Gay Liberation in New York City
IntroductionOn June 27th, 1969, seven officers from the Public Morals Section of the New York City Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Mattachine Society of New York (MSNY) and the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) had been fighting for civil rights for years when Stonewall took place—it did initiate a new wave of activism, one that differed markedly from the homophile movements that preceded it.
In the years following Stonewall, LGBT individuals organized on unprecedented levels, forging new forms of activism that would change the direction of the movement and the consciousness of a generation. New York City was central to this period of activism, giving birth not only to the first gay liberation group in the country—the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), organized a mere month after Stonewall—but also to myriad groups to follow, such as the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), Radicalesbians (RL), Third World Gay Revolution (TWGR), Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), The Effeminists, and many more.
By examining this early period of activism in New York City in all of its complexity, this exhibit will shed light on a critical juncture in the LGBT movement—both its successes and shortcomings—and, in doing so, glimpse at what may yet be possible.
They are, in order of appearance:
Karla Jay (of the GLF and Radicalesbians);
Perry Brass (of GLF); Rich Wandel (of the Gay Activists Alliance);
Ellen Shumsky (of GLF and RL);
Bebe Scarpi (of GAA and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries);
Michael Lavery (of GLF and GAA); and Jerry Hoose (of GLF).
The photographs used for Ellen Shumsky's and Bebe Scarpi's interviews were taken by Richard C. Wandel. Courtesy of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center National History Archive.
June 27-29, 1969: Gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals fight back against the police after a raid on the gay bar the Stonewall Inn.
Gay Liberation Front (GLF).
December 21, 1969: Marty Robinson, Jim Owles, and ten others approve the constitution for the newly-formed Gay Activists Alliance (GAA).
May 1, 1970: A group of lesbians from the gay and women's liberation movements take over the Second Congress to Unite Women, initiating a conversation about lesbianism among conference participants. Radicalesbians (RL) is formed out of this action.
June 28, 1970: The First Annual Christopher Street Liberation Day March is held.
September 20-25, 1970: Gay liberationists hold a five-day sit-in at NYU’s Weinstein Hall to protest the cancellation of gay dances there. Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) is formed out of this protest.
January 6, 1971: City Council Members Eldon Clingan and Carter Burden introduce a bill—Intro 475—to include sexual orientation in New York’s Human Rights Law.
October-December 1971: Three days of public hearings on Intro 475 are held.
January 27, 1972: The City Council’s General Welfare Committee votes against bringing Intro 475 to the full council.
January 1, 1973: Former GLFers Steven Dansky, John Knoebel, and Kenneth Pitchford lay out the vision of The Effeminists in their Effeminist Manifesto.
Many thanks to Ellen Shumsky, Richard Wandel, Steven Danksy, Perry Brass, and the Lesbian Herstory Archives for granting me permission to use the images that appear on this exhibit. Special thanks to the team at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center National History Archive for generously volunteering their time to scan Richard C. Wandel's photographs. Finally, thanks to Kody Trauger, without whose technical assistance this exhibit would not have been possible.
Gay Liberation, Stonewall, New York City, Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, Radicalesbians, Third World Gay Revolution, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, The Effeminists, Christopher Street Liberation Day March
Lindsay Branson: email@example.com