On August 2, 1969, just a little over one month after the Stonewall Riots the newly formed Gay Liberation Front took to the streets of Midtown Manhattan and participated in a rally and march to demand the release of political prisoners and members of the Armed Forces who were being held in military stockades. The focus was on Fort Dix 38 who were 38 prisoners made up of AWOLs, Vietnam war resisters, and conscientious objectors who rose against deplorable and inhumane conditions at the Army Base stockade in New Jersey.
There were three short films that NYPD detectives shot. We have seen these loops and they are silent and last just over nine minutes altogether. The films were digitized by the city’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives. They were posted on YouTube for some time but have been removed.
While the detectives did not name GLF in their report the font on the banners, including the interlocked female/ female and male/ male graphics that were GLF’s symbol, are readily recognizable.
Allen Young, who was working for the Liberation News Service in August 1969, recognized Dan Smith and Ralph Hall, two GLF members, in the film.
NYC’s Department of Records and Information Services, which manages the Municipal Archives shared the films with Gay City News, archivists said they knew only that the film was shot on August 2, 1969.
While we still have the still shot posted above that shows the GLF symbol on the protest sign we are attempting to locate the videos once again and when they are found they will be reposted for their historical significance.
DO YOU THINK HOMOSEXUALS ARE REVOLTING?
YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS WE ARE!
We’re going to make a place for ourselves in the revolutionary movement. We challenge the myths that are screwing up this society. MEETING: Thursday, July 24th, 6:30 PM at Alternate U, 69 West 14th Street at Sixth Avenue.
*Printed on the first leaflet of the Gay Liberation Front.
In 1969 the leading gay political organization in operation was the Mattachine Society of New York (MSNY), which utilized very buttoned-down, straight-laced legal techniques to try to advance equality. But right after the Stonewall Riots a group of gay men and lesbians fed up with being abused and the slowness and exclusion of the Mattachine Society’s techniques formed the Gay Liberation Front.
One of the GLF’s first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. This was the first gay pride parade in New York in June 1970. As the flier shows below, this inaugural gathering was called Liberation Day and featured a “Gay-In” in Central Park, consciousness-raising groups, dances, and women-only potluck dinners making the first pride not only a protest but also a community event.
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 but first and foremost their fight was focused on gay rights.
The Gay Liberation Front sought to avoid many of the pitfalls they saw in the political tactics of groups like Mattachine. Where Mattachine activists had sought to project an image of respectability, the new gay liberationists would fight against mainstream attitudes and values. They would “start demanding, not politely requesting, our rights.”
GLF members openly claimed the word “Gay,” which had been avoided by the previous generation of gay and lesbian activists in favor of cryptic, inoffensive names: Mattachine, Bilitis, Janus. They demanded liberation in the spirit of the national-liberation.
GLFs did not hide or feel ashamed of their sexuality. They claimed it publicly, and they urged others to do the same long before Harvey Milk stated the same request in San Francisco. The GLF, called for LGBT people to come “out of the closet and into the streets,” and also believed that patriarchy and sexism were the root cause of the disenfranchisement of people and that assimilation wasn’t the answer, and that to gain rights. (Tell that to the HRC.)
GLF meetings were run by consensus. While this was not the most efficient method of decision-making, it created an opportunity for dialogue that transformed its members. The core activists of GLF — who included Michael Brown, Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, Bob Martin, Marty Robinson, Karla Jay, and Bob Kohler among many others — organized marches on Time magazine and The Village Voice, fund-raising dances, consciousness-raising groups, and radical study groups, and published their newspaper, Come Out!, out of the Alternate U. on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. GLF eventually became a network of semi-autonomous cells. Groups such as the Red Butterfly Cell, the 28th of June Cell, the Planned Non-Parenthood Cell, the Gay Commandoes, and the Aquarius Cell each pursued a specialized agenda, free from the demands of establishing an overall GLF consensus. GLF quickly became the incubator of the new gay and lesbian mass political movement. Although many activists moved on to create more focused gay and lesbian organizations, GLF transformed the consciousness of everyone it touched.
The Gay Liberation Front aimed to create a society free not only from sexism and homophobia but also from sexual labels (and intersectionality).
Come Out! was the first periodical published by the gay and lesbian community after the Stonewall riots in June 1969. The Gay Liberation Front, one of the first militant activist gay rights organizations birthed by the riots, published Come Out! from their base in New York City.
For those familiar with the gay rights movement, Stonewall is probably the most oft-told and inaccurately told story. Come Out! has some great accounts of what happened during and after.
Below are links to the first 4 issues of Come Out! so you can take a glance at our past and get a better understanding of what our history is all about.
True to many activist groups, the GLF had a manifesto:
“Gay Liberation Front is a coalition of radical and revolutionary homosexual men and women committed to fight the oppression of the homosexual as a minority group, and to demand the right to the self-determination of our bodies.”
