Gay History 1971 – LIFE Magazine Publishes: “Homosexuals in Revolt” – 44 Years Later And We Are Still Fighting

Gay Activists Alliance President Jim Owles submits to arrest

Yesterday we posted about the first tlevised documentary about homosexuality in 1961,  Today we will flash-forward 10 years to  two years after the Stonewall riots in New York City   in 1971 and a LIFE Magazine featured article and 11 page pictorial on “gay liberation titled “Homosexuals in Revolt” which it called  “a major essay on America’s newest  militants”.

Some readers of LIFE were offended that the magazine would devote a dozen pages to people whom one letter writer  characterized as “psychic cripples.”

Other responses from peeved readers that  were printed in the January 28, 1972, issue of LIFE included:

From Telford, Penn. — There was plenty to lament in your  year-end issue, but the thing that struck me as most sad was the fact that LIFE  felt compelled to devote 11 pages to “Homosexuals in Revolt.”

From Chicago — Essentially, it is absurd to accept as a mere “variant lifestyle” a practice which, if universal, would mean the end of the  human race.

Including the still today, as popular as ever 41 years later among anti-gay “Christians”

From Glendale, California, the standard (as well as reductionist and  selective) biblical critique — “You shall not lie with a male as with a  woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).

Some LIFE readers praised the article for its fairness, accuracy and the dignity in which it was presented.  But even back then there was posturing for position and infighting from the LGBT community for equal representation from with its groups.

A woman in New Jersey named Jule Lee, who was (in her words) “one of the oldest  lesbian activists — both in age and years of participation in the  movement.”   was outraged, because the article focused on what she called “LIFE-made ‘leaders and out of ten picture pages … lesbians are mentioned on two.

To its credit LIFE, unlike many other periodicals of the time LIFE did try to portray the movement fairly and taking into fact that it was 1971 that was a very astonishing thing for the time.

Excerpt:

It was the most shocking and, to most Americans, the most surprising  liberation movement yet. Under the slogan “Out of the closets and into the  streets,” thousands of homosexuals, male and female, were proudly confessing  what they had long hidden. They were, moreover, moving into direct confrontation  with conventional society. Their battle was far from won. But in 1971 militant  homosexuals showed they they were prepared to fight it…They resent what they  consider to be savage discrimination against them on the basis of a preference  which they did not choose and which they cannot — and do not want to — change. And while mist will admit that “straight” society’s attitudes have  caused them unhappiness, they respond to the charge that all homosexuals are  guilt-ridden and miserable with the defiant rallying cry “Gay is Good!”

Its interesting that in 1971 LIFE magazine states about homosexuality: ” basis of a preference  which they did not choose and which they cannot — and do not want to — change” alluding that even in 1971 many thought that being gay was not a choice and individuals were indeed born gay.  But then again this is a full decade BEFORE Ronald Reagan, Jerry Falwell and the the moral majority came on the scene to start spreading its hateful and false propaganda.

Many of the people who started our fight for equality are gone now and no longer with and and we owe them a great debt for standing up and taking our message to the streets and having the courage to start our fight.

It’s now 44 years later we are still fighting.

We owe it to ourselves and the those who fought before us not to get complacent and to continue to fight and to win.

 

 

June 1971 Gay Liberation Week (Pride) candlelight march

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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1 Response

  1. That we must continue to fight goes almost without question. I am proud to say I will leave this world having been even a small part of GAY EQUALITY!

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