That’s So Gay | Romance Correspondence

Course: That’s So Gay! Exploring LGBT Lives and Identities (Dr. Christine Smith and Professor Joel Muraco)


  • Freshman first year seminar class focusing on LGBTQ experiences and activism. Two research sessions in Archives. 30 students for each session.
  • In the first session, students were asked to learn about LGBTQ lives and experiences through diaries, oral history interviews, and love letters. Through their review of the primary sources, students were asked to consider coming out experiences across multiple decades; acts of discrimination; human sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. The second session of the class focused on activism as represented by archival records from social action organizations and individuals. Topics covered included AIDS, healthcare reforms, military service, and same sex marriages.
  • After each archives visit, students wrote journal essays about what they found moving, surprising, and interesting in the historical records. The class discussions included very moving and personal reactions to the words and documents the students had read. Conversations focused on what had gone before, the present, and the future.


  • Freshman were exposed to archival records in a very personal and profound manner. Students were immersed in documents that reflected many of their own lives in the context of history.
  • One student was fascinated by a series of love letters and returned to the archives to read them on her own time. She was so captivated by one of the closing lines of a letter, that she asked permission to copy the letter. The student shared it was going to be the inspiration for her next tattoo.
  • The following semester students used their archival experiences as a foundation for their service learning projects.