Stonewall And the Gay Liberation Movement:
No single event can claim fame to the gay liberation movement. The Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis were generally benign, certainly the Stonewall Riots produced the massive thrust of the gay activism, yet Stonewall is a mere iconic martyr for the movement. (Some radical movements had already organized on the West Coast.). The civil rights movement was waning, though unquestionably many of the gays and lesbians were active or at the very least affected by the preceding movements.
But, just what was the gay liberation movement fundamentally about? Civil rights? Freedom from oppression? Allen Young, in Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation, offer the view that the gay liberation movement was based more on breaking down the existing sexist roles forced by a heterocentric society. Reasoning that since gays and lesbians had already broken the gender roles they were more apt to having and maintaining better relationships based on equality for both members of the relationship versus the traditional heterosexual relationship that contained male and female gender roles. To Young, “gay in it’s most far reaching sense means not homosexual, but sexually free. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are labels from an overtly sexist society.” But as you will see, gays were equally sexist. According to John D’Emilio, prior to 1970, “Homosexuality had no history. It was a medical condition; a psychopathological state embodied in aberrant individuals.” If homosexuals had no history then who was oppressing them, society, politicians, doctors, or themselves? The gay liberation movement was a push against all oppression; societal and internalized and without either, the movement would have died. This oppression was not unique to the gay liberation movement, many, if not all of the radical movements encountered this oppression. At heart, is the fact that Stonewall did begin the meteoric rise of the gay liberation movement; the factional unrest created by the very goal of the movement, self-identity, provided the momentum for it to continue.
The thrust of the gay liberation movement happened only because other elements came together at a crossroad with the Stonewall Inn at its center. Shortly after World War II gays and lesbians began meeting to find safe environs for them to be able to be themselves, these eventually developed into early Homophile organizations, that slowly spread across the United States. Pre-Stonewall gay movements saw minor gains, particularly on the West Coast. Membership slowly increased as more gays and lesbians became involved with other radical movements of the times, mainly the civil rights movement and the anti-war protests. By 1969, more and more gays and lesbians were meeting in bars, coffee shops and on the streets, These small enclaves began growing into gay communities.
The gay liberation movement had its start back in the 50’s but not until June 28th, 1969 did the movement explode into a full fledge political movement, from less than fifty Homophile Organization before Stonewall to over 800 in 1973. The movement produced some of the largest political rallies, harkening back to the civil rights movement and anti-war demonstrations, and continues to present day. To better understand the gay liberation movement, it serves to start at what appears to be according to D’Emilio, the beginning of gay history, Stonewall Inn.
Hidden in plain sight at 53 Christopher Street in New York City, a non-descript brick fronted building was the meeting place of gays, most notably, drag queens. The patrons according to Karla Jay white working class individuals. Others, including D’Emilio claim that the patrons were blacks and Hispanics. On the early morning of June 28th, this non-descript bar, called The Stonewall Inn, would become focal point of the gay liberation movement. The night before, a night like any other in New York. Drag queens, gays, and lesbians congregated as usual at the Stonewall Inn. Shortly after midnight, the New York City Police raided the Stonewall Inn on grounds of liquor violation. Patrons, undoubtedly stoned, gathered across the street watched as fellow patrons, most notable drag queens were arrested. Martin Duberman in Stonewall best describes what happened. Duberman paints a different picture of Stonewall as compared to the other authors.
According to Duberman, police raids were not uncommon for the Stonewall Inn. Management had always been previously tipped off that a police raid was going to happen. The normal procedure for a police raid, was the initial tip-off to the management that a raid would take place, customarily in the early hours, where police would enter check ids and insure that patrons were wearing the mandatory three articles of gender specific clothing.
So why was the 28th any different? According to Duberman several possibilities exist. “One centers on the possibility that that a payment had not been made on time or made at all. Another suggest that a the extent of Stonewall’s profits had recently become known to the police, and the Sixth Precinct brass had decided, as a prelude to its demand for a larger cut, to flex a little muscle. Yet a third explanation points to the possibility that the new commanding officer at the precinct was out of sympathy with payoffs, or hadn’t yet learned how profitable they could be.” But other evidence, from a mafia source, suggests another possibility. According to the source, the Stonewall Inn had been under surveillance for having contraband alcohol. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) had discovered that the liquor bottles used at Stonewall had no federal stamp on them.” This theory revolves around the idea that the BATF orchestrated the raid and only informed the police precincts that they would be doing the raid shortly before the raid took places.
