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Who is Jim Toy?

The name “Jim Toy” is synonymous with the queer movement in the state of Michigan. The first publicly “out” man in Michigan (1970), Jim established the first campus center in history devoted to the support of sexual minority group members. His status as a TBLG icon is based on over 40 years of tireless effort to create safety and equality for people of all sexual and gender preferences through his speaking, teaching, writing, administrating, organizing, and protesting. The Jim Toy Community Center is honored to be associated with his name and to dedicate its work to his causes. 

Birth and Early Years

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Born in New York City on April 29, 1930,  a Chinese father whose birthplace was Portland, Oregon, and a Scotch-Irish mother who was born in Japan. He graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio in 1951 (B.A. in French and music), then accepted a position teaching English in France. He lived near Bordeaux and in Corsica until 1953 when he moved to New York where he worked in a hospital blood bank to fulfill a conscientious-objector requirement. In 1957, he moved to Detroit where he became organist-choirmaster at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church. Toy also married at this time and enrolled in the musicology program at the University of Michigan.

The 1960s

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This was a period in which he struggled with concerns about his sexuality. St. Joseph's, which then had a reputation as a "radical" church, supportive of progressive social programs and causes, provided Toy with the nurturing environment that he needed as he decided in 1970 not only to lead a more open lifestyle but also to work to change attitudes and perceptions about homosexuality. In 1970, Toy helped to found and served as secretary of both the Detroit Gay Liberation Movement (later known as the Detroit Gay Liberation Front) and the Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front, organizations established to dramatize and seek remedy for the discrimination and harassment that gays and lesbians daily confronted. In April of 1970, Toy made his first public pronouncement as an "open" gay man at an anti-war rally in Detroit. According to Toy, he was thus the first person in Michigan to "come out of the closet" publicly.


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Following a statewide gay conference held at the University of Michigan in the summer of 1970, Toy began urging the creation of a program to address the needs of the university's gay male and lesbian students. Using the model which the university had established of creating advocacy units for black students and women students, Toy and other students proposed that the U-M should create a comparable unit to address the concerns of gay male and lesbian students. In 1971, the university under its Office of Special Services and Programs created a "Human Sexuality Office" with two quarter-time employees (one for lesbian and one for gay male students). Jim Toy became the university's first and (at this writing) only gay male advocate. 


The Lesbian-Gay Male-Bisexual Programs Office (hereafter LGBPO) was created in 1971 as the "Human Sexuality Office" within the Office of Special Services and Programs of the University of Michigan. Heading the office initially were two individuals, a lesbian advocate and a gay male advocate, each of them to be temporary and part-time. In 1972, the advocate positions were upgraded to permanent and professional level, but they were still only funded at one-quarter time. In 1977, the advocates became funded at one-half time largely through the efforts of concerned university and community members. In 1980, the office was taken out of the Office of Special Services and Programs and brought under the supervision of the Director of Counseling Services. At this same time, the term "advocate" was dropped and in its place the position of "program coordinator" established. In 1987, the co-coordinator positions were made full-time. In 1994, there was another bureaucratic restructuring. The Office ceased having two individuals in charge (one for lesbians and one for gay males); rather a single director now headed the program. The office was renamed the Lesbian Gay Male Bisexual Programs Office and was administratively located within the office of the Associate Dean of Students for Multiculturalism in the Office of Student Affairs. The office is now known as the Spectrum Center.


The Human Sexuality Office under Toy's and the lesbian advocates' leadership helped students and other lesbians and gay men to organize groups to meet specific needs. LaGROC was significant for its involvement in political protest in the 1980s taking over somewhat the types of activities performed by the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s. Other organizations created with the support of the LGBPO were Michigan Gay Undergraduates, the Gay Academic Union, the Gay Awareness Women's Kollective (GAWK), and Gay Community Services. As a member of the lesbian-gay male-bisexual community, Toy also helped found Little Lambda, the first local lesbian-gay male youth group.


Other Activism

Toy's activism on behalf of gay rights also extended into the political and public policy arena. A willing participant in any number of organizations, causes, and public demonstrations, Toy urged change on all levels of government. He was on the committee that drafted an anti-discrimination ordinance (perhaps the first such official proclamation in the United States) for the city of Ann Arbor that was adopted in July 1972. That same year he co-authored a Gay Pride Week proclamation subsequently approved by the city council of Ann Arbor. On the state level, Toy served as a member of the Task Force on the Family and Sexuality of the Civil Rights Committee of the Michigan State House of Representatives. Other organizations in which Toy participated included the local chapter of the ACLU, the state board of the Michigan Organization for Human Rights, the Ann Arbor Area Association for Civil Concerns, the Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus of Washtenaw County, and the Huron Valley Chapter of Wellness Network (now the HIV/AIDS Resource Center, or HARC). Toy served as a trainer and support-group facilitator for HARC.

Tributes Following His Death

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