
My junior year we did, caucus lunches that we—we didn't call them caucuses— [Laughter] . But you know, we would have a bisexual lunch for bisexuals to just get together and hang out or gay men, or lesbians, and I thought that that was really good. There were some programs—It was real interesting, my sophomore year, the political committee, which sort of formed on its own and then became the political committee of B-GLAD was essentially all women. Most of their meetings were all lesbians and I. Which was a really interesting dynamic for me.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
I remember once I arranged for a gay camp out and all of the lesbians showed up, and I thought, "This is not going to be any fun." [Laughter] Great to see ya'll but…
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, so that was really interesting, but actually I was sort of instrumental in getting that group of lesbians to become the political committee of B-GLAD and to see themselves as part of B-GLAD because the group was pretty male dominated that year. We seemed to have gay men and three bisexual women and the lesbians were just not part of the group. So, we wanted to try and get women involved as well. It was interesting, because by my senior year there had really been this shift where the group was pretty well dominated by women, and we had a terrible time trying to find a guy to run when I left.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Which, I think was really as first in the history of the organization before—
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, and I believe this last year, they actually had a weird system where they had two women the first semester and two men the second semester.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Which, I thought was illegal?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
Yeah, I don't know, they must have changed the by-laws or something. Actually, I think that the bylaws say one man and one woman when possible. So I guess that if nobody runs, then—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So if there is a big pressure whether or not it is a predominantly male or predominantly female organization or gay or lesbian organization and there is this big pressure to have someone of the other gender as the co-chair—We both know that there—as with you there are some arm twisting going on to get people active I organizations. Do you think that this ultimately lends to tokenism? This drive to just have someone? Or that purely just symbolic if that person really can't contribute? If you have two people who really want a job who come forward, it is something I have struggled with in organizations, and you have four gay white men who show up who want to do something. What do you do? Do you say no, you can't have leadership roles because you are four white gay men?
IAN THOMAS PALMQUIST:
I don't think that it is symbolic. I really feel like—I was really committed to having women and men involved in the group. I think that it would be really hard to do that if you did not have the leadership also reflect that. You know, I know that a lot of people don't like that kind of quota or what ever. But, when you get down to it, I think, there is a lot that gay men and lesbians don't have in common and if you have all male leadership or all female leadership it's going to be a challenge to serve both. So, since I do think that it is worthwhile to work together I think that it is worth having a male and female co-chair.