Once members of a silent, closeted minority, gay students in the '80s are seeking increased political power and expanded rights. And they are doing so at a time when the mood on college campuses across the country has shifted from a liberal to a distinctly conservative bias, spawning a spate of hard-nosed, conservative student newspapers and rallies held not to liberate the repressed but to push religious ideals and right-wing values (Manegold & Phillips 1984).
Only 47 universities bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (as does only one state, Wisconsin). Admittedly, lesbian and gay studies are offered at about 30 schools, and there are nearly 300 lesbian and gay student organizations. But many of these groups function under a cloud of controversy, and most exist without the official recognition necessary for office space and funds (Bendet 1986).
Its frankness, even more than its extraordinary range of services and education programs, is what sets the Columbia Gay Health Advocacy Project apart from other campus AIDS organizations. Few of its counterparts elsewhere would dare say they exist chiefly to serve the medical and emotional needs of homosexual students and employees. Fewer still would admit to having any kind of political agenda--much less an agenda that unflinchingly links improving the health of gay students with fighting homophobia. "We're very overtly political, in a way," says Laura Pinsky, the three-year-old project's founder and director, who is a therapist in the mental-health division of Columbia's health service. "The more tortured people are about their sexuality, the more trouble they have practicing safer sex" (Biemiller 1988).
These citations vividly suggest the scope of complex problems faced by undergraduate college and university students who identify themselves with what has come to be known in the culture as the lesbian (female homosexual) and gay (male homosexual) community. It is es...