Revered LGBTQ activist Jim Toy ’51 dies
America’s LGBTQ community lost a legend when Denison alumnus Jim Toy ’51 died on Jan. 1, 2022.
Times were very different when Toy arrived on campus in 1947 and “gay” simply meant “cheerful and happy.” A Denison Magazine article about the evolution of LGBTQ life at Denison notes that when he entered college, Toy was unaware of his homosexuality, and he “didn’t know the term ‘sexual orientation.’” Toy, who grew up in Granville, said such things weren’t even discussed in his youth.
A conscientious objector to military service, his encounters with the counterculture movements of the 1960s further distilled his capacity as an advocate and activist. And a police raid on iconic New York gay club Stonewall Inn gave Toy the focus and impetus that formed the platform of his life’s work.
Toy eventually settled in Detroit, where many believe he was the first man to publicly come out in Michigan. His tireless activism was rewarded with landmark accomplishments. Toy co-founded the University of Michigan’s Human Sexuality Office, the first-ever staffed office dedicated to sexual orientation at a university. He was a member of the founding convention in 1977 of the Michigan Organization for Human Rights, and he served on the ACLU Committee on Lesbian Women and Gay Men.
A Pride Source article captures Toy’s ethos in his own words: “I’m stubborn. I’m committed to making as much trouble as I can to create and maintain justice.”