Gay Liberation Front

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was the name of a number of gay liberation groups, the first of which was formed in New York City in 1969, immediately after the Stonewall riots, in which police clashed with gay demonstrators.[1]

Gay liberation 1970 poster
1970s poster used by the GLF

GLF in the United States

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) advocated for sexual liberation for all people; they believed heterosexuality was a remnant of cultural inhibition and felt that change would not come about unless the current social institutions were dismantled and rebuilt without defined sexual roles. To do this, the GLF was intent on transforming the idea of the nuclear family and making it more akin to a loose affiliation of members without biological subtexts. Prominent members of the GLF also opposed and addressed other social inequalities between the years of 1969 to 1973 such as militarism, racism, and sexism, but because of internal rivalries the GLF officially ended its operations in 1973.[2]

According to scholar Henry Abelove, it was named GLF "in a provocative allusion to the Algerian National Liberation Front and the Vietnamese National Liberation Front."[3]

History of the GLF: the Stonewall riots

The Stonewall riots are considered by many to be the prime catalyst for the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.[4][5]

On 28 June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, the New York City police raided a gay bar, a routine practice at the time.[6] The establishment, the Stonewall Inn, was a well known LGBT establishment located on Christopher Street. The bar was made up of two former horse stables which had been renovated into one building in 1930. Like all gay bars of the era, it was subject to countless police raids, as LGBT activities and fraternization were still largely illegal. But this time, when the police began arresting patrons, the customers began pelting them with coins, and later, bottles and rocks. The lesbian and gay crowd also freed staff members who had been put into police vans, and the outnumbered officers retreated inside the bar. Soon, the Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), originally trained to deal with war protests, were called in to control the mob, which was now using a parking meter as a battering ram. As the patrol force advanced, the crowd did not disperse, but instead doubled back and re-formed behind the riot police, throwing rocks, shouting "Gay Power!", dancing, and taunting their opposition. For the next several nights, the crowd would return in ever increasing numbers, handing out leaflets and rallying themselves. In early July, due in large part to the riots in June, discussions in the gay community lead to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front. Soon the word "Stonewall" came to represent fighting for equality in the gay community. And in commemoration, Gay Pride marches are held every year on the anniversary of the riot.

One of the GLF's first acts was to organize a march to continue the momentum of the Stonewall uprising, and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.[1] Several GLF women, such as Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, and Michela Griffo went on to form the Lavender Menace, a lesbian activist organization.

In 1970, the drag queen caucus of the GLF, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, formed the group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which focused on providing support for gay prisoners, housing for homeless gay youth and street people, especially other young "street queens".[6][7]

In 1970, "The U.S. Mission", had a permit to use a campground in the Sequoia National Forest. Once it was learned that the group was sponsored by the Gay Liberation Front, the Sequoia National Forest supervisor cancelled the permit, and the campground was closed for the period.[8]

GLF in the United Kingdom

Original GLF activists in front of Hall-Carpenter Archive display at a LSE 40th anniversary celebration.[9]

In the UK, the GLF had its first meeting in the basement of the London School of Economics on 13 October 1970. Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter had seen the effect of the GLF in the United States and created a parallel movement based on revolutionary politics.[10]

Ink glf cover
1971 GLF cover version of Ink magazine, London

By 1971, the UK GLF was recognized as a political movement in the national press, holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people.[11] The GLF Manifesto was published, and a series of high-profile direct actions, were carried out, such as the disruption of the launch of the Church-based morality campaign, Festival of Light.[12]

The disruption of the opening of the 1971 Festival of Light was the best organised GLF action. The first meeting of the Festival of Light was organised by Mary Whitehouse at Methodist Central Hall. Groups of GLF members in drag invaded and spontaneously kissed each other; others released mice, sounded horns, and unveiled banners, and a contingent dressed as workmen obtained access to the basement and shut off the lights.[13]

Easter 1972 saw the Gay Lib annual conference held in the Guild of Undergraduates Union (students union) building at the University of Birmingham.[14]