What happened during the raid becomes cloudy at this point. The patrons not arrested began gathering across the street, their numbers added to by curious onlookers. All authors agree that the first police van with prisoners, left the scene generally unmolested. According to the Lesbian and Gay Staff Association of South Bank University, “the first vehicle left without an incident apart from catcall from the crowd. The next individual to emerge from the bar was a woman in male costume that put up a struggle which galvanized the bystanders into action.” Jay offers this approach, “some say a lesbian who was visiting a friend in the Stonewall was the first to resist. Yet this woman who launched what has been called ’the hairpin drop heard around the world’ has remained ominously anonymous.” Duberman’s Stonewall offers several possible events, depending on the interviewees’ recollection. One account, recalled by Sylvia Riveria, a drag queen present that night, claims that a Tammy Novak, who was being pushed into the van, fought back. Jim Fouratt, gives credit to “the explosive moment...when ‘a dyke dressed in men’s clothing,’ ...started to act up as the cops moved her towards the paddy wagon. According to Jim...‘when the police moved her into the wagon, she got out the other side and started to rock it.’” A third account states when “she complained that the handcuff they had put on her were too tight; in response, one of the cops hit her in the head with his nightstick. Seeing the cops hit her, people standing immediately outside the door started throwing coins at the police. ” Yet others including Craig Rodwell, owner of the first gay bookstore, claims that there was no lesbian was there. Though according to Duberman, “Craig Rodwell’s view probably comes as close as we are likely to get to the truth: ‘A number of incidents were happening simultaneously. There was no one thing that happened or one person, there was just...a flash of group--of mass--anger’”
The growing mob forced the police back inside the Stonewall Inn and attempted to start it on fire. Inside, police called for backup and attempted, though with little effect, to turn a fire hose on the mob outside. The police reinforcements came in the form of the Tactical Police Force(TPF). In riot gear, they formed by linking their arms together and began pushing their way towards the crowd. The TPF fully expected that the crowd would wither in front of them. Instead of running home, as expected, the crowd when pushed too hard, would scatter, move around the block and re-form behind the TPF. At one point, mocking the TPF tactic, a group of drag queens linked arms behind the TPF and chanted:
We are the Stonewall girls
Karla Jay, however dismisses this as “mythology.” The riots continued until Wednesday and admitted that she “didn’t know what to make of the unrest.” She also didn’t believe that Stonewall was to be the beginning of a powerful new movement. Karla Jay may not have known what to make of the riots, but others did, and they didn’t agree. Those like Craig Rodwell and Jim Fouratt saw the potential for a radical movement. Conversely, the older gays and lesbians looked upon the riots with distaste. “They tended to characterized the events at Stonewall as ‘regrettable,’ as the demented carryings-on of ‘stoned, tacky queens’” some “even sided with the police, praising them for the ‘restraint’ they had shown in not employing more violence against the protesters.” “Others applauded what they called the ‘long over-due‘ closing of what for years had been an unsightly ‘sleaze joint’ There was some justification in the last argument, since the Stonewall Inn was not the cleanest joint in town. In his series of interviews, Duberman describes Stonewall as being unsafe and unsanitary. Stonewall had no running water, so glasses were washed in a vat of water that remained unchanged throughout the night. Alcohol was always watered down.
Stonewall was not however a dead issue. The next year, and several years after that Stonewall would again be hotly debated. In 1970, as part of Stonewall Riot commemoration, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organization, (ERCHO) signed off on the Christopher Street Liberation Day the successor of the earlier “Annual Reminder” marches and the predecessor of today’s Gay Pride March. The Annual Reminder march the previous year had caused friction between Craig Rodwell and Frank Kameny, who led the march and insisted on the ‘respectable homosexual’ by insisting that marchers wear proper attire and not touch while marching, Rodwell, became bitter when Kameny ordered two lesbian to stop holding hands. Rodwell would be the fundamental organizer of the Christopher Street Liberation march. Rodwell pushed for the march to be symbolic of the activist goals. MSNY, refused initially to support the march. Supporters of the march, however had their own views of what the march should consist of: GAA wanted “instead of a picnic in the park, they wanted a program of speeches by political leaders and politicians.” The Committee for the Christopher Street Liberation cringed at the thought of “letting gay bars enter floats in the march.” The GAA disagreed, pointing to the fact that all gay organizations should have the right to participate in the march.The following year, arguments would erupt about placement of lesbians within the march.
