Carl Wittman

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Carl Wittman (February 23, 1943 – January 22, 1986) was a member of the national council of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later an activist for LGBT rights. He co-authored "An Interracial Movement of the Poor?" (1963) [1] with Tom Hayden and wrote "A Gay Manifesto" [2] (1970). Wittman declined hospital treatment for AIDS and committed suicide by drug overdose at home in North Carolina.[3]

Early activism[edit]

In 1960, Wittman entered Swarthmore College where he became a student activist. Wittman spent summers doing civil rights work in the South, and joined the national council of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1966, after becoming disillusioned with homophobia in the New Left, Wittman left SDS. Wittman married Mimi Feingold the same year.[3]

In 1967, Wittman moved to San Francisco with Feingold where they lived with other activists in an anti-draft commune. Wittman turned in his draft card to the Oakland Induction Center in October 1967 during Stop the Draft Week.

Gay activism[edit]

Wittman, while self-identified as gay since the age of 14, remained closeted until coming out in the late 1960s in an article, "Waves of Resistance," published in the November, 1968 issue of the antiwar magazine, Liberation.[4][5]

In 1969, Wittman wrote Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto published by The Red Butterfly cell of the Gay Liberation Front January, 1970.[2] It is considered one of the most influential gay liberation writings of the 1970s.

Exclusive heterosexuality is fucked up. It reflects a fear of people of the same sex, it's anti-homosexual, and it is fraught with frustration. Heterosexual sex is fucked up too; ask women's liberation about what straight guys are like in bed. Sex is aggression for the male chauvinist; sex is obligation for the traditional woman.

— Amerika: A Gay Manifesto I.3[6]

In 1971, Wittman moved to Wolf Creek, Oregon with his then-partner, Stevens McClave. Two years later, he began a long-term relationship with a fellow war resister, Allan Troxler, a conscientious objector.

In the early 1980s, Wittman created the North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Health Project (LGHP) with David Jolly, Timmer McBride, and Aida Wakil to address the health needs of sexual minorities in that state.[7]

Instrumental figure in country dance[edit]

"Carl Wittman, led the development in the United States of a movement diametrically opposed to Kennedy's couples policy: "gender-free" dance in which there were no gendered dance roles" (page 205, of Walkowitz' City Folk)

Carl Whittman, a certified RSCDS (Royal Scottish Country Dance Society) instructor, started teaching Scottish country dancing in the San Francisco area about 1970. Carl was very involved in the gay political movements of that era. In the early 1970s, Carl left San Francisco and traveled up the coast to the artist's community of Wolf Creek, Oregon and eventually settled in Golden, Oregon with his partner, Allan Troxler. Carl became involved in the newly emerging intentional communities of gay men and lesbians in that area. He started a local community dance in his barn in Golden, Oregon, where he pulled in people from these intentional communities, as well as families and friends from around the area. His dancing community ended up being a mixture of amilies, gay men, lesbians and friends. Carl taught English and Scottish country dancing, at first, in the tradition and style in which he had learned, identifying dancers by their gender role and using gender language. He allowed anyone to dance with whomever they wished and in any role they chose, but he used the conventional gender terminology to identify these roles. Sometime thereafter, Alan challenged Carl to change this convention, and come up with something that was more appropriate for their community. Carl changed his role identification system to "Reds" and "Greens" (Reds identifying the traditional gent's position and Greens to identify the lady's position). He went on to further develop this to a method defined as "Left File" and "Right File" dancers (the left file identifying the traditional gent's role and the right file identifying the traditional ladies position). Over time, Carl started traveling around Oregon, starting other dance communities, teaching this style of English and Scottish Country Dancing. Carl developed another tradition during this time, that being of how to line up for each dance. He advocated that everyone come to the set individually and fill in the next available space. This method ensures that everyone will have someone to dance with and addressed the sometimes-awkward practice of asking someone to dance, particularly with folks new to the dance. This method has also been adopted by the Boston gender-free English country dance community with an additional note that if you desire to dance with a particular partner, wait until all spaces in the set are filled above you before coming to the set. Carl was also the dance leader and principal choreographer for the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon in 1980.[8]


  1. ^ Hayden, Tom and Wittmann, Carl Students for a Democratic Society Archive Wisconsin State Historical Society (1963) Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Wittman, Carl A Gay Manifesto A Red Butterfly Publication, New York. (1970) Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Highleyman, Liz. "Who was Carl Wittman?". Seattle Gay News. Archived from the original on April 22, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  4. ^ Wittman, Carl. Waves of Resistance Synergy Magazine Vol 13-30, San Francisco Public Library. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  5. ^ Wittman, Carl. Waves of Resistance pg. 29-33 Liberation, New York. (1968) Retrieved August 2, 2011[dead link]
  6. ^ Wittman, Carl (1969). Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifeso. San Francisco: San Francisco Free Press.
  7. ^ Lekus, Ian K. "Health care, the AIDS crisis, and the politics of community: The North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Health Project, 1982-1996." Modern American Queer History Allida Black (ed). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001.
  8. ^

External links[edit]