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Post Info TOPIC: Primary Source #22: Gay Liberation Front
mre


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Primary Source #22: Gay Liberation Front


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The Gay Liberation Front, Come Out (1970)

The Stonewall riot was a turning point for gay and lesbian Americans. In June 1979, police raided the Stonewall Bar in New York. The raid itself was not an uncommon occurrence, but when gay patrons fought back, the incident became a rallying point for a new era in gay rights. Gay communities in large cities such as New York and San Francisco had organized years before, but this new militancy was the hallmark of a younger generation. One result of Stonewall was the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), an organization that stressed the importance of coming out, or publicly and proudly announcing one's homosexuality. The interview excerpted below provides evidence of the connections between the gay rights movement and other movements of the era.


Note: The American Psychiatric Association categorized homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973.


Pat: The first question I would like to ask you to discuss is what is your concept of the movement?

Kay: People are always asking me what the movement means, I am always asking other people what the movement means, and I don't quite know myself. For 9 or 10 years, the movement has meant to me personally the peace movement.

Bernard: Kay, the movement means something a little bit wider than you have expressed. Movements have developed all over the world, and the movement has meant to me-I've been in the movement over 50 years-any attempt to change. Whether it be political change, social change, or economic change. The movement, as I understand it, means that people organize or even work privately and individually to make changes in the country. Historically there are times when you work individually, and there have been times when the movement catches up masses of people as it did in Russia before the revolution. Now the movement includes people who want to make changes whether they be Panthers who are changing the system for black people, or Woman's Liberation who are concerned with changes for women, or socialists who are concerned with changes in the system. Or whether it be an organization like the Gay Liberation Front concerned with fighting against the oppression of homosexuals, but fighting within the framework of the wider movement. These problems are not isolated, but within the context of the oppression of the system against us all.

Bob: The movement today gets me a little up-tight. I find people saying I am the movement. The movement can be 5 people who refuse to pay the subway fare. During the Christmas week vigil there was a little old lady marching with me and she had on her Dove button. She was terribly non-violent and marching for what she believed was right: she wanted political prisoners freed. A cop hassled us and I was very angry. I called him a pig. She said, "Let me do it." She was sort of a hooker type-sort of a tough old broad, and she charmed him. She came back and said, "You have your way, and I have mine." That's true. This woman is as much a part of the movement as I, even though we are working in different ways.

Pat: I would like to ask you specifically-what ways have you found to get involved in the movement?

Bernard: Well, my first activity was when I was 5 years old. My parents had organized the first Student Friends of the Russian Revolution. I had a tray of little red flags and I put them on people and got money from them. When I was about 13 lots of us were arrested for picketing and handing out leaflets and demonstrating. We were helping the workers who were locked out, we were protesting the war budgets, we were protesting growing unemployment. At college, I helped organize the first NSL-The National Student League-which is the granddaddy of all student organizations. Also the John Reed Club. As time went on I got more and more involved but always from a political end because I was convinced that nothing but a change in the system could change the oppressions against blacks, against women, against children who were being unfairly employed at the time. Also against homosexuals. Now I'm working with homosexuals in the movement because I'm convinced that only in getting our rightful place in the movement and demanding an end to our own oppression can we ever really make changes for homosexuals.

Bob: I was instrumental in forming the 7 Arts chapters of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality]. Most of my past work has been with non-whites. In this chapter we demanded rights for Black people in show business. The first thing we did was break down the industrial shows. No non-caucasian had ever been hired. We threw a picket line around 8th Ave. and 57th St. where most of the Auto show rooms are. We also got off to the World's Fair-that was one of the times I was busted.

Kay: It seems that we had been arrested together. I was arrested at the World's Fair too. Politics make strange cell mates. I think I got into the movement first as a Quaker. As a Quaker I looked out my window in the West Village and noticed a lot of children smashing things. I thought in a few years they'll be big enough to push the button and, you know, somebody ought to do something now. I sort of got kidnapped by the children and started a thing called Workshop of Children which I ran for three years. During this time the civil rights thing was building up but since I was working with these children who had a great deal of trouble with the law, I felt I couldn't be arrested. I thought they couldn't distinguish between civil disobedience and crime exactly. However, as soon as that thing folded I was delighted to go to jail at the CORE demonstration you referred to, Bob.

Bob: I wasn't delighted.