Within days of the rioting the Mattachine Society of New York (MSNY) and other homophile organization began capitalizing on the riots. The Mattachine Society would claim that the riots led to the beginning of the gay liberation movement, which they had fathered. But the real role of Mattachine Society-New York was merely providing an atmosphere for the liberation movement. “...but less by promoting Liberationist activities than by letting homosexuals partial to the New Left political perspective know that they would have to pursue liberationist aims on their own.” Mattachine Society-New York was more passive in the political arena, cautious to always protect the positive atmosphere that the society had with authority. Instead they strived to maintain the image of the ‘respectable homosexual’ by dress and appearance. Their greatest gains were in the courtroom, achieving some early gains in gay rights. During the Stonewall riots MSNY was lead by Dick Leitsch who believed in maintaining that image of respectability. Martha Shelley in Eric Marcus’ Making History characterizes Leitsch as someone “who wanted only one gay organization in New York, Mattachine, with him at the head of it. So he was really happy with all of these splinter groups.”
While some criticized the riots for not being political, the New left seen Stonewall as a chance to agitate homosexuals to join the movement. Members of the New Left who flocked to the MSNY found their politics in contention with the leader of MSNY.
Interested in building their membership, the Leitsch hesitantly agreed to create an Action Committee for the more radical minded members. Michael Brown agreed to head the Action Committee and immediately set up a community meeting. During this meeting many members pushed for the idea of demonstrating against police harassment. Brown thought the ideas to “timid” and organized a second meeting to be held in Greenwich Village, the heart of the gay community of New York. Between meetings, Brown campaigned to bring other New Left homosexuals into the fold, but Dick Leistch, leader of Mattachine Society-New York refused to allow any activity that would upset authorities or disenfranchise supporters. Undaunted, Brown, determined to radicalize the homophile community and bring it on line with other movements, committed the Action Committee to supporting a local Black Panther demonstration at the Women’s House of Detention. To avoid associating their actions with the Mattachine Society-New York, the Action Committee claimed sponsorship from the newly coined name Gay Liberation Front. The July 19th rally at the Women’s House of Detention would be the Gay Liberation Front’s first political rally, but would not officially break away from the Mattachine Society-New York until July 31.
The Gay Liberation Front, (GLF) pulled their name from the National Liberation Front. Depending on whom you read, however, will give the name to the Viet Cong, others to an Algerian terrorist organization. Regardless of where that title came from, all authors agree to the concept that the name would attract people who sided with leftist ideas and that it would place the GLF into the larger overall movements. The Politics of Homosexuality by Toby Marotta does go one step further in explaining the name.
Each word in that name was selected with organizational as well as political considerations in mind. Unlike homosexual, the clinical term bestowed by heterosexuals, and homophile, the euphemism coined by cautious political forerunners, gay, which homosexuals called each other, was thought to be the word that would most appeal to homosexuals who thirsting to be known as the knew themselves. Hence also liberation, intended to suggest freedom from constraint. Front implied a militant vanguard or coalition; it suggested that GLF was the crest of a swelling wave destined to force people to recognize and respect the openly gay population.
Borrowing the idea from other movements, the GLF maintained an open forum meeting without a structure. They also began running consciousness raising groups (C-R). C-R groups were generally small informal meetings of 5-10 people that discussed issues surrounding homosexuality and their lives. Topics ranged from family to problems being gay. The goal was gain a collective experience of the group and apply it to the movement.
Within the Gay Liberation Front, two opposing ideologies emerged. The reformers, who wanted “openly gays to be a respected presence in the existing society.” Their objective was to support the broader movement by reevaluating how they thought about their lives. The revolutionaries and radical members “aspired only to stir homosexuals to be open about their homosexuality and to support specifically gay causes.” Furthermore they wanted a complete reconstruction of the cultural, social and political system of America. Within the reformers ideology there existed those that believed in cultural reform, that meant to be open in all aspects of their lives and the political reformers, whose belief that political power was the key and so the need to be political in all aspects of their lives.
