Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

Jessica Wilkerson

Second Advisor

Darren Grem

Third Advisor

Jaime L. Harker

Relational Format



This project explores how the successes and failures of local organizing networks in the South shaped national conversations on the rights of queer Americans. Its starting point is 1970 with the Triangle Gay Alliance’s formation in Raleigh, and it ends in 1978 with the third annual Southeastern Gay Conference and repeal of Miami-Dade County’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Paying close attention to the founding of the Carolina Gay Association in 1975 and the subsequent Southeastern Gay Conferences (SEGCs), the thesis connects the attendance at conferences to locally-organized activist groups from North Carolina to Florida to show that rather than being “lonely hunters” without political or social goals, queer Southerners were in fact developing tactics to extend their rights and stake their claim to their homes in the Southeast. Finally, the project looks to the various political actions, literary organizations, and other community groups that formed as direct results of the Southeastern Gay Conferences, pointing to their centrality in an increasingly active and aware queer South. The first chapter provides the backdrop of national gay liberation and the political climate that led to the formation of various queer groups as well as opposition to their formation, especially the Carolina Gay Association at UNC Chapel Hill. The middle chapter focuses on the Southeastern Gay Conferences of 1976, 1977 and 1978, and on the events that occurred during them specifically, as well as the issues that emerged from them. The final chapter begins to examine the outcomes of the organizing that coalesced at the SEGCs, specifically the Miami-Dade nondiscrimination ordinance, Womonwrites Conferences, and lesbian literary ventures such as Sinister Wisdom and Feminary.



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