The Importance of Memory
An important part of being LGBT+ in the modern world is remembering the battles that were fought, big and small, in order to secure the freedoms that we enjoy today. We are very privileged to be able to have such an open, proud community and we owe so much to those who have stood up over the past half century.
One major consequence of this that often goes unrecognised is the choice that most of us now have. Being LGBT+ now doesn't have to have a political or activist label attached to it. This means that so many LGBT+ individuals now enjoy ordinary open lives, something which was so difficult to achieve back in the 1970s.
The history of LGBT+ life in St Andrews is a story of positive growth over 40 years, which was not walked alone.
The original GaySoc minutes book
Sunday 9th October, 1977
The academic year of 1977-1978 is the first recorded evidence of an organised LGBT+ community within the university. John Chapman, with contributions from Ryan Hay, put together their brief account of this:
The Glasgow Women’s Library houses a collection of archive material which spans the past 40 years of LGBT life at St Andrews, including a minute book from the academic year 1977-1978. The first entry made in the notebook is the minutes of a meeting which took place in the TV room of the old Students’ Union on Sunday 9 October 1977. During this meeting, attended by eight people, discussion points included what name the group should adopt, the necessity of having elected officers to obtain grant money, and preparation for upcoming events such as a discussion on ‘being gay in St Andrews’.
An Essential Supporter
Making the initial steps in LGBT+ rights is always difficult, especially in a community that is relatively small and isolated compared to the big cities. However, it would be wrong to condemn anyone who didn't immediately support LGBT+ life as having acted out of malice. Most people are resistant to change, particularly about subjects of which they have no experience. This means that allies are incredibly valuable to gaining our rights, and for us it was the St Andrews Women's Liberation Group.
The feminist movement in St Andrews provided the fledgeling GaySoc a safe place to meet at 4 Fleming Place and assisted with the awareness of the LGBT+ movement. At a time of a great national feminist awareness, their support may have been crucial to GaySoc's persistent presence in St Andrews.
If you are interested in the development of the St Andrews Womens' Liberation Group then check out this paper from Sarah Browne. This is available through institutional logins or through an Oxford Academic account.
The name has changed significantly over the past four decades
Growth and Recognition
The LGBT+ representation in St Andrews has changed vastly since 1977 and the original GaySoc at Fleming Place. In accordance with shifting recognition of the sexuality spectrum across the world, the society was renamed as the LGB Society. In 2006 a motion was passed by vote to be renamed LGBTSoc, which as Chapman mentions made St Andrews "one of the first universities in Scotland to represent transgender people in the Society's name."
Over the years there has also been a significant growth in membership too. In 1977 there were only 8 recorded members of the society, growing to 42 just before the turn of the millenium. By the year 2008-2009 the membership had increased to 182.
Since then the role has changed from society to subcommittee. Now every matriculated student is a member of the society, renamed to the Saints LGBT+ so that we are fully inclusive.