Splits in how the GLF would operate created other rifts. Not every member agreed that the GLF should align itself with other movement groups, fearing that gays and lesbians would be used as pawns for their own gain or that outside alignment with non-homosexual groups would hamper the Gay Liberation cause. To most members of the GLF, militancy was “something less than violence.” These splits within the GLF, caused the demise of the GLF, while promoting the movement as a whole. Karla Jay states that “radical groups disintegrated as people were drawn into new or conflicting causes. The breakdown of the GLF was one instance of the fragmentation and fracturing that happened for good reasons but broke the movement’s momentum, or pointed to the impossibility of defining a movement at all.”
If the Mattachine Society was too conservative, then the Gay Liberation Front was too radical for some. The Gay Activist Alliance then was the middle ground. Gay Liberation Front members who “did not like its campaigning on non-gay issues or it’s anarchic style,” split from the Gay Liberation Front at the end of the year. Its doctrine was for gay only support by using the political system. Marty Robinson and Jim Owles, disillusioned with MSNY and disenfranchised from GLF formed the GAA in late 1969. In Arthur Bell’s Dancing the Gay Lib Blues, the naming of Gay Activist Alliance, came out lack of good names. “The good name didn’t come. We settled for a straight-forward name, Gay Activist Alliance, initials GAA (gay, get it!) Robinson and Owles, not liking the Gay Liberation Fronts open forum style meetings, “ Marty’s floor battles and differences in issues,“ and “weekly character assassinations and havoc that were popular at GLF meetings during that period,” created a constitution and by laws governing the GAA meetings. Holding its first official meeting in December, the Gay Activist Alliance, focused on two things: ‘Gay First’ activism and activism through politics. “The basic problem,” according to Jim Owles “was that the GLF aligned itself with all minority groups.” Its primary purpose was to bring the homosexual issues into the political forefront. GAA leaders believed that gays should be more political in their lives and that homosexuals were a powerful political minority.
The Gay Activist Alliance’s trademark was the ‘zaps’. Zaps, were the demonstrations against politicians and the media. The typical zap consisted of GAA inundating the crowd at a political candidate’s rally or the office of a target with members of the GAA. Situated within the office or crowd, members of the GAA would bombard the politician with questions on gay issues attempting to make the politician take a stand on gay politics. First used in September 1969 Mayoral elections, though unsuccessful, showed the leadership of the future GAA that political activism was a viable means to bring homosexuals into the public realm.
As membership grew with in the Gay Activist Alliance, divisions began to form. The most notables were the cultural reformers. They pushed for other activities such as activities that celebrate gay life and demonstrations against police harassment. The cultural reformers also pushed for social activities within the GAA, such as dances, which the leadership agreed to by also making the social events a politicizing activity.
The Gay Activist Alliance’s biggest challenge came not so much from the politicians, but from the media. Since the media was generally considered apolitical, the need to convince people “that editors had moral responsibilities when it came to publishing writing that affected human rights, because of the inevitable political consequences such writings had; and that when they exhibited moral and political irresponsibility it was appropriate to respond politically.”But politicians were still the focus of the Gay Activist Alliance’s zaps. GAA would not publicly endorse any candidate, instead informing the gay community where each candidate stood on gay issues. If Gay Activist Alliance had one ally in the political scene it was Bella Abzug, who openly supported the Gay Activist Alliance’s initiative from the beginning and actively spoke for them in her campaigning.
Zaps had a special advantage in the movement. GAA members could hide in the crowd of a political rally waiting for the question and answer segment, and then bombard the candidate with questions of gay rights, forcing them to answer on record their views. In the first zap, while still in the Gay Liberation Front, the activist decided to zap the New York Post, for running an article that was demeaning to Gays.
New York Mayor John Lindsay would be the repeated target of Gay Activist Alliance zaps. GAA demanded Lindsay take a stand on gay issues, including an end to police harassment of gays and job discrimination. Gay Activist Alliance activist tended to pop up in the crowd whenever Mayor Lindsay appeared and bombarded him with questions. Lindsay initially refused to meet with representatives of Gay Activist Alliance, delegating that responsibility to the Deputy Mayor.
