Friday, January 28, 2011

A Portrait of Queer America: Final Thoughts

Through this independent student research project I have been able to explore a relatively in-depth look at queer history in America. My initial goal was to gain a solid understanding of the gay civil rights movement so I could move forward with my intentions of one day being both a gay activist and working for an LGBTQ non-profit. In the future I hope to do a much more extensive look at the last ten years in queer history and will be sure to link that endeavor on this blog. This has been an extremely interesting and rewarding experience, and I know I will use this blog in the future as a reference.

Fred Carriles

ISP Outline:

  • Outline
  • 1960s
    • The Stonewall Riots
    • San Francisco and Randy Wicker
    • Dr. Franklin Kameny and Early Politics
    • East Coast Politics
  • 1970s
    • The New Left Movement
    • Feminists and Lesbians Unite
    • American Psychiatric Association
    • Assassination
  • 1980s
    • AIDS (Part I)
    • AIDS (Part II)
    • Politics and Protest
    • Sex Wars
    • Entertainment and Sports
  • 1990s
    • Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers
    • AIDS, a Straight Issue Too
    • President Clinton
    • Visibility
    • Hate Crimes
  • 2000s
    • Marriage Equality
    • Entertainment and Increased Visibility
    • Boy Scouts and the Military
  • Final Thoughts

The 21st Century: Boy Scouts and the Military

Boy Scouts
In mid-2000 the Boy Scouts of America caused controversy when U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor against former Assistant Scout Master James Dale (pictured below). In 1990 a piece had been written on James Dale since he had given a speech as co-president of Rutger's University's Lesbian/Gay Alliance. In 2000 Dale applied for a leadership position with the Boy Scouts. However, upon finding record of his work with a Lesbian/Gay Alliance Dale was not only denied the promotion but removed from the organization. The scouts kicked him out on the basis that their oaths required members to be "morally straight" and that scout laws enforce being "clean" in both word and action.

Dale sued the Boy Scouts of America arguing that it was not a private club and therefore they were violating New Jersey's anti-discrimination act. Unfortunately in a 5-4 decision the court ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts. In response, many LGBTQ-friendly corporations ceased donations and financial contributions to the organization. Many groups went as far as disallowing the organizations access to public facilities. The Boy Scouts thus responded by adopting a written policy that reaffirmed their exclusion of LGBTQ individuals and atheists. 

In Barack Obama's presidential campaign he advocated the repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military, a policy which barred homosexuals from serving in the military. In Obama's first State of the Union address as president he stated: "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are." Soon after this statement both Robert Gates (Defense Secretary), and Michael Mullen (Joint Chiefs Chairman) gave Obama their support. After overcoming a Republican-led filibuster, the house passed the repeal and Obama signed it into law on December 22nd, 2010.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 143-144

The 21st Century: Entertainment and Increased Visibility

Visibility and Religion
The early years of the twenty-first century saw immense gains in visibility of gays and lesbians. Out homosexual men and women began to hold positions of importance in politics and the business world. Similarly, great figures in entertainment, such as Rosie O'Donnell, began to out themselves. Religion also saw change in the visibility of LGBTQ individuals. In 2003, openly gay Rev. Gene Robinson (pictured below) was elected, consecrated, and then placed as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire. The Anglican Church was enraged, and soon other religious leaders and churches threatened discontinued relations with the church. Archbishop Rowan Williams, leader of the worldwide Anglican Church, appointed a commission to review the issue. Williams proposed that there be a two-tiered membership to the Anglican Church with gay-friendly churches playing a smaller role in worldwide religious power. This issue still divides the church.

The 2000s also saw a huge increase in queer film and television. In 2000 America introduced its British inspired Queer as Folk, a show that explored the lives and sexuality of a group of gay friends. The show was a hit and continued until its final episode in 2005. Television also brought attention to lesbian culture with the show The L World, a television drama about a several lesbian friends. In 2003 HBO aired its queer-themed film Angels in America and LGBTQ-interest television networks such as Here! and LOGO were formed. Another successful television show was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a reality show in which five gay men helped straight men in fashion, decorating, and cooking. Though the show was well received by heterosexual audiences, the gay community was torn by its depiction of stereotypical queer roles. 

In 2005 film Brokeback Mountain was released, a movie that would become one of the most influential queer-themed films in American history. Brokeback Mountain depicted the relationship between two sexually curious men who struggled with accepting their sexuality. The film opened up discussion on homosexuality and was the first time in which the American public acknowledged that homosexuality did not entail the stereotypical roles formed in the late 80s. 

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 146-148
Implications of Brokeback Mountain --

The 21st Century: Marriage Equality

As America entered a new century the LGBTQ community had taken on a new goal: marriage quality. The 1993 Hawaii case had alerted lesbians and gay men to the importance of being legally recognized, and still bitter from the failed promises of Bill Clinton gay activists began to take the battle to the courtroom. In December of 1999 Supreme Court case Baker v. Vermont ruled that same-sex couples are "entitled under Chaper I, Article 7, of the Vermon Constitution to obtain the same benefits and protections afforded by Vermont law to married opposite-sex couples." Though the court did not require Vermont to marry homosexual couples, it was implied that a similar licensing process as marriage could be issued. The law went into effect on July 1st, 2000 and Vermont became the first state to grant civil union status with the same benefits and rights of marriage.

In 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court  ruled that there was not yet a constitutionally adequate reason for the denial of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Massachusetts would have six months to rewrite marriage laws to account for this. However, conservatives began work on an amendment to the Constitution which would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.  In 2004 San Francisco, California began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The first to be married were gay actvists and co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin (pictured below) followed by 80 other gay and lesbian couples.

On February 24th, 2004, President Bush decided to be a huge party-pooper and announce support for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Thanks a lot, Bush. 

