POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—“Smashing History: 150 Years of LGBTIQA Vassar,” a three-day conference that celebrates the accomplishments of prominent Vassar alumnae/i who have distinguished themselves in service to LGBTIQA communities and seeks to inspire participants to take action for the future, will be held from Thursday, November 3, through Saturday, November 5. The conference will feature panels, lectures, workshops, exhibits, and performances.
One of the highlights of the conference will be the performance on Friday, November 4, at 8:00pm in the Chapel. The program “An Evening with Jomama Jones” will feature Daniel Alexander Jones (Vassar ’91), named by American Theatre Magazine as “one of 15 artists whose work will be transforming American stages for decades to come.” The New York Times has described his fully-fictional creation of Jomama Jones as a “sultry Amazon” that “prowls the stage on killer legs that extend forever out of death-defying heels” and “glows, making it hard not to surrender to this sequin-encrusted earth mother’s soulful embrace.”
Community organizer and attorney Urvashi Vaid (Vassar ’79), a leader in the LGBT and social justice movements for nearly three decades, will give the keynote address, “The Pink in the Gray: Vassar’s Latent and Blatant Queerness,” in Taylor Hall (room 102) at 5:00pm Saturday, November 5, concluding the conference.
Through “Smashing History,” Vassar’s Women's Studies Program hopes “to provide the opportunity for participants to imagine transformative futures for Vassar, liberal arts education, the Hudson Valley community at large, and the world, and to inspire and foster new generations of LGBTIQA students aspiring to make a difference in their communities.”
The Dean of the Faculty's Office has supported “Smashing History” in honor of Vassar’s Sesquicentennial, along with Women’s Studies, Africana Studies, American Culture, Art History, Asian Studies, Drama, English, Film, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, History with support from the C. Mildred Thompson Fund, Latin American and Latino/a Studies, Media Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Urban Studies, and Victorian Studies. The Campus Life and Diversity Office (LGBTQ and ALANA Programs, Religious and Spiritual Life, & Women's Center) is also a sponsor, as are the student organizations Act Out, TransMission, QCVC, CHOICE, the Feminist Alliance, VSA, MEChA, and Poder Latino.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact the Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the campus can be found at http://www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
|Photographer Mariette Pathy Allen ’62 will give a gallery talk alongside photographs from her recent gift, a portfolio entitled Transformations. The photographs, also included in her book Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them, will be on view for the duration of the conference.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Friday, November 4, 2011
|2:00pm||OPENING: AIDS Memorial—Re-Dedication of AIDS Plaque|
|3:00pm - 4:00pm||PLENARY I: What Is the Future of Queer Studies?|
|Jennifer Brody ’87, Moderator / Jeremy Garza ’14 / Steve Lavoie ’07 / Jason Wu ’07 / Shannon Wyss ’95
|4:15pm - 5:30pm||PLENARY II: Activism for the 21st Century|
|Sarita McCoy Gregory, Moderator / Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis ’89 / Jean Redmann ’77 / Michael Silverman ’91 / Joseph Tolton ’89
|8:00pm||AN EVENING WITH JOMAMA JONES|
|(featuring Daniel Alexander Jones ’91)
Vassar College Chapel
Saturday, November 5, 2011
|10:00am - 11:15am||PLENARY III: Recovering Lesbian History|
|Angela Mazaris ’98, Moderator / Cristina Biaggi ’59 / Jennifer DeVere Brody ’87 / Gail Dunlap ’59 / Yvonne Welbon ’84
Students’ Building / 2nd Floor
|11:30am - 12:30pm||BREAKOUT SESSIONS:|
|1:45pm - 3:15pm||PLENARY SESSION IV: Generations: Intimacy, Friendship, and the Politics of Sex from the Cold War to the Present|
|Ann Northrop ’70, Moderator / Nancy Dean ’52 / Lita Lepie ’70 / Bradford Louryk ’00 / Kiana Moore ’02 / Abby Tallmer ’83
Students’ Building / 2nd Floor
|3:30pm - 4:00pm||OUT OF THE ARCHIVES
Elizabeth Bishop: ‘Longer than Alladin burns, / Love & many Happy Returns’
|Barbara Page, with welcome by Ronald Patkus
Taylor Hall 102
|4:00pm - 4:45pm||LGBT Lives in the Archive|
|Gretchen Lieb, Moderator / Angela Mazaris ’98 / Abby Tallmer ’83