Come Out – Volume 1 – Issue 3.pdf The Front’s manifesto reflects the paradigm change within the gay rights movement, calling on gays and lesbians to take a more active and visible approach to the struggle for equal rights. The imperative title is the publication’s main goal, and the main goal of the GLF – to get gay men and women to come out, to make themselves visible. Come Out! aligns itself politically and critically with the feminist/women’s/lesbian movements occurring contemporaneously, moving away from specifically male- and female-oriented gay serials that preceded it
Featured in this issue of Come Out! are firsthand accounts and photographs of marches and rallies that capture the spirit of the movement at this pivotal point in its history, interviews with prominent members of the community, articles related to other international struggles (human rights issues in Cuba, for instance), and even poems.
In 1969, Peace and Gay activist Carl Wittman wrote Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto published by The Red Butterfly cell of the Gay Liberation Front January 1970.[ It is considered one of the most influential gay liberation writings of the 1970s.
The document stemmed from a particular social and cultural background where aspirations toward equality and justice were constantly clashing with discrimination, marginalization, and harassment. This paper focuses on the historical context, through analyzing the coeval American society, highlighting the leading role played by the city of San Francisco and commenting on some of the key events that marked that epoch.
Wittmann offers a sharp criticism of the patriarchal and intrinsically intolerant society. He describes the oppression and the condition in the ghetto where they live, where mafia and corrupted law enforcement exploit gays and lesbians (Wittmann, 1970). The author discloses concepts about homosexuality, analyses the conditions of women, and opens new perspectives on how to live sexuality. Perhaps, the most significant contribution to the history of the LGBT movement is the invitation to come out and stop pretending to be straight sexually and socially
“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
Wittmann’s Manifesto is an iconic text within the movement for LGBT liberation. The document, published in the heyday of the gay activism of the 1960s and 1970s, offers a 360° perspective on the homosexual world.
You can read the entire 10 page “Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Maifesto” by CLICKING HERE.
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If you think the Stonewall Riots was the only protest in New York City over police harassment in the gay community think again.
In 1970 after the first Christopher Street Day (PRIDE), gay residents in New York’s Greenwich Village began to notice increased police harassment, particularly during the last three weeks of August. In one week alone, over three hundred gay men and lesbians had been arrested in the Times Square area. The Gay Liberation Front’s newsletter Come Out! reported that one young man was looking at a display window when a police officer came up to him and asked, Were you ever arrested?” “No,” the young man replied. The officer said, “There’s always a first time,” and hauled him away. Women were also being harassed, which was a new development.
Local activists had had enough, so on Saturday August 29, 1970, the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists’ Alliance, Radical Lesbians and other women’s groups organized a demonstration. About 250 people showed up at 8th Avenue and West 42nd Street near Times Square, and marched down 7th. Avenue to Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village.
This action has since been known as “The Forgotten Riot.” The demonstration broke up around midnight, but the frustrations were still there. Some went on to march around the Women’s House of Detention at Greenwich Avenue and 6th Avenue. New York City Police arrived to break it up, and the crowd ran toward Christopher Street. The crowd arrived just in time to witness the police raiding a bar called The Haven. As a mass of demonstrators gathered in front of the barand the police called for reinforcements. A police bus arrived, and it was met with a shower of bottles. A running battle ensued over the next two hours, as crowds set trash cans on fire and overturned at least one car. Eight were injured and approximately fifteen people were arrested.
The next day, the GLF and GAA held a news conference at the gay-friendly Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, charging the police with harassment. They also denounced police inaction against a series of gay bashings and anti-gay harassment in the neighborhood. A police spokesman denied that there were any increased actions against the gay community, but refused further comment.
[Sources: Frank J. Brial. “Protest march by homosexuals sparks disturbance in ‘Village’.” The New York Times (August 30, 1970): 49.
C. Gerald Frasier. “‘Gay ghettos’ seen as police targets: but homosexuals’ charge of harassment denied.” The New York Times(August 31, 1970): 28.
Even though the Village Voice was the only news outlet in New York City which did extensive coverage of the Stonewall Riots. (The July 3rd. edition featured two front page stories about the riot: “Gay Power Comes to Sheridan Square” by Lucian Truscott IV, and Howard Smith’s experience of that night strapped in the Stonewall Inn with the NYPD “From the Inside: Full Moon Over The Stonewall.”) The Voice’s reporting wasn’t above the kind of mocking tone and prejudicial stereotypes that were typical at that time. Truscott wrote of “the forces of faggotry,” the “blatant queens” with “limped wrists and primed hair” battling police, which he described as “the city’s finest.” Also in the July 10 issue of the Voice writer Walter Troy Spencer called the riot “the Great Faggot Rebellion.”
