Voices of Minnesota

Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Community Oral History Project


DATE: October - December 1993

INTERVIEWER: Scott Paulsen

The Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Community Oral History Project is a look into the lives of eight people connected with the local gay/lesbian community after WWII until the advent of AIDS in the early Eighties. Throughout the interviews the narrators recount early impressions of what they thought homosexuality was, personal experiences of how they came to terms with their sexuality, where they socialized with those like themselves, and the overall social environment they experienced in the Twin Cities. Narrators aware of their homosexuality up through the Sixties tell about a quiet group identification comprising a new minority.

Twin Cities gay liberation occurred in the wake of other social movements of the Sixties. Koreen Phelps tells of her motivation in the founding of F.R.E.E. and campus based activism beginning in 1969. The Seventies brought gay inclusion in party politics. Kerry Woodward of Minnesota Committee for Gay Rights tells how in federal politics the gay lobby became alternately known as the "Minnesota Mafia". Allan Spear speaks about the less radical forces which influenced him and other less radical people to come out publicly, and in the process come clean about their sexuality, rid themselves of unwanted exposure, and thwart negative notions about homosexuality.

Gay organizations, and later those identified as lesbian, were pioneered to replace conventional ones which incorrectly addressed or worse sought to eliminate homosexuality as a sin in religion, illness in psychiatry, and crime in law. Leo Treadway tells about his involvement at the U of M's Program in Human Sexuality, youth programs for sexual minorities and founding of Wingspan ministry. Jean Tretter tells about the development of celebrating sexual identity traditions, including Gay Pride celebrations, participation in sport and the Gay Games, and community radio. Dennis Miller tells about the backlash to early Seventies gains, the New Right's attacks on St. Paul's gay rights ordinance in 1977-1978, the 1980 bath-house raids by the Minneapolis Police, and the toll of AIDS. Ashley Rukes talks about transgender people who do not fit neatly into society as either homosexual or heterosexual.

Narrators address the existence of one gay community. Many describe a diverse coalition of gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, which spans all classes, political ideologies, ethnic and racial lines. These diverse factions have come together when needed in common cause.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEWS: 14 hours 51 minutes

TRANSCRIPTS: 233 pages