By 1974, internal disagreements had led to the movement's splintering. Organizations that spun off from the movement included the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Gay News, and Icebreakers. The GLF Information Service continued for a few further years providing gay related resources.[10] GLF branches had been set up in some provincial British towns (e.g., Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, and Leicester) and some survived for a few years longer. The Leicester Gay Liberation Front founded by Jeff Martin was noted for its involvement in the setting up of the local "Gayline", which is still active today and has received funding from the National Lottery. They also carried out a high-profile campaign against the local paper, the Leicester Mercury, which refused to advertise Gayline's services at the time.[15][16]

The papers of the GLF are among the Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics.[17]

Several members of the GLF, including Peter Tatchell, continued campaigning beyond the 1970s under the organisation of OutRage!, which was founded in 1990 and dissolved in 2011, using similar tactics to the GLF (such as "zaps"[18] and performance protest[19]) to attract a significant level of media interest and controversy. It was at this point that a divide emerged within the gay activist movement, mainly due to a difference in ideologies,[20] after which a number of groups including Organization for Lesbian and Gay Alliance (OLGA), the Lesbian Avengers, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Dykes And Faggots Together (DAFT), Queer Nation, Stonewall (which focused on lobbying tactics) and OutRage! co-existed.[20]

These groups were very influential following the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s and the violence against lesbians and gay men that followed.[20]

GLF in Canada

The first gay liberation groups identifying with the Gay Liberation Front movement in Canada were in Montreal, Quebec. The Front de liberation homosexual (FLH) was formed in November 1970, in response to a call for organised activist groups in the city by the publication Mainmise.[21] Another factor in the group's formation was police actions against gay establishments in the city after the suspension of civil liberties by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the fall of 1970.[21] This group was short-lived; they were disbanded after over forty members were charged for failure to procure a liquor license at one of the group's events in 1972.[21]

A Vancouver, British Columbia group calling itself the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front emerged in 1971, mostly out of meetings from a local commune, called Pink Cheeks. The group gained support from The Georgia Straight, a left-leaning newspaper, and opened a drop-in centre and published a newsletter.[21] The group struggled to maintain a core group of members, and competition from other local groups, such as the Canadian Gay Activists Alliance (CGAA) and the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE), soon led to its demise.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto. London". 1978 [1971].
  2. ^ "A brief history of the Gay Liberation Front, 1970-73". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  3. ^ Abelove, Henry (June 26, 2015). "How Stonewall Obscures the Real History of Gay Liberation". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  4. ^ National Park Service (2008). "Workforce Diversity: The Stonewall Inn, National Historic Landmark National Register Number: 99000562". US Department of Interior. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  5. ^ "Obama inaugural speech references Stonewall gay-rights riots". North Jersey Media Group Inc. January 21, 2013. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Shepard, Benjamin Heim and Ronald Hayduk (2002) From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization. Verso. pp.156-160 ISBN 978-1859-8435-67
  7. ^ Feinberg, Leslie (September 24, 2006). "Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries". Workers World Party. Retrieved August 21, 2018. Stonewall combatants Sylvia Rivera and Marsha "Pay It No Mind" Johnson ... Both were self-identified drag queens.
  8. ^ Lodi News Sentinel, Jun 26, 1970 retrieved from
  9. ^ "Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front". 2010-10-07. Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2010-10-14.
  10. ^ a b Lucas 1998, pp. 2–3
  11. ^ Victoria Brittain (28 August 1971). "An Alternative to Sexual Shame: Impact of the new militancy among homosexual groups". The Times. p. 12.
  12. ^ "Gay Liberation Front (GLF)". Database of Archives of Non-Government Organisations. January 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  13. ^ Gingell, Basil (10 September 1971). "Uproar at Central Hall as demonstrators threaten to halt Festival of Light". The Times. p. 14.
  14. ^ "Gay Birmingham Remembered - The Gay Birmingham History Project". Birmingham LGBT Community Trust. Retrieved 3 October 2012. Birmingham hosted the Gay Liberation Front annual conference in 1972, at the chaplaincy at Birmingham University Guild of Students.
  15. ^ Peace News John Birdsall page 2 (13 January 1978)
  16. ^ Gay News (1978) Demonstrators protest at ad ban on help-line edition number 135
  17. ^ "Calmview: Collection Browser". LSE Library Services. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  18. ^ Willett, p. 86
  19. ^ Tatchell, Peter. "Peter Tatchell: The Art of Activism". Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  20. ^ a b c Robinson, Lucy (2007). Gay men and the left in post-war Britain: How the personal got political. Manchester University Press. pp. 174–176. ISBN 9781847792334. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  21. ^ a b c d Warner, Tom (2002). Never going back : a history of queer activism in Canada. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN 9780802084606.
  22. ^ Rothon, Robert (October 23, 2008). "Vancouver's Gay Liberation Front". Daily Xtra.