Gubernatorial candidates were next on the Gay Activist Alliance zap agenda. Arthur Goldberg, not having made any stand on the gay issues became Gay Activist Alliance’s primary target. On a walking tour, Gay Activist Alliance members flock to him, posing questions after questions. Goldberg’s response was merely “ I have more important things to talk about.” But every hand that Goldberg reached out to shake was a Gay Activist Alliance who prompted him to make a stand. Goldberg, frustrated, but not willing to make a comment, before leaving the area, reached out to a woman’s hand in a final attempt to find non-homosexuals. He grabbed Kay Tobin’s hand. She greeted him by asking him if he had “any comment to the Gay Press.” Goldberg then retreated back to his car by the only safe route, “shaking the hands of children” Arthur Goldberg, had within a short span of time alienated one tenth of his constituency.
On June 16th 1970, Gay Activist Alliance would have its last zap with candidates for the primaries. Paul Rao, Jr., Gay Activist Alliance submitted was very anti-gay and was not questioned. Gays were asked not to vote for him. Gilbert DiLucia, who gave positive answers to Gay Activist Alliance questions, was applauded as was Sidney Siller and Paul O’Dwyer. Bella Abzug however was not questioned; instead she was given a standing ovation for her pro-gay rights stance early on in her campaigning. On June 23rd, New Yorkers went to the polls including an estimated 600,000-800,000 homosexuals. Fourteen-year veteran Leonard Farbstein, who had dismissed gays, lost his seat to Bella Abzug by nearly 3000 votes, a resounding victory for gays. Edward Koch, who also held a pro-gay stance, unseated Rao. For the Governor’s office, Gay Activist Alliance hopeful Howard Samuels was not elected, leaving no pro-gay candidates in contention for the Governors office.
The standard practiced seem to be to occupy the offices of the company serving coffee and doughnuts while explaining their situation to the general staff, until they were granted an audience with the editor. One such zap, against Harper’s was successful, not in getting concessions from Harper’s so much as it did in another aspect. On the same day that the GAA scheduled a zap of Harper’s they also planned to zap the Dick Cavett Show. Forewarned that GAA members would be in the audience. they audience was stopped before being allowed to enter the studio. Meeting with the group prior to filming, Dick Cavett agreed to interview two members of the GAA. But politicians were still the focus of the GAA’s zaps.
The GAA, following its cultural reformists members lead promoted traditional gay interests, creating a viable gay subculture. “GAA took a giant step in the direction of legitimizing homosexual interest and promoting the idea that traditional gay past times was not only moral and salutatory but political.”
Still, dissension within the ranks of the GAA threatened to tear the organization down. Cultural reformist believed that the Executive Committee of the GAA did not promote the entire gay sub-culture, most notably the transvestites.
If the Gay males thought that they were being oppressed, lesbians were being oppressed from all sides. As Lesbians they were being oppressed by the Male dominated heterosexual society, as women they were oppressed by the male heterosexual and homosexual society alike. Lesbians were even shunned by women of the woman’s liberation movement at first. Karla Jay remarks how “lesbophobia was so virulent that NOW omitted the name of the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis from the list of sponsors for the First Congress to Unite Women.” In the broadest sense lesbian/woman’s liberation was an appeal to human liberation, an effort to eliminate sexism in society, invalidate gender roles that made women: lesbian and straight, as well as gays subordinate to the white male society.
Paralleling the Woman’s Liberation Movement, lesbian members gay liberation front began dealing with the issues of sexism. Prior to 1970, lesbians considered themselves to be homosexuals and gay activist first. While many women were actively participating in the field, it seems to be the general consensus that they were responsible for domestic responsibilities during the meetings, such as preparing the coffee and snacks.
Lesbians in the Woman’s Liberation Movement began calling out to their sisters to examine their identities as women. Rita Mae Brown, unable to convince The National Organization of Women (NOW) to view lesbians as part of the Women’s Liberation Movement and angered at DOB-NY’s omission from the list of sponsors, left NOW and went to the Gay Liberation Front to encourage lesbians to unite against all sexist behavior. This cross over produced the Radicalesbians.
