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Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) formed in NYC in response to the stigma, discrimination, and insufficient governmental assistance in the beginning years of the AIDS epidemic. Individuals and groups affected by AIDS were being denied critical resources such as healthcare, social services, and housing. Many lost their jobs, the support of their families, and were dealing with increasing social isolation. GMHC’s staff and volunteers responded by providing a range of services, including: medical, legal, and financial information, counseling, and advocacy, as well as social and emotional support. Although GMHC began as an organization primarily focused on the needs of the gay male community, the clients who came to the agency for services were always more diverse than the name implied and, as the years went by, became even more so. As the virulence of the epidemic intensified and the number and diversity of those affected rose, the challenges of developing, prioritizing, and allocating agency resources and services magnified. This emerging reality exposed schisms between those most in need of GMHC’s services and the organization’s history, identity, and organizational culture. This was also happening at a time when the agency was becoming more professionalized and bureaucratic, as pursuit of funding forced it to shift away from its movement-based roots. The current project presents a microhistory of GMHC from 1986-1996, a decade in which significant transitions and intergroup conflicts occurred within the organization. Analysis of archival data from this period, including GMHC newsletters, meeting minutes, results from internal agency reports, and other related documents highlight conflicts within and surrounding GMHC during this transitional period.



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In Transition: A Microhistory of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) 1986-1996