|Documents from the 1969 Furor
Immediately following the Stonewall riots of June 27th 1969,
a series of demonstrations and conversations went on that gave
birth to the modern Gay movement. In his book, The Gay Militants (New York: 1971) Donn Teal reproduced verbatim some of the early
flyers which where handed out, on the street and at conferences.
They show both an intense immediate awareness of the historic
turning point for gays and lesbians and reveal real attempts to
engage in analysis as well as protest.
1. The Homophile Youth Movement on Mafia Run
Many gays had unfavorable views of the Stonewall bar itself,
and the collusion of Mafia and police power which dominate gay
bars.. A Homophile Youth Movement flyer addressed the topic
GET THE MAFIA AND THE COPS OUT OF GAY BARS
(undated, summer 1969?)
The nights of Friday, June 27, 1969 and Saturday, June 28, 1969
will go down in history as the first time that thousands of Homosexual
men and women went out into the streets to protest the intolerable
situation which has existed in New York City for many years ---
namely, the Mafia (or syndicate) control of this of this city's
Gay bars in collusion with certain elements in the Police Dept.
of the City of New York. The demonstrations were triggered by
a Police raid on the Stonewall Inn late Friday night, June 27th.
The purported reason for the raid was the Stonewall's lack of
a liquor license.- Who's 'kidding whom here? Can anybody really-believe
that an operation as big as the Stonewall could continue for almost
three years just a few blocks from the 6th Precinct house without
having a liquor license? No! The Police have know about the Stonewall
operation all along. What's happened is the presence of new "brass"
in 6th Precinct which has vowed to "drive the fags out of
Many of you have noticed one of the signs which the "management"
of the Stonewall has placed outside stating "Legalize Gay
bars and lick the problem. Judge Kenneth Keating (a former US
Senator) ruled in January, 1968 that even close dancing between
Homosexuals is legal. Since that date there has been nothing legal,
per se, about a Gay bar. What is illegal about New York City's
Gay bars today is the Mafia (or syndicate) stranglehold on them.
Legitimate Gay businessmen are afraid to open decent Gay bars
with a healthy social atmosphere (as opposed to the hell-hole
atmosphere of places typified by the Stonewall) because of fear
of pressure from the unholy alliance of the Mafia and elements
in the Police Dept. who accept payoffs and protect the Mafia monopoly.
We at the Homophile Youth Movement (HYMN) believe that the only
way this monopoly can be broken is through the action of Homosexual
men and women themselves. We obviously cannot rely on the various
agencies of government who for years have known about this situation
but who have refused to do anything about it. Therefore we urge
1) That Gay businessmen step forward and open Gay bars that will
be run legally with competitive pricing and a healthy social atmosphere.
2) That Homosexual men and women boycott places like the Stonewall.
The only way, it seems, that we can get the criminal elements
out of gay bars is simply to make it unprofitable for them.
3) That the Homosexual citizens of New York City, and concerned
Heterosexuals, write to mayor Lindsay demanding a thorough investigation
and effective action to correct this intolerable situation.
2. The Beginning of The Gay Liberation Front,
July 24, 1969
The Stonewall riots were not organized by any particular group.
The leading homosexual political organization in operation was
the Mattachine Society of New York (MSNY), which had had some
real successes in the past (for instance in legalizing gay bars)
by using legal and reformist techniques. But 1969 was also the
height of the "Movement", the conglomeration of anti-Vietnam
War, pro-Black, pro-Women, pro-Hippy, anti-Capitalist left-wing
politics which formed an entire counter-culture in the late 1960s'.
A number of Gay men and women were very influenced by the Movement
and were able to use its resources - including Alternate U., a
sort of general radical "university". In the week before
July 24th, the following short mimeographed flyer was distributed
in Greenwich Village [Teal 36]
DO YOU THINK HOMOSEXUALS ARE REVOLTING?
YOU BET YOUR SWEET ASS WE ARE
We're going to make a place for ourselves in the revolutionary
movement. We challenge the myths that are screwing up this society.
MEETING: Thursday, July 24th, 6:30 PM at Alternate U, 69 West
14th Street at Sixth Avenue.
This was the leaflet that began the Gay Liberation Front.
On Sunday July 27, the Mattachine Society of New York held
a one-month after Stonewall rally in Washington Square park. It
urged people to be open and to wear a lavender armband. Marshals
would wear lavender sashes. Three or four hundred people showed
up at what was the first Post-Stonewall gay pride rally. There
was a banner - two male symbols linked and two female symbols
linked. MSNY handed out a long flyer, written in committee-ese.
