How the 23-year-old tradition of the LGBTQ+ breakfast got its start

Thursday, April 16, 2015

UNH's annual LGBTQ+ and Ally Pancake Breakfast started as a form of protest more than two decades ago. Former journalism professor Jane Harrigan wrote about the breakfast's history in an article for UNH Magazine not too long ago; her writing shows how pancakes and maple syrup came to symbolize the fight for gay rights and recognition in the Granite State:

When New Hampshire Public Television held its first fundraising auction, in the spring of 1974, one of the items up for bid was a pancake breakfast with Gov. Meldrim Thomson at the governor's mansion, featuring maple syrup made on his Orford farm. At that point, Thomson had spent more than a year denouncing [members of UNH's first gay student group, the Gay Student's Organization] as deviants. To get a chance to talk with him, gay UNH students started raising money to bid on the breakfast. The day before the auction, newspapers reported that someone from the governor's office had offered money to a UNH graduate student so he could outbid the group. Both Thomson and the student denied that report. But on the night of May 12, the Gay Students Organization's $1,025 bid was the highest bid on the pancake breakfast shown on television. The auction moved on to other items, and then the auctioneer suddenly announced that bidding on the breakfast was closed—at $1,075, without the usual last-chance call for higher bids.

The winner was a store owner from Hampton, N.H., who was working at the auction and said he'd simply made a last-minute decision to bid. Both he and the station's managers denied that politics had played any role. But later, a student who worked at the auction wrote in The New Hampshire that from where he sat, things looked just as they did to TV viewers: The gay students had made the high bid and weren't given a chance to counter the subsequent one.

It was the only fight the Gay Students Organization lost in that contentious year — and since 1992 it's been transformed into a victory in the form of the annual LGBTQ+ and Ally Pancake Breakfast. Each spring several hundred people gather to honor the contributions of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community on campus.

Return to A Morning Celebration: Annual LGBTQ+ Breakfast a Time To Celebrate Victories, Plan for the Future in Fight for Equal Rights