Thursday, February 11, 2010

Louisville's 'LGBT Community In The 1980s' Forum To Be Held February 16

Louisville, 1981. The Humana Building was yet to be built. There was no Kentucky Center for the Arts. The Watterson Expressway was still a four-lane nightmare. The airport was an antiquated remnant of the 1950s called Standiford Field.

Old Louisville was still struggling to spiff itself up. Cardinal Boulevard was called Avery Street, and it was only two lanes. The tall apartment building across from the Confederate Monument was called Confederate Towers. Its address was on Confederate Place.

Belknap Campus was half the size it is today. There was no student center. Ekstrom Library was brand new. Where the athletic fields sit today, several low-lying warehouses and factories stood.

In that same year, what was Louisville’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community doing?

Metropolitan Community Church was nearing its 8th anniversary, and there were two small social and support groups. The city had two major gay bars: the Downtowner and the Badlands Territory (to be renamed the Discovery that year). And that’s it. No political groups, no health organizations, no other social or support groups, not even student groups: nothing.

Fast forward to the end of the decade.

In 1989, the LGBT community convinced the old Louisville Board of Aldermen to pass an ordinance banning discrimination against people with AIDS. In 1990, that same community convinced the Board of Aldermen to pass a hate crimes ordinance that included the category of sexual orientation (though not gender identity). In 1991, the Fairness Campaign was launched, initiating eight years of efforts before a local LGBT civil rights ordinance was finally passed.

What happened in Louisville’s LGBT community in the 80s that enabled such a decade of growth and progress in the 90s and beyond? Why the 80s, and not the 70s or the 90s? What lessons did the community learn in the 80s, what challenges? What victories did it have, and what defeats? In short, why was the community so sedate in 1981 and so noisy ten years later?

“Busting Out: Louisville ’s LGBT Community in the 1980s” hopes to answer those and other questions. Seven leaders from that era will participate in a forum to be held at Strickler Hall, Room 102, on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 from 7-9 PM . The public is invited to attend and ask questions.

For more information, contact Brian Buford at the University of Louisville’s Office for LGBT Services ( or David Williams, founder of the Williams-Nichols Archive and Library for LGBT Studies at the University of Louisville, at

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