Thankfully on May 17th Massachusetts began to grant marriages licenses to same-sex couples, however by the end of the year voters in 13 states had voted to ban same-sex marriage: Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentuckyh, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. By 2005 Oregon's Supreme Court had nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses granted to homosexual couples, and California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed an almost successful bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Over the next few years the same general pattern would follow; most states would debate and inevitably ban same-sex marriage. The LGBTQ community became distraught with the fickle nature of state government and the rights for same-sex couples to marry. It seemed that for every step made towards marriage equality, several more states would ban gay marriage. 

In the 2008 California elections Proposition 8 was put up for a vote. Proposition 8, also known as the California Marriage Protection Act, added a new provision to the California Constitution which stated that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." By restricting the rights of same-sex couples to be married, the proposition overturned former California Supreme Court rulings that granted gay couples the right to marry. Proponents of the amendment argued that LGBTQ individuals did not have the right to change the institution of the timeless tradition of marriage. Proposition 8 passed and the LGBTQ community reeled. In the following years across the nation LGBTQ activists protested and fought against Proposition 8. Unfortunately in Strauss v. Horton Proposition 8 was upheld but allowed existing same-sex marriages to stand. However, in 2010 Prop. 8 was overturned in Perry v. Schwarzenegger and put on hold pending appeal.

Currently the federal government of the United states does not recognize same-sex marriages and is legally unable to do so by the Defense of Marriage Act. Across the country gay marriage is legal in only five states, one district, and one Indian tribe. 

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay Rights and Gay Marriage --
History of Gay Marriage --
Timeline of Same-Sex Marriage in the US --

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The 90s: Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes
Unfortunately the 90s ended with a collection of hate crimes that would shake the LGBTQ community. On October 7th, 1998 a twenty-one year old gay student Matthew Shepard (pictured below) met two guys at a gay lounge and asked them for a ride back to campus. The two men drove Shepard out to a field, robbed him, severely beat him, tied him to a fence with his own shoelaces, and left him to die. Shepard was discovered eighteen hours later by a bicyclist and was pronounced dead on October 12th. During the trial the defendants claimed that they had temporarily gone insane because Shepard had made sexual advances on them. Both men received life sentences.

At Matthew Phelps funeral anti-gay protestor Rev. Fred Phelps and his family (all members of the Westboro Baptist Church in  Topeka, Kansas) raised signs that stated "Matthew Shepard Rots in Hell" and "God Hates Fags." In reaction President Clinton attempted to add sexual orientation as a protected characteristic to federal hate crime legislation as well as a similar move in the Wyoming state legislature. Both of his attempts failed. 

On July 5, 1999 Barry Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat. Winchell had been attacked by a fellow Army Airbone Division soldier at Fort Campbell, Kentucky because he was suspected of being gay. Winchell's death brought much publicity and criticism of th e"Don't Ask, Don' Tell" policy. On New Year's Eve, 1993 transgender youth Brandon Teena was raped and then murdered. While these events are horrifying moments in LGBTQ history, they did spark a number of films, plays, books, songs, and discussion on homophobia and equality that would raise awareness. LGBTQ individuals and allies would use these moments to make the message clear: they would not stand for homophobia.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 138-140

The 90s: Visibility

In 1995 a group of twenty students wanted to create a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. The groups intentions was to be a safe space for LGBTQ students. The school board fought against the GSA's creation insisting it would constitute endorsement of homosexuality, and they asked the state attorney general whether they could ban the club. Luckily they did not have the right to band the club. The Federal Equal Access Act from 1984 ensured that if one noncurricular can meet, any noncurricular club can meet. Unfortunately this did not end the battle. The media jumped on the school and the oldest of the students, Kelli Peterson (pictured below) became the spokesperson of the group. Some students started talks of starting an antigay club, then the school board decided to band all extracurricular clubs. 

In 1998 a lawsuit was filed by the East High Gay/Straight Alliance (with help from Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the ACLU, among other groups) in an attempt to fight back against the school board's prejudice decision. The Alliance won the case in 2001, however the school had already backed down on its ban on extracurricular clubs and had accepted the school's GSA in 2000.

During the 90s LGBTQ visibility increased dramatically. Several celebrities and athletes decided to announce their homosexuality including Steve Kmetko, Clive Barker, Yves Saint Laurent, k. d. lang, Melissa Etheridge, George Michael, Rudy Galindo, Martina Navratilova, Billy Bean, and Greg Louganis (among others). In entertainment depictions of AIDS became sympathetic towards both the victims of the disease and gay men in general. On Broadway both Angels in America and Rent became huge hits which tackled the reality of AIDS. In 1994 Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay man dying of AIDS in Philadelphia. Movies such as The Birdcage (1996), In and Out (1997), and My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) all depicted comical depictions of gay men that while admittedly stereotypical did increase visibility. 

Television became much more receptive to homosexuality as well. In 1997 Ellen DeGeneres came out on her sitcom Ellen. The media had a frenzy over Ellen coming out of the closet and her high-profile relationship with actress Anne Heche. Another popular sitcom dealing with homosexuality, Will & Grace, premiered in 1998 and quickly became one of the most popular shows on television. The queer visibility was frightening to some. In 1999 Rev. Jerry Falwell warned that the purple Teletubby Tinky Winky was gay and therefore "damaging to the moral lives of children." Fortunately, no one cared. 

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Kelli Peterson --
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 136-140

The 90s: President Clinton

Bill Clinton
In 1993 the gay community was ecstatic when Clinton became President. Unlike the last two presidents, Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton promised to get rid of the military's prohibition of homosexuals and increase AIDS funding. During the election he had received 75% of the gay vote and $3 million in contributions from the homosexual community.

After being elected gays and lesbians celebrated by leading the Third Lesbian and Gay March (pictured below) on Washington, one which brought over a million participants to our nation's capital. President Clinton quickly appointed almost a hundred lesbians and gay men to his administration. Clinton soon formed the White House Office of National AIDS Policy followed by the creation of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. In 1995 Bill Clinton issued an executive order that sexual orientation could not be used against a person to deny someone security clearances. In 1996 Congress passed a bill that would force the discharge of HIV-positive servicemen from the armed forces, however the Clinton administration organized a repeal. 