Lesbians disheartened with the sexist attitude of the men in the gay liberation movement, left the Gay Liberation Front and joined the growing Radicalesbian Movement. The Radicalesbians after lengthy and heated debate, settled on this name “in one uninterrupted word that underscored our unity.”
Radicalesbian’s manifesto, the Woman-Identified Woman, asserted that lesbians were the ideal models for women’s liberation. Devoid of men in their lives, they best understood the female perspective of thinking in terms of women and women self determination that were the essence of the feminism. Woman-Identified Woman maintained that since lesbians centered their lives around women they could create the true all-woman groups without male interference and raise the consciousness of women in the movement. That “sex roles dehumanize women by defining us as a supportive/ serving caste in relation to the master caste of men, and emotionally men by demanding that they be alienated from their own bodies and emotions in order to perform their economic / political / military functions effectively.”
The Radicalesbians vowed to avoid all man-identified activities and establishment including Gay Activist Alliance’s political agenda and the mainstream media, which they viewed as part of the sexist patriarchal society. Instead Radicalesbians worked to raise women’s self-consciousness and advertised only with the local alternative papers.
The Radicalesbians first zap was at the second meeting of the Congress to Unite Women a heterosexual feminist group. Shortly after the meeting began, Radicalesbians shut off the lights. When the lights came back on Twenty-five members of the Radicalesbians were on stage wearing lavender t-shirt emblazoned with ‘Lavender Menace’ in red, quoting a remark made by Betty Friedan a year earlier, that the National Organization of Women (NOW) was ran by a Lavender menace, referring directly to some openly lesbian officers of NOW. Jay continues by saying that “for lesbians, the best thing that emerged from the Lavender Menace action was the group of protesters itself--the first post-Stonewall group to focus on lesbian issues.”
Within the Daughters of Bilitis-New York reformers believed lesbians should be able to express themselves as they wished. Reformers believed that one should enhance themselves with new liberated thinking. The successful lesbian, according to reformers, would think in new female ways and disregard the old male way of thinking, producing a ‘woman-identified’ lifestyle. Radical lesbians believed that, ambition, accomplishment and self-centered thinking as being ‘male-identified’. When a woman becomes a successful ‘woman-identified’ individual, the radical elements of the Daughters of Bilitis-New York would label her as male-identified.
More disruptions followed when the Gay Activist Alliance at the Gay Activist Alliance firehouse granted the Daughters of Bilitis-New York, faced with eviction from their current meeting place, a lease. Radicals became enraged by the offer of help from the Gay Activist Alliance, reformers, however were thankful and believed in mutual assistance with each other. To avoid any more controversy, the Daughters of Bilitis-New York declined the Gay Activist Alliance lease and settled for a vacant storefront in unfamiliar territory. The Daughters of Bilitis-New York also sought Incorporation, but radicals charged that too was selling out and part of the male-identified establishment.
With the National Daughters of Bilitis closed down, it seemed apparent that it was only a matter of time before Daughters of Bilitis-New York would cease. By December 1971 Daughters of Bilitis-New York was co-opted by the Gay Activist Alliance’s Woman’s Subcommittee.
Ironically the Gay Activist Alliance’s Woman’s Subcommittee wan not intended to create a lesbian-feminist but gay liberationist. The Woman’s Subcommittee was created in 1971 because too few women showed up for a woman’s talk group or sponsored dance. Nathalie Rockhill who chaired the Community Relations Committee worked to bring more lesbians in to the Gay Activist Alliance.
Originally titled The Woman’s Subcommittee, The Lesbian Liberation Committee (LLC) became Gay Activist Alliance’s first women’s committee. It was not long afterward that members of Gay Activist Alliance argued that if the LLC was allowed to meet independently of the Gay Activist Alliance, that the LLC might bring down the Gay activist Alliance, similar to what happened to the Daughters of Bilitis. Leaders of Gay Activist Alliance also feared that the women would become less active in in Gay Activist Alliance and politics. Members of the LLC countered with the argument, that women are not as political as men and felt that the issues didn’t directly affect them.
