The Gay Manifesto

As if to bring this first phase of the homosexual revolution to a resounding close, Carl Wittman’s essay was published on December 26, 1969, the same week as the second All-Gay Symposium. After its first appearance in print in the Berkeley Tribe, Carl’s essay was reprinted in numerous underground newspapers, anthologies, magazines and standalone pamphlets. The Tribe published Carl’s essay with a title, “Refugees from Amerika: a gay perspective.” The word America was spelled with a K as was common in the radical 60s. In future reprintings, the essay would be called simply “The Gay Manifesto.” It has been described as “the Bible of gay liberation” by some historians. I have highlighted what I think is the crux of Wittman’s idea: “To be a free territory, we must govern ourselves, set up our own institutions, defend ourselves, and use our own energies to improve our lives. The emergence of gay liberation communes, and our own paper is a good start.”

Attempting to unpack that statement is what this whole presentation has been about. In that one sentence we see echoes of the Digger Free City project, the Kaliflower intercommunal project, and the queer aesthetic and radical program that emerged in the spring of 1969 in San Francisco and burst forth on the national stage in New York a few months later. Was Wittman specifically referencing Kaliflower? We cannot and may never know the answer to that intriguing question. However, it is clear that the culture which Kaliflower, both the commune and the newspaper, was attempting to build certainly fits into Wittman’s vision for the queer community.