Unfortunately Bill was not able to deliver on all of his promises. The first was Clinton's failure in allowing gays to be part of the military. This topic had been one of the oldest policies fought against by homophile groups, and Clinton had promised change. However, Georgia Senator Sam Nunn gathered support in Congress to make the military's ban an actual law, thus stopping the president from changing the regulations. Clinton was eventually pushed into making a compromise known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue." This policy meant that homosexual members of the armed forces could serve in the military as long as they kept it a secret, and did not have sex. Also, the military was not supposed to search/pursue these gays but if any evidence to suggest one is gay is produced, a commanding officer can investigate to his heart's content. Since 1993 12,500 servicemen have been discharged because of this policy.

Bringing it to the Courts
In 1993 the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that the stat needed to show a "compelling state interest" in denying homosexuals the right to marriage. Marriage was extremely important to gay couples as its legal status involved Medicare participation, eligibility for first-time home buyer assistance programs, special rules for international adoption, a variety of veterans benefits, immigration sponsorship qualifications for a partner, as well as numerous tax credits. Unfortunately in 1996 the right-wing revolted and Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denied the recognition of any union between two people who were not male and female, and noted that no state had to accept any other state's definition of marriage. President Clinton was the one to sign this into law. Hawaii continued the case, but in 1996 the judge ruled against it.  The Hawaii legislature passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage-- in 1998 voters approved the amendment. Shortly after a similar occurrence happened in Alaska, but it also failed.

One positive aspect of this was the realization of gays and lesbians that their fight for equality needed to brought into the courts. In 1983 Sharon Kowalski had been paralyzed and speech-impaired from a car accident. Kowalski's legal guardianship was awarded to her parents, however, Karen Thompson, Kowalski's lover, was kept away despite Kowalski's typing out messages of protest. Thompson went to court and finally won guardianship in 1991. The case reminded gays and lesbians thats they were legally very vulnerable. In 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment which prohibited anti-discrimination laws throughout the state from including sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination. This was a beacon of hope to gays and lesbians as it was one of the first times the Supreme Court had worked in interest of the LGBTQ community.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gays in the Military --,8599,1958246,00.html
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 133-136
Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies -- Meem, Gibson, Alexander, pg. 101, 102, 163

The 90s: AIDS, a Straight Issue Too

In the 90s AIDS began to be seen as an issue that affected more than just the gay population. In 1991 basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced his positive HIV status (acquired through heterosex). The following year, tennis player Arthur Ashe announced that he had devloped HIV from a 1983 blood transfusion; he died within a year of this announcement. In 1995 AIDS had become the leading cause of death for American between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four and by the end of the decade, 33 milion people were living with HIV/AIDS around the world. This caused enormous pressure on the government to speed up its drug testing and approval processes. Because of the organization's understanding of the medical issues surrounding AIDS, ACT UP was invited to sit on many f the medical committees making decisions about AIDS research. However, many members died of the disease and with the coming election of Bill Clinton interest and passion in ACT UP died off.

In 1994 MTV's third season of the Real World presented a gay, teenage Cuban immigrant who was diagnosed with HIV while in high school. This man, Pedro Zamora (pictured below), had become an AIDS educator and joined The Real World in an attempt to spread knowledge of the disease. During the season Zamora taught his housemates about AIDS and what it was like to live with the disease. He also fell in love with fellow AIDS educator Sean Sasser while filming the show. Unfortunately Zamora died the day after the final episode premiered. President Bill Clinton would note that Zamora "enriched and enlightened our nation. He taught all of us that AIDS is a disease with a human face and one that affects every American, indeed, every citizen of the world."

LGBTQ Minorities
The 90s was the first time the LGBTQ community saw inclusion of racial and ethnic groups. While such groups as the National Coalition of Black Gays (later renamed the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays) had been started in the 80s, the groups felt alienated by the rest of the LGBTQ community. This was caused not only by the white-dominated representation of homosexuality, but also racist attitudes among gays and lesbians. In the 90s however LGBTQ groups geared towards specific races and interests sprung up, including gay and lesbian organizations for Latinos/as, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, lawyers, runners, academics, parents, sailors, police, wrestlers, architects, pet owners, computer hackers.This formation of groups was facilitated by the influence of the internet and its ability for mass communication.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 131-133
Racism in Gay America --
The History of HIV and AIDS in America --

The 90s: Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers

Queer Nation
In 1990 ACT UP activists teamed up to form the group Queer Nation. Queer Nation was a radical group of gay activists who held an anti-heterosexual agenda, increased GLBTQ visibility, and attempted to combat homophobia. At the time queer was still considered an offensive word, thus Queer Nation took it back by declaring it to themselves proudly. The organization spread all over the country within days.

Queer Nation immediately proved itself more aggressive and controversial than the in-your-face tactics of ACT UP. The following are just a few of the many protests organized by the group: 
-On top of the usage of media zaps, Queer Nation unveiled a forty-foot banner on the roof of a Greenwich Village bar reading, "Dykes and Fags Bash Back!" 
-The New York branch put together a New Orleans-style funeral procession outside of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel to protest an appearance by President Bush. 
- Phone Zaps were held in Los Angeles in an attempt to overload the phone lines of anti-gay politicians
- In 1991 Queer Nation held protests after Governor Pete Wilson vetoed gay civil-rights legislation

One of the most controversial tactics used by Queer Nation was the "outing" of public figures who kept their sexual identity a secret. Supporters of Queer Nation argued that in order for homosexuals to be taken seriously, their presence needs to be noted. One particular "outing" that raised controversy was that of the multimillionaire Malcolm Forbes after his death. Similarly, Oliver "Bill" Sipple, a Vietnam veteran, was outed through newspaper. This revealed his sexual identity to everyone including the public. Sipple fell into a deep depression and thus was rejected by his family, became an alcoholic, and gained a large amount of weight. Sipple's body was later found in his apartment two weeks after he had died. Journalist Signorile however maintained that it was necessary to "out" public figures. In 1991 he publicly "outed"

Lesbian Avengers
In 1992 Queer Nation began to die down because of internal arguments. In its wake many groups were formed, one of them being the Lesbian Avengers. The Lesban Avengers goal was to increase lesbian visibility, and did so by working with other queer groups. In 1992 the Lesbian Avengers came to the call when a New York City school board rejected a multicultural curriculum that included discussion of homosexuality. The Lesbian Avengers responded by passing out balloons to kids in an Irish Catholic community stating "ASK ABOUT LESBIAN LIVES." Another protest involved the Promise Keepers-- a Christian men's group that fought for traditional gender roles. In 1997 the Avengers attended the Promise Keeper's conference topless. Avengers also distributed parking tickets on cars near the Keepers gathering that stated "illegally parked in a hate free zone." 

