Project Narrative

The data set that I am working with contains text versions of every Ring Tum Phi newspaper article from its beginning at Washington and Lee in 1886. For my particular project, I am looking at the evolution of the language surrounding the LGBTQ community on our campus since 1986, ten years before the Day of Silence was created in 1996, up until 2012, our most recently available text record. Approaching the project from the angle of a historian, I am looking to see how Washington and Lee’s vocabulary surrounding the LGBTQ communited lagged behind that of the rest of the country ten years before the Day of Silence and during the AIDS crisis and then up until 2012. Ideally, my project aims to speak to a more univeral audience. I am not solely addressing academics and scholars, but rather an entire community that has been, is, and still will be affected by representation and the linguistic choices of this campus. My primary research questions are as follows:The data set that I am working with contains text versions of every Ring Tum Phi newspaper article from its beginning at Washington and Lee in 1886. For my particular project, I am looking at the evolution of the language surrounding the LGBTQ community on our campus since 1986, ten years before the Day of Silence was created in 1996, up until 2012, our most recently available text record. Approaching the project from the angle of a historian, I am looking to see how Washington and Lee’s vocabulary surrounding the LGBTQ communited lagged behind that of the rest of the country ten years before the Day of Silence and during the AIDS crisis and then up until 2012. Ideally, my project aims to speak to a more univeral audience. I am not solely addressing academics and scholars, but rather an entire community that has been, is, and still will be affected by representation and the linguistic choices of this campus. My primary research questions are as follows:

1. At what point did the term “gays” drop off the Ring Tum Phi’s vocabulary list, if ever? Was this affected by the AIDS crisis?

2. When did the school begin to adopt the proper acronyms to refer to the gay community? How did those change over time?

3. At what point do we begin to see the emergence of a gay/straight alliance on campus, if at all? Was it widely talked about?

In beginning this research, I hope to unmask how this school held on to homophobia longer than the rest of the country, fostering a student body that was reluctant to accept LGBTQ individuals onto their campus.