Kay: I volunteered to be arrested and the Pinkerton men were so new and so non-violent it was really difficult. I finally had to dance on the bar at the Schaffer Pavillion. Then I worked with the Survivors of Nagasaki Hiroshima who were traveling around the world. I worked with the people at New England Committee for Non-violent Action. We participated in the blockade at the missile base of Lamakaza, in Canada, at the white house, at prisons, and at submarine bases. And I went into the Peace Corps. I can't think of any other exciting things to brag about.

Bob: I went south after the civil rights bill was signed. We went to a public swimming pool in one demonstration. Myself, a very big black girl, and a black boy. We had a big hassle getting in; but finally we demanded in, and we got in. We joined hands and jumped into the water. There were about 50 people when we got there and in one or two seconds there were three. . . .

Bernard: In the early days of demonstrations the thing we had to fear the most were the mounted police. Most of us were under the hooves of police horses all the time. Young children, men, women-even old people. What I found was that this kind of reaction to us brought a stronger commitment from us. And also brought more and more people to the movement. I wonder if the powers that be are aware that they build the movement themselves with their actions.

Pat: It seems here as you talk about your own experiences and some of the thoughts and feelings which have come to you from those experiences we're getting a fuller meaning of the word oppression. So we might tie it up here by saying the movement is making changes in the establishment where it oppresses us. Your experiences seem to have been radicalizing. If you are in a situation where you see the extreme degrees of the establishment oppression-you see the actual physical effects on people-you become radicalized. Like you were saying, Bernard-about-

Bernard: -about the system being it's worst enemy.

Pat: I would like to ask you how you see the Gay Liberation Movement.

Bernard: I see the Gay Liberation Movement as a process which will help liberate gay people by making them fully part of the whole liberation movement. The movement for change in the system that will eventually annihilate any form of oppression. Before GLF I was active in these movements, but anonymously-nobody was conscious of the fact that I was homosexual. I think the only way we can gain respect for ourselves and any of the help that we need from everyone else in overcoming our oppression is by showing that we participate even though they don't understand why we participate. I think even among a lot of our own people we have to fight for the right to participate as homosexuals.

Bob: I've always been active as a homosexual. Openly, but never publicly. In the past six or seven months I have suddenly found myself living the life of a public homosexual. I find resentment in many parts of the movement. When I find it, I confront it. This is very healthy for me; and it's very healthy for the movement. We can't hold the movement up as being any better or any worse than the rest of us. Gay Liberation to me is seeing 35 or 40 homosexuals marching as homosexuals in a vigil to free political prisoners. We have been political prisoners, and we will be political prisoners. Homosexuals are beginning to see themselves as an oppressed minority. I don't think homosexuality is a magic tie that binds us all but in a sense there is something. It's being proud of ourselves. And I think that's what liberation will help us find-a pride that we can just stand up and be proud of ourselves as human beings.

Bernard: I want to bring up the past in one way. When I was among young people, we had no way of expressing this. I never felt sick, although the attitude then was that we were a sickness. I could only fight this when I talked to individuals. We had no public way of fighting it. And it's exciting to be able to do it now, and the fight must be a very conscious fight.

Bob: Kay, do you have anything to say? Say something, we'll have Women's Liberation after us if you don't.

Kay: I'm very new in GLF and I don't have a great deal to say to people who want to know what it is. I see half of the gay liberation as a sort of attempt to try to change other people outside of ourselves-to try to make them stop oppressing us. But the half that interests me most now, at the beginning of my gay liberation, is self liberation. I was never open or public. I always felt that I had to be a secret homosexual, and I was terrified. Indeed I am now. This article is the first time I have ever come out in a public way, and I find that a great deal of the oppression is built into myself-is built into us. So I still expect when I come out, people are going to dislike me because I am homosexual. People do dislike homosexuals. On the other hand, I myself have disliked my own homosexuality, so perhaps it's not going to be as bad as I thought.

Bernard: Although I haven't been a public homosexual, among my friends, it was always known. What interests me now is that, although I was completely loved, for me, being a homosexual, I find that now that I'm getting active in GLF there's a resentment. People wonder why I have to work as a homosexual in the movement. Why I can't take it up wherever I am in the movement. I don't think you can take it up wherever you are in the movement. It's only possible when we are working as a homosexual to take it up. I think that we should-those of us who can-be public as well as open.