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 127-131
Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies -- Meem, Gibson, Alexander, pg. 98

Monday, January 24, 2011

The 80s: Entertainment and Sports

During the 1980s gays and lesbians were often unfairly represented in entertainment. In 1980 the film Cruising was released. This film navigated the extremes of gay culture in New York. Many gay activists protested the filming and upon its release it ended up being a box-office failure. Fortunately the controversy surrounding the film sent a message to Hollywood-- the LGBTQ community would not stand being misrepresented. In 1981 Vito Russo published The Celluloid Closet, a book that criticized Hollywood's representation of homosexuals.

In 1982 the groundbreaking film Making Love was released. The film was the first of its kind in that it portrayed a homosexual relationship that did not end in tragedy. In 1985 William Hurt won an Oscar for his performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman, which has been described as the "first truly positive portrayal of a gay man to come out of Hollywood." On November 11th, 1985 NBC aired a made for TV movie in which a young man comes home to to announce his homosexuality and AIDS diagnosis. The film was received well by audiences but NBC lost money on the project, advertisers were still hesitant about running commercials during a film that touched on homosexuality. On Broadway Torch Song Trilogy (1983) was one of the first plays to to portray a happy gay relationship and in 1985 Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart opened, the first AIDS-related play. 

Homosexuality was and still is a huge taboo in the world of competitive sports. No athlete was willing to announce their homosexuality, and with good reason. In 1975 David Kopay had announced in retirement that he was gay, this caused him to be denied coaching opportunities. In 1981 tennis legend Billie Jean King was publicly outed by her former lover. Her outing lost King contracts with corporate sponsors and therefore she lost a lot of money.

However, in 1982 former-Olympian Dr. Tom Waddell organized the first Gay Olympics. More than 1,300 athletes participated first year in San Francisco. The U.S. Olympic Committee took Waddell to court, trying to bar him from using the word "Olympics" in the name of his event. In 1987 Waddell lost the case in Supreme Court and had to rename the event "Gay Games." The games are held every four years, and by 2006 has grown to host over 11,000 participants. 

Additional/Relevant Reading:
The Brief History of Gay Athletes --
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 108-121

The 80s: Sex Wars

Sex Wars
In 1975 author and activist Rita Mae Brown (pictured below) wrote an essay about the lack of casual sex within the lesbian community. Brown wrote in her essay, “I want the option of random sex with no emotional commitment when I need sheer physical relief. . . . Like men we should have choices: deep, long-term relationships, the baths, short-term affairs.” Studies supported what Brown had written; lesbians were in fact having less sex then gay or heterosexual couples. Thus, in the early 1980s lesbian women went through a sexual revolution of their own.  Lesbian sex businesses involving pornography, S&M, paraphernalia, female only strip shows, and sex magazines began to spring up in lesbian communities.

This exploration of lesbian sexuality renewed overt butch/femme roles in lesbian sexuality. However, these roles were defined loosely and open to interpretation. These new interpretations were nicknamed neo-butch or neo-femme. Phyllis Lyon, founder of Daughters of Bilitis noted, “women play at it rather than being it.” Many lesbians however were distraught by what was seen as an attempt to imitate masculinity and put women in submissive roles. Lesbian-feminist group acted against this by protesting at lesbian-feminist music festivals. This revival of lesbian sexuality was short lived-- the fear of being overtly sexual due to the AIDS epidemic and complying with the relatively conservative 80s scared many radical feminists away.

Political Gains
Despite many setbacks for the LGBTQ community, there were many instances of positive change that occurred in the 1980s. One of these developments was the formation of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in 1980 as a gay/lesbian political lobbying organization. The HRC proved incredibly successful, and by 1988 HRC had become the ninth largest political action committee in the country with a budget of $2.1 million. Similarly in 1985 the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was founded in 1985 to counter inaccurate and sensationalized media coverage of the AIDS epidemic. 

Other milestone achievements include Wisconsin becoming the first state to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against gays (1982). The following year Deborah Johnson and Dr. Zandra Rolon sued Papa Choux restaurant for refusing to seat the pair in the "romantic dining" section. In 1987 gays and lesbians held the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The march drew 650,000 people thus making it at the time the largest civil rights march in history. The march also unveiled the world's largest artwork: the Names Project's AIDS Memorial Quilt. Unfortunately two days after the march approximately eight hundred people were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court for protesting the Bowers v. Hardwick ruling.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 122-127
Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies -- Meem, Gibson, Alexander, pg. 318
Lesbian Sex Wars --

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 80s: Politics and Protest

Two Roadblocks
In 1986 the gay rights movement experienced two blows to its progress. The first involved the Vatican which issued a statement to Roman Catholic bishops describing homosexuality as "a tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil." The letter also stated that officials should withdraw support from gay organizations. This huge reduction in support was a surprise to the LGBTQ community who were already busy with the task of defending themselves against the AIDS panic. 

The second blow came from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick. In 1982 Michael Hardwick was arrested for sodomy. Georgia, unlike many other states, had never repealed its old laws against sodomy. The case was appealed to Supreme Court; if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hardwick it would nullify all sodomy laws in the U.S. and thus pave the way for other anti-discrimination laws. Unfortunately the court came back with a 5-4 verdict against Hardwick, claiming "millenia of moral teaching" as justification. The impact of this would be that for the next ten years it would be illegal in some states to have private, consensual, gay sex.

