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Meet The Satyrs Gay Motorcycle Club, America’s Oldest Continuing Gay Organization

Meet The Satyrs Gay Motorcycle Club, America's Oldest Continuing Gay Organization

The Satyrs Motorcycle Club was founded in 1954 at the home of Chapin “Smitty” Smith along with seven founding members. The club’s incarnation began around a pool-party a few weeks before after a night of drinking, party and sex. It is the oldest continuously operating gay organization in the United States. It was the first gay organization with a set of Bylaws and a Club Constitution.

Though American motorcycle culture had begun in the late 1940s and early 1950s, homosexuality was illegal at the time, making gay motorcycle clubs unique organizations seen as outlaws on two counts—their motorcycling and their homosexuality. As John Laird, member of the Satyrs since 1961 explained, motorcycling offered men an escape from the bars “because in those days the LAPD was on a real hunt for gay men.”

Gay motorcyclists, encouraged by visual media, created and embraced a masculine gay identity, one that countered the preconceived feminine aesthetic of “fairies.”of that era.

Campgrounds became the members meeting spaces and gave the men the freedom to express themselves sexually. Because of the constant possibility of police raids while at home or in town, the early days of the Satyrs were very secretive: “minutes could be taken but no names could be used. Secrecy was a detrimental to the club in the highly repressive 1950’s.  From the first club founding in 1954 until the mid-1980s, gay motorcycle clubs did not want to be mentioned in any gay publication, because it might result in the outing—and firing—of members who worked for the government.

Four years after the founding of the Satyrs in 1954, discontented Satyrs founded a second gay motorcycle club: the Oedipus Rex Motorcycle club.  Most copied the Satyrs’ model. Indeed, the Blue Max Motorcycle Club, founded in 1968, modeled its constitution almost exactly after that of the Satyrs, as did the Buddy Motorcycle Club, founded in 1965, and many others. As their model spread in the 1970’s, motorcycle clubs as far away as New York City began asking for founding help from the Satyrs. The founders of the Satyrs started a phenomenon of gay motorcycle clubs that by 1979 had grown to over twenty clubs in California and many more throughout the country.

Like other clubs, gay motorcycle clubs donated money and put on events to benefit the community. The Blue Max Motorcycle Club supported the Los Angeles Times’ Summer Camp Fund, providing summer camp to “underprivileged youngsters” and also had a yearly run that benefited The Spastic Children’s Foundation Training Center, for children with cerebral palsy. Outsiders were invited and encouraged to experience the innerworkings of the clubs, ideally to whet their appetite and make them want to join the club. 52 Several gay motorcycle clubs during the 1970 Christmas season threw toy parties to benefit children and senior citizens in need.   Even today, 63 years after its founding The Satyrs continues to sponsor activities including the Labor Day, Badger Flats Run which is one of their most well known activities, charity fundraising activities, and involvement community activities.

Watch – Original Pride: The Satyrs Motorcycle Club below and learn more.



Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist 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 Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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