Taylor Hall 102
“The Pink in the Gray: Vassar’s Latent and Blatant Queerness”
|Urvashi Vaid ’79
Taylor Hall 102
Urvashi Vaid (VC ’79) is a community organizer and attorney who has been a leader in the LGBT and social justice movements for nearly three decades. She is currently a visiting scholar with the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center’s Department of Sociology. From 2005-2010, Vaid was executive director of the Arcus Foundation, a global grant making foundation that supports social justice and conservation organizations worldwide, and the Arcus Operating Foundation (AOF). She served as deputy director of the Governance and Civil Society Unit of the Ford Foundation and worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the oldest national LGBT civil rights organization, first as its media director (7/86-7/89), then as executive director (8/89-12/92), and finally as Policy Institute Think-tank director (1/97-1/01). From 1983-1986, Vaid was staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she initiated the organization’s work on HIV/AIDS in prisons. Vaid is author of Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation (Anchor, 1996), a political analysis of the U.S. LGBT movement. She is co-editor, with Dr. John D’Emilio and Dr. William Turner, of an anthology on public policy history titledCreating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality and Civil Rights (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). She is a former columnist for The Advocate, the U.S. national gay and lesbian newsmagazine, and has contributed chapters to a number of books. She has lectured extensively on the issues of social justice, civil and human rights, and LGBT equality.
Mariette Pathy Allen (VC ’62) graduated from Vassar College and received a MFA in painting from the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. She won a New York State Council on the Arts grant in 1988, and in 1989, her book, Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them, was published by E.P. Dutton, Inc. Allen has been a consultant and still photographer on five films: Southern Comfort, the most recent, won the 2001 Sundance documentary award. The Gender Frontier, published by Kehrer, Heidelberg, Germany, won a 2004 Lambda Literary Award. Mariette’s work is in the permanent collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the George Eastman House, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Brooklyn Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, Frankfurt, and Vassar College, among others. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows, nationally and internationally. In 2009, she was one of the “honored guests” invited to exhibit at the thirteenth Annual International Photo Festival in Lishui, China. Ms. Allen has made hundreds of slide presentations at academic, transgender, and other conferences. She can be reached through her website: www.MariettePathyAllen.com.
Cristina Biaggi (VC ’ 59) achieved international recognition as a sculptor of bronze and wood pieces. Using the theme of interconnection, she has created large outdoor installations using natural materials and ropes. Her work has been shown in more than thirty solo exhibitions and countless group shows throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia, most recently in New York City; Bex, Switzerland; Bonn, Germany; and Vilnius, Lithuania. As a scholar, Dr. Biaggi has written Habitations of the Great Goddess and edited and contributed to In the Footsteps of the Goddess: Personal Stories and The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History, and Impact of Patriarchy. She participated in a movie with Jane Fonda (also class of '59), Peace Love and Misunderstanding, as one of the celebrants in the ritual scene. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 13 and is to be released in theaters. Biaggi also recently finished a profile portrait relief of Betty Friedan commissioned by the town of Grandview where Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique. The portrait will be commemorated and installed on November 10 at 11a.m. in front of the village Hall in Grandview, NY.
Jennifer DeVere Brody (VC ’87) is Professor of Drama at Stanford University. She is the author of Punctuation: Art, Politics, and Play (Duke UP, 2008) andImpossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity and Victorian Culture (Duke UP, 1998).
