Tag Archives: Gay

Gay History: What Were The White Night Riots?

‘Dan White murdered my friend’: When anger boiled over into violence at City Hall and San Francisco police raided a Castro bar

On May 21, 1979, thousands of members of San Francisco’s predominantly gay Castro District community took to the streets to protest the lenient sentence received by Dan White for the murders of local politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Their anger–combined with the actions of police who arrived to quell the scene–soon boiled over into rioting. The resulting violence affected San Francisco’s LGBT community for decades to come.

Harvey Milk rose to prominence as a gay rights activist and became the first openly gay person elected to a public office in the state of California when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. His murder, as well as that of Mayor Moscone, devastated not just the gay community, but the city as a whole.

Dan White was a former member of the Board of Supervisors who had clashed with Milk during their time serving the city together. In November of 1978, White resigned from his post, but changed his mind and asked to be reinstated. Mayor Moscone denied the request–with Milk lobbying against White’s reappointment. On November 27, White entered City Hall through a basement window and shot both men to death in their offices.

Six months later, White was convicted, not of first-degree murder, but voluntary manslaughter. White’s defense team had pointed to his diminished mental capacity and emotional state at the time of the murders, as indicated by the once-health conscious White consuming too much junk food– a ploy that became known as the “Twinkie Defense.” The jury-predominantly white, Roman Catholic and heterosexual—bought into it, recommending the lesser charge, which led to a sentence of just 7 years and 8 months.

When news of the verdict broke on the night of May 21, Cleve Jones–a close friend of Milk’s who would eventually go on to become one of the creators of the AIDS Quilt–spoke to a crowd of about 500 gatherers on Castro Street, and a peaceful march was quickly organized. By the time the crowd of protestors had made its second trip around the block, they were 1,500 strong. They then marched to City Hall, where their numbers expanded to an estimated 5,000.

As the crowd grew, so did the anger. Police soon arrived to try to control the situation, but that only served to enrage the crowd more. The police had raised over $100,000 for White’s defense–he was a former police officer–and many in the community believed the department had conspired to reduce White’s charges and sentencing. Although ordered to simply hold the crowd back, many officers began attacking the protestors with night sticks. Many had even taped over their badges, so as not to be identified.

Chaos erupted, as the crowd fought with police and destroyed a dozen police vehicles, as well as parts of City Hall itself. After three hours, officers moved in to quell the rioting for good, using tear gas in the process, and the crowd dispersed. In all, 59 officers and 124 protestors were injured, with about two dozen arrests made.

Hours later, several police officers gathered on their own to raid the Castro neighborhood, vandalizing a local bar and assaulting patrons. They shouted anti-gay slurs at the victims, and eventually turned their attention to attacking anyone that happened to be out on Castro Street.

After two hours, Police Chief Charles Gain was made aware of the rogue officers’ activities, and he made his way to the Castro to put a stop to it. No officers were reprimanded for the attacks, as officials were never able to determine who had ordered it, but the violence was finally over.

The next day, on what would have been Milk’s 49th birthday, 20,000 San Franciscans gathered to remember him. That October, more than 75,000 people marched for gay rights in Washington, D.C., and gay rights activists from around the country were inspired to continue their fight.

In San Francisco, the riots led to a wave of political changes, as more and more LGBT politicians were elected over the next decades. LGBT presence on the police forced also dramatically increased, and has continued to increase to this day.

Reference

Gay History: Student Homophile League at Earl Hall, Columbia University

OVERVIEW

The Student Homophile League, the first gay student organization in the country, was founded at Columbia University in 1966 and held many of its activities in Earl Hall.

In 1970, the group became the more activist Gay People at Columbia (also known as Gay People at Columbia-Barnard), which sponsored a series of popular Friday-night dances in Earl Hall’s auditorium.

In 1971, gay students established a gay lounge in Furnald Hall, which is now known as the Stephen Donaldson Queer Lounge.

Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

HISTORY

In 1966, Columbia University became the first collegiate institution in the United States, and possibly the first in the world, with an LGBT student group. In the fall of that year, bisexual sophomore Robert Martin (using the pseudonym Stephen Donaldson) founded the Student Homophile League (SHL) following a meeting with Columbia and Barnard representatives, religious advisers, and two of the most important national leaders for gay and lesbian rights, Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings.

The small student group had the support of the university chaplain and, thus, gained space in Earl Hall, the center of student religious life. The university officially recognized the group in April 1967 with the stipulation that it not organize social events. A subsequent front page article in the New York Times resulted in outrage from hundreds of alumni and negative editorials in many newspapers; one alum wrote “Tolerance has its limits. Let the pansies go elsewhere.” The SHL sponsored lectures, held “rap sessions” about homosexuality on dorm floors, and advocated for the acceptance of homosexuals in society in generally, with specific emphasis on ending discrimination in the military and the psychiatric community.

By 1970, Columbia’s gay student group had become the more activist Gay People at Columbia (also known as Gay People at Columbia-Barnard), which sought to “present as complete a view as possible of the contemporary gay experience: socially, educationally and politically.” Its most popular activity was monthly Friday-night dances, beginning in 1970, held in the auditorium on the third floor of Earl Hall, which welcomed the entire gay and lesbian community of New York. The dances reached their peak popularity in the 1980s and were especially popular with those who enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that contrasted with the clubs and bars downtown. The group still exists as the Columbia Queer Alliance (CQA) and hosts “First Friday” dance events in Alfred Lerner Hall.

In 1971, gay students, led by Morty Manford (later the head of the Gay Activists Alliance and son of PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford), requested space for a gay lounge. Although denied permission by the university, the group took over an unused space in the basement of the Furnald Hall dormitory. The lounge eventually was recognized by the university and the space is still in use, now known as the Stephen Donaldson Queer Lounge.

In March 2018, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project successfully nominated Earl Hall to the National Register of Historic Places, following its listing on the New York State Register in January 2018. The nomination is available in the “Read More” section below.

Reference

  • Student Homophile League at Earl Hall, Columbia University ,Student Homophile League at Earl Hall, Columbia University,

Weird Tales from My Year on Gay Dating Apps

I learned what “racial play” is and had a rather shitty experience with a “straight” guy who was into having sex with men.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLAIRE MILBRATH

After breaking up with a boyfriend in 2011, I wanted to explore online dating and give being single in Toronto a shot before jumping into anything serious. Unfortunately for me, I soon realized that the gay dating world came with its own set of rules, most of which are pretty weird and somewhat racist. Race, body shaming, identity politics, and masculinity seemed to come up a lot and eventually I just said “fuck it” and deleted every dating site I was on. I needed a break. I needed to hear something other than “looking for whites only” or “straight-acting only.” It got to a point where I felt shitty about wanting to get laid and needed give the online thing a rest.

In 2013, I came out of “online dating retirement” and decided to explore it again. Every so often I’d hear my friends gush about all the great dates and hot sex they were having on Grindr and Scruff. It took a lot of convincing, but I gave a few of these apps a shot. I downloaded both Grindr and Scruff and immediately starting messaging people. 

Throughout that year, there were a few really nice conversations that didn’t really go anywhere, the occasional good ass and/or dick pics, and an older couple in their 80s that always messaged me in Spanish. But aside from that, the string of weird encounters just got worse every time. In January, I finally deleted all the apps and have sworn off online dating and hookups for good. But it wasn’t all for nothing. Below, you’ll find three stories that I’ll probably never forget.

Picture Tag Gone Wrong

Around Thanksgiving last year, I got a message from an Irish guy visiting the city for a few weeks. I chatted him up about all things Ireland and told him about a trip I was planning for spring 2016. The vibe was friendly for the first few days, and then he wanted to see some pics, which I was more than willing to share. I sent a face pic to start and he sent one back. He was a bald, rugged, bearded man with green eyes. Suffice to say the dude was really hot and definitely checked off a few boxes in the “my type” department.

We talked for a week and he eventually asked me if I had a dick pic. I sent the most recent one and waited for him to send something back. Two hours later he sends a pic, but it’s not of a body part or another sexy face pic, it’s a picture of him and his sister with the caption “hot pic.” I wasn’t sure if this was a mistake or a joke, but I decided to just brush it off and send another dick pic. He then responded with a picture of him smiling with his grandmother, saying nothing else. 

Two days later he messaged me to ask what I was doing. I told him I was just enjoying my day off and asked him what he had planned for the day. He then sent a picture of his spread asshole dripping with cum, a picture of him and his dog, and then a picture of him having family dinner, again saying nothing else. At this point, I wasn’t even mad or upset. The dude clearly wasn’t serious. That or he had a fucked-up sense of humor. 

As funny as the whole thing was, I decided to stop communicating with him entirely. I often wonder what a dripping asshole, playing with your dog, and eating dinner with your family could be code for, but I guess I’ll ever know.

“Racial Play”
I messaged a guy after work one day just to see if he’d reply. He messaged me back and said he comes to Toronto for work every day and wondered if we could hook up later that evening. I told him we should drink a few beers at my place and see where it goes. He came over around 10:30 PM, and made a few weird comments about the beer we were drinking, calling it “hipster beer.” That sort of turned me off, but I decided not to read too much into it. 

I wasn’t expecting things to heat up after the weird beer comment, but after six beers we just went for it and started making out. Before things escalated, he stopped me and said he needed to tell me something. I remember being puzzled and asking what was wrong. He told me he was into a few kinks, but didn’t know how to talk about them. Fetish is always an awkward subject for people, but I assured him I wasn’t easily weirded out. He looked extremely flustered and scared to say it, but after about five minutes of circling around the big confession, he sheepishly blurted out that he was into “racial play.”

I kind of giggled and then looked at him again. At that moment I realized he was being serious and took a deep breath because, as a black man and a human being, the whole thing had just thrown me off. Solely based on curiosity, I asked him exactly what this type of roleplay scene would entail. It scared me to imagine where this conversation was going to go, but I still couldn’t quite process what I just heard. I’ve done some weird shit, but this whole thing was fucked up and I didn’t understand what turned him on about it exactly. He asked me if I was mad that he was into that. I told him no because I actually wasn’t pissed at all. After having another beer he got into the finer details of how a “racial play” scene would go down.

