Wayne R. Dynes

Brief History of the GLBT Movement in the US

Originally published in a shorter version by Homolexis.blogspot.com, November 4, 2010.
Reproduced here with permission of the author.


4. THE HOMOPHILE ERA (1950-1969)
APPENDIX: Bibliographical Control

Historically, the roots of the worldwide movement for gay and lesbian civil rights lay in Central Europe.  Following important scholarly contributions by Heinrich Hössli and K.H. Ulrichs, the world's first homosexual organization came into being in 1897. This was the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), founded in Berlin under the leadership of Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), a physician who became the leading, if controversial, authority on same-sex behavior in the years that followed.

Outside Germany the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee only gradually attracted imitators, one reason being that countries that followed the Code Napoléon had no criminal statute to spur efforts for legal reform.  In the Netherlands a branch was founded in 1911. Another offshoot of the Committee appeared in Vienna in 1906 to seek reform of the Austrian law of 1852.

More informally, trends in favor of gay rights developed in France and, almost clandestinely, in Great Britain. In fact, the English-speaking world lagged sadly behind Europe, as the traditional "Anglo-Saxon attitudes" toward sexuality changed but slightly in spite of protests after the condemnation of Oscar Wilde. At the end of the 1920s Bertrand Russell wrote that it would be virtually impossible to discuss the findings of modem psychologists on sexuality in print because of the English laws on "criminal obscenity," which the courts had defined as the power to corrupt any individual "into whose hands the publication might fall." A British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology had been established in 1914, but its real interest focused in the subcommittee on sexual inversion which was surreptitiously a "committee of the whole."


In the United States, Henry Gerber, who had served in the American Army of Occupation in the Rhineland, attempted to transplant the ideas and organizational forms of the German movement. In December 1924 the (Chicago) Society for Human Rights received a charter from the state of Illinois; it was officially dedicated to "promote and protect" the interests of those who, because of "mental and physical abnormalities" were hindered in the "pursuit of happiness." It lasted only long enough to publish a few issues of the newspaper Friendship and Freedom, modeled on the German periodical Freundschaft und Freiheit. One member of the ill-fated group was a bisexual whose wife complained to a social worker, with the result that all four members of the group were arrested without a warrant. Gerber lost all his savings and had only the bitter memory that no one came to the aid of the organization.

With the exception of Gerber's heroic effort, the United States had no tradition of homosexual movement activity, though many Americans had lived in Central Europe and Hitler's persecution brought exile and emigré homosexuals to such centers of the American gay underworld as New York and Los Angeles. "Vice squads" of the metropolitan police forces regularly entrapped homosexual men, raided bars, and generally intimidated public manifestations of same-sex proclivities. As early as 1948 in Southern California "Bachelors for Wallace" had appeared as a cover for the gathering of homosexuals, but Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy's campaign against" sex perverts in government" put the gay community on the defensive: its response was the founding of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles by Henry (Harry) Hay in December 1950. With leadership modeled on the organizational forms and practices of the American Communist Party and of freemasonry, it designed a five-tiered structure that would preserve the anonymity of members while allowing the highest tier to control the entire group. The founders conceived homosexuals in a separatist manner as a minority deprived of identity and rights, and needing a new consciousness of its history and place in society. Initial successes of the group led to growth in Southern California and spread to the San Francisco Bay Area, with chapters elsewhere in the country (these became independent in 1961). Mattachine also had a nationally circulated monthly, ONE, which for the first time provided American homosexuals with a forum for discussion of their problems and aspirations. In the course of time ONE emerged as a separate organization, while the original group's San Francisco branch issued Mattachine Review.

ONE Inc.'s Articles of Incorporation were dated on November 15, 1952 and were signed by “Tony Sanchez” (a pseudonym), Martin Block, and Dale Jennings. Other founders were Merton Bird, W. Dorr Legg, Don Slater, and Chuck Rowland. Jennings and Rowland were also Mattachine Society founders.

In January 1953 ONE, Inc. began publishing ONE Magazine, the first U.S. pro-gay publication, selling it openly on the streets of Los Angeles and elsewhere by mail. In October 1954 the U.S. Postal Service declared the magazine “obscene.” ONE sued, and finally won in 1958, as part of the landmark First Amendment case, Roth v. United States. The monthly continued until 1967.