Eventually conceding to the Lesbian Liberation Committee, the leaders of Gay Activist Alliance granted time and space for the LLC to meet. Continued agitation grew as men, ignoring the women’s request to meet in private, tried to sit in during LLC meetings. Members of the Entertainment Committee, who were in charge of setting up the kitchen and movie projectors, began to neglect their jobs when the LLC would meet. During the general membership meeting of Gay Activist Alliance, men seemed reluctant to accept them as a viable arm of the Gay Activist Alliance. Some members resorted to referring to the LLC with insulting remarks when the women complained.
Members of the Lesbian Liberation Committee began pushing for a separate organization based on the Gay Activist Model, including a constitution and by-laws. Within the Preamble, the LLC set forth their declaration that; women had the right to be self-defined individuals and to confront those that would deny them this right.
By May 1973, Lesbian Liberation Committee had seceded from the Gay Activist Alliance and became the Lesbian Feminist Liberation (LFL). Operated as the linchpin between them. Determined not to side exclusively with either gay liberation movement or the Woman’s Liberation Movement, they brought both together while promoting their own cause, namely self-determination for homosexual women. Whom they recognized as the double oppressed members of society, not only from the patriarchal society, but the heterosexual woman (whom they felt were their biggest oppressor as lesbians) and the general gay populace who were still endowed with predominant male sexist attitudes.
The Gay Liberation Movement, whether it advocated respectability, in your face activism, creating the political self, the self identified homosexual, or the woman-identified lesbian, brought about a new level of respect within the homosexual community. “On a more personal level, homosexuals are getting together, dropping our defensiveness and learning to celebrate ourselves.” It taught gays to be proud, to stand up and be counted. It also, as Marotta’s Politics of Homosexuality points out, created massive rifts in the movement. So much so that new Gay Liberation organizations with different agendas were appearing just as quickly as others were disintegrating. The first to go, were the Radical movements who shunned structured organizations, like the Gay Liberation Front and the Radicalesbians who thought that the most effective method was working alone. The Daughters of Bilitis- New York, first losing their national office, dissolved from the woman-identified woman complex introduced by the Radical Lesbians. The Mattachine Society of New York, the Gay Activist Alliance and the Lesbian Feminist Liberation, Inc, survived a little longer, but they too were near dissolving in 1974 when the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force appeared and eventually co-opted them.
Within the gay liberation movement “Arguments among activist continued to paralyze organizations and to divide coalitions; the mortality rate among new groups was high; and no one quite understood why the gay movement seemed to be forever growing while gay organizations were always struggling to survive.” The answer lies in the factional fighting within each group. As radicals and reformists polarized, unable or at the very least unwilling to compromise, the reformers and radicals would break away from the parent organization, to form a new coalition meeting their own ideologies. These disbursements of ideologies also aided in bringing other gays and lesbians into the gay liberation movement.
Stonewall, has become a myth of epic proportion. D’Emilio remarks in The World Turned that “Stonewall is our symbol of resistance, our myth of emancipation from oppression. As years separating us from the riot grow, so does its power. In the biggest cities, the whole month of June has become a cornucopia of gay and lesbian delights...In smaller cities, the ability to mount a march in honor of Stonewall figures as a metaphorical coming of age.” However Stonewall was instrumental in producing the gay liberation movement. The four days of rioting produce a meteoric rise in gay activism. But ultimately the Stonewall riots itself did not create the entire movement. It essentially was the Christopher Street Liberation Day march that gay communities began emulating that made Stonewall the iconic martyr it is today. Incidentally Stonewall sold by the Mafia to another gay bar owner, closed down shortly after the riot. None of this, however, would have been possible without the precedent set by previous liberation movements. Concepts such as conscious raising groups helped gays and lesbians become self-identified, thus allowing more of them to speak out. This new found freedom also caused deep rifts within the individual movements. But ideally these rifts created new goal specific gay organization that increasingly pulled in more gays. So that by 1973, 800 homophile organizations existed instead of fifty that existed prior to Stonewall. D’Emilio offers another explanation for the success of the gay liberation movement, the act of ‘Coming Out.’ “They relinquished their invisibility, made themselves vulnerable to attack, and acquired an investment in the success of the movement in a way that mere adherence to a political line could never accomplish.”
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