According to him, a play scene would involve me in a cage, getting choked with his dick, while he spits on me and calls me nigger a few times. He assured me that while it was a lot to handle, it was actually a pretty popular fetish. It’s just something that nobody talks about. I looked at him, extremely puzzled after that statement. He stood, confident in his belief that was an acceptable thing to get off to, and it took a minute for me to figure out the best way to respond. Wanting to end this interaction on a peaceful note, I told him that while I respect his honesty, the thought of a man getting off to calling me racial slurs and performing violent sex acts on me was enough to make me want to commit murder.

When I said that he laughed it off, but once he saw the expression on my face, I could tell he knew it was probably in his best interest to call it a night. After he left I Googled “racial play” and found a lot of crazy shit, most of which I wish I could unsee. There are certain thoughts and images that linger in the subconscious and lead us to the fetishes we have. I think most things are fair game, but if me picking cotton gets you horny, there probably won’t be a second date.

Runaway Cucumber
One of the first guys I met on Grindr was a university student who had just moved to Toronto for school. During our first hangout we drank a few beers and talked about Toronto, which was a nice change from the usual in-and-out hook up. We immediately hit it off and it turned into an ongoing thing. We met up for sex about twice a month for a couple of months. It was really low-key, which has awesome because I wasn’t after anything serious at the time.

One night he came over and dropped a bomb on me. Apparently he had a girlfriend, which was news to me. He said he wasn’t gay—he just met up with guys because his girlfriend wasn’t into anal play. This all seemed messy and complicated, so I told him we should cool it on the sex until he and his girlfriend had a serious conversation. It would be one thing if they were in an open relationship, but it seemed more like their lack of communication had led to him sneaking out to get fucked by guys behind her back. It just didn’t seem healthy for me to continue sleeping with him if that was the case.

He texted me out of the blue three months later, asking if we could meet. I had my reservations about it, but I decided to let him stop by and get an update on what was going on with him and his situation. He came over and immediately went for my crotch, but before I could let it go any further, I needed to ask what the status of his relationship was. Apparently he had broken up with his girlfriend and was exclusively fucking guys. The way he talked about these new relationships was very strange. He maintained that he was still straight, but just really loved bottoming and couldn’t get enough.

We proceeded to play around a bit and eventually I was fucking him. I don’t know if fate was punishing me for allowing my thirst to blind me from the obvious mess of a situation this was, but ten minutes into it I’d felt something wet go down my leg. Let’s just say that he wasn’t ready to bottom and by the time I stopped the evidence of that was all over my bed.

When you’re having butt sex, there’s always the slight possibility of a little shit, but this was literally a shit storm. He felt really bad and I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so I said we should just shower and call it a night. I let him go first so I could throw away the sheets and after he got out I went in to get myself cleaned up. When I walked out of the shower, what I saw him doing brought new meaning to the phrase “by any means necessary.” I stood quietly by the door and watched as he began squatting down on a cucumber from my fridge, trying to fuck himself with it. He was jerking off and heavily breathing as he attempted to fit the entire cucumber up his ass.

After a minute or so, I purposely slammed the bathroom door and he freaked out when he saw me standing there. He could tell I was pissed and he kept trying to avoid eye contact. I asked him what he was doing still naked, which left him stuttering as he tried to make up a good excuse. I snatched the cucumber out of his hand and asked him to put on his clothes while I finished getting dressed in the bathroom. 

After we were both dressed I walked him out of my apartment and told him he shouldn’t contact me again. I didn’t want to be an asshole, but between his first lie about the girlfriend and the shit-stained bed I had to throw out, I felt like the universe was trying to tell me this needed to end.

To make matters worse, when I went back into the house, I checked the fridge and the fucking cucumber was gone. I was short an ingredient for my next lunch. I ordered a new bed and went to buy groceries the next day. Thank you universe! I definitely got the message.

Reference

Gay History: More Than Words: Gay Pt. 1 — We’re Going Gay

“Gay” was the first queer word I ever learned, and the first queer thing I ever called myself.  Something about “lesbian” didn’t sit right with me, and I wasn’t yet aware of reclamation, of the bright side of pejoratives — the spark that happens when you turn a weapon on itself. Plus I liked the sneakiness. Gay meant happy, right? You could claim it while admitting nothing. It was a rainbow dream mask.

But even before it got the rest of its colors, this word blushed. Pleasure, joy, and other gaieties are perpetually societally fraught, and gay has the scars to prove it — it’s been punned on, leaned on, worn proudly, hidden behind, argued over, and ping-ponged across the net of respectability ever since it was invented. If words could break, gay might have a long time ago. Luckily it bent instead. Here’s the beginning of how it happened.

The most common etymology of the word “gay” has it rooted in the Proto-Indo-European root *gey- (“to go”). This evolved into *gheng- (“to stride”) which became the Proto-Germanic *ganhaz/*ganhwaz (“sudden”), and then the Old High German gahi (“quick, impulsive”). The move to Old French jai (“merry”) brought the recognizable definition and a nice modern jauntiness. Jai became gai likely due to the influence of Gothic gaheis (“impetuous”), and soon we had the Middle English gay, direct ancestor of the word we use today.

Easy enough — except that etymology is an inexact science based on barely traceable exchanges that took place thousands of years ago, so not everyone agrees on what happened. Anatoly Liberman has an alternate theory that roots gay in Old High German wahi (“shining”/”beautiful”), based on a g/w interchangibility that we see borne out in word pairs like “guardian” and “warden,” or “guerrilla” and “war.” But he’s even more attached to a different explanation from the 19th century master Frank Chance. An “excellent etymologist, now almost forgotten,” Chance used to publish almost exclusively in Notes and Queries, a quarterly where scholars and hobbyists traded notes and asked each other questions — kind of like an early Formspring, but for linguistics and lexicography. In an 1861 Note, Chance took on “gay” via an analogy to the French gaîne, or “sheath,” which comes from the Latin vagina, also “sheath” (and also your bonus etymology-of-the-day).

“SON, WE SHALL NAME YOU FRANK CHANCE, DOOMING YOU TO A LIFE OF GAMBLING AND/OR ETYMOLOGY”

“The g in gaîne,” Chance explains, “corresponds to the v in vagina… In a similar way, I think, our adjective “gay” might be readily deduced from the Latin vagus, or perhaps from the corresponding Italian vago, which means both wandering, roaming, and pleasant, agreeable.” About a century and a third later, German linguist Harri Meier added some evidence to the pile, listing Italian cognates like svagarsi (“amuse oneself”) and svago (“diversion”).

I have also become attached to this theory, not only because it’s more fun, but also because it means that the start of  gay’s backstory involves a gradual influx of positive feeling — what semantician Stephen Ullman calls an “amelioration of meaning.”  As Liberman points out, the Latin vagus often meant “flighty” or “frivolous,” which, though not the worst possible things to call someone, aren’t as sunshiney as the merriment and joie de vivre implied by “gay” — see, for example, Propertius’s Elegy V, in which a “vagis puellis” is compared negatively to Cynthia, a “docta puella” or “learned girl,” and Propertius’s perpetual muse.  So somewhere over the course of its initial leap into English, gay enjoyed a rise in reputation — a fine beginning for a word that would spend the rest of its life undergoing a roller coaster ride of semantic shifts.

“Gay” first hit paper in 1325, in a transcription of a Middle English song called “Blow, Northerne Wynd.” When I started reading it, I thought it was about how the narrator would brave the northern wind to get to his beloved, who is described as semly and menskful and lossom (“seemly,” “worshipful,” and “lovely,” if you prefer boring new English words). But in the end, he’s actually asking the wind to blow his suetyng (“sweetheart”) to him, which honestly sounds kind of mean and lazy. Dave Wilton found the relevant stanza:

“Heo is dereworþe in day
graciouse, stout, ant gay
gentil, iolyf so þe iay
worhliche when heo wakeþ.
Maiden murgest of mouþ;
bi est, bi west, by norþ ant souþ,
þer nis fiele ne crouþ
þat such murþes makeþ.
Blow northerne wynd!
Send thou me my suetyng!
Blow northerne wynd! blow, blow, blow!”

(TRANSLATION: “She is precious in day / gracious, stout, and gay / gentle, jolly as the jay/ noble when she wakes. / Maiden merriest of mouth / by East, West, North and South / Neither fiddle nor crowd / Makes such abundance. / Blow northern wind! / Send me my sweetheart! / Blow northern wind! Blow, blow, blow!”)

Gay is a nice-sounding, one-syllable word that rhymes with a lot of things — all the makings of a poetic mainstay. To the delight of decades of middle school English students, no one could get enough of it for centuries and centuries. Chaucer used it in 1385. Robert Mannyng used it in his “story of England,” in the late 14th century. The lyrics of “Deck The Halls” are from 1862. Shakespeare used it thirteen times in total. Here’s Iago, in Othello, written in 1603: “She that was ever fair and never proud / Had tongue at will and yet was never loud / Never lack’d gold and yet went never gay.” I’m trying to be mature here but Shakespeare makes it hard.

DON’T LISTEN TO HIM, DESDEMONA! YOU’RE BETTER OFF GOLD AND GAY

Over this time, though, “gay” began experiencing a “pejoration of meaning” — it’s the opposite of the aforementioned amelioration, and you use it when a word’s reputation starts going downhill. Some think this started as far back as the 14th century, but it was definitely established by the 17th, when, according to the OED, it was generally used to describe those “addicted to pleasures and dissipations.” Carefreeness had flipped back to frivolity. You can even see it in the above Shakespeare, as Iago uses “gay” to mean “flashy” and sets it in parallel with pride and loudness, two then-undesirable traits). This frivolity developed into a general lack of inhibitions, and often referred to sexual carefreeness — by at least 1799, a “gay man” was a womanizer, a “gay woman” a prostitute, and a “gay house” a brothel.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMING OUT (VIA PUNCH MAGAZINE ARCHIVES)

In a nice return to its roots, “to go gay” was to live a life of hedonism. For proper usage, see this sentence, from Edward Montague Compton MacKenzie’s Carnival, that was far ahead of its time:

“After dinner Jenny went back to Hagworth Street, and had a flaming quarrel with her mother, who accused her of “going gay”; demanded to know how she dared put in an appearance dressed in another woman’s clothes; insisted she was to come home immediately after dinner; forbade a hundred things, and had the door slammed in her face for the advice.”

