Queer Straight Alliance: 2003-2007

Queer Women on Campus Logo

Logo of the Queer Women on Campus student organization

The GLBTA became the Queer Straight Alliance rather than including queer by changing their name to the GLBTQA. Previously, other group iterations mentioned that membership was not indicative of sexual orientation and that allies were always welcome. Nevertheless, QSA is the first time that straight identity was explicitly included within the name. This could be indicative of the group’s struggling membership numbers, that they began recruiting straight members. This could also demonstrate an assimilation stance from the group, at odds with the Queer in the name.

Within the Miller-Stephens Collection, there is very little documentation of this iteration of the group. The methods of collection for the Miller-Stephens was entirely dependent on members, officers, and faculty advisors to the group keeping their physical memories from their time with the organization. There was very little of such materials found to be put into the collection from the group’s time as the Queer Straight Alliance. What is present in the collection is the emergence of a new queer undergraduate organization, the Queer Women on Campus. This group’s foundation marks the first time there has been more than one officially recognized queer undergraduate organization on the University of Alabama campus.

Because both groups chose to use the umbrella term ‘queer’, it can be inferred that the tension causing the split did not come from the name as it had in previous years. Instead, the QWOC founding documents told the story of a power struggle that the group’s queer women-- especially lesbians-- had persistently been losing for years. Previously in 1989, there was mention of an event in the first issue of The Lavender Tide during which a woman stood up at an election meeting to demand of the officer candidates, “What will you do to get Lesbians back?” [1] Past documents show the group formed subcommittees, small discussion groups, and caucuses to assure women’s voices were being heard. Despite this, there was never any evidence of changes being made citing the women from those subgroups.

This is significant because it illustrates the there is power in a name, but that power is often aspirational. It is important that the power given by the name is supported by the reality of those people’s experience within the group. Even small things, like the groups insistence to retain the G before the L in the name despite the rest of the country’s switch, demonstrate that women were not being positioned as leaders and decision makers within this organization.

Working within the idea that a name designates power, straight allies would have gained power in the organization following the name change. What little power queer women in the group did feel they possessed, was now further divided.

1 Hoole Special Collections Library, Miller-Stephens LGBTQ UA Student Organization collection, Box 2, Folder 9, The Lavender Tide, Volume 1, Number 1