  • Canfield, William J. "We Raise our Voices". Gay & Lesbian Pride & Politics.
  • Diaman, N. A. (1995). "Gay Liberation Front". Archived from the original on 2007-06-11.
  • Kissack, Terence (1995). Freaking Fag Revolutionaries: New York's Gay Liberation Front. Radical History Review 62.
  • Lucas, Ian (1998), OutRage!: an oral history, Cassell, ISBN 978-0-304-33358-5
  • Power, Lisa (1995). No Bath But Plenty Of Bubbles: An Oral History Of The Gay Liberation Front 1970-7. Cassell. p. 340 pages. ISBN 0-304-33205-4.
  • Walter, Aubrey (1980). Come together : the years of gay liberation (1970-73). Gay Men's Press. p. 218 pages. ISBN 0-907040-04-7.
  • Wright, Lionel (July 1999). "The Stonewall Riots – 1969". Socialism Today #40.
  • Kafka, Tina (2006). Gay Rights. Thomson Gale Farmington Hills, MI.

External links

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Allen Young (born June 30, 1941) is an American journalist, author, editor and publisher who is also a social, political and environmental activist.

Angela Mason

Angela Margaret Mason CBE (born 9 August 1944) is a British civil servant and activist, and a former director of the UK-based lesbian, gay and bisexual lobbying organisation Stonewall. She is currently the Chair of the Fawcett Society, a UK women's rights campaigning organisation and a Labour Party councillor in Camden.

Arthur Bell (journalist)

Arthur Bell (November 6, 1939 – June 2, 1984) was an American journalist, author and LGBT rights activist.

Arthur Evans (author)

For other persons named Arthur Evans, see Arthur Evans (disambiguation).Arthur Scott Evans (October 12, 1942, York, Pennsylvania – September 11, 2011, San Francisco, California) was an early gay rights advocate and author, most well known for his 1978 book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. Politically active in New York City in the 1960s and early 1970s, in 1972 he and his partner formed a group called the Weird Sisters Partnership on a homestead in Washington state. He later moved to San Francisco, where he became a fixture in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and was involved with founding the group that later became the Radical Faeries. In his later years, he was politically active and continued as a translator and academic. In 1997, he wrote Critique of Patriarchal Reason, where he argued that misogyny had influenced "objective" fields such as logic and physics.

Bob Mellors

Bob Mellors (1950 – 24 March 1996) was a British gay rights activist.

Brenda Howard

Brenda Howard (December 24, 1946 – June 28, 2005) was an American bisexual rights activist, sex-positive feminist, polyamorist and BDSM practitioner. Howard was an important figure in the modern LGBT rights movement.

Gay Activists Alliance

The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was founded in New York City on December 21, 1969, almost six months after the Stonewall riots, by dissident members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). In contrast to the Liberation Front, the Activists Alliance solely and specifically served to gay and

lesbian rights, declared themself politically neutral and wanted to work within the political system. Some early members included Jim Owles, Marty Robinson, Tom Doerr, Kay Lahusen, Arthur Bell, Arthur Evans, Bill Bahlman, Vito Russo, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Jim Coles, Brenda Howard, David Thorstad, Michael Giammetta and Morty Manford (son of Jeanne Manford). GAA's first president was Jim Owles.

Gay News

Gay News was a fortnightly newspaper in the United Kingdom founded in June 1972 in a collaboration between former members of the Gay Liberation Front and members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). At the newspaper's height, circulation was 18,000 to 19,000 copies.