While this meaning became more prevalent, another now-familiar one snuck up alongside it. Next time we’ll talk about when gay started meaning what it does now — and take another few dips up and down the semantic roller coaster.

Reference

Gay History: The Mystery Photos Of A 1957 Gay Wedding

ONE Archives at USC

Decades before gay marriage became legal anywhere in the US, same-sex couples were committing themselves to each other in front of friends and loved ones. Few records of these ceremonies existed – until now, writes Jonathan Berr.

In 1957, a man dropped off a roll of film at a pharmacy in Philadelphia. But the developed photos were never returned to their owners.

The pictures appear to depict a gay wedding, nearly 50 years before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere in the US and almost 60 years before it became a federally-recognised right.

Now, a trio of gay producers and writers are trying to identify the grooms to learn their story and to find out whether a pharmacy employee balked at providing the snaps because they objected to their subject.

The writers are documenting their efforts in a reality show The Mystery of the 1957 Gay Wedding Photos.

The programme, which doesn’t yet have a platform to call home, is being produced in conjunction with Endemol Shine Group, whose shows include Big Brother, The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

ONE Archives at USC

“It’s a passion project for us,” says Michael J. Wolfe, a Los Angeles-based writer. “We are turning over every stone, interviewing dozens of people in the Philadelphia area and beyond, and consulting with investigators, historians, and experts across many different fields.”

The photos were acquired by a collector a few years ago who had bought them at an online auction. He realised their significance and donated them to ONE Archives at the USC Libraries in Los Angeles and at the Wilcox Archives in Philadelphia.

The couple in the pictures appear to be in their 20s or 30s, so they would be in their 80s or 90s if they were alive today. The grooms and their guests are dressed up in dark suits with flowers in their lapels.

The celebration took place in a modest flat with the blinds drawn. It featured a ceremony officiated by someone who appears to be a member of the clergy. The grooms are shown kissing, cutting their wedding cake and opening presents.

ONE Archives at USC

Mr Wolfe and his partners, filmmaker PJ Palmer and TV writer/producer Neal Baer, have not identified the mystery couple yet. 

They request any tipsters to contact them through their website and Facebook page.

ONE Archives at USC

For Palmer, the pictures were especially moving.

“We are recovering amazing, important stories all sorts of them… and more gay history that’s been buried,” he says.

“There is a very rich history that’s been suppressed… I wish as a child [that] I had seen family photos of a marriage like this… I would have felt more normal as a kid. I would have known that I was okay.”

Couples who fell in love sometimes committed themselves to one another in unions that were not acknowledged by either governments or religions.

The US Supreme Court didn’t recognise the right for gay people to marry the person of their choice until 2015, 11 years after Massachusetts did so.

ONE Archives at USC

“We don’t know how common or uncommon it was for couples to hold ceremonies to marry each other [because] there is so little photographic or film record of how people actually lived,” says Eric Marcus, host of the Making Gay History podcast.

“It’s important to remember that people found ways to live their lives quietly away from the prying eyes of the straight world.”

Of course, that was easier said than done.

Wedding guests at the mystery wedding ONE Archives at USC

Several years before the wedding took place, President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays from working for the federal government.

In 1952, The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the first edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the listing of known psychiatric disorders.

After considerable lobbying by activists, the APA removed homosexuality from the second edition of the DSM in 1973.

The Stonewall Riots, considered to be the birth of the modern gay rights movement, had happened a few years before that in 1969 – 12 years after the wedding.

ONE Archives at USC

It’s not just the passage of time that will hinder the search for the grooms. The filmmakers believe the Aids crisis may also be factor – about 700,000 Americans have died since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We are talking about a generation of people who were decimated by Aids,” Mr Wolfe said. “There are a lot of missing people who otherwise would have made a search like this much easier. All of that happened before social media.”

If the couple is ever identified, they would certainly add another chapter in the history of gay rights for doing something extraordinary that is now becoming increasingly ordinary.

Reference

Gay History: UK Issues Posthumous Pardons For Thousands Of Gay Men

Justice minister hails ‘momentous day’ as so-called Turing’s law receives royal assent, but critics say move does not go far enough
The legislation follows a posthumous pardon for the Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing who was convicted of gross indecency. Photograph: Sherborne school/AFP/Getty

Thousands of men convicted of offences that once criminalised homosexuality but are no longer on the statute book have been posthumously pardoned under a new law.

A clause in the policing and crime bill, which received royal assent on Tuesday, extends to those who are dead the existing process of purging past criminal records.

The general pardon is modelled on the 2013 royal pardon granted by the Queen to Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the German Enigma codes during the second world war. He killed himself in 1954, at the age of 41, after his conviction for gross indecency.

Welcoming the legislation, the justice minister Sam Gyimah said: “This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologised and taken action to right these wrongs. I am immensely proud that ‘Turing’s law’ has become a reality under this government.”

There is already a procedure in place for the living to apply to the Home Office to have their past convictions, relating to same-sex relationships, expunged from their criminal records.

Under what is known as the disregard process, anyone previously found guilty of past sexual offences that are no longer criminal matters can ask to have them removed.

A disregard can be granted only if the past offence was a consensual relationship and both men were over 16. The conduct must also not constitute what remains an offence of sexual activity in a public lavatory.

Sam Gyimah, justice minister, says the government has ‘taken action to right these wrongs’. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Each disregard application is checked to prevent people from claiming to be cleared of offences that are still crimes. Those granted a disregard will also be pardoned.

No lists of past pardons will be published but the new law will allow future historians to point out that those imprisoned or fined for consensual gay relationships would not under modern legislation have committed a crime.

Rewriting history will not be easy. The complexity of the evidence, for example, that led to Oscar Wilde’s conviction in 1895 for gross indecency – including evidence of procuring male prostitutes – would make it difficult to assess.

The gay rights organisation Stonewall has suggested the playwright and author, who was sentenced to two years hard labour in Reading jail, should be entitled to a pardon.

The Ministry of Justice said there would be no historical limit in relation to past offences. It declined, however, to say whether Wilde would be among those deemed posthumously pardoned.

The amendments to the bill were tabled by Lord Sharkey, Lord Cashman and Lord Lexden with government support.

A private member’s bill with a similar aim and a blanket pardon, brought forward by the SNP MP John Nicolson, was not supported by the government. It would have backdated pardons only to 1919.

A Stonewall spokesperson said: “This is significant. And it’s as important to the whole lesbian, gay, bi and trans community, as it is for the gay and bi men affected.

“The more equality is enshrined into our law books, the stronger our equality becomes, and the stronger we as a community become.

“This month the government issued a clear and powerful apology to every gay and bi man who had been unjustly criminalised for being who they are. This is not just equality for gay and bi men; the passing of this law is justice.

“We’re working to ensure that this new process is brought quickly and correctly, and to ensure all gay and bi men unjustly persecuted and prosecuted can finally receive the justice they deserve.”

Welcoming the new law, the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This pardon is an important, valuable advance that will remedy the grave injustices suffered by many of the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 men who were convicted under discriminatory anti-gay laws between 1885 and 2003 – the latter being the year when all homophobic sexual offences legislation was finally repealed in England and Wales.

“A pardon has connotations of forgiveness for a wrong done. These men and the wider LGBT community believe they did no wrong.

“The legislation has a few omissions. It does not explicitly allow for the pardoning of men convicted of soliciting and procuring homosexual relations under the 1956 and 1967 Sexual Offences Acts. Nor does it pardon those people, including some lesbians, convicted for same-sex kissing and cuddling under laws such as the Public Order Act 1986, the common law offence of outraging public decency, the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 and the army, navy and air force acts and other diverse statutes.

“However, agreements secured by Lord Cashman mean that people convicted under these other laws can also apply for a pardon.”

The last men who were executed for homosexuality in England were James Pratt and John Smith who were hanged in 1835.

Sharkey, the Liberal Democrat peer who drafted the amendment to the bill, said: “This is a momentous day for thousands of families up and down the UK who have been campaigning on this issue for decades.

“It is a wonderful thing that we have been able to build on the pardon granted to Alan Turing and extend it to thousands of men unjustly convicted for sexual offences that would not be crimes today.”

Posthumous pardons law may see Oscar Wilde exonerated

Ministry of Justice announces initiative to wipe criminal records of gay and bisexual men convicted of sexual offences that are no longer illegal

The complexity of the evidence for Oscar Wilde’s conviction in 1895 for gross indecency makes it difficult to assess whether he should receive a pardon. Photograph: PA

Is Oscar Wilde about be posthumously pardoned? In a symbolic gesture announced by the government on Thursday, deceased gay and bisexual men convicted of sexual offences that are no longer illegal will have their criminal records wiped.

Announcing the initiative, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said that no individuals would be named or singled out – leaving the status of past scandals unresolved.

If the historical homosexual crime is no longer illegal and involved a consensual act with someone over the age of 16, then those convicted will be deemed to have received a posthumous pardon.

The complexity of the evidence that led to Wilde’s conviction in 1895 for gross indecency – including evidence of procuring male prostitutes – would make it difficult to assess. The gay rights organisation Stonewall suggested that the playwright and author, who was sentenced to two years hard labour in Reading jail, should now be entitled to a pardon.

The justice minister, Sam Gyimah, said that a clause would be introduced into the policing and crime bill. “It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today,” he said. “Through pardons and the existing disregard process we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs.”

The disregard process is already open to those who are alive and wish to remove from their criminal record any past sexual offences that are no longer illegal. They will be entitled to a statutory pardon under the new legislation.

In 2013 Alan Turing, the gay mathematician who broke the German Enigma codes, was posthumously pardoned by the Queen. He killed himself by taking cyanide in 1954, at the age of 41, following his conviction for gross indecency.

The MoJ said it would partially follow Lord Sharkey’s amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 although it would grant a blanket pardon for those who have died and not investigate individual historical cases.

Sharkey said: “This is a momentous day for thousands of families up and down the UK who have been campaigning on this issue for decades. I am very grateful for the government’s support and the support of many of my colleagues in parliament.”

