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LGBTQIA+ community at Stanford University: Introduction

After using this guide, Stanford Libraries users will be able to identify and access primary and secondary sources about the history of the LGBTQIA+ community at Stanford University.

LGBTQIA+ community at Stanford University

This guide includes information about resources available in Stanford's Special Collections and University Archives to support research into the history of LGBTQIA+ students and community at Stanford University. In this guide, the term LGBTQIA+ is used as a way to refer to a larger community of people who are not heterosexual and/or cisgendered. In the LGBTQIA+ acronym, each letter represents one of the many identities of the community, and the "+" symbol signifies that there are and will continue to be additional identities within the community as language and culture evolves over time. The letters in LGBTQIA+ stand for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. Other people included in the LGBTQIA+ community might identify as two-spirit, nonbinary, or pansexual. Learn more about community terminology from the UC Davis LBTQIA Resource Center glossary

LGBTQIA+ people have been part of the Stanford community since its inception. Over the years, Stanford has been home to many queer faculty, students, and staff, whether or not they were public about their identities. Although there is less documentation of queer life at Stanford than other dominant identities, research by historians and primary source material found in this guide provide evidence that queer life always existed in and around the Stanford community. 

In this guide, you will find collections that are both explicitly and implicitly about queer life at Stanford. For example, looking at the Queer Student Resources records, the Stanford University LGBT alumni oral history interviews, or the Charles H. Durham Diaries, will demonstrate how the LGBTQIA+ community changed over time, depending on politics and broader societal trends and cultural norms. In contrast, collections like the Stanford University video collection and the Stanford Daily archives contain primary sources related to all of Stanford, which includes the LGBTQIA+ community. By searching with community-based terminology, or even in some cases terminology contemporary members of the community might find antiquated or offensive, you will find articles and video programs that document queer life at Stanford. There are also collections that relate to specific LGBTQIA+ individuals and their lives while at Stanford and afterward. 

It is important to note that historically, materials by and about LGBTQIA+ people have not been prioritized for collection in archives and libraries. Although this has changed drastically in the last 30-40 years, there are still absences, gaps, or silences when it comes to representation of LGBTQIA+ life and community in non-subject specific libraries and archives. When doing research about marginalized identity groups like LGBTQIA+ people, it is important to read between the lines, identify sources that may not be explicitly about LGBTQIA+ people, consider the broader context your direct subjects or research questions are part of, and identify the terminology that is used in library systems, which might be different than terminology used within the community. 

Note that while the materials shared here are intended to be representative of Library collections, this guide is not meant to be exhaustive; additional materials may be discovered and accessed via Searchworks, the Online Archive of California (OAC), and Spotlight. For access to physical materials, please refer to guidelines for accessing materials through Special Collections & University Archives on the Stanford Libraries website.


Terms to know


Acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and more. A complete list of community terminology and definitions may be found on the UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center glossary.


An adjective used by some people whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel don’t apply to them. Some people may use queer, or genderqueer, to describe their gender identity and/or gender expression. Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBTQ people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term even within the LGBTQ community.*

University Archives

A university archives serves as the institutional memory of a college or university and plays an integral role in the management of the institution's information resources in all media and formats. To fulfill the responsibilities of that role, the archives identifies, acquires, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development of the institution and ensure its continued existence. The archives documents the process of institutional evolution by retaining both the evidence which shapes decisions and the decisions themselves.

Special collections

An institution or an administrative unit of a library responsible for managing materials outside the general library collection, including rare books, archives, manuscripts, maps, oral history interviews, ephemera and more.**

Manuscript collection

Although manuscript literally means handwritten, 'manuscript collection' is often used to describe collections of mixed media in which unpublished materials predominate. Manuscript collections may also include typescripts, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, born digital and printed works. **

Finding aid

A description of the contents of an archival resource or manuscript collection.

Primary sources

Material that contains firsthand accounts of events and that was created contemporaneous to those events or later recalled by an eyewitness. Examples of primary sources are letters, drafts of poems or novels, oral histories, and photographs.*

*From the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center's "What is LGBTQ?"

 **From the Society of American Archivists' Dictionary of Archives terminology