Document Analysis

  1. What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?
  2. How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?
  3. What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States?


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1. Most of the interviewees agreed that the GLF is fighting within the framework of a larger movement. This movement is a national one, lead by faces fighting for different causes. Together however, they are unified in their opposition of an oppressive system.
2. The interviewees in the document examine the struggles of gays in the era. In their mind, gays face not only the watchful eye of society, but the internal scrutiny they subject themselves to on a constant basis. To many, the prospect of coming out is terrifying and enough to keep those already inside stationed there for good.
3. I think the gay and lesbian community has seen great strides taken to ensure their rights. Hate crimes are now more than ever investigated and prosecuted, homosexuals are coming out, I think, in larger numbers, and overall theres just feeling of the gay community being better protected from the many nasty things being hurled at them.

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What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?

While each interviewee was a member of the GLF they were also apart of other groups that they supported during this period for they all supported changes that they thought were necessary for our society. Bernard grew up with parents who were always apart of movements such as the Student Friends of the Russian Revolution and protests against the war budget and unemployment. Later on at college he was apart of the NSL (The National Student League) and the John Reed Club. Bob helped develop the 7 Arts chapters of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and was apart of demonstrations in the South after the civil rights bill was signed to help out blacks. Kay first got involved in the movement as a Quaker and quickly joined the Workshop of Children to help out delinquent children and later ended up at a CORE demonstration, where Bob was at the Worlds Fair, being arrested. Afterwards she toured with the Survivors of Nagasaki Hiroshima, worked with the New England Committee for Non-violent Action, and joined the Peace Corps. She also participated in blockades at the missile base of Lamakaza, in Canada, at the white house, at prisons, and at submarine bases.

How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?

They describe it as a struggle to not only rid our society of the political oppression out on them by the government and social oppression and discrimination by non-gays but also a struggle to liberate themselves and come out of their own mental/personal cage imposed on them by social norms and create their own sense of pride in who they are and what they stand for.

What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States?

Today Gays and Lesbians have won the right to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and have won the same benefits of married couples in Vermont, N.J., and California. Also, since the 1980s gays and lesbians have set up groups or clubs in high schools and colleges around the nation called GSA, or the Gay-Straight Alliance. Today they seem to be less discriminated against and are more openly gay as there is less public backlash from doing so, yet they still have a lot to fight over since not all states have changed their constitutions to allow anything more than one man and one woman marriages.

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Document Analysis

1. What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?

The interviewees were also involved in movements such as Student Friends of the Russian Revolution, the NSL, CORE, and the New England Committee for non-violent action. Through all these movements, they felt like they were fighting for a bigger cause. They felt like they were making a difference in the world.

2. How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?

In the 1970s homosexuals were viewed as political prisoners. They felt they had to keep their homosexuality a secret from everyone. They hadnt come out into the open or the public until very recently. Even though all homosexuals arent the same, they still are fighting for the same reason, which gives them a reason to join together.

3. What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States?

I would have to say that gays and lesbians have definitely come a long way since the 1970s. Laws in certain states now allow for the marriage between gays and lesbians. People are more educated about them and arent as judgmental when it comes to gays and lesbians. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, we can definitely say that progress is being made.


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1. All the interviewees had previously been part of other movements, like Russian movements, or peace movements. One had gone down to the south after the passing of the civil rights bill and went to a pool. It appears that all of them at one point had been arrested for protesting, or picketing a certain action.
2. People are considered sick for being homosexual, and they fear coming out because of the resentment of people at that time toward homosexuality. One even feels that her own sexuality was bad to her, but she had worked to change that. One man said that his friends knew him as homosexual, and they didnt mind that, but once he joined the movement was when the resentment against him began.
3. There is no protection of the rights of homosexuals and transgenders in the United States at this time, thats what they were fighting for.


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What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?

The interviewees were involved in things like student friends of the Russian Revolution, NE committee for non-violent action, core, and NSL. I think the interviewees wanted change and they were joining groups to do so. There is more power in numbers, which is what they were striving for.

How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?

Gays and lesbians were oppressed in the 1970. They couldnt talk about their feelings for others because theyre beliefs werent accepted in the United states. It was a tough time for gays.

What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the Unites States?

