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Gay Liberation in Turbulent Times

Gay Liberation

Viewed from the present the gay liberation movement of the years 1969-1979 – ten years or thereabouts – is a confusing phenomenon. The lengthening alphabetic string of lgbt . . . is a much later development, as is the concern with all things trans, racial, and feminist. The necessity of women’s liberation; the evils of male supremacy – of patriarchy – loomed large in our theory and thinking and, of course, the essence of intersectionality was grasped by GLF activists, but not the word or the fully formed concept. The emphasis of the movement was upon liberation rather than identity.

An inescapable element within the struggle for the emancipation of homosexuality, identity, was so to speak, a ‘means’ rather than an ‘end’. Coming out, and living openly as homosexuals was key, but emancipation was the objective.

Consequently, marriage, and the regulation of sexuality within the heterosexual family (there were no other kinds of family at the time) was our focus. At the get-go we did not seek equality, but rather the overturning of all the social and legal means by which sexuality was regulated at the time. This is why so much of what the movement had to say was a confusing melange composed of sentiments and rhetoric from the ‘summer of love’ of 1967, and boldly revolutionary insistence upon the urgent necessity of transforming of all social and sexual mores.

Unsurprisingly, there was something unhinged, florid, extreme, about our reactions. The moment we’d gone for broke, and walked the streets slapped to the eyeballs in drag, or confronted those in authority with brazen assertions of our desire, moderation was out of the window. A boldness took over from the most mannered, creative, and cultivated amongst us, to those who were blunt, and rough-edged. In such circumstances, surrounded by condemnation, disgust, and repressive psychiatrists, magistrates, neighbours, relatives, publicans, and police, defensive aggression, and the cultural assertion of our sexuality was mightily necessary.

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“Genuinely thought provoking and provocative. A much-needed takedown of what Orwell once called the ‘smelly little orthodoxies’ of the left, and why they are so distant and alienated from the working class they claim to fight for.” - Ralph Leonard