GLF in the United States
The Gay Liberation Front
The Activist GLF was interested in the sexual liberation for all people, as they believed that heterosexuality was a remnant of cultural inhibition and felt that change would not come about unless the current social institutions were dismantled and rebuilt without defined sexual roles. To do this the GLF was intent on transforming the idea of the biological family and clan and making it more akin to a loose affiliation of members without biological subtexts. Prominent members of the GLF also opposed and addressed other social inequalities between the years of 1969 to 1972 such as militarism, racism, and sexism but because of internal rivalries the GLF officially ended its operations in 1972.
History of the GLF: the Stonewall riots
The Stonewall riots are considered by many as the catalyst in the organization of the GLF and other gay and lesbian movements. These riots are also considered to be the origin of the gay rights pacifism movement. On 27 June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, a gay bar was raided by New York police. Gay bars were routinely raided because of ties to the mafia which were the only groups that would finance gay bars at the time. The Stonewall Inn, was a well known LGBT establishment located on Christopher street in two former horse stables which were renovated into one building in 1930 and was subject to countless raids since LGBT activities and fraternization were generally illegal. When the police arrived, the customers began pelting them with coins, and later, bottles and rocks. The crowd also freed staff members who were put into police vans, and the outnumbered officers retreated inside the bar. Soon, the Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), originally trained to deal with war protests, were called in to control the mob, which was now using a parking meter as a battering ram. As the patrol force advanced, the crowd did not disperse, but instead doubled back and reformed behind the riot police, throwing rocks and shouting “Gay Power!”, dancing and taunting their opposition. For the next several nights, the crowd would return in ever increasing numbers, handing out leaflets and rallying themselves. In early July, due in large part to the riots in June, discussions in the gay community lead to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front. Soon the word “Stonewall” came to represent fighting for equality in the gay community.
One of the GLF's first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall, and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party — some of whom would return the gesture of solidarity. They took an anti-capitalist stance, and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles. Several GLF women such as Martha Shelley went on to form the Lavender Menace.
Goals and mandate of the GLF
The Gay Liberation Front was initially formed by thirty-seven men and women in light of the Stonewall Riots. The group’s first demonstration in response to the riots was the organization of a candlelight march, in which they demanded an end to homosexual persecution. The GLF was not only dedicated to gay rights, but also to the broader social ideals which dominated the 1960s, including peace, equality and economic justice. Between 1969 and 1972, the GLF was an influential force, and ultimately consisted of more than 80 independent chapters across the United States and abroad.
The GLF’s primary mandate was to oppose and fight against those institutions in society which had historically oppressed and demeaned gay individuals. Ideally, the GLF wanted to ensure that gay individuals were treated with increased equality. In order to do this, the GLF participated in and organized marches, demonstrations, speeches, confrontations, sit-ins, street theatre, meetings, books, films and 'zaps' designed to disrupt events promoting anti-gay prejudice, all in order to raise awareness of their cause and their struggle. They also engaged in the technique of 'outing', which many GLF activists now regret, 'When I look back on some of the things we did, I shudder with horror. I remember a march where we walked past a gay pub shouting at people there to come out of the closet- trying to shame them into coming out'.
In 1970, the GLF represented itself as a movement “against conformity to arbitrary standards, for an open society in which each of us may choose his own way of life.” The GLF, in addition to focusing on gay rights, essentially criticized American values and society in general, and became involved with other causes and social movements, including the anti-war and civil rights movements, and the fight to end racism and bigotry. Ideally, the GLF wanted to establish an open society, in which all individuals could express themselves freely, and it especially fought against machismo (the notion that masculinity is superior, and thus has a right to dominate), which the GLF felt oppressed all individuals in society – both straight and gay.
GLF ignored by New Left historians
No historian would argue that Stonewall was unimportant; its symbolic power brings out hundreds of thousands of people who gather yearly for marches commemorating the riot. However, many New Left historians of the period have downplayed its importance or have excluded it entirely.
GLF in the UK
By 1971 the UK GLF was recognized as a political movement in the national press, holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people.
Easter 1972 saw the Gay Lib annual conference held in the Guild of Undergraduates Union (students union) building at the University of Birmingham.
The best organised GLF action was to disrupt the opening of the 1971 Festival of Light 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.
- Gay Liberation
- Socialism and LGBT rights
- Gay Activists Alliance
- USA GLF: N. A. Diaman, Brenda Howard, Sylvia Rivera
- London GLF: Bob Mellors, Peter Tatchell
- Hall-Carpenter archives
- Canfield, William J.. We Raise our Voices. Gay & Lesbian Pride & Politics.
- Diaman, N. A. (1995). Gay Liberation Front. Archived from the original on 2000-06-19.
- Kissack, Terence (1995). Freaking Fag Revolutionaries: New York’s Gay Liberation Front. Radical History Review 62.
- Power, Lisa (1995). No Bath But Plenty Of Bubbles: An Oral History Of The Gay Liberation Front 1970-7. Cassell, 340 pages. ISBN 0-304-33205-4.
- Walter, Aubrey (1980). Come together : the years of gay liberation (1970-73). Gay Men's Press, 218 pages. ISBN 0907040047.
- Wright, Lionel (July 1999). The Stonewall Riots – 1969. Socialism Today #40.
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