Gabrielle H. Cody is Professor in the Department of Drama at Vassar College where she has taught since 1992. She received her M.F.A. in Directing from the University of Minnesota, and a Doctorate in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale University. She concentrates her areas of teaching in dramatic literature, theory, and criticism, and performance studies. Cody is the author of Impossible Performances: Duras As Dramatist (NYU, New Foundations), the editor of Hardcore From the Heart: Annie Sprinkle Solo (Continuum), and the co-editor of Re: Direction, A Theoretical and Practical Guide (Routledge). She is also the co-General Editor along with Evert Sprinchorn, of The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama (Columbia University Press) and the editor of Performance Studies: The Key Concepts, forthcoming from Routledge.
Nancy Dean (VC ’52) is a former full professor at Hunter College, where she taught for 28 years. A Vassar BA (’52) with Honors, and a Master’s from Harvard (’53), she received her Ph.D. from New York University in Medieval Studies (’63). She wrote In the Mind of the Writer (Canfield Press, 1973), a book for students to teach themselves writing, and co-edited with Myra Stark an anthology of contemporary feminist short stories by women, entitled In the Looking Glass (Putnam's 1977). She has published short stories in Room with a View and IKON. Her lesbian novel, entitled Anna's Country, was written and published under the pseudonym "Elizabeth Lang" (Naiad Press, 1981), translated into German and published as Anna (Daphne Verlag publishers, 1984). Since 1983 she has written 14 plays, including her translation, update, and switch of genders of Moliere' s Misanthrope. She was playwright in residence for The Actors' Alliance for three years (1989-2002). Blood and Water was produced by Theatre Gemini in Dallas, Texas. That Ilk was produced Off-Broadway at The Hudson Guild Theatre in 2000. Since the production of That Ilk, Dean has written a libretto of Chaucer’s poem, Troilus and Criseyde, scenes of which were done at the New York City Opera VOX festival for new operas. She is now working on a screenplay entitled Ophelia. In November, 1995, Sisters on Stage honored her with an award for playwriting and support for other lesbian playwrights. She co-edited with M.G. Soares Intimate Acts: Eight Contemporary Lesbian Plays (Brito and Lair, 1997). In addition, in 1977, learning that women received less than 1% of foundation grants, she founded ASTRAEA Lesbian Foundation for Justice funding lesbian- and trans-led organizations and cultural media projects that directly address the depth and complexities of lesbian and trans issues. After leaving Astraea, she and her partner, Beva Eastman, founded the Open Meadows Foundation in 1986 funding projects that are led by and benefit women and girls, particularly those from vulnerable communities.
Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis (VC ’89) is the founding Executive Director (for six years) of Queers for Economic Justice, a progressive non-profit organization promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation. DeFilippis organized the BeyondMarriage working group, which authored the “Beyond Same Sex Marriage” statement. He was also formerly the Director (for five years) of Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE) Queens, an organization in Queens that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender senior citizens, and formerly the Grants Manager for six years at the New York Foundation, which funds grassroots community-organizing campaigns on a wide variety of issues throughout New York City. Joseph has taught undergraduate and graduate-level courses in Political Economy, Social Justice Movements, the History of Welfare Policy, and Human Sexuality at Hunter College, Fordham University, and Portland State University.
Gail Ellen Dunlap (VC ’59), one of the original Wolf Girls, is currently steward of Wiseheart Farm in south central Ohio. In September 2011, she won the county's conservationist of the year award. Twenty years ago, Vassar's Time Out Grant gave Gail the finances to restore an herstorical log cabin, construct a wetland, and begin living her dream in harmony with Mother Earth along with her partner of 49 years, Charoula Dontopoulos, Vassar ’61, an herbalist healer. Dunlop has been in the Lesbian land movement all of her life. Her greatest desire has been to reclaim abused land in order to restore it to its wild and wondrous essence and to provide sustainable sustenance for us on our journey as wisewomyn and queers, witches and warlocks, changelings, bispirited wild children, and crones. Now the problem is how to pass it on. She has written articles for Sinister Wisdom, A Journal by and for Lesbians, for Maize, A Lesbian Country Magazine, and for the OLOC Newsletter(Old Lesbians Organizing for Change). As a old landyke who recycles everything and wants to learn more, Dunlop is delighted to return to Vassar for such an occasion as this and to listen to and to marvel at all those who have come forth since the Wolf Girls last howled.
