Gay American Indians

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The Gay American Indians (GAI) was a gay rights organization founded in San Francisco in 1975 by Randy Burns and Barbara May Cameron, initially as a safe place to socialize and share. It was reputed to be the first organization of its kind in the country.


The initial purpose of the group was described by Randy Burns (co-founder) as a "safe place to socialize and share." The founders wanted a space to address the intersectionality of their identities. GAI Members advocated for the use of the term "two-spirit" as an alternative to the term "berdache" because they viewed the latter as problematic due to the term's origins. The group also worked in the 1980s with Will Roscoe, a scholar, to produce a book about the meaning of "berdache."[1] The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco holds some of the papers from this collaboration; the abstract states that GAI was "the first gay American Indian liberation organization, founded in July 1975."[2] The Bay Area Reporter credits GAI was the "first organization for queer Natives in the country." [3]

Members of the GAI often gathered socially at Esta Noche, a San Francisco gay bar. Subsequently,[when?] a later Bay Area group formed, the Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits (BAAITS).[4] Burns is quoted that one of the "main reasons" GAI was founded was as a social alternative to the discrimination in the Castro district.[3]

In 1985, a member of GAI died of AIDS, and in 1987 the organization founded the Indian AIDS Project. Co-founder Randy Burns commented in 2015 that 82 members of GAI had died of AIDS.[3]


  1. ^ Faiman-Silva, Sandra (November 19, 2011). "Anthropologists and Two-Spirit People: Building Bridges and Sharing Knowledge". Anthropology Faculty Publications.
  2. ^ "Will Roscoe papers and Gay American Indians records". Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  3. ^ a b c "The Bay Area Reporter Online | Gay American Indians
    celebrate 40 years"
    . Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  4. ^ Faderman, Lillian (2007-01-01). Great Events from History: 1848-1983. Salem Press. ISBN 9781587652646.