Gay American Indians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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 the first gay American Indian liberation organization.[1][2]


The initial purpose of the group was described by co-founder Randy Burns as a "safe place to socialize and share."[citation needed] The founders wanted a space to address the intersectionality of their identities.[citation needed] GAI Members advocated for the use of the term "two-spirit"[when?] as an alternative to the anthropological term "berdache" because they viewed the latter as problematic.[citation needed] The group also worked in the 1980s with non-Native anthropologist Will Roscoe to produce a book about the meaning of "berdache."[3] 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."[4] The Bay Area Reporter credits GAI was the "first organization for queer Natives in the country."[5]

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).[6] Burns is quoted that one of the "main reasons" GAI was founded was as a social alternative to the discrimination in the Castro district.[5]

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.[5]


Records from GAI are held by the GLBT Historical Society.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Will Roscoe papers and Gay American Indians records". Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  2. ^ Gilley, Brian Joseph (2006). Becoming Two-spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country. U of Nebraska Press. p. 27. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  3. ^ Faiman-Silva, Sandra (November 19, 2011). "Anthropologists and Two-Spirit People: Building Bridges and Sharing Knowledge". Anthropology Faculty Publications.
  4. ^ "Will Roscoe papers and Gay American Indians records". Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  5. ^ a b c "The Bay Area Reporter Online | Gay American Indians
    celebrate 40 years"
    . Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  6. ^ Faderman, Lillian (2007-01-01). Great Events from History: 1848-1983. Salem Press. ISBN 9781587652646.