The government has declined to support a private members’ bill on the subject, brought forward by an SNP MP, John Nicolson, which is due to be debated in parliament later this week.

Ministers said they fear that bill would allow some people to claim they have been cleared of offences that are still crimes – including sex with a minor and non-consensual sexual activity.

Gyimah said: “I understand and support the intentions behind Mr Nicolson’s bill, however I worry that he has not fully thought through the consequences. A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned.”

The MoJ said there would be no historical limit in relation to past offences. It declined to say whether Wilde would be among those deemed posthumously pardoned.

Nicolson, the former BBC newsreader and front bench SNP culture spokesman, told the Guardian that the former justice secretary Michael Gove had promised him government support for his private member’s bill. His would only backdate pardons to 1919. “I hope that the government will sit and read my bill carefully,” he said. “Mine would also be a blanket pardon. A lot of those people [who are alive] are very old and would not want their names listed.”

Paul Twocock, director of campaigns at Stonewall, said: “We welcome the government announcement to issue a posthumous pardon to all gay and bi men unjustly prosecuted for being who they are, but we don’t think it goes far enough. John Nicolson MP’s proposed bill closes a loophole that means some gay and bi men who are still alive and living with those convictions still can’t have them deleted, despite them being unjust and not illegal today. We urge the government to look at bringing this into their proposal.

“We also don’t agree with the government’s interpretation of John Nicolson MP’s bill – it explicitly excludes pardoning anyone convicted of offences that would still be illegal today, including non-consensual sex and sex with someone under 16.”

Family of Alan Turing to demand government pardon 49,000 other men

Campaigners to bring petition to Downing Street, demanding all men convicted under gross indecency law for their homosexuality are pardoned

Alan Turing was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency, but was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013. Photograph: Rex

The family of the codebreaker Alan Turing will visit Downing Street on Monday to demand the government pardons 49,000 other men persecuted like him for their homosexuality.

Turing, whose work cracking the German military codes was vital to the British war effort against Nazi Germany, was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man, was chemically castrated, and two years later died from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide.

He was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 and campaigners want the government to pardon all the men convicted under the outdated law.

Turing’s great-nephew, Nevil Hunt, his great-niece, Rachel Barnes, and her son, Thomas, will hand over the petition, which attracted almost 500,000 signatures, to 10 Downing Street.

Ms Barnes said: “I consider it to be fair and just that everybody who was convicted under the Gross Indecency law is given a pardon. It is illogical that my great uncle has been the only one to be pardoned when so many were convicted of the same crime. I feel sure that Alan Turing would have also wanted justice for everybody.”

Matthew Todd, the editor of Attitude Magazine, who will also visit Downing Street, said: “Generations of gay and bisexual men were forced to live their lives in a state of terror.

“Men convicted of gross indecency were often considered to have brought huge shame on their families and many took their own lives. We still live with the legacy of this period today and it’s about time the country addressed this appalling part of our history.”

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Turing has brought the pioneering scientist’s story to a wider audience. The film follows him from his days as a second world war code breaker at Bletchley Park to his work at Manchester University, which saw him hailed as the father of modern computing, and his tragic death.

Turing led a team decoding messages at Bletchley Park, whose work remained secret until many years after the end of the war, and also designed the Bombe machine which decrypted German messages. Their work helped shorten the conflict and saved many thousands of lives.

References

Gay History: The Brutal Murder Of Robert Hillsborough Rocks San Francisco and the Nation – June 21, 1977

A brutal murder that took place over 40 years ago in San Francisco shocked and catalyzed that city’s gay community and resulted in exposing the mostly hidden to the public- eye violence against gay people.

On the night of June 21, 1977, Robert Hillsborough, and his roommate, Jerry Taylor, went out to a disco for a night of dancing. They left sometime after midnight and stopped for a bite to eat at the Whiz Burger a few blocks from their apartment in the Mission District. When they left the burger joint, they were accosted by a gang of young men shouting anti-gay slurs at them.  Hillsborough and Taylor ran into Hillsborough’s car as several of the attackers climbed onto the car’s roof and hood. Hillsborough drove off, and thought that he left his troubles behind him. What he didn’t know was that they were following him in another car. Hillsborough parked just four blocks away from their apartment. When they got out of the car four men jumped out the other car and attacked them again. Jerry Taylor was beaten, but he managed to escape.  Robert Hillsborough wasn’t so lucky.

Robert was brutally beaten and stabbed 15 times by 19-year-old John Cordova who was yelling, “Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!” Witnesses also reported that Cordoba yelled, “This one’s for Anita!” Neighbors were awakened by the commotion, and one woman screamed that she was calling the police, which prompted the four attackers to flee. Neighbors rushed to Hillsborough’s aid, but it was too late. Hillsborough died 45 minutes later at Mission Emergency Hospital. Cordoba and the three other assailants were arrested later that morning.

Because Hillsborough was employed as a city gardener, Mayor George Moscone followed longstanding practice and ordered flags at City Hall and other city properties to be lowered to half-mast. He also directed his anger to Anita Bryant and California State Sen. John Briggs, who was running for governor and an anti-gay platform. Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in Miami which resulted in the defeat of a gay rights ordinance three weeks earlier had inspired Briggs to hold a new conference in front of city hall the week before Hillsborough’s death to announce a campaign to remove gays and lesbians from teaching. Moscone called Briggs an anti-homosexual “demagogue” and held him responsible for “inciting trouble by walking right into San Francisco, knowing the emotional state of his community. He stirred people into action. He will have to live with his conscience.”

Hillsborough’s death also struck a deep nerve in the gay community. ”We live in a paranoid state,” said Harvey Milk, who was preparing his run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, “and the death of Robert is only the culmination of a lot of violence that’s been directed at us.” San Francisco’s Pride celebration, which took place just a few days later, attracted a record-breaking 300,000 people, and it became an impromptu memorial march as participants erected a makeshift shrine at City Hall.

Cordova was charged with a single count of murder, along with Thomas J. Spooner, 21. The other two passengers in the car were not charged. 

Cordova was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to only 10 years in prison. Charges were later dropped against Spooner.

The parents of Robert Hillsborough filed a $5 million lawsuit accusing Anita Bryant of conducting a hate campaign against homosexuals.  Hillsborough’s parents claimed and rightfully so that Miss Bryant’s public comments constituted “a campaign of hate, bigotry, ignorance, fear, intimidation and prejudice” against their son and other homosexuals. This, they said, amounted to a conspiracy to deprive Hillsborough of his civil rights.

U.S. District Judge Stanley A. Weigel dismissed the case saying that he lacked jurisdiction because Miss Bryant lives in Florida. 

And still 40 years later the violence continues to this day.  We must never forget those who lost their lives to hatred and bigotry.

Robert L. Hillsborough
Born: March 10, 1944
Died: June 22, 1977

Gay History: Boy Scouts of America Allows Transgender Children Who Identify As Boys To Enroll

Organisation now bases enrollment in boys-only programs on the gender listed on application to become a scout

Boy Scouts of America says it is allowing transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features

The Boy Scouts of America now allows transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs.

The organization said on Monday it had decided to begin basing enrollment in its boys-only programs on the gender a child or parent lists on the application to become a scour, rather than birth certificate.

Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the organization’s leadership had considered a recent case in Secaucus, New Jersey, where an eight-year-old transgender child had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender, but that the change was made because of the national conversation about gender identity.

“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the statement said.

“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”

Rausch said the enrollment decision went into effect immediately.

“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” the statement said.

Boy Scouts of America leaders lifted a blanket ban on gay troop leaders and employees in July 2015.

BUT

Transgender boy removed from Boy Scouts troop in New Jersey

Joe Maldonado is at the center of the first known case of a trans child being banned from organization

The Boy Scouts of America recently lifted bans on gay scouts and leaders, which Joe Maldonado’s mother took as a sign that the organization would accept her transgender son. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Joe Maldonado wanted to join the Boy Scouts because many of his friends were a part of it. The eight-year-old went to school with the boys in the group, hung out with them and played on the basketball team with some of them, said Kristie Maldonado, his mother.

But about a month after joining Pack 87 in Secaucus, New Jersey, Joe was asked to leave because he is transgender, according to Kristie Maldonado. His case is believed to be the first known in which a scout was rejected based on their gender, Justin Wilson, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, told NorthJersey.com.

“Because he wasn’t born a boy, he was no longer able to go back into the Boy Scouts,” Maldonado told the Guardian.

Maldonado said she was unaware of any issues with her son until she received a call from a scouting official, asking whether Joe was born a girl. “At first, well, I didn’t answer him. I just said, you guys didn’t ask for a birth certificate. I said no one had ever seen my child naked,” she said.

The call came as a surprise to Maldonado because Joe was open about his gender identity and had been accepted as a boy at school. The other kids in the troop had never had an issue with him, Maldonado said.

But the official told her that some parents had mentioned Joe’s name had previously been Jodi, and that Joe could no longer be a part of the troop, Maldonado said.

“If they had said right from the beginning, because I know it’s a touchy subject and I know it’s a private organization, I would have said, OK, we can’t join. We can’t do it this year. I would have made an excuse for Joe,” she said, “But you don’t accept a child, then a month later you throw them out.”

The Boy Scouts of America endured years of controversy before ultimately lifting bans on gay scouts and leaders in recent years. Maldonado said she took this as a sign that her son would be allowed to join. “I took it as, OK, if they’re accepted, why not transgender?”

But a spokeswoman, Effie Delimarkos, said in a statement the organization considered transgender children as a separate issue.

“No youth may be removed from any of our programs on the basis of his or her sexual orientation,” she said, but added: “Gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation.”

The Boy Scouts declined to directly address Joe’s situation or say whether there was a written policy on transgender participants. The statement said Cub Scout programs were for those identified as boys on their birth certificates.

Wilson told NorthJersey.com that the Boy Scouts of America organization was not known to have rejected any scouts due to gender identity prior to Joe’s case. He knew of at least two transgender boys who were Cub Scouts in other states and did not know of any instances in which scouts were asked for birth certificates as a condition of membership.

Eric Chamberlin of the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts acknowledged having called Maldonado last month, NorthJersey.com reported. He declined further comment and referred questions to the scouts’ national office, saying the issue involved “our membership standards”.

Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts told the Associated Press that it would admit transgender children to its coeducational programs, but not to programs that are for boys only, like the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

By making the family’s story public, Kristie Maldonado is also hoping for change. “The change is I want for them to go not by birth certificate or what they’re born with, but go by their identity. Our definition of identity is how you feel,” Maldonado said. “When they say identity, they’re going by the birth certificate.” She wants transgender kids to be included, “no questions asked”.

The national Girl Scouts organization, which is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts, has accepted transgender members for years.

The Boy Scouts did not respond to questions about whether the group would accept a transgender girl whose birth certificate indicated she was assigned male at birth.

Boy Scouts of America ends ban on gay and lesbian troop leaders

On the heels of gay marriage legalization, the organization’s new policy allows local units to select their leaders to appease both liberal and religious groups

The national governing body of the Boy Scouts of America has ended a blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion because of their faith.

The new policy, aimed at easing a controversy that embroiled the Boy Scouts for years and threatened the organization with lawsuits, takes effect immediately. It was approved on Monday night by the BSA’s 80-member national executive board in a teleconference.

The ban pitted leaders and members of the 105-year-old organization against each other, often fragmenting according to faith. The new policy seeks a compromise between more liberal groups, such as the New York City scouting group, and regions whose groups are run by staunchly conservative faiths, such as the Mormon church.

Under the new policy, local units will be able to select their own leaders according to their own standards, meaning church-run groups can “choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own”, according to a statement from organization executives.

“It is not a victory but it certainly is progress,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality, told the Guardian earlier on Monday. “I think this is the most progressive resolution we could’ve expected from the Boy Scouts.”

Wahls noted that the organization had banned gay people since 1978, and that its decentralized structure – religious organizations charter about 70% of Boy Scout troops – means some prejudices have deep roots.

“What really has to happen is change in the sponsoring organizations,” he said, adding that his concern was not with specific religious groups but for full inclusion.

“I’m not worried about Mormon units not allowing gay leaders as there aren’t a lot of openly gay Mormons anywhere,” he said. “But discrimination sends a harmful message to gay youths and straight youths, and it has no place in scouting.”

Scouting law says that a boy scout is cheerful, so we’ll be OK

Zach Wahls, Scouts for Equality

On 13 July, the organization’s executive committee, headed by president and former defense secretary Robert Gates, unanimously approved the resolution, saying there had been a “sea change in the law with respect to gay rights”.

“The BSA national policy that prohibits gay adults from serving as leaders is no longer legally defensible,” the organization said in a statement earlier this month. “However, the BSA’s commitment to duty to God and the rights of religious chartered organizations to select their leaders is unwavering.”

The vote took place only a month and a day after the US supreme court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the US, striking down state bans and punctuating the swift progress of gay rights with its 5-4 vote.

The board’s vote also follows only two years after a long and bitter debate at the organization’s 2013 meeting in Texas, where 60% of some 1,400 scout leaders voted to end the ban. The organization said at the time that it had no intentions of revisiting the issue.

But earlier this year the New York City chapter hired a gay camp counsellor, and said it would force the issue in court if necessary to keep the counsellor employed.

The Boy Scouts has about 2.5 million members between the ages of seven and 21, as well as 960,000 volunteers in local units, according to the organization. Membership has steadily declined about 4-6% each year for several years, contributing to the internal crisis over what to do.

John Stemberger, chairman of the breakaway Christian youth outdoor program Trail Life USA, told Reuters on Friday that lifting the ban was an affront to Christian morals and would make it “even more challenging for a church to integrate a [Boy Scouts] unit as part of a church’s ministry offerings”.

But major Catholic and Mormon supporters appeared to approve of the new policy. On its site, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting said that the Boy Scouts did not endorse homosexuality. The committee then wrote: “Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

The Mormon church meanwhile reasserted itself earlier this month, saying in a statement that it has “always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs”.

References

Gay History: Gay Liberation Front – United Kingdom, Part 2

This is what Britain’s Gay Liberation Front movement looked like in the 1970s

Protests, parades, pamphlets, and policy change

Couple at a Gay Liberation Front gathering. (Hall-Carpenter Archives via London School of Economics Library)

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, a landmark piece of legislation in the United Kingdom that ceased the prosecution of men for homosexual acts. It wasn’t a perfect law by any means — it did not fully decriminalize sexual acts with persons of the same sex — but it was the first legislative step toward equality for LGBTQ people under British law.

Prior to the 1970s, few gay people in Britain were publicly out and even fewer publicly campaigned. Dedicated activists knew that taking to the streets, being visible and not cowed was a key strategy in the pursuit of equal rights. They called for people up and down the country to come out.

Festival of Light, 1970s. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

These days, gay pride marches are among the largest and most joyful gatherings. So, it might be difficult to imagine the extent to which a public showing of support for LGBTQ rights was radical.

Archive photographs, journals, and organizing literature provide testament to early activism in Britain. Recently, such papers and prints in the Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics (LSE) were brought together for Glad to be Gay: The Struggle for Legal Equality, an exhibition of ephemera and social movement materials.

We witness the gatherings, think-ins, political actions, and marches. We see the self-made pamphlets, zines, and newsletters that forged solidarity of thought. These objects galvanized citizens who refused to remain silent; they propelled a movement.

Members of the Gay Liberation Front demonstrate in London in 1972. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Disabled Gays Guide, 1985.
Gay humanist group ephemera
Gay Liberation Front ephemera, 1973. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
GLF party flyer. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Gay Liberation Front street theatre. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

LSE has an important historical role in the push for LGBTQ rights. The first ever Gay Liberation Front (GLF) meeting in the UK was convened in a basement classroom there. The date was October 13, 1970.

Inspired by the GLF movement in the United States, the UK GLF drew up demands and focused on group activities to root those demands — street theatre, “gay days,” festivals, and sit-ins. At first, it was very informal, but soon the GLF realized the power of collective voice. Its activities led to London’s first Gay Pride March in 1972.

The curator of Glad To Be Gay, Gillian Murphy, explains that until the 1950s homosexuality was a taboo subject. Male homosexuality was illegal and lesbianism wasn’t even recognized as an emotional, sexual, or social reality.

In 1957, UK Parliament published the Wolfenden Report, which recommended that the law should no longer judge nor punish sex conducted in private between consenting same-sex adults. The report didn’t come so much from a position of moral enlightenment, but more a realistic appraisal of privacy, its legal protections, and the impossibility of enforcement. Throughout the 1960s, the Homosexual Law Reform Society and campaigners such as Tony Dyson and Antony Grey pressed politicians to decriminalize homosexuality.

Passage of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was a huge leap forward, but it also had negative consequences. It formalized the legal age of consent at 21 (it was lowered to 18 in 1994, and to 16 until 2001) and as a result, vast numbers of young gay adults, in their love, remained outside the law. Under the Sexual Offences Act, homosexual acts in the military also remained illegal. Furthermore, the law only applied to England and Wales and homosexual sex remained a crime for millions in Scotland and Northern Ireland until the early 80s.

Lifelong gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said in his book Europe in The Pink (1992) that the 1967 Sexual Offences Act actually facilitated an increase in prosecutions against homosexual men. Tatchell told The Guardian recently that between 1967 and the passage of the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, at least 15,000 men were convicted of same-sex acts, which would never have been prosecuted had the partner been of the other sex.

GLF Street Theatre, Parliament Hill Fields, May Day 1971. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

An early Gay Pride march, London, early 1970s. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

These photographs show the actions behind the LGBTQ community’s call for gay persons to come out. In the second half of the 20th century, gay, lesbian, and queer identified people found strength in numbers. They raised consciousness among the public at large and refused to feel shame any longer. The Gay Liberation Front brought a new energy to gay activism. Newly established grassroots organizations such as the Joint Council for Gay Teenagers, Gay Activists Alliance, and FRIEND (Fellowship for the Relief of the Isolated and Emotionally in Need and Distress) met specific needs of diverse groups within the LGBTQ community.

Looking at these images, reading this history, and tracing the legislative changes (especially the 2003 repeal of the remaining discriminatory laws from 1967), you might be forgiven for thinking the fight has been won. Far from it. The activism of the 1960s and 1970s began a fight which continues today. Transphobia, limited access to medical and mental healthcare, and general homophobic attitudes persist in British society. The fight for equality adopted back then isn’t just a chapter in history; it is also part of a continuum of speaking out, winning freedoms, and promoting love that is ongoing.

Gay Pride march, London, early 1970s. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Gay Liberation Front diary, 1973. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Gay Liberation Front diary, 1973. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Gay march demonstration, early 1970s. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
GLF Gay Day, Holland Park, 1971. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
GLF Gay Day, Holland Park, 1971. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

GLF Gay Day, Holland Park, 1971. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Gay Liberation Front demands, November 1970. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Gay Liberation Front demands, February 1971. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Blackout journal, summer 1986. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Gay Liberation Front street theatre. |

Gay Christian journal, November 1979. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

GLF dance ticket. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Production of Come Together magazine in Aubrey Walter’s flat, circa 1972. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement badge.
Lesbian Feminist weekend guide to London. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Outwrite Women’s Newspaper, May 1988. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
UK Lesbian and Gay Switchboard hotline. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
“We Are Nature’s Children Too.” Marchers and police at a Gay Pride march, London, 1974. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Festival of Light, 1970s. |
The first Gay Liberation Front dance leaflet, 1970. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
The first National Convention, or “Think-In,” at Leeds University Union connected GLF groups across the country. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)
Older Lesbian Newsletter, 1984.
Outrage magazine, 1983.
Sappho journal. (Hall-Carpenter Archives/LSE Library)

Reference

Gay History: Gay Liberation Front – United Kingdom, Part I

Background to articles

In the UK, the GLF had its first meeting in the basement of the London School of Economics on 13 October 1970. Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter had seen the effect of the GLF in the United States and created a parallel movement based on revolutionary politics.

1971 GLF cover version of Ink magazine, London

By 1971, the UK GLF was recognized as a political movement in the national press, holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people. The GLF Manifesto was published, and a series of high-profile direct actions, were carried out, such as the disruption of the launch of the Church-based morality campaign, Festival of Light.

