Gay Liberation Front

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1970s poster used by the GLF

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was the name of a number of gay liberation groups, the first of which was formed in New York City in 1969, immediately after the Stonewall riots, in which police clashed with gay demonstrators. Members of the GLF were a pro-gay organization.[1]

GLF in the United States[edit]

The American Gay Liberation Front (GLF) advocated for sexual liberation for all people; they believed 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 nuclear family 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.[citation needed]

History of the GLF: the Stonewall riots[edit]

The Stonewall riots are considered by many to be the prime catalyst for the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.[2][3]

On 28 June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, the New York City police raided a gay bar, a routine practice at the time.[4] The establishment, the Stonewall Inn, was a well known LGBT establishment located on Christopher Street. The bar was made up of two former horse stables which had been renovated into one building in 1930. Like all gay bars of the era, it was subject to countless police raids, as LGBT activities and fraternization were still largely illegal. But this time, when the police began arresting patrons, the customers began pelting them with coins, and later, bottles and rocks. The lesbian and gay crowd also freed staff members who had been 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 re-formed behind the riot police, throwing rocks, 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.[citation needed] And in commemoration, Gay Pride marches are held every year on the anniversary of the riot.

One of the GLF's first acts was to organize a march to continue the momentum of the Stonewall uprising, 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. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.[1] Several GLF women, such as Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, and Michela Griffo went on to form the Lavender Menace, a lesbian activist organization.[citation needed]

In 1970, the drag queen caucus of the GLF formed the group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which focused on serving queer youth and street people, especially queens and transwomen of color.[4]

In 1970, "The U.S. Mission", had a permit to use a campground in the Sequoia National Forest. Once it was learned that the group was sponsored by the Gay Liberation Front, the Sequoia National Forest supervisor cancelled the permit, and the campground was closed for the period.[5]

GLF in the United Kingdom[edit]

Original GLF activists in front of Hall-Carpenter Archive display at a LSE 40th anniversary celebration.[6]

[...] 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.

GLF Manifesto, 1971[1]

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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

Easter 1972 saw the Gay Lib annual conference held in the Guild of Undergraduates Union (students union) building at the University of Birmingham.[11]

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.[7] 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.[12][13]

The papers of the GLF are among the Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics.[14]

Several members of the GLF, including Peter Tatchell, continued campaigning beyond the 1970s under the organisation of OutRage!, which still exists today, using similar tactics to the GLF (such as "zaps"[15] and performance protest[16]) 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,[17] 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.[17]

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.[17]

GLF in Canada[edit]

The first gay liberation groups identifying with the Gay Liberation Front movement in Canada were in Montreal, Quebec. The Front de liberation homosexual (FLH) was formed in November 1970, in response to a call for organised activist groups in the city by the publication Mainmise.[18] Another factor in the group's formation was police actions against gay establishments in the city after the suspension of civil liberties by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the fall of 1970.[18] This group was short-lived; they were disbanded after over forty members were charged for failure to procure a liquor license at one of the group's events in 1972.[18]

A Vancouver, British Columbia group calling itself the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front emerged in 1971, mostly out of meetings from a local commune, called Pink Cheeks. The group gained support from The Georgia Straight, a left-leaning newspaper, and opened a drop-in centre and published a newsletter.[18] The group struggled to maintain a core group of members, and competition from other local groups, such as the Canadian Gay Activists Alliance (CGAA) and the Gay Alliance Towards Equality (GATE), soon led to its demise.[19]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto. London". 1978 [1971]. 
  2. ^ National Park Service (2008). "Workforce Diversity: The Stonewall Inn, National Historic Landmark National Register Number: 99000562". US Department of Interior. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Obama inaugural speech references Stonewall gay-rights riots". North Jersey Media Group Inc. January 21, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Shepard, Benjamin Heim and Ronald Hayduk (2002) From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization. Verso. pp.156-160 ISBN 978-1859-8435-67
  5. ^ Lodi News Sentinel, Jun 26, 1970 retrieved from http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=GOgzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1jIHAAAAIBAJ&pg=3517%2C7844376
  6. ^ "Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front". Lib-1.lse.ac.uk. 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  7. ^ a b Lucas 1998, pp. 2–3
  8. ^ Victoria Brittain (28 August 1971). "An Alternative to Sexual Shame: Impact of the new militancy among homosexual groups". The Times. p. 12. 
  9. ^ "Gay Liberation Front (GLF)". Database of Archives of Non-Government Organisations. January 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  10. ^ Gingell, Basil (10 September 1971). "Uproar at Central Hall as demonstrators threaten to halt Festival of Light". The Times. p. 14. 
  11. ^ "Gay Birmingham Remembered - The Gay Birmingham History Project". Birmingham LGBT Community Trust. Retrieved 3 October 2012. Birmingham hosted the Gay Liberation Front annual conference in 1972, at the chaplaincy at Birmingham University Guild of Students. 
  12. ^ Peace News John Birdsall page 2 (13 January 1978)
  13. ^ Gay News (1978) Demonstrators protest at ad ban on help-line edition number 135
  14. ^ "Calmview: Collection Browser". archives.lse.ac.uk. LSE Library Services. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  15. ^ Willett, p. 86
  16. ^ Tatchell, Peter. "Peter Tatchell: The Art of Activism". petertatchell.net. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c Robinson, Lucy (2007). Gay men and the left in post-war Britain: How the personal got political. Manchester University Press. pp. 174–176. ISBN 9781847792334. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  18. ^ a b c d Warner, Tom (2002). Never going back : a history of queer activism in Canada. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN 9780802084606. 
  19. ^ Rothon, Robert (October 23, 2008). "Vancouver's Gay Liberation Front". Daily Xtra. 

References[edit]

  • Canfield, William J. "We Raise our Voices". Gay & Lesbian Pride & Politics. 
  • Diaman, N. A. (1995). "Gay Liberation Front". Archived from the original on 2007-06-11. 
  • Kissack, Terence (1995). Freaking Fag Revolutionaries: New York’s Gay Liberation Front. Radical History Review 62. 
  • Lucas, Ian (1998), OutRage!: an oral history, Cassell, ISBN 978-0-304-33358-5 
  • Power, Lisa (1995). No Bath But Plenty Of Bubbles: An Oral History Of The Gay Liberation Front 1970-7. Cassell. p. 340 pages. ISBN 0-304-33205-4. 
  • Walter, Aubrey (1980). Come together : the years of gay liberation (1970-73). Gay Men's Press. p. 218 pages. ISBN 0-907040-04-7. 
  • Wright, Lionel (July 1999). "The Stonewall Riots – 1969". Socialism Today #40. 
  • Kafka, Tina (2006). Gay Rights. Thomson Gale Farmington Hills, MI. 

External links[edit]