Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication Date



The history of a gay and lesbian student community at Colby seems to point to the difficulty of visibility. For students who were able to find others like themselves, their group of lesbian and gay friends had to remain underground. For students who were grappling with their newly found, socially stigmatized sexuality, the experience was isolating if they did not know where to find others like themselves. This paper seeks to address the social forces that kept sexually variant students from expressing their sexual identities openly on campus. Part of this difficulty is attributable to the compulsory heterosexuality assumed by general American society at the time, manifested in the silence or outright hostility directed against homosexuals. Naturally, Colby students replicated this assumption. Some of the students we interviewed seemed to internalize compulsory heterosexuality, while it was forced upon others. Religion and psychology were two methods of enforcing heterosexuality that were relevant to the people we interviewed. Another significant obstacle to visibility was Colby's location and the nature of Colby's student body. Waterville, unlike more urban cities, did not have a history of gay life, and thus an established gay community or gay identity into which one could be socialized. Colby, as a small, homogeneous and isolated space, posed difficulties in establishing a gay community as the population to draw from was small and regulated.


Colby College Oral History project for a course entitled "Sexual Variance in American History since 1850." (WG 298)



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