At Pace, we have our very own LGBTQ all-star, and her name is Karla Jay, PhD. Since 1975, the Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies has founded and taught numerous courses in lesbian and gay studies, women’s studies, and literature, and has received several awards including the Distinguished Faculty Award, Diversity Leadership Award, and Kenan Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Last week, Jay moderated the Center for Community Action and Research’s Common Hour Convo: When Will the Hate Stop? A Student Discussion on LGBTQ-based Violence, where she urged students to take action.
“You can’t sit around and feel sad,” she said. “You need to think about the people who are here.”
On December 1, Jay and world-renowned civil rights activist and Gay TV USA show host Ann Northrop will raise HIV/AIDS Awareness and address the past and present battles for equality within the gay and lesbian civil rights movement and feminist movement in America on the NYC Campus as part of World AIDS Day.
And this merely reflects Jay’s work on-campus. What she has done for the movement outside of Pace has changed all of our lives.
When gay activists founded the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Jay was a member. She helped form the Women’s Caucus of GLF, also known as The Lavender Menace, which sought inclusion for lesbians in the feminist movement. Their 1970 takeover of the Second Congress to Unite Women is considered a turning point in recognizing lesbianism in the women’s movement.
Additionally, Jay has published more than a dozen books that have touched the lives of millions. Her first book, Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation, which has been called “a pioneering anthology that had a profound impact in its first incarnation in 1972,” remains in print, as does her recent memoir on the early years of the women’s and gay liberation movement, Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation, which Gloria Steinem described “as irresistible as a novel, but as credible, humorous, and unexpected as real life.”
An inspiration to many, Jay has been named twice as Grand Marshal of the Stonewall Pride Parade.
But all of this recognition did not come without its share of struggle. Jay, who has been threatened both verbally and physically, will not sit back.
“The way I look at it, if I stop doing what I’m doing because I’m afraid, then they’ve won,” she said. “Women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, disability; it’s a kind of unstoppable quest for equality.”
Jay, who lost her sight a few years ago, has now begun a new battle. “I’m a student and I’m studying Braille. I’m learning to be blind.”
Jay notes that she is now a part of, “another invisible community,” but she won’t stand for it. With proposed cuts to the state budget impacting the National Federation of the Blind’s NFB-Newsline, an audio newspaper services that provides the blind and visually impaired with more than 300 newspapers and magazines, Jay is speaking out on behalf of people with disabilities, lobbying Albany to ensure everyone has access to these resources.