Boiling Point
In Spring of 1986 the National Cancer Institute announced that a drug called zidovudine, more commonly known as AZT, showed promise in treating AIDS, but it wasn't available until the following year. When it was released, the drug was priced at $10,000 for a year's supply, thus making it one of the most expensive medications ever sold. In December 1986 Avram Finkelstein led a poster campaign in New York called 'Silence = Death'. The image soon became the symbol for gay activism. The following year a small radical group called the Lavender Hill Mob started media 'zapping' in order to protest the sluggish medical bureaucracy and the lack of funding for AIDS research. 

In March 1987, Kramer was featured as the weekly speaker at New York's Lesbian and Gay Community Center. There he gave a speech which inspired three hundred people to gather two days later and form the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). ACT UP described themselves as "united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis." The groups first goal was to make an early release of all experimental drugs used to treat AIDS. ACT UP thus descended onto wall street to fight the pharmaceutical giant Burroughs Wellcome. The protesters laid down in the middle of the street and brown rush-hour traffic to a standstill. 

Other protests ACT UP did involved throwing fake money onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and having "Die-Ins" along Wall Street. Similarly, when Northwest Airlines decided to deny tickets to people with AIDS, ACT UP flooded the airline with false reservations. Some members threw buckets of fake blood into public places, shouting "AIDS blood." At the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Maryland, one thousand people held a protest over a nine-hour period. 

ACT UP's most controversial protest was held in December 1989, during Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Protesters entered the church, laid down, and handcuffed themselves to the pews. Many of the protesters suffered from AIDS and were visibly sick. Several of the protesters were so sick that they had to be taken out on stretchers. Forty-three people were arrested inside, and sixty-nine others were arrested outside. 

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 118-122
History of ACT UP --
Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian Contemporary History -- Reference, pg. 178-179

The 80s: AIDS (Part II)

In the 1980s the AIDS scare was becoming more powerful. Media, police, and heterosexuals began openly ostracizing members of the gay community in order to separate themselves from the 'gay plague'. Police began using gloves and safety equipment when interacting with people suspected of aids, gay men would be evicted from their home or fired from their job due to suspicion of AIDS. Government regulations began barring gays from working with or handling food, and some were even excluded from continuing education. These acts made it clear to the gay community just has vulnerable (legally) they really were.

Fight Against Aids
Early on the gay community realized they would have to be the ones to create change in the fight against AIDS. In New York, Gay Men's Health Crisis was doing everything in its power to aid in helping gay men affected by AIDS. Though it quickly became largest gay organization in the country, it could not keep up with the constant rise in HIV infections. Despite challenges the group did several great things: created an innovative Buddy Program to help AIDS patients with everyday needs, lobbied the government for AIDS funding, battled discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, created the first AIDS hotline, and worked to increase sex education for gay men. Other organizations similar to GMHC soon were formed: AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF). The arrival of AIDS also helped bring gays and lesbians together as many lesbians essentially dropped their political plans and focused on the new threat of AIDS.

Rock Hudson
AIDS did not receive the attention of American media until July of 1985 when actor Rock Hudson (pictured below) died of the disease. Rock Hudson was a beloved and closeted American actor, and his death brought Hudson's famous friends to the defense of the gay community, specifically actress Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor lent her fame to organizations to increase their donations, volunteers, and funding. She also cofounded amFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research) and founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). Similarly such stars as Elton John, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr., Morgan Fairchild, and Shirley MacLaine all used their star power to raise funding for AIDS research. This public support allowed the nation to begin to view AIDS victim with concern rather than hate.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
The History of AIDS --
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 108-121
Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies -- Meem, Gibson, Alexander, pg. 96-99

The 80s: AIDS (Part I)

The Arrival of AIDS
In the early eighties rumors started circulating among gay New Yorkers of a new "gay cancer." Larry Kramer (pictured below) wrote editorial letters to the New York Native, a gay New York newspaper, begging gay men to be wary of what he thought might be a sexually transmitted illness. In August 1981, he invited about eighty gay men to his apartment, where Friedman-Kien presented statistics about the rising number of what was then the unknown sickness HIV/AIDS. Six months later, Kramer and his friends started Gay Men's Health Crisis, an organization that would one day become the leading AIDS services organization in the country.

Initially there was very little knowledge on what the disease actually was. Described as a rare form of cancer, the Centers for Disease Control dubbed the sickness GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) in 1981. GRID was shortly renamed to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in 1982 after heterosexual hemophiliacs, drug addicts, and Haitians.

There were numerous conflicting ideas on the origin of AIDS. Initially doctors thought AIDS might be the culmination of too many STDs or drug usage. Other ideas grew as well: a psychologist in San Francisco published articles suggesting AIDS was from psychological issues as a child. Some tabloids declared it was a curse,while others simply tried there best to stop themselves from getting infected. Finally in 1984 the National Institute of Health found the "probably cause" of AIDS to be a virus called HTLV-III.

What is AIDS? AIDS is a breakdown of the body's immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to any number of infections that would be harmless to a healthy person. AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, which can be found in bodily fluids such as blood and semen, and it is most often transmitted in three ways: unprotected sex, sharing used needles, and being born from an HIV-positive mother. Since its naming in 1982, AIDS has exploded and affected all parts of the world.

AIDS and Bathhouses
The speed at which AIDS was spread throughout the gay community was alarming. Bathhouses only helped to catalyze this speed. Gay bathhouses have been a fixture of American cities since the early 1900s, and the sexual revolution of the 1970s only further their existence. Baths often included dance music, alcohol, drugs, anonymous sex, and group orgies. At the time gay men didn't even consider using condoms-- they had no risk of pregnancy and most of the time getting an STD could be removed by a quick trip to the doctor.

In 1983 gay activist Larry Littlejohn, former president of the Society for Individual Rights (SIR), concluded that the promiscuity at gay bathhouses was expediting the speed at which AIDS was being spreed. Littlejohn began campaigning to have the city close bathhouses down, however he found much unexpected backlash from the gay community. Littlejohn and his supporters came to be largely hated by the gay community, some even suggesting the removal of bathhouses was the next step toward forced concentration camps for gay men.