Christine Fawley (VC ’03) is a sex educator with over ten years experience teaching individuals and groups about sexual health and pleasure. Together with her partner Charlotte Goodman-Smith, Christine co-founded The Pleasure Mechanics in 2006, dedicated to sharing practical, down-to-earth information and techniques for more sexual pleasure. The Pleasure Mechanics self-produce video and other digital media to teach the techniques of sexual pleasure to men and women around the world. Their works have become bestsellers on Amazon and reached individuals in over fifty countries around the world.
Jason Fleetwood-Boldt (VC ’01) started the “QCal” while at Vassar, a weekly broadcast of LGBTQ events on campus, using a software tool he wrote at the time (before the days of email broadcast services). He was instrumental in QCVC’s (and its subsidiary groups’) restructuring between 1999 and 2001, and among other things was part of the final HomoHop (1999) and subsequent founding of Squirm Magazine the following semester. He served as TA President on the VSA council his senior year. After college, he spent six years in San Francisco steeped in the sex-positive ideologies cradled by the gay mecca, but then decided to move back to New York City where he grew up. Today, he still spends his time writing computer code and works as a software developer for a technology start-up in Manhattan.
Jeremy Garza (VC ’14) A sophomore at Vassar College, Jeremy Garza currently holds the positions of Main House President, member of the VSA Council, Treasurer of the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC), and Intern for the Office of Campus Life LGBTQ Center. He recently declared an Independent Major in Queer Studies. Acknowledging the factors of both youth and naiveté, Jeremy aspires to be an activist, academic, and community grassroots organizer.
Sarita McCoy Gregory is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Vassar College. She is currently working on a book entitled Improvising Politics: Citizen Engagement in an Age of Democratic Disappointment, which proposes improvisation as a post-deliberative mechanism for democratic engagement and decision-making. Using the cases of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. and the 2005 suburban insurgency in Paris, she offers an interpretive analysis of ways that citizens engage politically when they perceive themselves to be socially isolated and abandoned. She specializes in the study of race and American political thought, ideology in political theory, African American political thought, education and democratic theory. Gregory’s substantive research interests include the study of citizenship and transnational identities, African American political thought, and urban education policy reform. Her interests also include urban community studies and qualitative research methods.
Cassidy Hollinger (VC ’13) is a junior studying drama and philosophy at Vassar, and her focus is on comedy, especially stand-up. Her coming out experience has been shaped in many ways by the book Wolf Girls at Vassar, which in turn influenced her participation on the Smashing History planning committee, and this panel in particular.
Daniel Alexander Jones (VC ’91) Daniel Alexander Jones makes live art. An award-winning performer, writer, and director, Jones was named by American Theatre Magazine “one of fifteen artists whose work will be transforming American stages for decades to come.” His unconventional body of work includes plays (Bel Canto, Earthbirths, Phoenix Fabrik), performance pieces (Blood:Shock:Boogie, The Book of Daniel, Cab and Lena) and devised collaborative work (Qualities of Light,Clayangels). He has directed world premieres of plays by celebrated writers Erik Ehn, E. Patrick Johnson, Shay Youngblood, and Renita Martin, among others. Daniel's “altar-ego” Jomama Jones, called “a true theatrical original” by Backstage Magazine, is at the center of his current multi-platform project—in collaboration with composer Bobby Halvorson, Jomama Jones has released the CDs Lone Star and Radiate on the Aries Records imprint; has performed in concert at Joe's Pub and Symphony Space; and sold out a theatrical run of her critically acclaimed show Radiate at Soho Rep, directed by Kym Moore, which was a New York Times andBackstage Critics' Pick. Jones completed an undergraduate degree in Africana Studies at Vassar College and a graduate degree in Theatre at Brown University. He is assistant professor of theatre at Fordham University and has also taught in the MFA programs at both the University of Texas at Austin and Goddard College. A Creative Capital grantee, Jones has received support from the MAP Fund, the Howard Foundation, and the NEA/TCG. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists and a Core Member of the Playwrights’ Center; a national company member of Pillsbury House Theatre and a newly appointed Fellow at the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women & Gender in the Arts & Media at Columbia College, Chicago. Daniel Alexander Jones received the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts for Theatre in 2006 in recognition of his body of work.
