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First introduced to the Gay Liberation Front by women who had been active in the women’s liberation movement, consciousness-raising (C-R) became a central activity for many gay liberationists and radical lesbians. Structured as small groups, C-R sessions centered on a single topic, with every participant “giv[ing] testimony” from his or her personal experiences. C-R served as a tool for activists to share their individual experiences in order to uncover their “common oppression”—to expose the ways that the personal was in fact political.[1] The intimate setting of the groups encouraged equal participation and strong bonds among members, although individuals of different backgrounds sometimes had trouble understanding each other's experiences.[2]

Ellen Shumsky talks about some of the difficulties her Radicalesbians C-R group faced:

While C-R was criticized by some as merely “a therapy session,” it was an important way for gay men and women to understand their oppression, create new forms of theory, and develop a basis for political action.[3]

Karla Jay, who helped to introduce consciousness-raising to the Gay Liberation Front, talks about her experiences with C-R in the women's liberation group Redstockings.

Return to Gay Liberation in New York City


Women's liberation, Consciousness-Raising, Gay Liberation.


Lindsay Branson:


  1. “Notes," August 5, 1970, Radicalesbians, NY Organizational File, Lesbian Herstory Archives, Brooklyn, NY.
  2. Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon, eds., Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 67; Karla Jay, Tales of a Lavender Menace (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 61.
  3. “Notes."

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