Humboldt State University professor of education Eric Rofes, who died of a heart attack in 2006, was honored at the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 27.
“Eric was a whirlwind of energy and brilliance at HSU and in the world, and I miss him daily,” said critical race and gender studies professor Christina Accomando in a press release sent by HSU. “His influence continues to be felt through our curriculum, our student organizations and Eric’s former students, who continue to do amazing things to make this a better world.”
According to a press release from the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor "celebrates LGBTQ leaders who have paved the road to liberation and contributed significantly to progress for LGBTQ people.” The wall features 50 names of LGBTQ activisits, artists, federal workers and others.
Before heading to HSU in 1999, Rofes was an organizer and activist who began developing a gay men’s health movement, according to his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle. He also led many organizations, including the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center from 1985 to 1988, and then went on to direct San Francisco’s Shanty Project from 1989 to 1993. Rofes also testified at the National Committee on AIDS hearing in 1991 wearing a leather chaps, vest and gloves to show there are varieties of sexual expression.
While teaching education courses at HSU, Rofes was also an activist and influenced the development of the multicultural queer studies minor, which then became a part of the Department of Critical Race and Gender Studies (CRGS). The school’s Multicultural Queer Resource Center was also named after Rofes and works to “shift public opinion of the queer community on campus and in the local area from tolerance to acceptance.”
“He was a big personality who was never satisfied with the status quo,” Sheila Rocker-Heppe, director of Extended Education and Global Engagement at HSU said of Rofes in the press release. “He challenged me to examine my perceptions; he challenged me to live well beyond my boxes.”
Read the full press release below:
HSU Professor Honored on National LGBTQ Wall of Honor
The late Eric Rofes, a scholar, activist, and professor of Education at Humboldt, has been honored for his work in queer liberation and social justice on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Rofes, who died in 2006, was instrumental in developing the Multicultural Queer Studies minor at HSU (which later became part of the Department of Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies) and is the namesake of the Eric Rofes Multicultural Queer Resource Center, which supports LGBTQ students and continues his community organizing efforts around queer, anti-racist and feminist activism. He founded and led gay organizations in major U.S. cities, authored groundbreaking books on gay men’s health and organized national meetings on gay and lesbian issues. Read more about Rofes’ legacy in a San Francisco Chronicle obituary.
“Eric was a whirlwind of energy and brilliance at HSU and in the world, and I miss him daily,” says CRGSProfessor Christina Accomando. “His influence continues to be felt through our curriculum, our student organizations, and Eric’s former students who continue to do amazing things to make this a better world.”
The National LGBTQ Wall of Honor celebrates leaders who have paved the road to liberation and contributed significantly to progress for LGBTQ people, according to a press release from the National LGBTQ Task Force. Unveiled on June 27, it begins with 50 artists, activists, federal workers, and others, and hangs in the historic Stonewall Inn, where demonstrations against a police raid on a gay bar in 1969 launched the modern LGBTQ movement. Other honorees include James Baldwin, Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, Kiyoshi Kuromiya, and Harvey Milk.
“The 50 leaders recognized represent some of our most vibrant changemakers and serve as a reminder that each one of us has a role to play in achieving freedom for LGBTQ people,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. “I invite everyone to honor those who have come before us and to be inspired to work for all that lies ahead.”
Sheila Rocker-Heppe, Director of Extended Education & Global Engagement at HSU, remembers Eric as an activist and educator characterized by both intensity and levity. “He was a big personality who was never satisfied with the status quo,” she says. “He challenged me to examine my perceptions; he challenged me to live well beyond my boxes. And he welcomed the opportunity to be challenged as well—which made for lively conversation and spirited exchanges about topics that could range from the definition of desire to the optimum cook time for microwave popcorn.”
As evidenced by his honor at the Stonewall Inn, Rofes’ reputation spread far beyond Humboldt State.
Co-founder of Queer Humboldt and HSU Housing Director Todd Larsen met Rofes in 2003 and said he seemed like an average person doing some queer work in the community.
“At his memorial in San Francisco, I realized just how well-known Eric was,” Larsen says. “There were hundreds of Eric’s friends, including many of the major political players and activists in the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and so many others from all the national work Eric did for gay rights across the country in addition to his published works. Eric’s work on ‘Reviving The Tribe’ has always meant a lot to me, with the goal of passing on our queer history from gay elders to new queer youth.”
About the Eric Rofes Multicultural Queer Resource Center:
The Center’s mission is to shift public opinion of the queer community on campus and in the local area from tolerance to acceptance. With a rich resource library and events such as Q-Fest, Trans Speak Out, Queer STEM Mixer, and Safe Sexpo, it is a hub for students to learn about events and organizations on campus. The Center was established after Eric Rofes’ death and commemorates and continues his community organizing efforts around Queer/Anti-Racist/Feminist activism.
Visit the Center’s website to learn about resources and how to get involved.
About the National LGBTQ Task Force:
The National LGBTQ Task Force is the oldest national LGBTQ advocacy group in the country. The National LGBTQ Task Force builds power, takes action and creates change to achieve freedom and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. As a progressive gender, racial, economic, and social justice organization, the Task Force works toward a society that values and respects the diversity of human expression and identity.