The current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights have gotten slightly better. It is more common now to see gay couples expressing their love to each other openly. As before it was not. Although I still feel it is not completely accepted. For gay marriage is not allowed in every state, because of catholic beliefs and such have created dilemmas with this issue in our government in the past few years.

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1. What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?
The people who were being interviewed were also heavily involved in the civil rights movement, student movements like The National Student League, the womens equal rights movement, and also child labor movements.
2. How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?
The biggest struggle I could infer from this article is the inability for homosexuals to really have a voice and were pretty much forced to keep their sexual preferences a secret from society as well as those who were close to them like their friends and family.
3. What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States?
The state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States are significantly better then they were during the 1960s, mostly because of the actions of the gay/lesbian movement during that time. Also the prevalence and more open nature of the movement has made it more acceptable to many Americans. They are however, still extensively discriminated against and harassed possibly more than any group in America but the ability for them to be who they are and not be forced to keep their homosexuality a secret in addition to the open more acceptable nature of the movement has also improved the state of gay/ lesbian rights in the U.S.


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1.What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?

The interviewees had been involved with many other movements for political, social and economic change. One individual Bernard started at the age of 5 when he became involved with the Student Friends of the Russian Revolution with his parents. He later went on to help organize the National Student League. Others interviewed had helped to form other movements such as Congress of Racial Equality, Workshop for Children and Committee for Non-violent Action. All of the movements that these individuals either joined or helped to start were movements to stop oppression of select groups such as blacks and children or to bring attention and try to create political or economic change.

  1. How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?

The description that they give is that the gays and lesbians were the victims of oppression. They describe great resentment in the United States toward gays and lesbians and that they have been treated as political prisoners. They also talk about how homosexuality was believed to be a sickness. The negative attitudes that they faced was very upsetting to them and until the Stonewall riot they pretty much kept their sexual orientation to themselves and those close to them.

  1. What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States.

The current state of gay, lesbian and transgender rights is different than it was in 1970 but they are still fighting for greater equal rights. There is more acceptance today than in the 1970s and they have made some gains. Some employers do recognize gay and lesbian unions and allow health care benefits for partners. Massachusetts grants marriage licenses to same sex couples and several other states such as Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey offer civil unions and grant same sex couples some of the same rights as married couples. Some states however have approved constitutional bans on same sex marriage. Homosexuality is no longer listed as a behavior disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Homosexuals though are not allowed in the military and they are not allowed in the Boy Scout Organization. There are still people who do not accept homosexuality and as late as 1998 Matthew Sheppard, a gay college student died from a hate crime beating in Wyoming. His death caused debate for legislation that included crimes against sexual orientation as hate crimes. Although there are many states who have that legislation there are 15 states that where hate crime laws do not include crimes based on sexual orientation.



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Document Analysis

  1. What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?
  2. How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?
  3. What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States?


1. The connections that the interviewees had with other movements are that they are fighting for something all people who take part in movements are, whether it be political change, social change, or economic change. They are fighting the framework of a larger movement as well. Most of the interviewees had also taken part in another movement at an early age such as student friends of the Russian Revolution.

2. They describe the struggle as a process which will help liberate gay people by making them fully part of the whole liberation movement. The movement for change in the system that will eventually annihilate any formH of oppression.

3. The current state of these people in the United States is that gay people have won their right to get married in Massachusetts. Homosexuality is no longer seen as a mental disorder, but rather as a free choice a person makes. Also they no longer have to keep their sexual preferences secret. Gay couples are much more commonly seen in public, and people (most of the time) do not treat them like they are not human.





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mre


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grades updated 4-26-08

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1. What connections did the interviewees have with other movements?

- The interviewees were involved in many movements before the gay liberation movement. Many were involved in the Russian movement, NSL, CORE, etc. The one thing that all of these movements have had in common is that they were all used to promote acceptance, equality, and to promote causes important to the era.

2. How do the interviewees describe the struggle of gays and lesbians in the United States in 1970?

- They describe that homosexuals were being severely oppressed and discriminated against. In the 1970s homosexuals had to keep all of their feelings to themselves in order not to be subjugated to harsh, cruel, and unfair treatment by those who felt that their sexual orientation was a bad thing.

3. What is the current state of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in the United States?

- There are still people fighting against gay, lesbian, and transgendered rights. You still see people saying that being gay is a bad thing. However there have been major strides in allowing homosexuals to receive equal rights and prevent discrimination.


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