3. Stephen Donaldson

Stephen Donaldson at the Oakland, California airport in July of 1984 via Wikimedia Commons Via Espertus

Stephen Donaldson was born in 1946 in Norfolk, Virginia with the name Robert A. Martin Jr. Back in the 60s, it was dangerous to reveal a real name in gay bars, especially when you operated a secret gay club  at a prominent college like Columbia University. Thus, Stephen Donaldson, the activist, was born. As gay groups on college campuses were either nonexistent or forced to remain a secret, Donaldson would be happy to know that his efforts have paid off. Columbia, which would send gay students to psychologists or kick them out of school during the 60s, now has over a dozen LGBTQ groups, and most colleges across the country have at least one.

Donaldson faced a lot of persecution for being gay, including roommates who refused to room with him. Because he was bisexual, friends of his said that he could pass for straight and play the part easier — but sexual orientation is not always easy to hide, especially when you’re active in the movement. The group he started, Columbia’s Student Homophile League, scandalized many but retained the backing of Columbia’s chaplain, Reverend John Cannon, whom Donaldson referred to as the club’s “lightning rod.” The group was officially approved in 1967 and Donaldson went on to promote it to all of the radio stations and newspapers he could. It was the beginning of college level LGBTQ revolution as other major schools followed suit and over 150 groups popped up across college campuses within the following four years.

Donaldson reached his breaking point when he was turned away after seeking help for STDs. He came back a few hours later and held the physician at gunpoint as he demanded the penicillin injection they refused him. He was convicted on six felonies, which included exaggerated and outrages charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. He served four years of his ten-year sentence.

After facing horrors in prison, and attributing his AIDS contraction to his time in prison, Stephen Donaldson became an anti-prison rape advocate, volunteered to counsel male prison rape victims, served as the president of the Stop Prisoner Rape  and was also involved with the organization, People Organized to Stop the Rape of Imprisoned Persons. In 1980, Stephen became the assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality and co-editor of the Concise Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Donaldson lost his battle with AIDS in 1996, but his efforts to stop prison rape and his activism to create college LGBTQ groups are still benefiting people today. To honor his memory, Columbia University created the Donaldson Lounge.