The disruption of the opening of the 1971 Festival of Light was the best organised GLF action. The first meeting of the Festival of Light was organised by Mary Whitehouse at Methodist Central Hall. Groups of GLF members in drag invaded and spontaneously kissed each other; others released mice, sounded horns, and unveiled banners, and a contingent dressed as workmen obtained access to the basement and shut off the lights.

Easter 1972 saw the Gay Lib annual conference held in the Guild of Undergraduates Union (students union) building at the University of Birmingham.

By 1974, internal disagreements had led to the movement’s splintering. Organizations that spun off from the movement included the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Gay News, and Icebreakers. The GLF Information Service continued for a few further years providing gay related resources. GLF branches had been set up in some provincial British towns (e.g., Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, and Leicester) and some survived for a few years longer. The Leicester Gay Liberation Front founded by Jeff Martin was noted for its involvement in the setting up of the local “Gayline”, which is still active today and has received funding from the National Lottery. They also carried out a high-profile campaign against the local paper, the Leicester Mercury, which refused to advertise Gayline’s services at the time.

The papers of the GLF are among the Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics.

Several members of the GLF, including Peter Tatchell, continued campaigning beyond the 1970s under the organisation of OutRage!, which was founded in 1990 and dissolved in 2011, using similar tactics to the GLF (such as “zaps” and performance protest to attract a significant level of media interest and controversy.[citation needed] It was at this point that a divide emerged within the gay activist movement, mainly due to a difference in ideologies, after which a number of groups including Organization for Lesbian and Gay Alliance (OLGA), the Lesbian Avengers, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Dykes And Faggots Together (DAFT), Queer Nation, Stonewall (which focused on lobbying tactics) and OutRage! co-existed.

These groups were very influential following the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s and the violence against lesbians and gay men that followed.

Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto 
London, 1971, revised 1978

Introduction

Throughout recorded history, oppressed groups have organised to claim their rights and obtain their needs. Homosexuals, who have been oppressed by physical violence and by ideological and psychological attacks at every level of social interaction, are at last becoming angry.

To you, our gay sisters and brothers, we say that you are oppressed; we intend to show you examples of the hatred and fear with which straight society relegates us to the position and treatment of sub-humans, and to explain their basis. We will show you how we can use our righteous anger to uproot the present oppressive system with its decaying and constricting ideology, and how we, together with other oppressed groups, can start to form a new order, and a liberated lifestyle, from the alternatives which we offer.

HOW We Are Oppressed

FAMILY

The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family. consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.

At some point nearly all gay people have found it difficult to cope with having the restricting images of man or woman pushed on them by their parents. It may have been from very early on, when the pressures to play with the ‘right’ toys, and thus prove boyishness or girlishness, drove against the child’s inclinations. But for all of us this is certainly a problem by the time of adolescence, when we are expected to prove ourselves socially to our parents as members of the right sex (to bring home a boy/girl friend) and to start being a ‘real’ (oppressive) young man or a ‘real’ (oppressed) young woman. The tensions can be very destructive.

The fact that gay people notice they are different from other men and women in the family situation, causes them to feel ashamed, guilty and failures. How many of us have really dared by honest with our parents? How many of us have been thrown out of home? How many of us have been pressured into marriage, sent to psychiatrists, frightened into sexual inertia, ostracised, banned, emotionally destroyed-all by our parents?

SCHOOL

Family experiences may differ widely, but in their education all children confront a common situation. Schools reflect the values of society in their formal academic curriculum, and reinforce them in their morality and discipline. Boys learn competitiv ego-building sports, and have more opportunity in science, whereas girls are given emphasis on domestic subjects, needlework etc. Again, we gays were all forced into a rigid sex role which we did not want or need. It is quite common to discipline children for behaving in any way like the opposite sex; degrading titles like ‘sissy’ and ‘tomboy’ are widely used.

In the content of education, homosexuality is generally ignored, even where we know it exists, as in history and literature. Even sex education, which has been considered a new liberal dynamic of secondary schooling, proves to be little more than an extension of Christian morality. Homosexuality is again either ignored, or attacked with moralistic warnings and condemnations. The adolescent recognising his or her homosexuality might feel totally alone in the world, or a pathologically sick wreck.

CHURCH

Formal religious education is still part of everyone’s schooling, and our whole legal structure is supposedly based on Christianity whose archaic and irrational teachings support the family and marriage as the only permitted condition for sex. Gay people have been attacked as abominable and sinful since the beginning of both Judaism and Christianity, and even if today the Church is playing down these strictures on homosexuality, its new ideology is that gay people are pathetic objects for sympathy.

THE MEDIA

The press, radio, television and advertising are used as reinforcements against us, and make possible the control of people’s thoughts on an unprecedented scale. Entering everyone’s home, affecting everyone’s life, the media controllers, all representatives of the rich, male-controlled world, can exaggerate or suppress whatever information suits them

Under different circumstances, the media might not be the weapon of a small minority. The present controllers are therefore dedicated defenders of things as they stand. Accordingly, the images of people which they transmit in their pictures and words do not subvert, but support society’s image of ‘normal’ man and woman. It follows that we are characterised as scandalous, obscene perverts; as rampant, wild sex-monsters; as pathetic, doomed and compulsive degenerates; while the truth is blanketed under a conspiracy of silence.

WORDS

Anti-homosexual morality and ideology, at every level of society, manifest themselves in a special vocabulary for denigrating gay people. There is abuse like ‘pansy’, ‘fairy’, ‘lesbo’ to hurl at men and women who can’t or won’t fit stereotyped preconceptions. There are words like ‘sick’, ‘bent’ and ‘neurotic’ for destroying the credence of gay people. But there are no positive words. The ideological intent of our language makes it very clear that the generation of words and meanings is, at the moment, in the hands of the enemy. And that so many gay people pretend to be straight, and call each other ‘butch dykes’ or ‘screaming queens only makes that fact the more real.

The verbal attack on men and women who do not behave as they are supposed to, reflects the ideology of masculine superiority. A man who behaves like a woman is seen as losing something, and a woman who behaves like a man is put down for threatening men’s environment of their privileges.

EMPLOYMENT

If our upbringing so often produces guilt and shame, the experience of an adult gay person is oppressive in every aspect. In their work situation, gay people face the ordeal of spending up to fifty years of their lives confronted with the anti-homosexual hostility of their fellow employees.

A direct consequence of the fact that virtually all employers are highly privileged heterosexual men, is that there are some fields of work which are closed to gay people, and others which they feel some compulsion to enter. A result of this control for gay women is that they are perceived as a threat in the man’s world. They have none of the sexual ties of dependence to men which make most women accept men as their ‘superiors’. They are less likely to have the bind of children, and so there is nothing to stop them showing that they are as capable as any man, and thus deflating the man’s ego, and exposing the myth that only men can cope with important jobs.

We are excluded from many jobs in high places where being married is the respectable guarantee, but being homosexual apparently makes us unstable, unreliable security risks. Neither, for example, are we allowed the job of teaching children, because we are all reckoned to be compulsive, child molesting maniacs.

There are thousands of examples of people having lost their jobs due to it becoming known that they were gay, though employers usually contrive all manner of spurious reasons.

There occurs, on the other hand, in certain jobs, such a concentration of gay people as to make an occupational ghetto. This happens, for women, in the forces, ambulance driving, and other uniformed occupations: and for men, in the fashion, entertainment and theatrical professions, all cases where the roles of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ can perhaps be undermined or overlooked [note: last phrase unclear in copy used for HTML]

THE LAW

If you live in Scotland or Ireland; if you are under 21, or over 21 but having sex with someone under 21; if you are in the armed forces or the merchant navy; if you have sex with more than one other person at the same time-and you are a gay male, you are breaking the law

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act gave a limited license to adult gay men. Common law however can restrict us from talking about and publicising both male and female homosexuality by classing it as ‘immoral’. Beyond this there are a whole series of specific minor offences. Although ‘the act’ is not illegal, asking someone to go to bed with you can be classed as ‘importuning for an immoral act’, and kissing in public is classed as ‘public indecency’

Even if you do not get into trouble, you will find yourself hampered by the application of the law in your efforts to set up home together, to raise children, and to express your love as freely as straight people may do.

The practice of the police in ‘enforcing’ the law makes sure that cottagers and cruisers will be zealously hunted, while queer-bashers may be apprehended, half-heartedly after the event.

PHYSICAL VIOLENCE

On 25 September 1969 a man walked onto Wimbledon Common . We know the common to be a popular cruising ground, and believe the man to have been one of our gay brothers. Whether or not this is the case, the man was set upon by a group of youths from a nearby housing estate, and literally battered to death with clubs and boots. Afterwards, a boy from the same estate said: ‘When you’re hitting a queer, you don’t think you’re doing wrong. You think you’re doing good. If you want money off a queer, you can get it off him-there’s nothing to be scared of from the law, cause you know they won’t go to the law’. (Sunday Times, 7/21/1971).

Since that time, another man has been similarly murdered on Hampstead Heath. But murder is only the most extreme form of violence to which we are exposed, not having the effective rights of protection. Most frequently we are ‘rolled’ for our money, or just beaten up: and this happens to butch looking women in some districts.

PSYCHIATRY

One way of oppressing people and preventing them getting too angry about it, is to convince them, and everyone else, that they are sick. There has hence arisen a body of psychiatric ‘theory’ and ‘therapy’ to deal with the ‘problems’ and ‘treatment’ of homosexuality .

Bearing in mind what we have so far described, it is quite understandable that gay people get depressed and paranoid; but it is also, of course, part of the scheme that gay people should retreat to psychiatrists in times of troubles.

Operating as they do on the basis of social convention and prejudice, NOT scientific truth, mainstream psychiatrists accept society’s prevailing view that the male and female sex roles are ‘good’ and ‘normal’, and try to adjust people to them. If that fails, patients are told to ‘accept themselves’ as ‘deviant’. For the psychiatrist to state that homosexuality was perfectly valid and satisfying, and that the hang-up was society’s inability to accept that fact, would result in the loss of a large proportion of his patients.

Psychiatric ‘treatment’ can take the form either of mindbending ‘psychotherapy’, or of aversion therapy which operates on the crude conditioning theory that if you hit a person hard enough, he’ll do what you want. Another form of ‘therapy’ is chemically induced castration, and there is a further form of ‘treatment’ which consists in erasing part of the brain, with the intent (usually successful) of making the subject an asexual vegetable.