After a drawn out political fight with the gay community, city public health director Mervyn Silverman closed the baths in October 1984. In New York baths were closed down in 1985 though many still protested. Gay activist Larry Kramer later remember, "Oh God, the battle over whether or not to close the baths became such  a red herring because of this issue of sexual freedom. It took all our energy, and it took all our fighting. It shouldn't have been an issue, period.

Stigma: AIDS = Gay 
Because of the correlation between homosexuality and AIDS, in 1983 the FDA began excluding men who had or have sex with other men. Views on this were conflicted; many felt that the act saved lives and was a precaution while other felt it was restricting LGBTQ rights. Admittedly, the decision had a positive effect. All blood began being tested for HIV and while then getting an HIV infection from blood was one in 2,500, it is now less than one in a million.

Meanwhile, the federal government did little to help the plight of gay men. Although the CDC had labeled it an epidemic in 1981, President Ronald Reagan ignored the disease. In fact, Reagan didn't even say the word "AIDS" publicly until 1986 and his first major speech on the subject was in 1987 (when more than 21,000 people had already died from it). Secretary Margaret Heckler (pictured below at a conference about AIDS) refused to ask for more funding suggesting that they had everything under control. In reality researchers for a cure for AIDS had to beg, borrow, and steal from other programs to advance research efforts. Congress was thus forced to pass laws to force the federal government to direct more funding towards AIDS research.

Many Christian evangelicals with influence didn't help things for the gay community. Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority political action group believed that gay men deserved to die from AIDS. Pat Buchanan, Regan's communications director, stated that AIDS was "nature's revenge on gay men." Soon North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms amended a bill to prohibit AIDS education efforts that encouraged or promoted homosexual activity. This effectively stopped organizations from explaining safe sex to gay men. There were people in government who fought for education on AIDS, however with little funding and support their efforts were largely in vain.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
The History of AIDS --
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 108-121
Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies -- Meem, Gibson, Alexander, pg. 96-99

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The 70s: Assassination

Anita Bryant
As the decade drew to a close several events worked against the progress gay activists had made. In 1977 Florida Beauty Queen Anita Bryant made it her duty to fight against a Dade County nondiscrimination bill protecting homosexuals. Bryant was a devoted member of the Northwest Baptist Church and felt that the new law "condones immorality and discriminates against my children's rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community." A group of like-minded political and religious leaders worked with Mrs. Bryant to form Save Our Children, Inc., an organization that slandered the name of homosexuals. Save Our Children used slogans and petitions to imply homosexuals were amoral and child molesters. Bryant soon published a book explaining her ideas titled "The Anita Bryant Story: The Survival of Our Nation's Families and the Threat of Militant Homosexuality. Bryant's tactics were effective, and soon pro-LGBT laws were struck down and the gay rights movement took two steps back.

Anita Bryant and Save Our Children represented the first organized enemy to the gay rights movement. However, despite Save Our Children's progress their efforts rattled the gay community to action. The pride parades of 1977 saw record numbers of participants-- with 250,000 marching in San Francisco alone.  Gays and lesbians also retaliated by boycotting Florida orange juice. 

Similar to Anita Bryant, senator John Briggs put together a referendum on whether homosexuals could teach in public schools. Briggs stated, "Homosexuals want your children. They don't have any children of their own. If they don't recruit children or very young people, they'd all die away. They have no means of replenishing. That's why they want to be teachers." Fortunately, the Briggs Initiative, Proposition 6, was defeated in November 1978. Meanwhile in Seattle a group named Save Our Moral Ethics Bryant-like attempt to repeal the city's gay rights laws was shot down. 

Harvey Milk
In November of 1978 gay city supervisor Harvey Milk found himself working along-side San Francisco resident and conservative Dan White. Ten days after White resigned his position he asked Mayor George Moscone to reinstate him. White's political enemies blocked the reappointment, and on a Monday morning in late November Dan White snuck into City Hall and shot both Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk dead.

The ensuing trial for Dan White was a joke: the jury selection was questionable, the prosecution did a poor job, and the defense argued that White's antisocial behavior was caused by eating lots of junk food. White was sentenced to a light seven years and eight months hard time. That night, May 21st, 197, thousands of angry protesters converged on City Hall and trashed a dozen police cars. The police struck back, thus hospitalizing sixty-one police officers and one hundred gays. This occurrence would come to be known as the "White Night Riots."

Both Anita Bryant and White's unjust behavior didn't last long. Bryant faced constant harassment from gay rights protesters, stopped receiving invitations to perform, and the Florida Citrus Commission decided that she was too controversial to keep on. Bryant eventually filed for bankruptcy. White got out of prison in 1985, however he was unable to find work and committed suicide within a year. In White's wake Harvey Milk's death had become a rallying symbol for the gay rights movement. In 1979 activists held the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, drawing one hundred thousand participants. Randy Shilts published a biography of the "Mayor of Castro Street" in 1982, and in 1984 the documentary film The Life and Times of Harvey Milk won an academy award.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 70s: American Psychiatric Association

In 1970 the American Psychiatric Association included a program on "Issues of Sexuality" at its annual conference in San Francisco. In the middle of the discussion several radical homosexual activists got up and demanded they be heard. The APA was flustered and in fear of future incidents offered gay rights activists the opportunity to participate in a panel. The 1971 panel went smoothly, but did not get the kind of attention activists had hoped for. Franklin Kameny and Barbara Gittings set up an exhibit on gay issues at the conference and soon found that there were many straight psychiatrists who agreed with their views of homosexuality, and even a group of closeted gay psychiatrists within the APA.

Gittings and Kameny figured that if they presented a gay psychiatrist at next year's panel they could convince the APA that they were wrong in their understanding of homosexuals. Finally one psychiatrist agreed to present himself as "Dr. Henry Anonymous." However, the doctor wore a mask and used a voice-distorting microphone to conceal his appearance. The anonymous presenter was extremely effective and by December of 1973 the Board of Trustees had voted in favor of homosexuality's reclassification.

