High Tech Gays (HTG) was a Silicon Valley LGBTQ social and activist organization from 1983 to 1997. It held monthly business meetings attended by hundreds. Members enjoyed social outings, assisted each other in job searches and some became very active in the LGBTQ rights movement.
Members helped push the needle forward in civil rights for LGBTQ workers, organizing through its website HighTechGays.com and monthly newsletters discreetly mailed to more than a thousand people.
Employees successfully lobbied high tech companies to include sexual orientation in internal equal opportunity policies. The organization was also a co-defendant who successfully sued the federal government for discriminatory investigation into gay and lesbian employees seeking secret and top-secret clearances, based on sexual orientation. These strides made headlines in publications like The Advocate, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle.
As more gay and lesbian tech workers flocked to the Bay Area in search of accepting workplaces, Silicon Valley companies adopted more liberal policies to attract highly competitive talent.
The history of High Tech Gays began in January 1983, after a San Francisco group called Lesbian and Gay Associated Engineers and Scientists (LGAES) held a South Bay meeting at the old San Jose Billy DeFrank Center at Keyes Street in San Jose.
Ten people attended that night, including Denny Carroll, Rick Rudy and Eric Lipanovich. The three men – who worked at AT&T, Laserscope Inc. and Digital Equipment Corporation, respectively – held additional meetings during January and February to discuss creating a South Bay chapter of LGAES.
The first “official” chapter meeting was on March 15, 1983, when “High Tech Gays” was chosen as the chapter name – a brazen upgrade from the original idea: “The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of Lesbian & Gay Associated Engineers and Scientists.”
HTG became an independent organization that summer, and when LGAES in San Francisco was discontinued in 1985, their members transitioned over to HTG.
“Little did we know how successful the organization would become and that houses would soon be too small to hold monthly meetings,” co-founder Rick Rudy said. “HTG focused on the unique needs of gays in the high tech businesses in Santa Clara Valley.”
In addition to the organization’s involvement in politics and activism, High Tech Gays organized social events and excursions to museums, theaters, snow slopes and camp sites. Monthly member meetings included pot luck dinners featuring keynote speeches from local mayors, supervisors, police and fire chiefs, LGBTQ national leaders, political candidates, state assembly members, judges, CEOs and BAYMEC.
During early meetings, Denny Carroll was in charge of calling people, building a database and setting up meeting locations as the elected secretary, while Eric Lipanovich set up years-long financial processes as treasurer of the newly formed organization. Everyone agreed that Rick Rudy was his best on “center stage,” so he became the first President and spokesperson for the organization – a role he held until complications from AIDS led to his untimely death in 1990.