“Existing and existing in your face”: Hiram Ruiz and the Pedagogy of Gay Liberation Front in Tallahassee, Florida, 1970-71

Jess Clawson


“‘Existing and existing in your face’: Hiram Ruiz and the Pedagogy of Gay Liberation Front in Tallahassee, FL, 1970-71” profiles one important but overlooked historical figure in the history of higher education. Hiram Ruiz, an out gay student at Florida State University in the late 1960s and early 1970s, went against the norms of his time and place to create a safe space for other gay people in a conservative Deep South town. The first Gay Liberation Front chapter in the South, the FSU GLF “swung closet doors wide open” and they never closed again. Ruiz’s story carries many important implications for historians of education, queer historians, and education scholars. He worked in an intersectional space – bringing together anti-war, feminist, and anti-racism groups – to push the FSU campus out of its collective comfort zone. His group also formed connections with a fledgling group at the University of Florida, where students faced similar challenges but nonetheless fought for the liberation of all people. His story shows how these alliances can work, and where they can falter, in ways that are instructive to people forty years later who are interested in this work. His story also demonstrates the importance of looking for exceptional stories in unlikely places in studying the history of higher education, as his work is a permanent part of FSU’s (and UF’s) history. It has implications for queer pedagogy and politics in contemporary education settings.

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