History of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement

Satisfactory Essays
THE HOMOPHILE YEARS (1940s-60s – WWII, Cold War, McCarthyism):


· Growth in the urban subculture of gay men and lesbians.

· Government and police harassment, persecution, and investigation of gays.


· The homophile movement remained small and relatively marginalized.

End of 1960s

· Rise of activism + “Gay is good”

· Reformist goals:

ü decriminalization of homosexual acts,

ü equal treatment and equal rights under the law,

ü dissemination of accurate,

ü “unbiased” information about homosexuality.

· Achievements:

ü right to publish gay and lesbian magazines,

ü first employment discrimination cases won,

ü constraints on police harassment,

ü dialogue opened in the scientific and religious communities,

ü media visibility,

ü organizational impulse,

ü denunciation of how gays and lesbians are a mistreated, persecuted minority.

· Problems: Society’s hostility against homosexuals and the penalties attached to exposure.



June 1969

· Stonewall Riot ð Symbol of a new militance. Result: a radical mass movement.

Early 1970s

· Gay Liberation Front (GLF): Radical gay and lesbian activism.

· Influences: civil rights movement, Black Power movement, white student movement, antiwar movement, and feminism.

· Goals:

ü Attack of the systemic oppression of gays and lesbians.

ü Analysis of gay oppression and sexism.

ü Making common cause with “all the oppressed” and commitment to a larger project of political change.

ü Public demonstrations and emphasis on visibility.

· Achievements:

ü New rhetoric of pride and affirmation.

ü Political, social, and cultural organizations that helped build a movement and a community.

ü Public affirmation of homosexual identity (coming out in public).

· Problems: Employment discrimination, arrests, political conservatism, economic entrenchment, and lack of attention to sexism and racism.


· Reformative politics: Rather than try to destroy the old in order to build something new, they sought recognition and inclusion in American society.

ü Gay Activist Alliance (GAA).

ü From liberation to activism.

· Emphasis on coming out and gay rights. They expected and demanded acceptance for who they were.

· Militant and angry protests.

· Language of pride and self-affirmation; rejection of mainstream cultural views of homosexuality.

· Single-issue organizations, completely gay-focused, with clearly specified structures and processes.

· Goals: ending job discrimination, media invisibility, church and military discrimination.

· Achievements:

ü 1973 ð the American Psychiatric Association eliminates homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

ü less discrimination and harassment,

ü greater visibility,

ü new economic opportunities for gay-oriented businesses (bars, bathhouses, discos, restaurants, etc.
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