Indiana University South Bend Archives
1700 Mishawaka Avenue P.O. Box 7111
South Bend, Indiana 46634
Phone: (574) 520 - 4392
Creator: Civil Rights Heritage Center
Title: LGBTQ collection of the Civil Rights Heritage Center
Extent: Four (4) banker’s boxes at 1.25 cubic feet each, totaling 5 cubic feet
The Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center LGBTQ collection contains materials relating to the experience of people in and around South Bend, Indiana, who describe their sexual and/or gender identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer, as well as people who consider themselves allies to LGBTQ rights cause.
South Bend and its neighboring cities in north central Indiana and south central Michigan, like so many cities in the United States during the second half of the 20th century and first quarter of the 21st, has experienced a radical transformation in attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. For much of the 20th century, South Bend’s LGBTQ community was closed and closeted. With a stronger Catholic and Christian culture than other cities (as evidenced in places like the predominately Catholic University of Notre Dame as well as significant Polish and Eastern European immigration), South Bend had been described as a less welcoming place than larger cities with higher percentages of “out” LGBTQ people and stronger gay cultures, such as San Francisco or New York City. Without the promise of acceptance by their families or protections against discrimination in their workplaces, people often did not identify as LGBTQ publicly. Many felt they could publicly identify only within the few gay-friendly public spaces, such as the Sea Horse Bar and Cabaret.
Like much of the the United States, South Bend underwent significant changes in the first quarter of the 21st century through the efforts of countless “out” individuals and straight allies. By 2012, those efforts helped make South Bend one of the few cities in Indiana to add LGBT protections to its human rights ordinance. In 2015, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg publicly came out as well, becoming the highest ranking government official in Indiana to do so.
The IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center LGBTQ Collection – the first of its kind in the city – helps all people understand and reflect upon the major advancements in LGBTQ acceptance over the last fifty years, and how this one Midwest city moved from a place where many people felt they needed to hide their identities into a more welcoming and more open community.
Scope and Content Note:
Materials are organized first by donor, but organized in different ways within each donor as made sense for those materials.
The collection also contains some born digital files. Those files are stored on the Indiana University Box system with additional backup locations.
In addition to the materials contained in this collection, there are a number of oral histories conducted with people in the LGBTQ community. Those interviews are integrated into the Civil Rights Heritage Center Oral History Collection and include the following individuals: Patty Baker, Tom Beatty, Martha Carroll, DeAnn Gatto, Richard Giannone, Elizabeth "Bitsy" Hagedorn, Jeannette Hughes, Tony Kash, Michael Lane, Daniel Larsen, Jessica Love, Simon Radecki, James Schwartz, Michael Snyder, Debra Stanley, Cindy Stults, Brian Wells, and Donald Willman.
Donors to this collection include:
Born and raised in southwest Michigan, Herman’s mother, Paulene, contracted polio at a relatively young age. She ran a small ceramics business that her son joined as he became an adult. Items from Mr. Lawson shows the life of a gay man in a smaller southwest Michigan city (Niles) from the 1970s through the 1990s – an era that saw the birth of the gay rights movement nationally but whose rewards had not yet hit most smaller cities. Additionally, in an era before the internet, these items show how one gay man found connection and companionship in the absence of a strong local gay community.
Mr. Lawson’s donation is organized alphabetically by subject. Please note that some of the items contain items that could be considered explicit, such as nude images.
Dr. Pittman was one of the leaders of South Bend Equality, an organization dedicated to expanding the city of South Bend, Indiana’s human rights ordinance to include LGBTQ protections. This process began in 2003, and resulted in three attempts to get a bill passed through the South Bend Common Council. The first effort in 2006 failed to pass, though it did lead then Mayor Stephen Leucke to pass an Executive Order in 2009 that applied protections to employees of the city.
The next effort in 2010 resulted in a bill limited to discrimination in employment only, and with spaces carved to exclude small businesses and religious organizations from lawsuits. This was not the stated goal of South Bend Equality who, although they did work to pass the bill, were not surprised nor unhappy when it failed to pass.
The election of Mayor Pete Buttigieg in 2011 led to a third effort that passed the Common Council in 2012, thus leading to the dissolution of South Bend Equality.
Items are organized chronologically. Two folders contain documents are restricted to in person use at the IU South Bend Archives only. They contain personal information of people and should not be copied nor made available online.