Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Collections
The Bentley Historical Library has a large number of materials on the topic of sexuality, particularly at the local and state levels.
Some collections document the lives of early gay activists and personalities. Of particular interest are the papers of Ruth Ellis, an African American woman born before the turn of the 20th century who moved to Detroit in 1937 and became an advocate for gay and lesbian rights. The story of the Yale Puppeteers, operated by three openly gay friends in the early 1920s, is documented by the Dan Bessie collection and Forman Brown's scrapbook, which Brown, one of the Puppeteers, assembled as a student at the University of Michigan in 1918-1922. Brown and his two associates later created the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood in 1941.
Policies and issues relating to sexual orientation at the University of Michigan are well represented in several collections.
In 1971 the University of Michigan, created a Human Sexuality Office under the auspices of its Office of Special Services and Programs. The office changed names several times, and is today known as the Spectrum Center, part of the Division of Student Affairs. Several collections document the history of this organization.
Of great significance is the collection received from University of Michigan staff member James W. Toy. Consisting of materials created and/or collected over a three decade period, mainly from 1971 to 1994, the James Toy Papers are a combination of personal papers and records of the university's Human Sexuality Office in which Toy was employed for twenty-five years. Also available for research are the records of the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Affairs which encompass the period 1976 to 2001, but mainly cover the years from 1989 to 1997.
The papers of Billie Louise Edwards, who was co-director of the University of Michigan Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office (LGMPO) from 1987 to 1993, contain correspondence of this office as well. The papers of Daniel Tsang document the student perspective on gay issues at the University of Michigan.
Beyond the University of Michigan, the library has many collections relating to the history of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender organizations and individuals dedicated to gay rights issues. The James Toy papers include materials about the Gay Liberation Fronts in Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Lesbian and Gay Men's PAC Week
at the University of Michigan.
James Toy Papers, box 17.
These organizations were established in the 1970s to dramatize and seek remedy for the discrimination and harassment that gays and lesbians confronted. Also of interest are the papers of local activists Beth Bashert, Paul Heaton and Charles Duty, who were all involved in gay-related causes, among which the Ypsilanti Campaign for Equality, an organization founded in 2001 to fight against a ballot proposal that would have removed sexual orientation from the anti-discrimination provisions of the city charter. The papers of Craig Covey as well as those of Rudy Serra document the politics of gay rights in Ferndale (Mich.).
In addition the library has the records of Michigan organizations such as the Michigan Organization for Human Rights (MOHR), and two of its offshoots, Triangle and Affirmations. Affirmations Lesbian/Gay Community Center was founded in 1989 to serve as a social and cultural resource center for the gay and lesbian community of the greater Detroit area. Triangle Foundation, formed in Detroit in 1990, is a gay and lesbian civil rights and advocacy organization dedicated to the promotion of equality for gays through media and legislative activism.
Finally the library holds substantial runs of the publications of Michigan-based lesbian and gay male organizations, documenting gay and lesbian culture and activism in the state since the 1970s.