A little over two months after the riot the newly formed Gay Liberation Front tried to place two small ads in Voice. One ad in the free Bulletin Board section on page two was to publicize the GLF’s community dances, and the other one, a paid ad for the classified section, was to announced the forthcoming publication of the GLF’s new newspaper, Come Out! The second ad was supposed to have the headline “Gay Power to Gay People,” but Voice staff deleted the lead-in without notifying the GLF. They also changed the Bulletin Board ad to read “Homophile Dance” instead of Gay Community Dance.”
As you can imagine this did not sit well with the GLF. But they decided to give it another try and placed another ad to advertise the Gay Community Dance planned for September 5th. The ad was accepted, but the person who placed the ad received a phone call from someone at the Voice the next day to say that it was Voice policy to refuse to print obscene words in classified ads and that the using the the word “gay”was obscene — even though the Voice routinely accepted, without question, ads for apartments from landlords specifying “no gays.”
The Gay Liberation Front struck back with a protest at the Village Voice on Friday, September 12th. demanding a meeting with publisher Ed Fancher. The protest went on all day as Fancher stubbornly refused to meet with the group. Later that afternoon, a protester tried to place a classified ad reading, “The Gay Liberation Front sends love to all Gay men and women in the homosexual community.” That ad was rejected. But soon after, Fancher agreed to meet three of the protesters’ representatives.
Once inside and upstairs, the representatives encountered a cry of outrage that GLF has chosen the Village Voice as a target (sooo liberal we are). The suggestion was made that we negotiate the three points in dispute I )changing classified ads without knowledge or consent of purchaser, 2) use of the words “Gay” and “homosexual” in classifieds, and 3) the contemptuous attitude of the Village Voice toward the Gay Community. GLF explained that the two issues involving classified ad policy were not negotiable and that the substance of the paper should be of legitimate concern to a responsible publisher. Ed Fancher replied that the Village Voice exercised no censorship of its articles, and that if a writer wanted to say derogatory things about faggots, he could not in good conscience stop him. Fancher also said that we had no right to tamper with “freedom of the press.”
The GLF accepted with the absolute understanding that Gay Power has the right to return and oppose anything the Village Voice staff chooses to include in the paper. On the Classified Ads policy he conceded completely. He said that not only would the Voice not alter Ads after payment, but that in Classified Ads the words “Gay” and “homosexual” per se were no longer issues. One of the GLF representatives in the upstairs office stepped to the window facing Seventh Avenue and flashed the V for Victory sign to the waiting crowd below. WE HAD WON!
Surprisingly (NOT!) the next edition of the Village Voice did not report on the protest at its front door, but the Gay Liberation Front’s small ad did appear in that issue’s Bulletin Board unedited.
A newly formed lesbian, gay and bisexual alliance group in the UK has come under heavy criticism for making their focus of issues pertaining to ” the right of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men to define themselves as same-sex attracted.” and for excluding the transgender community, prompting some to label it transphobic for its vision that ” gender is a social construct.”
Bev Jackson, a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front one of the first gay activists groups formed after the Stonewall riots of 1969 and spokesperson for the LGB Alliance, told Britian’s The Independent: “We did not, do not, exclude trans people. Several trans people attended the meeting, one as a guest speaker. We are not attacking trans people.
“Our group focuses on sexual orientation. This has become necessary, because lesbians in particular, and recently gay men too, are suffering from the confusion between sex and gender. Lesbians and gay men are people who are attracted to others of the same sex. I fought for their rights to be respected fifty years ago and am sad that I need to defend those rights again today.”
Stonewall UK , Britain’s main LGBT activism and charity group has been trying to distance itself from the new group after reports have claimed the that major supporters and donors of the new LGB group have left Stonewall and are now supporting them.
“These stories don’t refer to any current Stonewall staff or trustees. There is no equality for lesbian, gay and bi people without equality for trans people. We’re all united in our mission to achieve acceptance without exception for all LGBT+ people.”
“A new trans + non binary exclusionary alliance organization between cis lesbian, gay, + bisexual people was just announced in the UK as a reaction to the quote rise in ‘gender extremism.’ Let’s be clear: the real extreme gender ideology is the colonial gender binary forcibly imposed on indigenous peoples across the world, erasing thousands of alternative gender-sex systems, responsible for countless murders of trans + gender variant people + spreading the pervasive myth that we are ‘new.
Feminism without respecting trans women & non-binary people is just patriarchy,” they continued. “Reducing women to their genitalia & reproductive capacity is just misogyny. Fortifying gender and sex binaries is not progressive, it is racist and conservative.”
Comments on Twitter have also not been kind to Britain’s new LGB Alliance.
Does the LGBTQIA+ umbrella always have to be together? Or should specific sub-sections of our community be allowed to work separately or together on their own issues without being labeled “phobic”?