Gay liberation was born on June 28, 1969 when New York police started to raid a gay bar in the West Village, the Stonewall Inn. The police in New York are forever raiding gay bars especially around election time, when they move in on West 42nd street. And in the past, what you did was, you took the cops’ abuse and sometimes you went off with only a few familiar epithets or a hit on the head. And sometimes you were taken to the station on one charge or another and usually released the next morning.
But that was not what happened on June 28, 1969. A gay who was there said, It was fantastic. The crowd was a fairly typical weekend crowd, your usual queens and kids from the sticks and the people that are always around the bars, mostly young. But this time instead of submitting to the cops’ abuse, the sissies fought back. They started pulling up parking meters and throwing rocks and coins at the cops and the cops had to take refuge in the bar and call for reinforcements… it was beautiful.
That was the beginning and on the anniversary last summer between 5,000 and 15,000 gay people of both sexes marched up Sixth Avenue from Sheridan Square to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park for a ’gay-in’. Other smaller parades took place in Chicago and Los Angeles and all three cities survived the sight and sound of men with their arms around men and women kissing women, chanting, Shout it loud, gay is proud, 3-5-7-9 Lesbians are mighty fine, carrying signs that said, We are the people our parents warned us against, singing We shall overcome.
Soon chapters of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance sprung up in almost every American city. John Francis Hunter, one of the Alliance’s founders, said, G.A.A is a political organisation. Everything is done with an eye toward political effect… G.A.A adopted this policy because all oppression of homosexuals can only be ended by means of a powerful political block. Small wonder that the Mattachine Society, which for 20 years had been trying to educate straight people to accept homosexuals, is now dismissed by some members of the G.A.A. And the gay liberation front as the N.A.A.C.P of our movement.
In Canada gay liberation has not yet really caught on. In the United States there is outright repression — enforced anti-gay laws, entrapment and raids on the clubs and bars, but here in Canada, we are left pretty much alone. It is much easier to stir up resistance to outright repression that it is to callous indifference!
There is a wide range of opinion on what should be done for gay liberation in Canada. The most moderate groups are the homophile organizations such as the one at York university. They do things such as organize gay dances to let the straights see some real live gays. They arrange for speakers to come to campus so that university students will he exposed to some factual information about gays. They believe in the inherent rationality of the human animal, that all we need to do is educate people and then they will have to drop their prejudices.
More militant groups such as the Gay Activist Alliance in Vancouver want to use political pressure to ensure our legal rights and civil liberties. They feel boycotts picketing etc. will be necessary.
Revolutionary groups such as the Red Butterfly in Vancouver believe that our society is so corrupt that first we must smash the capitalist establishment and then build a new socialist state that is tolerant of gays.
There is a wide range of opinion about how to organize groups to fight for gay liberation. The Gay Liberation Front in Vancouver believes there should be no executive and no one should be empowered to speak on the behalf of the whole group. The gay activist alliance wants to work with an elected executive with many special purpose committees each with a chairman. The way I run my own project is with a kind of benevolent despotism. People who want to help out on the blurb are welcome to do so, but I reserve the final say in any decision. Q.Q. the writer of Page 69 in the Georgia straight works totally on his own.
All these different groups are working toward the same final goal, but they all have different ideas about how to get there. At the moment the various groups in Vancouver spend more time fighting with each other than they do fighting public ignorance. If we could arrange a mass meeting of representatives of the various groups the circle, myself, Q.Q., the club owners, the Gay Activist Alliance, the Gay Liberation Front and the Red Butterfly, we could talk to each other directly. As it is, we receive distorted ideas of what the other groups are doing through outrageous rumours.
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