Steven Lavoie (VC ’07) is Assistant Director of Campus Life for LGBTQ Programs at Vassar College. While a student at Vassar he served as Chair of QCVC during the ’06-’07 academic year. He is also a graduate student of philosophy at Stony Brook University. His research interests include: Ontologies of Race and Gender, Metaphysical Violence, Animality, Historicity, and the copula.
Lita Lepie (VC ’70) A campus radical, Lita Lepie led the takeover of the Dean of Students office to protest changes in the Urban Studies Program, accompanied by an embedded reporter from The Miscellany News. Afterwards she and her girlfriend were frequent dinner guests at President Allan Simpson’s house, and Lepie organized and taught a course in the Sociology Department. She was a publisher of the alternative campus arts magazine Renaissance, The Vassarian, and The Vassar Review, which she handed over to a Black student group whose militant activism she also supported. An original Lavender Menace, Lepie was active in gay issues in both New York City and Boston. She wrote for the alternate press, The Real Paper, as Lilith Moon, and freelanced for a number of publications including Cream, The Village Voice, and New York Magazine. She was awarded a Master of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College where she was a personal student of Grace Paley. Despite writing ten novels, having leading agents, and Hollywood meetings, her novel writing career to this point has been without success. So she plans to epublish morsels of her delicious oeuvre. A varsity field hockey player at Vassar, Lepie has parlayed her love of physical culture into Transformations by Lita, a high-end personal training business. She has both credentials from The American Council on Exercise, and The International Healing Tao. In addition, she is a credentialed Kettlebell instructor and Martial Art Master.
Gretchen Lieb has been a Research Librarian at Vassar College since 2000. She became interested in archival research in feminist history as an undergraduate at Mills College (1989), where she wrote her thesis on the relationship between Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger and their divergent strategies for fighting for the legalization of birth control, and got her MLA at Simmons College in 1999, after working in nonprofits and political campaigns.
Bradford Louryk (VC ’00) Drama Desk Award-winner Bradford Louryk is an actor and theater artist who most significantly conceived and performed the critically acclaimed Christine Jorgensen Reveals, which has played at 59E59 Theaters, The Assembly Rooms at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Dodger Stages, Theatre Row, The Boston Center for the Arts (BCA), and The Project Arts Centre in Dublin (where Mr. Louryk received the Hilton Edwards Award for his work). Christine Jorgensen Reveals also received a 2006 GLAAD Media Award nomination for Best Play. Most recently, he conceived, produced, and hosted The Überbowl (featuring Kristen Johnston, Michael Musto, Cintra Wilson and other celebrity culture gurus), which played to a sold out crowd at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater and received massive media coverage in daily and weekly print publications and on television. Louryk is a Fellow of The Sundance Institute; has been profiled by or featured prominently in major international media including New York Times, New York Post, Daily News, Newsday, Time Out New York, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, every daily in Boston, The Scotsman, The Guardian, American Theatre, GOTHAM Magazine (alongside Mayor Bloomberg as one of New York City's 100 Most Eligible Bachelors), on television and radio, and in the books Dionysus Since ’69 (Oxford University Press) and We Will Be Citizens, released by McFarland; and has had the privilege of working with some of the most significant writers, directors, and designers working today in the American Theater. He is currently developing a new musical with The B-52s.
Angela Mazaris (VC ’98) has a PhD in American Studies from Brown University, where her research and teaching focused on queer archives and public history projects. While at Brown she served as coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center and graduate proctor at the Sarah Doyle Women's Center. She has worked on diversity issues for several federal agencies. Mazaris was recently named director of the new LGBT Center at Wake Forest University, where she will also teach in the Women and Gender Studies program.