This ‘therapy’ is not the source of the psychiatrist’s power, however. Their social power stems from the facile and dangerous arguments by which they contrive to justify the prejudice that homosexuality is bad or unfortunate, and to mount this fundamental attack upon our right to do as we think best. In this respect, there is little difference between the psychiatrist who says: ‘From statistics we can show that homosexuality is connected with madness’, and the one who says: ‘Homosexuality is unfortunate because it is socially rejected’. The former is a dangerous idiot-he cannot see that it is society which drives gay people mad. The second is a pig because he does see this, but sides consciously with the oppressors.

That psychiatrists command such credence and such income is surprising if we remember the hysterical disagreements of theory and practice in their field, and the fact that in formulating their opinions, they rarely consult gay people. In fact, so far as is possible, they avoid talking to them at all, because they know that such confrontation would wreck their theories.

SELF-OPPRESSION

The ultimate success of all forms of oppression is our self-oppression. Self-oppression is achieved when the gay person has adopted and internalised straight people’s definition of what is good and bad. Self-oppression is saying: ‘When you come down to it, we are abnormal’. Or doing what you most need and want to do, but with a sense of shame and loathing, or in a state of disassociation, pretending it isn’t happening; cruising or cottaging not because you enjoy it, but because you’re afraid of anything less anonymous. Self-oppression is saying: ‘I accept what I am’, and meaning: ‘I accept that what I am is second-best and rather pathetic’. Self-oppression is any other kind of apology: ‘We’ve been living together for ten years and all our married friends know about us and think we’re just the same as them’. Why? You’re not.

Self-oppression is the dolly lesbian who says: ‘I can’t stand those butch types who look like truck drivers’; the virile gay man who shakes his head at the thought of ‘those pathetic queens’. This is self-oppression because it’s just another way of saying: ‘I’m a nice normal gay. just like an attractive heterosexual’.

The ultimate in self-oppression is to avoid confronting straight society, and thereby provoking further hostility: Self-oppression is saying, and believing: ‘I am not oppressed’.

WHY we’re oppressed

Gay people are oppressed. As we’ve just shown, we face the prejudice, hostility and violence of straight society, and the opportunities open to us in work and leisure are restricted, compared with those of straight people. Shouldn’t we demand reforms that will give us tolerance and equality? certainly we should-in a liberal-democratic society, legal equality and protection from attack are the very least we should ask for. They are our civil rights.

But gay liberation does not just mean reforms. It means a revolutionary change in our whole society. Is this really necessary? Isn’t it hard enough for us to win reforms within the present society, and how will we engage the support of straight people if we get ourselves branded as revolutionaries?

Reforms may makes things better for a while; changes in the law can make straight people a little less hostile, a little more tolerant-but reform cannot change the deep-down attitude of straight people that homosexuality is at best inferior to their own way of life, at worst a sickening perversion. It will take more than reforms to change this attitude, because it is rooted in our society’s most basic institution-the Patriarchal Family.

We’ve all been brought up to believe that the family is the source of our happiness and comfort. But look at the family more closely. Within the small family unit, in which the dominant man and submissive woman bring up their children in their own image, all our attitudes towards sexuality are learned at a very early age. Almost before we can talk, certainly before we can think for ourselves, we are taught that there are certain attributes that are ‘feminine’ and other that are ‘masculine’, and that they are God-given and unchangeable. Beliefs learned so young are very hard to change; but in fact these are false beliefs. What we are taught about the differences between man and woman is propaganda, not truth.

The truth is that there are no proven systematic differences between male and female, apart from the obvious biological ones. Male and female genitals and reproductive systems are different, and so are certain other physical characteristics, but all differences of temperament, aptitudes and so on, are the result of upbringing and social pressures. They are not inborn.

Human beings could be much more various than our constricted patterns of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ permit-we should be free to develop with greater individuality. But as things are at present, there are only these two stereotyped roles into which everyone is supposed to fit, and most people-including gay people too-are apt to be alarmed when they hear these stereotypes or gender roles attacked, fearing that children ‘won’t know how to grow up if they have no one to identify with’, or that ‘everyone will be the same’, i.e. that there will be either utter chaos or total conformity. There would in fact be a greater variety of models and more freedom for experimentation, but there is no reason to suppose this will lead to chaos.

By our very existence as gay people, we challenge these roles. it can easily be seen that homosexuals don’t fit into the stereotypes of masculine and feminine, and this is one of the main reasons why we become the object of suspicion, since everyone is taught that these and only these two roles are appropriate.

Our entire society is build around the patriarchal family and its enshrinement of these masculine and feminine roles. Religion, popular morality art, literature and sport all reinforce these stereotypes. In other words, this society is a sexist society, in which one’s biological sex determines almost all of what one does and how one does it; a situation in which men are privileged, and women are mere adjuncts of men and objects for their use, both sexually and otherwise.

Since all children are taught so young that boys should be aggressive and adventurous, girls passive and pliant, most children do tend to behave in these ways as they get older, and to believe that other people should do so too.

So sexism does not just oppose gay people, but all women as well. It is assumed that because women bear children they should and must rear them, and be simultaneously excluded from all other spheres of achievement.

However, as the indoctrination of the small child with these attitudes is not always entirely successful (if it were, there would be no gay people for a start), the ideas taken in by the young child almost unconsciously must be reinforced in the older child and teenager by a consciously expressed male chauvinism: the ideological expression of masculine superiority. Male chauvinism is not hatred of women, but male chauvinists accept women only on the basis that they are in fact lesser beings. It is an expression of male power and male privilege, and while it’s quite possible for a gay man to be a male chauvinist, his very existence does also challenge male chauvinism in so far as he rejects his male supremacist role over women, and perhaps particularly if he rejects ‘masculine’ qualities.

It is because of the patriarchal family that reforms are not enough. Freedom for gay people will never be permanently won until everyone is freed from sexist role-playing and the straightjacket of sexist rules about our sexuality. And we will not be freed from these so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.

But why can’t we just change the way in which children are brought up without attempting to transform the whole fabric of society?

Because sexism is not just an accident-it is an essential part of our present society, and cannot be changed without the whole society changing with it. In the first place, our society is dominated at every level by men, who have an interest in preserving the status quo; secondly, the present system of work and production depends on the existence of the patriarchal family. Conservative sociologists have pointed out that the small family unit of two parents and their children is essential in our contemporary advanced industrial family where work is minutely subdivided and highly regulated-in other words, for the majority very boring. A man would not work at the assembly line if he had no wife and family to support; he would not give himself fully to his work without the supportive and reassuring little group ready to follow him about and gear itself to his needs, to put up with his ill temper when he is frustrated or put down by the boss at work.

Were it not also for the captive wife, educated by advertising and everything she reads into believing that she needs ever more new goodies for the home, for her own beautification and for the childrens’ well-being, our economic system could not function properly, depending as it does on people buying far more manufactured goods than they need. The housewife, obsessed with the ownership of as many material goods as possible, is the agent of this high level of spending. None of these goods will ever satisfy her, since there is always something better to be had, and the surplus of these pseudo ‘necessities’ goes hand in hand with the absence of genuinely necessary goods and services, such as adequate housing and schools.

The ethic and ideology of our culture has been conveniently summed up by the enemy. Here is a quotation, intended quite seriously, from an American psychiatric primer. The author, Dr. Fred Brown, states:

Our values in Western civilisation are founded upon the sanctity of the family, the right to property, and the worthwhileness of ‘getting ahead ‘ The family can be established on/y through heterosexual intercourse, and this gives the woman a high value. (Note the way in which woman is appraised as a form of property.} Property acquisition and worldly success are viewed as distinctly masculine aims. The individual who is outwardly masculine but appears to fall into the feminine class by reason . . . of his preference for other men denies these values of our civilisation. In denying them he belittles those goals which carry weigh t and much emotional co/ouring in our society and thereby earns the hostility of those to whom these values are of great importance.

We agree with his description of our society and its values-but we reach a different conclusion. We gay men and women do deny these values of our civilisation. We believe that the society Dr. Brown describes is an evil society. We believe that work in an advanced industrial society could be organised on more humane lines, with each job more varied and more pleasurable, and that the way society is at present organised operates in the interests of a small ruling group of straight men who claim most of the status and money, and not in the interests of the people as a whole. We also believe that our economic resources could be used in a much more valuable and constructive way than they are at the moment-but that will not happen until the present pattern of male dominance in our society changes too.

That is why any reforms we might painfully exact from our rulers would only be fragile and vulnerable; that is why we, along with the women’s movement, must fight for something more than reform. We must aim at the abolition of the family, so that the sexist, male supremacist system can no longer be nurtured there.

WE CAN DO IT

Yet although this struggle will be hard, and our victories not easily won, we are not in fact being idealistic to aim at abolishing the family and the cultural distinctions between men and women. True, these have been with us throughout history, yet humanity is at last in a position where we can progress beyond this.

Only reactionaries and conservatives believe in the idea of ‘natural man’. Just what is so different in human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom is their ‘unnaturalness’. Civilisation is in fact our evolution away from the limitations of the natural environment and towards its ever more complex control. It is not ‘natural’ to travel in planes. It is not ‘natural’ to take medicines and perform operations. Clothing and shoes do not grow on trees. Animals do not cook their food. This evolution is made possible by the development of technology-i.e. all those tools and skills which help us to control the natural environment.

We have now reached a stage at which the human body itself, and even the reproduction of the species, is being ‘unnaturally’ interfered with (i.e. improved) by technology. Reproduction used to be left completely to the uncontrolled biological processes inherited from our animal ancestors, but modern science, by drastically lowering infant mortality, has made it unnecessary for women to have more than two or three babies, while contraceptives have made possible the conscious control of pregnancy and the freeing of sexuality from reproduction. Today, further advances are on the point of making it possible for women to be completely liberated from their biology by means of the development of artificial wombs. Women need no longer by burdened with the production of children at their main task in life. and need be still less in the future

The present gender-role system of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ is based on the way that reproduction was originally organised. Men’s freedom from the prolonged physical burden of bearing children gave them a privileged position which was then reinforced by an ideology of male superiority. But technology has now advanced to a stage at which the gender-role system is no longer necessary.

