Gay activism of the 1960s and 70s

Topics: Gay Liberation, Homosexuality, LGBT social movements Pages: 14 (2831 words) Published: October 14, 2014


Homophile Activism in the United States in the 1960’s & 70’s: A Tenuous Time

Kari Twogood
EDAD 577: Managing Diversity
Spring 2014
Central Washington University

There is evidence of same sex relationships all the way back to earliest recorded history. Gay history, the history of same sex relationships, both male and female, can’t be taken out of context with the broader spectrum of history. The homophile movement didn’t happen in a vacuum. It is only one aspect of history that is happening on a global stage. It is important to consider the wider influence of activism and actions of all oppressed populations, civil rights movement, feminism, and youth movements. In order to keep this paper as refined as possible, it will cover only the decades of the Sixties and Seventies, in the United States. It is difficult to keep to these two decades as there is cross over from previous decades, and generations that laid the ground work for these two important decades of homophile activism. Post World War II saw a building of critical mass of consciousness that would eventually turn into an organized political movement. CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033

While there are identifiable events that took place during these decades, some of which are quite well known, it is in the series of other, just as important, but seemingly smaller events that took place that the homophile movement really develops. The late Sixties can be viewed as the birth of the modern Gay Liberation movement. This paper will cover only a portion of the smaller events that took place in order to show the real strength in the Homophile Movement, and subsequent Gay Liberation Movement, in bringing together many people from all walks of life to fight for the common good. It will also show that it wasn’t until the movement got radical that the pace of change began to quicken.

It is important as we review the history of homophile activism to consider some of the terminology that will be used. In this paper the term gay will be used as a general reference to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people. Homophile is a term coined and used by homosexuals in the Fifties as it referenced the group without engendering the sexual connotations that come along with the term homosexual. CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033 Homophile will be used to reference some of the originating movements of the late Fifties and early Sixties. The Homophile Movement was much less radical and militarized than the Gay Liberation Movement that really began in the late Sixties as you will come to see as we cover a little of the history.

One of the first notable actions that took place following World War II that impacted the movement was that many men and women, having found others who shared their sexual orientation, decided to settle in one of the subcultural enclaves in the large cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033 The gathering together in these enclaves allowed for the proliferation of gay and lesbian bars CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033 , which became the central locations for social interaction. These social interactions became the foundation for the formation of the first Homophile Movement organizations such as the Mattachine Society, formed in Los Angeles in 1950 CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033 , and the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization, formed in 1955. CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033 It is important to note that both of the organizations worked on political activism; however, they were intentionally low profile and assimilationist. CITATION Mil06 \p 110 \l 1033 These enclaves provided both social and political refuge, and the networks that were needed for activism in an age prior to technology.

The Sixties saw the height of the civil rights movement for African Americans and Feminists, and the antiwar movement. The civil rights movement was in the national spot light with...


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