The ‘power’ in a name is held by both those in a position to come up with the name and those who see themselves reflected in that name. In the past, the name was decided and voted on by the primarily white, male officers and group members. This led to name choices like the Gay Student Union in 1983, despite the word ‘lesbian’ being popularized in the 1960s and 70s. Lesbians were always very much a part of the GSU, despite not initially holding officer positions or seeing themselves directly reflected in the name of their organization itself.
Ultimately, the shifts in the name tell a story of power and representation. The steady shift to use more inclusive language suggests a graduate shift toward greater respect and equality among the different queer constituencies. Whether that vision has been fully realized with the current organization name, Spectrum, is up for debate, but it certainly comes closer than many of the 6 previous names.
The means of collection for the Miller-Stephens Collection were entirely dependent on the efforts of past members resulting in so little materials concerning the Queer Straight Alliance. Another result of this collection method is that queer students who were never a part of this group or left this group are not represented in the materials found within the collection.
It was a common expression for the GSU to say that their membership numbers were not truly indicative of the actual number of queer students on the University of Alabama campus considering an estimated 10% of the general population is queer to some degree. Those students who were either closeted or felt no kinship with the organization represent perspectives absent from this assessment of the University of Alabama’s emerging queer community. Chief among these missing perspectives is that of the Black queer community.
The student organization was primarily white and although race was mentioned in their nondiscrimination policy, there is no evidence that Black students felt particularly welcomed in the group, held leadership positions, or believed that their unique identities were being advocated for. Finding the places where these Black queer students felt safe and built their own community is critical in illuminating the full range of queer student life at the University of Alabama.