Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Virginia Williams

Committee Member

Dr. Catherine Chang

Committee Member

Dr. Eddie Lee




The LGBTQ community was greatly altered by the AIDS crisis and the organizations that were founded in the 1980s. AIDS would become associated with those of the gay community during the early years of the crisis. The government and leading health officials perpetuated the public’s ignorance about the relativity new disease leading to more misunderstandings and mishandlings of the HIV/AIDS crisis. The disease did not discriminate among people, however, and quickly spread throughout many of the communities in the U.S. Organizations with roots in the LGBTQ community established themselves during the 1980s to deal with not only the AIDS crisis, but also the issues that arose in the community. GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), sought to help those who had fallen ill with AIDS, and spread information on AIDS. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), fought for the rights of those with AIDS. GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) sought change for the betterment of the LGBTQ community, and fought against defamation of the community. The NAMES Project brought those who lost loved ones to AIDS together to heal in a visible way. The organizations had a profound impact on the LGBTQ community expanding beyond the 1980s and into the present. The AIDS crisis of the 1980s took its toll on a generation of people, and disproportionately punished the gay male population in America. Throughout the mishandling of the crisis by the U.S. government and the medical community, leaders and organizations arose to deal with the crisis. First led by gay men, a movement emerged to deal with the disease, and through their work began to work for rights for the larger LGTBQ community. The AIDS crisis, as terrible as it was, spawned a larger movement that would begin to work for equality for the LGTBQ community. These efforts would include working for better healthcare, changing legislation iii that discriminated against gays and lesbians, and pressing for full inclusion of the LGTBQ community into American society.