Kiana Moore (VC ’02) is a transgender rights activist living in Los Angeles where she is a producer on television shows. In 2001, she spoke to the Department of Agriculture concerning their practice of overlooking Male-to-Female (MTF) needs and misrepresentation. She also assisted HIPS (helping individual prostitutes survive) with their MTF outreach program, providing clean needles and condoms to those on the street. She now volunteers her time to GLAAD, and helps with transgender representation.
Ann Northrop (VC ’70) is a co-founder of LAGA-VC, the Lesbian and Gay Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College; co-host of television program Gay USA; longtime member of ACT UP/New York; freelance journalist for Ms., Ladies Home Journal, and several newspapers, including LGNY, a NYC gay paper; previous television production for ABC (Good Morning America) and CBS (CBS Morning News); former educator with Hetrick-Martin Institute for Lesbian and Gay Youth; and co-founder of think tank Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies.
Barbara Page is Professor Emeritus of English at Vassar College, where she also served as Chair of the English Department and Acting Dean of the Faculty. She has published a number of essays based on research in the Elizabeth Bishop Papers at Vassar, including one of the first: “Shifting Islands: Elizabeth Bishop’s Manuscripts,” in Shenandoah (1981-81). Her most recent essay will appear in the forthcoming University of Virginia Press volume, The New Elizabeth Bishop: Reading the 21st-century Editions. She is currently writing a book, with co-author Carmen L. Oliveira, tentatively titled Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil, accompanied by a website documenting and illustrating Bishop’s life in Brazil.
Ronald Patkus is Head of Special Collections in the Vassar College Libraries, and Adjunct Associate Professor of History. He holds an M.A. and Certificate in Archival Management from the University of Connecticut (1987), an M.L.S. from Simmons College (1993), and a Ph.D. from Boston College (1997). He teaches and co-teaches several courses dealing with the history of books, and also offers classes on primary sources to students in a variety of other courses. His research interests include library collections, the history of books and printing, religion in America, and local history. He has produced or edited a number of books and articles, including most recently "Ars Omnia Tuetur: 25 Years of Fine Printing at Thornwillow Press." He is currently researching the work of Welsh book artist Shirley Jones and the Red Hen Press. He has received grants for foreign study from the British Council, the Rotary Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Jean Redmann (VC ’77) One of the few lesbian authors to have crossed over to the so-called mainstream, two of her books, Lost Daughters and The Intersection of Law and Desire, were originally published by W.W. Norton. The Intersection of Law and Desire won a Lambda Literary Award and was also picked by the San Francisco Chronicle as an Editor’s Choice for the year and featured on NPR. Other titles include Death of a Dying Man, also a Lambda award winner, and Water Mark, winner of ForeWord Awards First Place in Mystery. Redmann is the Director of Prevention at NO/AIDS Task Force, the largest AIDS service organization in Louisiana. She is also one of the founders of the Louisiana AIDS Advocacy Network (LAAN) and currently still serves on the board. Combining her HIV work and writing, she helped found the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, the only LGBTQ one in the country. It will celebrate its tenth year in 2012.
Michael Silverman (VC ’91) is Adjunct Professor of Law at Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University; Executive Director of Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund; and former cooperating attorney with Lambda Legal Defense Fund. He also worked four years with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s Access to Health Care Program and Disability Law Center.
