WHEN WE RISE – The Unsung Heroes Of Gay History: Peter Fischer of the Gay Activists Alliance
Peter Fisher was an American author and one of our movements original gay rights activist.
Fischer an alumnus of Amherst College and Columbia University, served in the US Air Force prior to becoming an early member of the Gay Activists Alliance, a protest group that split off from the Gay Liberation Front after the Stonewall riots with the goal of “writing the revolution into law.” Fisher led a number of the “zaps“, or protests that targeted at anti-gay public figures and businesses that were organized by the GAA, as well as serving as an unofficial historian for the group.
“Do you know how it tastes to be alive for the first time? Oppression in any form requires the complicity of the oppressed. To come out is to refuse to oppress oneself, refuse to play the game.” – Peter Fischer
Describing his intense joy marching in the Christopher Street Liberation Day march in 1970 that commemorated the first anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Fisher wrote, “There’s no going back after that. You can’t feel those things and take them back to the closet and nurse them. When you know what it really means to be free, you know that freedom is life. Do you know how it tastes to be alive for the first time? Oppression in any form requires the complicity of the oppressed. To come out is to refuse to oppress oneself, refuse to play the game.”
When City Councilman Saul Sharison refused to allow the New York gay rights bill to be heard in committee in 1971, Fisher was among those who led more than a thousand people from a dance at the GAA Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street to Sharison’s high rise at 70 East Tenth Street and got clubbed by the police. “It was the most nightmarish scene I had ever witnessed: long, brutal clubs smashing left and right, landing on people’s heads, the crowd panicking, pushing first to the barricades and then falling back,” he wrote. He and his lover Marc Rubin were arrested, but five days later the hearing was scheduled on the bill that GAA put forward as the first in the country to propose protections on the basis of “sexual orientation.”
Veteran gay and AIDS activist Bill Bahlman, 60, who worked in GAA with Fisher, said, “Whenever he spoke at a GAA meeting, everybody listened. He could turn the debate on an issue around. And at demonstrations, he was larger than life.”
Fischer chaired The Harpers Action Committee, which staged a take-over of Harper’s Magazines offices after they ran a viciously anti-gay article. Peter also chaired the GAA’s National Gay Movement Committee which sent out field workers across America to organize gay groups in cities lacking them.
Fisher received the Stonewall Book Award in 1972 for The Gay Mystique: The Myth and Reality of Male Homosexuality, later described as “one of the first books to look at the subject from the inside rather than from a heterosexual’s viewpoint.
The Gay Mystique is and still should be one of the “canon” books every gay man should read.
Peter Fischer’s and Marc Rubin’s loving relationship endured 37 years until Marc’s death in 2007
On July 10, 2012, Peter Fischer committed suicide by suffocation.
He was 68.