However, social evolution does not automatically take place with the steady advance of technology, The gender-role system and the family unit built around it will not disappear just because they have ceased to be necessary. The sexist culture gives straight men privileges which, like those of any privileged class, will not be surrendered without a struggle, so that all of us who are oppressed by this culture (women and gay people), must band together to fight it. The end of the sexist culture and of the family will benefit all women, and gay people. We must work together with women, since their oppression is our oppression, and by working together we can advance the day of our common liberation.

A NEW LIFE-STYLE

In the final section we shall outline some of the practical steps gay liberation will take to make this revolution. But linked with this struggle to change society there is an important aspect of gay liberation that we can begin to build here and now- a NEW, LIBERATED LIFE-STYLE which will anticipate, as far as possible, the free society of the future.

Gay shows the way. In some ways we are a/ready more advanced than straight people. We are already outside the family and we have already, in part at least, rejected the ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ roles society has designed for us. In a society dominated by the sexist culture it is very difficult, if not impossible, for heterosexual men and women to escape their rigid gender-role structuring and the roles of oppressor and oppressed. But gay men don’t need to oppress women in order to fulfill their own psycho-sexual needs, and gay women don’t have to relate sexually to the male oppressor, so that at this moment in time, the freest and most equal relationships are most likely to be between homosexuals.

But because the sexist culture has oppressed us and distorted our lives too, this is not always achieved. In our mistaken, placating efforts to be accepted and tolerated, we’ve too often submitted to the pressures to conform to the straightjacket of society’s rules and hang ups about sex.

Particularly oppressive aspects of gay society are the Youth Cult, Butch and Femme role-playing, and Compulsive Monogamy.

THE YOUTH CULT. Straight women are the most exposed in our society to the commercially manipulated (because very profitable) cult of youth and ‘beauty’- i.e. the conformity to an ideal of ‘sexiness’ and ‘femininity’ imposed from without, not chosen by women themselves. Women are encouraged to look into the mirror and love themselves because an obsession with clothes and cosmetics dulls their appreciation of where they’re really at . . . until it’s too late. The sight of an old woman bedizened with layers of make-up, her hair tortured into artificial turrets, provokes ridicule on all sides. Yet this grotesque denial of physical aging is merely the logical conclusion to the life of a woman who has been taught that her value lies primarily in her degree of sexual attractiveness.

Gay women, like straight men, are rather less into the compulsive search for youth, perhaps because part of their rebellion has been the rejection of themselves as sex objects-like men they see themselves as people; as subjects rather than objects. But gay men are very apt to fall victim to the cult of youth-those sexual parades in the ‘glamorous’ meat-rack bars of London and New York, those gay beaches of the South of France and Los Angeles haven’t anything to do with liberation. Those are the hang-outs of the plastic gays who are obsessed with image and appearance. In love with their own bodies, these gay men dread the approach of age, because to be old is to be ‘ugly’, and with their youth they lose also the right to love and be loved, and are valued only if they can pay. This obsession with youth is destructive. We must all get away from the false commercial standards of ‘beauty’ imposed on us by movie moguls and advertising firms, because the youth/beauty hang-up sets us against one another in a frenzied competition for attention, and leads in the end to an obsession with self which is death to real affection or real sensual love. Some gay men have spent so much time staring at themselves in the mirror that they’ve become hypnotised by their own magnificence and have ended up by being made unable to see anyone else

BUTCH AND FEMME. Many gay men and women needlessly restrict their lives by compulsive role playing. They may restrict their own sexual behaviour by feeling that they must always take either a butch or a femme role, and worse, these roles are transposed to make even more distorting patterns in general social relationships. We gay men and women are outside the gender-role system anyway, and therefore it isn’t surprising if some of us -of either six-are more ‘masculine’ and others more ‘feminine’. There is nothing wrong with this. What is bad is when gay people try to impose on themselves and on one another the masculine and feminine stereotypes of straight society, the butch seeking to expand his ego by dominating his/her partner’s life and freedom, and the femme seeking protection by submitting to the butch. Butch really is bad-the oppression of others is an essential part of the masculine gender role. We must make gay men and women who lay claim to the privileges of straight males understand what they are doing; and those gay men and women who are caught up in the femme role must realise, as straight women increasingly do, that any security this brings is more than offset by their loss of freedom

COMPULSIVE MONOGAMY. We do not deny that it is as possible for gay couples as for some straight couples to live happily and constructively together. We question however as an ideal, the finding and settling down eternally with one ‘right’ partner. This is the blueprint of the straight world which gay people have taken over. It is inevitably a parody, since they haven’t even the justification of straight couples-the need to provide a stable environment for their children (though in any case we believe that the suffocating small family unit is by no means the best atmosphere for bringing up children.

Monogamy is usually based on ownership-the woman sells her services to the man in return for security for herself and her children-and is entirely bound up in the man’s idea of property furthermore in our society the monogamous couple, with or without children, is an isolated, shut-in, up-tight unit, suspicious of and hostile to outsiders. And though we don’t lay down rules or tell gay people how they should behave in bed or in their relationships, we do want them to question society’s blueprint for the couple. The blueprint says ‘we two against the world’, and that can be protective and comforting. But it can also be suffocating, leading to neurotic dependence and underlying hostility, the emotional dishonesty of staying in the comfy safety of the home and garden, the security and narrowness of the life built for two, with the secret guilt of fancying someone else while remaining in thrall to the idea that true love lasts a lifetime-as though there were a ration of relationships, and to want more than one were greedy. Not that sexual fidelity is necessarily wrong; what is wrong is the inturned emotional exclusiveness of the couple which students the partners so they can no longer operate at all as independent beings in society. People need a variety of relationships in order to develop and grow, and to learn about other human beings.

It is especially important for gay people to stop copying straight-we are the ones who have the best opportunities to create a new lifestyle and if we don’t, no one else will. Also, we need one another more than straight people do, because we are equals suffering under an insidious oppression from a society too primitive to come to terms with the freedom we represent. Singly, or isolated in couples, we are weak-the way society wants us to be. Society cannot put us down so easily if we fuse together. We have to get together, understand one another, live together.

Two ways we can do this are by developing consciousness-raising groups and gay communes.

Our gay communes and collectives must not be mere convenient living arrangements or worse, just extensions of the gay ghetto. They must be a focus of consciousness-raising lie. raising or increasing our awareness of our real oppression} and of gay liberation activity, a new focal point for members of the gay community. It won’t be easy, because this society is hostile to communal living. And besides the practical hang-ups of finding money and a place large enough for a collective to live in, there are our own personal hang-ups: we have to change our attitudes to our personal property, to our lovers, to our day-to day priorities in work and leisure, even to our need for privacy.

But victory will come. If we’re convinced of the importance of the new life-style, we can be strong and we can win through.

AIMS

The long-term goal of Gay Liberation, which inevitably brings us into conflict with the institutionalised sexism of this society, is to rid society of the gender-role system which is at the root of our oppression. This can only be achieved by eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles. It is particularly important that children and young people be encouraged to develop their own talents and interests and to express their own individuality rather than act out stereotyped parts alien to their nature.

As we cannot carry out this revolutionary change alone, and as the abolition of gender rotes is also a necessary condition of women’s liberation, we will work to form a strategic alliance with the women’s liberation movement, aiming to develop our ideas and our practice in close inter-relation. In order to build this alliance, the brothers in gay liberation will have to be prepared to sacrifice that degree of male chauvinism and male privilege that they still all possess.

To achieve our long term goal will take many years, perhaps decades. But attitudes to the appropriate place of men and women in our society are changing rapidly, particularly the belief in the subordinate place for women. Modern conditions are placing increasing strain on the small nuclear family containing one adult male and one adult female with narrowly defined roles and bound together for life.

The way forward

FREE OUR H EADS

The starting point of our liberation must be to rid ourselves of the oppression which lies in the head of every one of us. This means freeing our heads from self oppression and male chauvinism, and no longer organising our lives according to the patterns with which we are indoctrinated by straight society. It means that we must root out the idea that homosexuality is bad, sick or immoral, and develop a gay pride. In order to survive, most of us have either knuckled under to pretended that no oppression exists, and the result of this has been further to distort our heads. Within gay liberation, a number of consciousness-raising groups have already developed, in which we try to understand our oppression and learn new ways of thinking and behaving. The aim is to step outside the experience permitted by straight society, and to learn to love and trust one another. This is the precondition for acting and struggling together.

By freeing our heads we get the confidence to come out publicly and proudly as gay people, and to win over our gay brothers and sisters to the ideas of gay liberation.

CAMPAIGN Before we can create the new society of the future, we have to defend our interests as gay people here and now against all forms of oppression and victimisation. We have therefore drawn up the following list of immediate demands.

  • that all discrimination against gay people, male and female, by the law, by employers, and by society at large, should end. 
  • that all people who feel attracted to a member of their own sex be taught that such feeling are perfectly valid. 
  • that sex education in schools stop being exclusively heterosexual. 
  • that psychiatrists stop treating homosexuality as though it were a sickness, thereby giving gay people senseless guilt complexes. 
  • that gay people be as legally free to contact other gay people, though newspaper ads, on the streets and by any other means they may want as are heterosexuals, and that police harassment should cease right now. 
  • that employers should no longer be allowed to discrim inate against anyone on accou nt of their sexual preferences. 
  • that the age of consent for gay males be reduced to the same as for straight. 
  • that gay people be free to hold hands and kiss in public, as are heterosexuals. 

Those who believe in gay liberation need to support actively their local gay group. With the rapid spread of the ideas of gay liberation, it is inevitable that many members of such groups have only partially come to terms with their homosexuality. The degree of self-oppression is often such that it is difficult to respect individuals in the group, and activists frequently feel tempted to despair. But if we are to succeed in transforming our society we must persuade others of the merits of our ideas, and there is no way we can achieve this if we cannot even persuade those most affected by our oppression to join us in fighting for justice.

We do not intend to ask for anything. We intend to stand firm and assert our basic rights. If this involves violence, it will not be we who initiate this, but those who attempt to stand in our way to freedom

References