John Krowka

John Krowka
Personal details




  • As a UVM undergrad, Krowka was an early leader for LGBTQA students—establishing the first gay student union, organizing the first queer dance, and deejaying his "Burlington After Dark" radio show on WRUV, which he always opened and closed with Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side.


  • The alumnus has made a distinguished career in the field of immunology, including decades of critical research on HIV. Since 2005, he has been an active member of the Personal Care Products Council in Washington, DC.





First Gay Dance, A Success

In the wake of UVM's first gay dance in January of 1975, Bob DeNike interviewed Krowka in an article for The Cynic:

A gay dance preceded by the theatrical performance of “Touchpoint” by the Unity Players was sponsored by the Gay Student Union Saturday Jan. 25. In an interview with John Krowka, president of the newly formed Union, discussion centered on the subject of public reaction to the unorthodox nature of his position and organization. “I haven’t gotten much negative response yet,” John told me (Bob DeNike), to my surprise. “I don’t know whether it’s a result of apathy or ignorance but people seem to accept me on a personal level and seldom do I notice any overt negative response. I’m not trying to be like everybody else, I just want to be free to realize my potential.” John’s sexual attitudes and feelings are indeed different from those of most people, but, as yet, there haven’t been any clashes with “straight people.” Little of any recognition has been given the matter in either a positive or negative direction by students, faculty, or administration. Whatever is being said about the Gay Student Union is being whispered. “Gay organizations are hardly a new or revolutionary phenomenon, even for Burlington,”

John explains. “Gay dances have been held downtown consistently for the past year and gay unions have existed in major cities for at least five years.” John continues: “There was somewhat of a crisis quite a while ago when William Loeb, owner of the Vermont Sunday News, tried desperately to annihilate a gay union started at the University of New Hampshire. He tried to have all involved students expelled from the university, but was unsuccessful. A large-scale change in people’s morals and sexual attitudes that has been occurring over the past few years and is the cause of the absence of any pre-conceived or anticipated opposition, a notion that today is misfounded and outdated. A lot of straight people have begun to question their own sexual behavior and are now adopting new beliefs toward traditionally accepted sexual practices. I’m referring specifically to the recent loss of faith in the permanence of the marriage situation. And when straight people begin realizing the limitations of their own ‘normal’ practices and beliefs, they more readily accept, different, non-conformist, gay behavior.”

John also noted: “People now are generally more liberated in all aspects of their sexual behavior. Sex partners living together before marriage is commonplace as is the presence of gay organizations. We have suffered oppression in much the same way blacks and women have in the past. Those who condemn gay liberation are prejudice and bigoted, like racists or sexists. Also, everyone must realize that some of our greatest historical personages were gay. Michelangelo, Tchaikovsky, Walk Whitman and Oscar Wilde are just a few examples. The list numbers in the thousands. Gay people are everywhere, as they have been for centuries. Yes, even in Burlington. Even at UVM. Several of the university’s faculty members and administrators are gay although their commitments and lifestyles restrict them from ‘coming out’. The Gay Student Union has two main objectives, the first of which is the provision of a sense of belonging, confidence and community among gay people. Secondly, it is important that we inform and educate both straight and gay people alike as to our existence, our wide range of services and the problems experiences encountered by the gay person. It is of the essence that we perform these steps in attempts to reach those gay people who feel they will become incriminated and stigmatized by asserting and committing themselves. Presently our membership numbers in the thirties, only six of which are university students. Many times I’ve sat in a lecture hall with over one hundred other kids and known I’m not the only gay one in that room. The percentages and odds alone tell me that.”

And John talks about what goes on inside when a person knows he’s gay: “It takes an intense inner crisis to bring a gay person out of hiding. I underwent such a conflict that forced me to expose my secret. By keeping it inside me, I was fucking myself up. I got tired of donning a pseudo-personality and appearance whenever I was around straight people. The only way of freeing myself from an unbearably torturous tension was to accept myself and be free. I actually consider myself as having an advantage over straight people in being gay. I am bi-sexual, which is very distinct from homosexuality. I think scientists will soon find there is no such thing as exclusive homosexuality. I am capable of having intimate relationships with males and females alike and therefore know a second type of love that straight people can never experience. I don’t discriminate against becoming close to a person because of his or her sex.” The people of Burlington and UVM seem to be taking the incorporation of the gay union peacefully and in stride. For the sake of love and liberation, let’s hope public reaction and attitudes remain that way.