Tragedy in New Orleans
In 1973 the local branch of the Metropolitan Community Church held its services in a gay bar called UpStairs in the French Quarter of New Orleans. During service someone set fire to the wooden stairs leading to the second-floor front door of the bar then that person rang the buzzer and made their escape. At least ten people jumped to their deaths, while some got stuck in the windows and burned to death. Fifteen people were sent to the hospital, and twenty-nine bodies were collected-- although a total of thirty-two people would eventually die from the fire.

The community was embarrassed by the event because it involved homosexuals. Therefore, no press or talk of the real reason behind this tragedy happened. The victims of the event were looked down on and ostracized in their community-- now that they had publicly been outed New Orleans would no longer support them or their well-being.

A Flurry of Progress:
Overall the 1970s showed much progress in the gay rights movement. Gay rights activists were finding more and more supporters among straight politicians, most notably New York City Congresswoman Bela Abzug and San Francisco's State Assemblyman Willie Brown. The Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club, a San Francisco gay political club, organized the gay voting bloc in the city and helped arrange speakers at the national Democratic convention in 1972. In 1973 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was formed as a truly national gay rights organization.

The NGLTF created much change for the American homosexual. They were instrumental in getting the U.S. Civil Service Commission to stop excluding homosexuals from federal employment in 1975, and it helped make gay rights an official priority of the Democratic Party during the 1976 and 1980 national conventions. Activists even nominated a gay vice presidential candidate, Melvin Boozer, for the Democratic Party at the 1980 convention. In 1975, Elaine Noble, elected to office in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was the first openly homosexual legislator. In San Francisco a young gay camera shop owner named Harvey Milk won a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1977. In March of that same year gay activists were invited for a meeting with President Jimmy Carter's public liaison, Midge Costanza.

Unfortunately all this progress would not increase. Towards the end of the decade the gay rights movement lost its fervor. Many attribute this laziness about political action among gays and lesbians as being attributed to the general dissipation of the Left and the end of the antiwar movement. Thus the gay culture became enveloped in partying and discos. Though this highly stereotypical image of homosexuals as party-goers did allow them to be more openly discussed in mainstream media, the image created for the culture became one of comic-relief for straight eyes. 

The 70s: Feminists and Lesbians Unite

Feminists and Lesbians Unite
Despite the growing number of organizations such as GAA and GLF, lesbians were severely underrepresented in homophile groups. Many lesbians had focused their efforts on the women's rights movement, rather than that of the gay rights movement. Some straight women in the women's rights movement feared the growing number of their members who were lesbian. Author of The Feminist Mystique and founder of the National Organization of Women (NOW), Betty Friedan, described lesbians as a "lavender menace" that she believed was threatening the movement.

In 1970 a group of lesbians sought to fight against this discrimination within their own gender. In may of that year at the Congress to Unite Women, seventeen women took control of the stage (and therefore the conference) wearing T-shirts declaring themselves the "Lavender Menace." The stunt proved successful and women's rights groups quickly passed resolution in support of lesbians. However, some feminists remained suspicious of lesbian support.

Following the Congress to Unite Women, the Lavender Menaces formed Radicalesbians. Radical lesbians were 'women-identified-women' who put women first in everything. Unfortunately this caused many radical feminists to declare themselves "political lesbians" but not women who pursue homosexual relationships. This sought to undermine homosexuality by deeming it a choice. 

The new lesbian-feminist rejected both the upper/middle-class lesbian identity of a sensible, skirt-wearing woman as well as the butch/femme roles of the working-class bars. Instead lesbian-feminists soon developed for themselves an androgynous, slightly butch appearance. Some lesbian-feminists tried to create communities solely for women-- a community in which male social standards were completely removed. Music also became incredibly important within the radical lesbian-feminist community. Women's music became known for its political, angry, and affirmative lyrics about women's/lesbians' value. 

By the end of the 1970s most lesbian-feminist groups had died out due to interpersonal conflicts and the difficulty in being politically correct in everything. However, the short-lived lesbian-feminist movement set an example for all lesbians to feel pride and demand more from a nation which had historically ignored their rights. Also, because lesbian separatist groups were so extreme, mainstream society was much more willing to consider appeals of less radical LGBTQ groups.
Talks of Marriage
In January of 1971 homosexual couple Jack Baker and J. Michael McConnell were featured as part of Look magazine's "The American Family" issue. The couple were presented as a traditional alternative to the assumed stereotype of gay men as sex-crazed and pathological. In May of 1970 the couple had applied for a marriage license, however it was denied and the ensuing media coverage caused McConnell to lose his job offer at a university.

Soon the couple was battling the city and the university for discrimination. Baker was president of the campus gay group FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) and he used the media coverage from this event to run for student body president. His campaign featured campy posters that won him the election in April 1971. Unfortunately, the couple lost both of their legal cases under appeal. 

The 70s: The New Left Movement

The New Left Movement
Influenced by radical changes in black and women's rights, New York Mattachine's Dick Leitsch started up the Mattachine Action Committee to appease new radical activists. Using this committee Leitsch reinforced that education, not violence, was the key to equality for LGBTQ individuals. However, members of the committee disagreed with Leitsch's peaceful tactics. One member in particular, Jim Fouratt, was so angered by this call for peace that he organized a more radical organization titled the Gay Liberation Front. GLF approached the gay rights movement with a radical perspective very different than the Mattachine's. GLF spent much of its time holding large marches and discussion on homosexuality as a parallel to gender and/or racial discrimination.

Though more generalized in its intentions, the GLF influenced many points of change in gay rights. The Los Angeles GLF's first public action targeted a restaurant in West Hollywood called Barney's Beanery. The restaurant hosted a sign above its entrance that stated (incorrect spelling included), "Fagots Stay Out." In January 1970 GLF members led by Rev. Troy Perry of the LGBT-oriented Metropolitan Community Church began to protest outside the Beanery. Within weeks the protesters had swelled to over one hundred and fifty. Finally after months of protesting the Beanery took down its sign.