Jim Fouratt

Jim Fouratt (23 June 1945?- ) is active in the entertainment industry and gay rights.

Karla Jay

Karla Jay (born February 22, 1947) is a distinguished professor emerita at Pace University, where she taught English and directed the women's and gender studies program between 1974 and 2009. A pioneer in the field of lesbian and gay studies, she is widely published.

Lisa Power

Lisa Power MBE (born 1954 or 1955) is a British sexual health and LGBT rights campaigner.

She co-founded Stonewall and subsequently was the policy director of the Terrence Higgins Trust. Before this, she was Secretary-General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, co-founded the Pink Paper and wrote an oral history of the London Gay Liberation Front, No Bath But Plenty of Bubbles: An Oral History of the Gay Liberation Front, 1970–1973, now long out of print.

The first openly LGBT person to speak on gay rights at the United Nations in New York, Power was named on the 2017 Pinc List of leading Welsh LGBT figures.

Marlborough Pub and Theatre

The Marlborough Pub and Theatre is a historic venue, situated at 4 Princes Street, Brighton. It has been associated, since the 1970s, with the LGBT community. The Marlborough's small theatre presents theatre, cabaret and music throughout the year, including during the Brighton Fringe Festival, LGBT History Month and Brighton Pride Arts Festival.

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992) was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen. Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Johnson co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organization S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside close friend Sylvia Rivera. A popular figure in New York City's gay and art scene, Johnson modeled for Andy Warhol, and performed onstage with the drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches. Known for decades as a welcoming presence in the streets of Greenwich Village, Johnson was known as the "mayor of Christopher Street". From 1987 through 1992, Johnson was an AIDS activist with ACT UP.

Martha Shelley

Martha Shelley (born December 27, 1943) is an American lesbian activist, feminist, writer, and poet.

Mary Susan McIntosh

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N. A. Diaman

N. A. Diaman (known as Nikos Diaman born Nickolas Anthony Diaman on November 1, 1936 in San Francisco) is a gay American novelist and artist. He received a BA in 1958 from the University of Southern California with a major in humanities.

He returned to San Francisco after graduation and was introduced to the local poetry scene by George Stanley. Diaman became part of the Jack Spicer circle in North Beach and joined Robert Duncan's poetry workshop at the San Francisco Public Library.

During the early 1970s, he was active in the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Revolution Party. He wrote for Zygote magazine and Come Out! before co-founding Queer Blue Light, an independent video production group.

After moving back to San Francisco in the fall of 1972, he was the executive director of the Antares Foundation, which sponsored the San Francisco Gay Video Festival and published Paragraph: A Quarterly of Gay Fiction.

Ed Dean Is Queer, his first novel, was published in 1978. Following My Heart: A Memoir, and The City, his seventh novel, were published in 2007.

In 2000, he launched a new career as a photo-based artist. His work is in private and corporate collections in Paris, Santa Fe, San Francisco and San Miguel de Allende.

He currently lives in San Francisco but travels regularly to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Athens, Greece as well as the Aegean islands of Ikaria and Samos, where his parents and grandparents were born.

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Ray Rivera (July 2, 1951 – February 19, 2002) was a Latina American gay liberation and transgender rights activist significant in the LGBT history of New York City and of the United States as a whole. Rivera, who identified as a drag queen, was a founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance.

With her close friend Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group dedicated to helping homeless young drag queens, gay kids, and trans women.

Tom Brougham

Tom Brougham is a Berkeley, California gay rights activist who was the first to suggest a new legal category for recognizing couples other than marriage and he coined the phrase domestic partnership.Brougham is a former member of the Gay Liberation Front.

UK Gay Liberation Front 1971 Festival of Light action

On 9 September 1971 the UK Gay Liberation Front (GLF) undertook an action to disrupt the launch of the Church-based morality campaign, Nationwide Festival of Light at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. A number of well-known British figures were involved in the disrupted rally, and the action involved the use of "radical drag" drawing on Stonewall and subsequent GLF actions in the USA. Peter Tatchell, gay human rights campaigner, was involved in the action which was one of a series which influenced the development of gay activism in the UK, received media attention at the time, and is still discussed by some of those involved.

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