James W. Toy, 1951
B.A., Denison University
Human Rights Advocate
Citation awarded June, 2001
James W. Toy is a human rights advocate, consultant, counselor, and writer who has focused for over thirty years on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender rights. He has endeavored to help others as they struggle with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, and discrimination.
After graduating from Denison, Jim spent much of his youth as Organist and Director of Music for St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, Michigan. Encouraged by the supportive environ-ment he found within that church, in 1970 Jim helped to found both the Detroit Gay Liberation Movement and the Ann Arbor Gay Liberation Front. He urged the creation of programs at the University of Michigan to meet the needs of lesbian and gay students. In 1971, the University founded the Human Sexuality Office with Jim and a lesbian at the helm as Co-Coordinators of the office. He also continued his work within the Episcopal community to foster a more open and welcoming church environment for lesbians and gay men.
Jim’s activism has extended also into the political and public policy arenas. He currently works at the University of Michigan as a Consultant in the Office of Equity and Diversity Services. He helped draft an anti-discrimination ordinance for the City of Ann Arbor in 1972. On the state level, he served as a member of the Task Force on the Family and Sexuality, sponsored by the Civil Rights Com¬mittee of the Michigan State House of Representatives. He has served on the Boards of Guild House (“A Campus Ministry”), and the Michigan ACLU, and is a member of the Church & Society Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. He has been a member of a number of service and advocacy groups. Jim is the recipient of many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Michigan’s Lesbian and Gay Community (2000), the Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit City Council (1994), and the Volunteer Service Award from the HIV/AIDS Resource Center of Washtenaw (1993).
Jim has counseled with many students and others experiencing suicidal depression because of their gay orientation. Many of these clients have later expressed their thanks to him in terms such as, “If it weren’t for you, I would have killed myself.” Jim comments that knowing his work has meant so much for his clients’ personal survival has been his greatest reward.
Jim’s late mother, Imogene Hamblen Toy, was a member of Denison’s Class of 1916. His aunt, the late Louise Hamblen Owen, graduated with the Class of 1920. Jim’s uncle, the late David E. Owen ’20, received not only his undergraduate degree but also an honorary degree from Denison in 1955.