Abby Tallmer (VC ’84) grew up in the West Village and was the child of lefty progressive parents. She came out as a dyke at age 15 and arrived at Vassar at 17 in 1979 as one of the few openly gay students, let alone freshmen, on campus. She was an active member of the Feminist Union and other campus groups, wrote for theMiscellany News and for Vassar's short-lived feminist paper, and she served as an officer of Vassar's People's Gay Alliance (GPA)—as it was then called—from her initial days on campus, serving as GPA's President in her junior and senior years. At Vassar Tallmer took every opportunity she could to sneakily work gay studies—a field that then didn't officially exist—into her class work. She also withstood a two-year-long campaign of homophobic harassment, stalking, and death threats directed at her because of her status as GPA's President. Her first job after graduating in 1984 was with the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF), the organization now known as AmFar. She remained with AMF for a number of years and became deeply immersed in AIDS activism and politics, becoming a member of Act Up as well as other AIDS organizations. At the same time, Tallmer became deeply immersed in what were then known as the “feminist sex wars,” joining the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force and serving as a contributing editor of a much-reprinted anthology of feminist anti-censorship writing about pornography called Caught Looking. After leaving AMF, Tallmer worked for a string of gay nonprofits and other social justice organizations. From 1989-90 and 1990-91 she designed and co-taught (with Professor Paul Russell) Vassar's first gay and lesbian studies class. She then went to graduate school, earning a Master’s in English with an emphasis in writing and queer studies from City College of New York and a Master’s in Library Science with an emphasis in archives and rare books and manuscripts and queer studies from Pratt Institute. After various careers as a rare books cataloguer, librarian, archivist, and college teacher, Abby has settled into life as a freelance writer, writing mostly though not exclusively for the LGBT press. She lives in New York and her work has been widely published and anthologized. An essay of hers called "Losing the Meatpacking District: A Queer History of Leather Culture" will be published in the anthology Best Sex Writing 2012, available in bookstores this coming January.
Joseph W. Tolton (VC ’89) started his own ministry in Harlem, the Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church, and serves as Publisher of GayByGod.net, “a spiritual forum purposed to inspire and unite gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people.” As a public advocate, Elder Tolton serves as a Director of The Global Justice Institute. In this capacity, he provides strategic consulting services for the gay liberation movement in Uganda. As an entrepreneur, he is the Managing Director of Blur Advertising, a full-service brand development and marketing communications firm.
Denise A. Walen is an associate professor in the Department of Drama at Vassar. She is the author of Constructions of Female Homoeroticism in Early Modern Drama (2005).
Yvonne Welbon (VC ’84) is chair of the journalism and media studies department and assistant professor of Africana women's studies at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, NC. She is an independent filmmaker and has produced 20 films including Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100 (1999), winner of ten best documentary awards, and Sisters in Cinema (2003), which focuses on the history of African American women feature film directors. She is currently producing a transmedia archive project examining twenty-five years (1986-2011) of “out” black lesbian media making.
Jason Wu (VC ’07) is attorney for the Legal Aid Society of New York, in the Housing Development Unit of the Harlem Community Law Office. He was previously a law clerk at the Silvia Rivera Law Project in New York City, an organization providing free legal support to transgender, intersex, and/or gender nonconforming people who are low-income and/or people of color, and at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles. He received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law, with a specialization in Critical Race Studies. During the 2009-2010 academic year, Wu served as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Asian Pacific American Law Journal. While at Vassar, he completed an independent major in Ethnic Studies.
Shannon Wyss (VC ’95) has been part of the LGBTQ community since 1993 and has been openly genderqueer for over a decade. A strong advocate for all types of social justice, ze is the Grants Manager with AIDS United, a grantmaking and policy/advocacy organization working on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and services throughout the US. In earning hir Masters degree in Women’s Studies from George Washington University, Shannon wrote hir thesis on how trans and genderqueer youth in the U.S. deal with their gender-congruent, heterosexual peers. Ze is the author of several articles on trans and genderqueer issues, including “Sometimes Boy, Sometimes Girl: Learning to be Genderqueer Through a Child’s Eyes” in Transforming Feminisms (2006);“‘This Was My Hell’: The Violence Experienced by Gender Non-Conforming Youth in US High Schools,” in The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (2004); and a piece in the forthcoming The Lives of Transgender People (2011). Wyss volunteers with gender non-conforming children through the Gender and Sexuality Education and Advocacy Program at Children’s National Medical Center and is involved with the DC Trans Coalition.