Denim Day at Virginia Tech 40th Anniversary Oral History Collection
Scope and Content
This collection includes oral history accounts from members of the Gay Student Alliance who were involved in the first Gay Awareness Week and the first Denim Day in January 1979. They discuss their time at Virginia Tech, the events surrounding Denim Day and the reaction to it, and their lives after Virginia Tech. There is also an interview with a member of the LGBTA who was involved in the Wear Jeans if You're Gay Day in the 1990s and a recording of a live event featuring excerpts from the interviews and readings of collegiate times articles about the 1979 Denim Day.
- 2019-01-04 - 2019-07-25
- Forte, Joseph A. (Interviewer, Person)
- Hakeem, Danya (Interviewer, Person)
- Ridings, Adrian (Interviewer, Person)
- Goode, Eliza Lily (Interviewer, Person)
- Robidoux, Carol, b. 1959 (Interviewer, Person)
- Lellock, Slade (Videographer, Person)
- Rinehart, Susanna (Artistic director, Person)
- Silas, Caroline (Actor, Person)
- Foster, Kevin (Actor, Person)
- Alvarez, Andrew (Interviewee, Person)
- Barroso, Lisa, b. 1961 (Interviewee, Person)
- Barroso, Mark, b. 1957 (Interviewee, Person)
- Beadle, Scott (Marshall Scott), b. 1960 (Interviewee, Person)
- Benoit, Beth, b. 1959 (Interviewee, Person)
- Brown, Sueann, b. 1958 (Interviewee, Person)
- Critchfield, Steve, b. 1956 (Interviewee, Person)
- Kelly, Nancy (Interviewee, Person)
- Kenealy, Bill (William Edward) (Interviewee, Person)
- Noll, Steve (James Stephen), b. 1953 (Interviewee, Person)
- Sewell, Edd (Edward Holt, Jr.), b. 1944 (Interviewee, Person)
- Simpkins, William David (Interviewee, Person)
- Vachon, Helene G., b. 1958 (Interviewee, Person)
- Wood, Sherry (Interviewee, Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Only the excerpts of the Olga Acosta interview included in Jeans Noticably Absent have been approved for release by the narrator. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for additional information.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use
Permission to publish material from the Denim Day 40th Anniversary Oral History Collection must adhere to the CC BY-NC 4.0 license and credit Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech.
Administrative History - Denim Day
During the week of January 15-19, 1979, the Virginia Tech Gay Student Alliance held the first Gay Awareness Week, a multi-event effort to promote awareness of gay and lesbian people throughout campus. The high point was Denim Day, which called on all students, faculty and staff to show their support of gay rights by wearing denim on that day.
Out of 20,000 students and thousands more faculty and staff, only a few dozen people wore denim, and the Gay Student Alliance members who started it all, and other members of the gay community, endured ridicule, taunting, verbal and physical assaults.
The idea for a 40th Anniversary Commemoration of Denim Day at Virginia Tech came from one of the organizers of the first Denim Day in 1979. Alumna Nancy Kelly returned to Virginia Tech after learning about the opening of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center in the Squires Student Center and after being inspired and encouraged by LGBTQ+ students at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University where she worked. She returned with a desire to see the university officially recognize the struggle that LGBTQ+ students faced here even after the first LGBTQ+ student organizations were recognized by the university and she wanted to raise awareness of the struggles still faced by LGBTQ+ students today.
Beginning in 2019, the Ex Lapide Alumni Society and the entire university community commemorate Denim Day once a year during Virginia Tech's Pride Week. Hokies wear their favorite denim and share their photos on social media with the hashtag #VTDenimDay.
Administrative History - LGBTQ+ groups at Virginia Tech
After a visit from a Florida State University Gay Liberation Front member in the fall of 1970, students at Virginia Tech began organizing their own chapter of the Gay Liberation Front in affiliation with the national homophile leagues. By April of 1971, the Gay Alliance at Virginia Tech (GAVT) had formed with an initial membership of around 40 people.
In May 1971 the Student Constitutional Affairs Board voted 4-1 in favor of recognizing GAVT as an official student organization but that recognition was overturned by the University Council in June.
Four years later, in April 1975, the Gay Student Committee of the Jefferson Democratic Alliance attempted to reserve space on campus and was denied access to a room in the Squires Student Center for their planned discussion of Gay Rights issues and the 1975 Civil Rights Amendment.
In the fall of 1975, a group of students openly announced the formation of the Gay Student Union (GSU) following a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge D. Dortch Warriner that the Gay Alliance of Students at Virginia Commonwealth University was permitted many of the privileges of a registered student organization. While the GSU attempted to obtain a meeting space on campus, they were denied. The group ultimately found a home near campus at the Cooper House (now UKirk), the Presbyterian Campus Ministry. The group goes by the name Gay Student Union through April 1976 but has become the Gay Student Alliance (GSA) by May 1976 when it received official recognition from the Commission for Student Affairs. The group created Gay Awareness Week and held the first Denim Day at Virginia Tech but still struggled to find support from the university administration and community. Women's Space, a lesbian student group, operated alongside the GSA for many years. The last mention of the two organizations in the Collegiate Times is in mid-March 1983.
By October 1983, Lambda Horizons (sometimes written as Lambda Horizon) had organized and begun advertizing their meetings in the Collegiate Times. The group became active on campus, hosting Gay Awareness Weeks, AIDS Awareness Weeks, and the Red Ribbon Ride.
As Lambda Horizons became more well known, LGBTQ+ acceptance at Virginia Tech began to grow. In 1992, the LGBT Faculty and Staff Caucus at Virginia Tech was formed to advocate for the community with the university and in the surrounding area.
Lambda Horizons was renamed the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Alliance in 1994 and then the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Alliance in 1999.
Queer Grads, Professionals, and Allies at Virginia Tech (QGPA), an organization specifically for LGBTQ+ graduate students, was founded in 2010.
In 2012, Queer and Trans People of Color at Virginia Tech (QTPOC), Ex Lapide, the LGBTQIA+ alumni society, and the Virginia Tech chapter of Out in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (OSTEM) were founded.
In 2014, the LGBTA was renamed HokiePRIDE, TransSpace at Virginia Tech and AcrossBorders@VT, a group for international LGBTQ+ people, were founded.
In 2016, the LGBTQ+ Resource Center opened and the Q*mmunity Support Group was created by Cook Counseling Center to provide group counseling support for members of the LGBTQ+ community and those exploring their gender and/or sexual identity.
In 2017, a chapter of Student for Cultivating Change, a group for students with connections to agriculture and natural resources, was founded at Virginia Tech.
In November 2019, TransSpace was renamed True Colors at VT
In July 2020, the LGBT Faculty and Staff Caucus was renamed the LGBTQ+ Caucus at Virginia Tech.
98.22 Gigabytes (32 files)
Language of Materials
This collection includes oral history accounts of the first Denim Day event at Virginia Tech in January 1979.
Source of Acquisition
The interviews were arranged and recorded by or on behalf of Special Collections and University Archives in 2019.
Rights Statement for Archival Description
The guide to the Denim Day at Virginia Tech 40th Anniversary Oral History Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0.
The processing, arrangement, and description of the Denim Day at Virginia Tech 40th Anniversary Oral History Collection commenced in 2019 and was completed in 2022.
- 2019 (CC0)
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository
Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US