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Foster Gunnison, Jr.
(October 30, 1925 - July 1994) USA

Foster Gunnison, Jr.

Activist

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Foster Gunnison, Jr. was born in Bronxville, New York. In 1944 he entered Haverford College and soon after transferred to Columbia University, graduating in 1949.

Gunnison moved to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1955 to pursue a Masters degree in psychology at Trinity College. After completing a second Masters degree at Trinity, in philosophy, in 1964 he visited the New York City offices of the Mattachine Society. Gunnison explained to receptionist, he had "known for some time that he was not developing into a heterosexual". Gunnison's decision to join the Mattachine Society took place in the context of a growing public dialog about and resistance to the theories of Drs. Bieber and Socarides that characterized homosexuality as a pathological disorder.

In the late 1960s, few years before the Stonewall riots of 1969, student leaders and campus groups emerged as facilitating forces for change, bolstering the organizations' membership and in many cases their radicalism. Yet amid calls for centralization and unity within the movement, the new ranks challenged the "old guard" -- their leadership, agendas, and decisions on behalf of these organizations -- and facilitated the development of splinter groups and localized movements.

In the mid 1960s, Gunnison involved himself in the Eastern Conference of Homophile Organizations (ECHO), an early coalition of organizations seeking the creation of a national homophile organization, offering his services as secretary. In 1966, he was appointed Chair of the Credentials Committee for the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO).

From 1965 to 1969, Gunnison collected the office and conference records of ECHO and NACHO, soon after expanding the scope of his collecting activities to include the records and periodicals of several gay, and some lesbian, organizations throughout the United States. During this period Gunnison founded his own organization, the Institute for Social Ethics (ISE), which he described as a "libertarian-oriented research facility and think tank for controversial social issues." Under the guise of ISE, Gunnison authored the pamphlet An Introduction to the Homophile Movement (1967).

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