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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 Gay Bars

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 [Teal 24-25]

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 the Village."
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 the following:
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" Politics

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 common triumph.
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 heterosexuality.
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.


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