In December 1969 New York activists who were frustrated with the unorganized activities of the GLF formed the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), an organization solely dedicated to homosexual rights. This new group, unlike former ones, had strict rules and procedures. The goal of the GAA was to secure gay rights by using confrontational, militant tactics that went beyond the methods of the homophile radicals of the late 60s. 

The most successful method used by the GAA was the 'media zap'. GAA cofounder Marty Robinson believed that the best way to get support was to pressure supposedly liberal politicians. Thus politicians were accosted on the streets and made to answer on opinions of homosexuality and political equality.Such occurrences were largely dramatized and used for media purposes yet proved remarkably effective. Zapping ended up swaying the opinions of several politicians including New York Mayor John V. Lindsay and City Councilwoman Carol Greitzer. 

In 1970 the GAA led New York City's first pride parade, and soon after the GAA became so large it formed a headquarters in an abandoned firehouse in the SoHo area of downtown New York. 

Parents Get Called In
In 1972 Jeanne Manford wrote a letter to the New York post complaining about how the police didn't intervene to protect her son in a gay protest. Soon enough Jeanne was appearing on television shows as a real life gay parents. In 1972 Jeanne marched with her son in the third annual Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade carrying a poster that read: "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children." This was what sparked the creation of PFLAG National-- Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Chapters began popping up all over America to give support to parents and family coming to terms with their children's sexual orientation.

The 60s: East Coast Politics

East Coast Politics
In the mid 60s homophile groups became increasingly more radical and made use of direct-action protests. In 1965 ECHO organized picket-line protests of government discrimination in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. They also planned an annual reminder picketing at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July Fourth to remind the general public that homosexuals didn't have the same freedoms as other Americans. This in itself was an amazingly courageous act. At the time it was taboo to openly express your homosexuality, however these people gave away their anonymity in order to progress gay civil rights.

In New York, Mattachine president Dick Leitsch and two other Mattachine members, Craig Rodwell and John Timmons, held a 'sip-in' on 1966 to protest the State Liquor Authority's policy of closing down bars that served homosexuals. The three men went to several bars (with reporters), admitted their homosexuality to the bartender, and then attempted to purchase a drink. The first two bars gave them drinks, but the third denied them. The Mattachine society thus filed a complaint with the State Liquor Authority and in 1967 the court ruled that serving a homosexual did not constitute having your liquor license revoked.

In 1966 homophile organizations from across the country organized to create one national group: NACHO, the North American Conference of Homosexual Organizations. This groups began to compile studies and legal cases which progressed the gay rights movement. In 1968 NACHO adopted "Gay Is Good" as its slogan. However, though progress was being made few American's were even aware of these organizations, and in comparison to the black rights movement little headway was being made.

The 60s: Dr. Franklin Kameny and Early Politics

Dr. Franklin Kameny
In 1957 Dr. Franklin Kameny was fired from his work at the U.S. Army map service because of his homosexuality. Kameny was outraged by this decision as he had a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard and was qualified for the position. This act also barred him from other career opportunities as it was now on his records that he was homosexual. In 1961 Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. and was elected its president. Through the Mattachine Society Kameny would prove himself as one of the most influential gay activists of his time.

Kameny's first priority was his fight with the federal government over the ban of homosexuals from civil employment. In 1962 Kameny's Mattachine Society wrote letters to government leaders in Congress, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and the White House. Over the course of the year Kameny and his supporters continuously pressured officials for meaningful dialogue on the topic and eventually got the American Civil Liberties Union to change its stance on gay rights. Originally (1957) the ACLU supported sodomy statues as well as the bang of GLBTQ individuals from government jobs. However, by 1964 the organization had changed its stance and even encouraged its branches to take on gay rights cases.

Kameny strongly believed that homophile organizations remove homosexuality as being a psychiatric disorder.  In 1964 Kameny gave a speech in which he stated that the "entire homophile movement is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether homosexuality is a sickness, and upon our taking a firm stand on it." In 1965 the Washington Mattachine approved an anti-sickness resolution and GLBTQ organizations joined in an annual conferenced called the East Coast Homophile Organization (ECHO).

Daughters of Bilitis
Daughters of Bilitis was the first lesbian rights organization in the US. Organized in 1955, the organization began to release a newsletter titled 'The Ladder' for lesbian women. In 1963 Barbara Gittings, editor of 'The Ladder', met Kameny at an ECHO conference. The two became close friends and through working with him Gittings became more frustrated with the Daughters of Bilitis's dependence on authorities who had little concern over GLBTQ matters. Gittings thus changed the presentation of The Ladder and made it a more provocative and liberal piece. Unfortunately reactions were mostly negative and soon Gittings and other radical DOB members left to work independently. 

 California: the Homosexual Capital 
In 1959 San Francisco mayoral candidate Russell Wolden attempted to win paranoid votes by stating that San Francisco was quickly turning into the homosexual capital of America. Unfortunately for Wolden this tactic lost him votes as newspapers attacked him for "stigmatizing" the city. Though he lost the race the implications he had made had cemented-- San Francisco was becoming America's gay mecca. In 1961 famous drag performer Jose Sarria would run as a city supervisor. Though he lost the race, this did stir the homosexual community and made it clear the LGBTQ community could have political power.

In 1961 a San Francisco homophile group, the League for Civil Education, started publishing LCE News and distributing them at the city's gay bars. Attempting to reach out to LGBTQ individuals who attended bars had never been tried before and it turned out to be huge success printing more copies in its first year than ONE, The Ladder, and the Mattachine Review had combined. 

At the same time a group of San Francisco gay bars formed the Tavern Guild to provide coordinated legal defense against arrests and harassment of gay establishments. Then in 1964, Bill and Nancy May, Bill Plath, and others formed the Society for Individual Rights o focus on building a community of homosexuals in San Francisco. The SIR was largely organized and focuses around the interests of the members. Because of the SIR's willingness to appease it members, within two years the SIR became the largest homophile organization in the country.