After the rally people were told just to go home, which left them
disgruntled. A second mimeographed flyer was passed around. It
said [Teal, 37]:
HOMOSEXUALS ARE COMING
TOGETHER AT LAST
To examine how we are oppressed and how we oppress ourselves.
To fighte for gay control of gay businesses. To publish our own
newspaper. To these and other radical ends
This second meeting was to be held at Alternate U. on Thursday
July 31, 1969. GLF effectively began at that meeting..
It meetings were contentious from the beginning - with disputes
about the nature of the groups, involvement with other issues
(an topic which was eventually to lead to the emergence of the
Gay Activists Alliance), and procedure.
GLF went public in August 1969 when its members attended an
anti-war, anti deaft demonstration in Hiroshima-Nagasaki Week.
A Banner was unfurled saying Gay Lberation Front at the rally, in fromt of the Central Parkbandstand. It was on
TV all over America that night [Teal 52]. Gay Liberation entered
the political arena.
3. The Radical "Gay" Challenge to "Homophile"
In August 24-30 1960 the four-year old group known as NACHO
(The North American Conference of Homophile Organizations) met
in Kansas City. NACHO was a coalition of about 24 gay groups.
Its approach was essentially that of the NAACP. It worked, as
Columbia University's Student Homophile League delegate Bob Martin
told Gay Power newspaper, "much as civil-rights groups
worked through the first half of the Sixties: through education,
legal action, and voter education, through winning over the straight
majority by appealing to their consciences, through building a
'good public image,' through lobbying with Congress and State
legislators, through 'respectability." [Teal, 54]
At August meeting the "respectable" approach was attacked
by a radical caucus that emerged midway through the convention
- after an ACLU documentary (Seasons Change) on the demos
and police tactics at the Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention was
shown. The caucus was aided by the NACHO Youth Committee, and,
after a lot of work a Manifesto was produced on Thursday afternoon [Teal, 54-55].
A RADICAL MANIFESTO
THE HOMOPHILE MOVEMENT MUST BE RADICALIZED!
(August 28, 1969)
l) We see the persecution of homosexuality as part of a general
attempt to oppress all minorities and keep them powerless. Our
fate is linked with these minorities; if the detention camps are
filled tomorrow with blacks, hippies and other radicals, we will
not escape that fate, all our attempts to dissociate our- selves
from them notwithstanding. A common struggle, however, will bring
2) Therefore we declare our support as homosexuals or bisexuals
for the struggles of the black, the feminist, the Spanish-American,
the Indian, the Hippie, the Young, the Student, and other victims
of oppression and prejudice.
3) We call upon these groups to lend us their support and encourage
their presence with NACHO and the homophile movement at large.
4) Our enemies, an implacable, repressive governmental system;
much of organized religion, business and medicine, will not be
moved by appeasement or appeals to reason and justice, but only
by power and force.
5) We regard established heterosexual standards of morality as
immoral and refuse to condone them by demanding an equality which
is merely the common yoke of sexual repression.
6) We declare that homosexuals, as individuals and members of
the greater community, must develop homosexual ethics and esthetics
independent of, and without reference to, the mores imposed upon
7) We demand the removal of all restriction on sex between consenting
persons of any sex, of any orientation, of any age, anywhere,
whether for money or not, and for the removal of all censorship.
8) We call upon the churches to sanction homosexual liaisons when
called upon to do so by the parties concerned.
9) We call upon the homophile movement to be more honestly concerned
with youth rather than trying to promote a mythical, non-existent
"good public image."
10) The homophile movement must totally reject the insane war
in Viet Nam and refuse to encourage complicity in the war and
support of the war machine, which may well be turned against us.
We oppose any attempts by the movement to obtain security clearances
for homosexuals, since these contribute to the war machine.
11) The homophile movement must engage in continuous political
struggle on all fronts.
12) We must open the eyes of homosexuals on this continent to
the increasingly repressive nature of our society and to the realizations
that Chicago may await us tomorrow.
"To have their twelve points ratified by the convention,
the radicals steamed through three hours of debate. They lost
all votes to the conservative competition." [Teal 55] The
split between the Homophile groups, which soon faded away, and
the Gay Liberationists was accomplished. For the next few years
it was the radicals who led the way.
HTML, Paul Halsall