Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender

Written by: Anne E. Tracy Draft date: January 2000

Purpose or Scope of Collection

A. Curricular/Research/Programmatic Needs

The purpose of collecting GLBT materials in the Michigan State University Libraries is to develop an in-depth resource of cross-disciplinary materials representing diverse or opposing viewpoints on the construction and development of gender and sexual identities, homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. Special attention has been focused on representing the cultural and political experiences of diverse and marginalized groups of people, including particular contributions from people of various sexual identities, and among them, especially those persons from minority cultures, races, classes, etc. In order to support curricular and research needs in these subject areas, Special Collections occasionally acquires, by purchase or donation, sexually explicit materials. When preserved and made accessible for research in an academic setting, these controversial artifacts of our culture become primary source material for documenting historical shifts in the social construction of sexual and gender identities. Collecting sexually explicit texts or pictures involves consideration also of the politics of pornography and issues of free speech. Therefore, special care is taken to represent views as diverse as possible, including anti-pornography feminists, free-speech advocates, gay rights advocates, ex-gay or reparative therapy movements, transgender activists, gay and lesbian Christians, anti-homosexual Christians, gay nudists, gay and lesbian parents, Marxist gays, Log Cabin Republicans, etc.

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) collection of materials in Special Collections (SPC) supports the information, instruction, and research needs of MSU faculty, students, and staff, as well as visiting researchers and the general public. While no formal academic programs in gay, lesbian, queer or gender studies currently exist at MSU, the GLBT materials serve numerous University departments and programs whose faculty and students pursue research interests in human sexuality and gender. Foremost among these is Women’s Studies; others include American Thought and Language, History, English, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Anthropology, American Studies, Religion, etc.

B. History of the Collection/Existing Strengths and Emphases

Collecting of primary materials from the post Stonewall "Gay Liberation Movement" began in Special Collections in the early 1970’s, with the formation of a Gay Liberation Front student group on campus. At about that time, the Detroit Gay Liberator newspaper began to be published. Soon after, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival began, and Everywoman Weekends were held on this campus, with lesbian workshops, speakers and performers. As posters, schedules, leaflets and other primary ephemeral materials related to these events became available, they were added, along with similar documents of other social movements of the 1970’s, to the American Radicalism Collection in Special Collections. In the 1980’s, increased attention was paid to issues of diversity at MSU, and in 1990, to assure that GLBT people were not overlooked in ongoing discussion and policy making, a task force was formed to examine the climate for GLBT faculty, students and staff at MSU. In 1992, upon publication of the University Wide Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s report, Moving Forward, and with the support of MSU’s Office of the Provost, the library responded with a commitment to build upon the existing strengths present in GLBT materials already in Special Collections, with the goal of improving holdings in primary resources for the study of GLBT political movements, but intending also to expand holdings of rare, popular culture and archival GLBT materials, and to move into non-print formats such as videorecordings, cassette tapes, compact discs, etc. GLBT materials in Special Collections are rich in a variety of formats, by now covering the decades from 1950, or the rise of the homophile movement, to the end of the twentieth century, and ranging from assorted magazines, newspapers and comic books, through literary works both rare and popular, to important archival donations.

Almost 900 serial titles represent magazines, entertainment guides, newspapers, newsletters, catalogs, and directories, in addition to travel and pride guides from all areas of the United States and from some other countries. Popular fiction from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, sometimes called "pulp fiction," is represented in significant amounts for both gay men and lesbians, with some titles featuring bisexual characters. The collection also includes popular transvestite and transsexual fiction from the 1980’s and 1990’s in a format particular to the genre, often sold by mail order. Gay and lesbian fiction post-Stonewall features titles from gay and lesbian small press publishers such as Alyson, Masquerade, Seal, Knights Press, Banned Books, Cleis, Spinsters/Aunt Lute, Firebrand, and Gay Sunshine Press. A variety of genres are represented in the fiction collections, including books for children of gay and lesbian parents, young adult fiction, science fiction, romance, westerns and detective/mystery fiction.

One of the world’s finest collections of comic art includes significant amounts of the works of important gay and lesbian or bisexual artists such as, Howard Cruse, Tom of Finland, Alison Bechdel, Eric Orner, and Diane Dimassa. Among the American Radicalism collections in Special Collections are historic pamphlets, leaflets, manifestos, and other documents of the early gay and lesbian liberation movements. A growing and significant collection of transsexual, transvestite and other transgender movement materials is present in autobiographies, pamphlets, magazines, newsletters, and fiction from the 1960’s to the present. Some materials relevant to gay men are included in the Changing Men Collection, for example, files or newsletters on Prime Timers and the radical faery movements. Gay male photography collections by individual photographers present significant visual work by contemporary gay artists, for example, Robert Mapplethorpe, Roy Dean, and Tom Bianchi. These are supplemented by an interesting group of earlier gay physique or "muscle" magazines from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, and by contemporary popular photography magazines for gay men. A related example of an unusual archival collection includes selected examples of physique magazines together with a large private collection of separate photographs and related correspondence.

Since the 1970’s, the Special Collections department has documented social change movements and popular trends by developing a collection of over 2,000 vertical files filled with clippings, pamphlets and miscellanea. Many of these contain material devoted to the GLBT movements and communities. Especially strong subject areas include the Gay Liberation Movement, AIDS, Gay and Lesbian Marriage and Domestic Partnerships, Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights, Homophobia, Ex-Gay Movements, and Gay and Lesbian Military Personnel. Archival collections, customarily donated by persons or organizations active in the local community, include papers of the [Michigan State] University Wide Task Force on Lesbian & Gay Issues, early papers from the MSU Gay Liberation Movement, documents from the MSU Gay and Lesbian Faculty Staff Association (GLFSA), and a large collection of newsletters, conference papers, etc., concerning Dignity, the gay Catholic organization. The rare book collections include first editions of eminent gay, lesbian or bisexual writers such as Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes and William Burroughs, as well as an excellent collection of small press poetry from the 1960’s and 1970’s, including key works of important gay and lesbian American poets.