Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights-History from 1980 to 2003

Title

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights-History from 1980 to 2003

Subject

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights-History from 1980 to 2003

Description

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights-History from 1980 to 2003

Creator

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights

Source

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights

Publisher

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights

Date

2003

Contributor

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights

Text

History of TOHR 1980 to 2003
Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights (TOHR) is Oklahoman’s oldest and largest
GLBT organization.
TOHR was founded in 1980 by a small group of people concerned about human
rights and equality for GLBT persons in Tulsa, including Dennis Neill, Bob Inglish, Mike
Green and Gary Durst. The Tulsa organization was originally a part of the Oklahoma
City-based chapter. The organization was then known as Oklahomans for Human Rights
(OHR).
In 1985, as the Oklahoma City organization declined in activity, the Tulsa
Chapter decided to form its own non-profit organization to be called the Tulsa
Oklahomans for Human Rights (TOHR). During that year, TOHR was incorporated to
pursue its new mission of serving the residents of Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma.
Soon after its establishment, TOHR launched the Gay Information Line, or 743-
GAYS, which has been in operation ever since. For the first several months, the call
volume was extremely high as several religious groups worked to overwhelm the line
with harassing phone calls. The volunteers, however, persevered and the harassing calls
slowly declined. Since it’s beginning, the Gay Information Line has been a critical link
for many people needing help and support on GLBT and health issues.
During its first year, TOHR also conducted voter registration and political
surveys, sponsored a softball team and tournament, and conducted health clinics
(venereal diseases were rampant in the gay community before AIDS.)
In the 1980s, TOHR sponsored several high-profile social events for the GLBT
community; provided a speaker’s bureau to help educate the community; launched the
first gay pride picnic; and operated the popular Southwest Invitational, a sports event that
attracted participants from across the nation. The organization’s monthly membership
meetings routinely attracted from 50 to 150 participants as the community saw TOHR as
the principal source of information and support.
During this time, nationally known GLBT spokespersons who came to Tulsa at
TOHR’S invitation included LGTF activists Virginia Apuzzo; Valerie Torino, Mayor of
West Hollywood, Calif.; Troy Perry, founder of MCC; Lt. Leonard Matlovich, and
others. The organization’s work in the community was awarded with two operating
grants from the Chicago Resource Center, the first time an Oklahoma GLBT organization
received out-of-state funding and recognition.
With the advent of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, TOHR sent a medical
professional to health conferences to advise the community on the transmission of the
virus and other dangers. In addition, TOHR opened the first anonymous testing site in
northeastern Oklahoma. The organization was responsible for acquiring state funding for
AIDS testing and education by establishing the Tulsa Chapter of the AIDS Support
Program, or ASP.
This effort was later assumed by another organization, known as HOPE (HIV
Outreach, Prevention, and Education). In 1998, HOPE spun off from TOHR so both
organizations could focus on their respective missions. Today, HOPE operates a testing
and counseling site a 3503 East Admiral Place in Tulsa.
TOHR opened Tulsa’s first Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered
Community Center in October 1996 at 1338 East 38th Street in the Brookside
neighborhood of Tulsa. The center quickly became a popular meeting spot for
community groups, support groups, and those who wished to network with other
members of the GLBT community. The center began to operate a book and video library,
referral service, and pride retail store.
TOHR organized Tulsa’s first gay pride march in 1997 with 60 participants. In
1998, the event grew to include approximately 150 marchers. In 1998, the march grew
into a parade. Tulsa’s first Diversity Parade was held in 1999 on Peoria Avenue in the
Brookside neighborhood of Tulsa and featured Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, as
its first Grand Marshal. The parade culminated with the Diversity Festival at Tulsa’s
Veteran’s Park. Both events drew large crowds and proved very successful, beginning a
new tradition for Tulsa’s GLBT community.
In 2000, TOHR received grants from the Collins Higgins Foundation and Gill
Foundation of Denver, Colo., for expanding programs and operating support.
Also, in 2000, TOHR was selected as a 2001 host site for the OutGiving
InCommunity Project of the Gill Foundation. More than 25 local organizations (over half
were non-GLBT groups) participated in the project held at the Community Center. This
was considered an honor for TOHR to be selected as a national host site.
Finally, in 2000, TOHR launched its first-ever capital fundraising campaign, the
Pyramid Project. The goal of this major capital campaign is to raise a total of $1 million
for a permanent and visible home for the Tulsa GLBT Community Center. Of the goal,
$500,000 will be utilized to acquire a permanent facility for the center, and $500,000 will
fund an endowment to sustain operation of the facility for future generations.
In 2001, TOHR was selected to be one of three “Fast Track” programs in the
nation by the Gill Foundation. Through this program, the Gill Foundation provides
$40,000 of operating support over three years ($15,000 in 2001; $15,000 in 2002; and
$10,000 in 2003). The intent of the operating grants is to help sustain the organization’s
operating fund during the capital campaign. In addition, the Gill Foundation has provided
TOHR technical assistance during the campaign. TOHR was selected by the Gill
Foundation based on the quality and reputation of the organization, and the potential for
Tulsa to become a more positive environment for members of its GLBT community.
Presently, TOHR is developing an annual operating plan for 2003 and a set of
long-range goals to guide the organization through 2006. The organization also is
preparing to move its capital campaign into the middle phase by seeking major corporate
and foundation support. TOHR also has completed a major revision of its bylaws, taking
the organization from an association to a corporate model. In addition, major
restructuring of the organization will take TOHR to new heights in 2003 and beyond!

Files

Citation

Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights, “Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights-History from 1980 to 2003,” OKEQ History Project, accessed August 6, 2020, https://history.okeq.org/items/show/287.