In the spring of 1965 ONE divided in two over irreconcilable differences between ONE's business manager Dorr Legg and ONE Magazine editor Don Slater. After a two-year court battle, Dorr Legg's faction retained the name “ONE, Inc.,” while Don Slater's faction kept much of the archives. In 1968, Slater's faction became the Homosexual Information Center  (HIC) a non-profit corporation that survives today.

In 1996, ONE, Inc. merged with ISHR, the Institute for the Study of Human Resources, a non-profit organization created by transgendered philanthropist Reed Erickson. In October 2010, ONE transferred its archives to the University of Southern California for preservation.

Returning now to the 1950s, the anti-Communist campaigns of the cold war did not leave the Mattachine Society untouched, and in 1953 an open struggle developed between the founders and a new set of leaders who challenged their "separatist" ideology, instead stressing the normality of homosexuals as differing from other Americans only in sexual identity. With this assimilationist program went a rejection of activism, so that the group could only by proxy appeal for toleration and understanding - through psychiatrists, jurists, sociologists, and the like who would come forward as seemingly disinterested authorities.

The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) ranks as the first lesbian rights group in the United States. A couple, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, started the group in San Francisco in October 1955. Lasting for fourteen years, the organization was conceived as a social alternative to lesbian bars, which subject to raids and police harassment. DOB gave birth to The Ladder, the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the United States. Edited by Barbara Gittings and others, the magazine was published monthly from 1956 to 1970,and once every other month in 1971 and 1972.

In 1953 a series of sensational trials in England brought the subject of homosexuality to the attention of Parliament. Urged by the Church of England and a number of prominent intel­lectuals, the Conservative government appointed a Committee on Homosexual Offenses and Prostitution headed by John Wolfenden. After hearing the testimony of witnesses from the British establishment, the Committee voted 12-1 in favor of repeal of the existing laws punishing male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. The Wolfenden Report, published in September 1957, proved a major landmark in the evolution of public opinion in the English-speaking world. It held that sexual acts belonged to the realm of private life which was not the law's business, rejecting the theological arguments that these were "crimes against nature," "contrary to the will of God," and the like, just as it dismissed the notion of homosexuality as a disease, finding it - to the chagrin of the psychiatric establishment - compatible with full mental and physical health.

In a country where the whole subject had been taboo since time immemorial, and where German homophile literature had remained largely unknown, the public discussion of the Wolfenden Report put the issue on the agenda and set the precedent, though ten years were to pass before a Labour government enacted the recommendations.

At the time, these British developments were closely followed in the United States, where in 1961 the American Bar Association's drafting of a model penal code that omit­ted homosexual offenses from the roster of punishable acts. Illinois, in 1961, became the first state to enact this recommendation. Furthermore, professors of criminal law at the major schools began to teach the coming generation of lawyers that "victimless crimes" had no place on the statute books because they violated the freedom and privacy of the individual, and in the ensuing decades most of the states of the Union struck the archaic laws from the books either by legislative act or by an appellate court decision holding them unconstitutional.  Much of the credit for this change is due to the work of the National Committee for Sexual Civil Liberties headed by Arthur Warner. However, it was not until the United States Supreme Court took action in 2003 that the sodomy laws finally disappeared in this country.


Arguably, the period from 1961 to 1969 saw the evolution of the American homophile movement from a defensive, self-doubting handful of small, struggling groups in California and the Boston-Washington corridor to an assertive, self-confident, nationally organized (if ideologically divided) collection of some three score organizations with substantial allies and a string of major gains for which it could take credit.

A characteristic figure in the ideological change was Franklin E. Kameny, a Harvard-trained astronomer, who became president of the Mattachine Society of Washington after unsuccessfully fighting his dismissal from a government job. Where the previous leaders of the movement emphasized "helping the individual homosexual adjust to society," Kameny and such associates as Barbara Gittings, Randy Wicker, and Dick Leitsch urged a program of militant action designed to transform society on behalf of a homosexual community which was perfectly capable of speaking for itself. Not the psychiatrists, not the theologians, not the heterosexual "authorities," but homosexuals themselves were the experts on homosexuality, they insisted. Progress would come not by accommodation to the powers-that-be but by publicly applied pressure, legal action, demonstrations, and aggressive publicity.

Operating from his base in Washington, DC, Kameny targeted the federal government's discriminatory practices in employment, military service, security clearances (a key to employment in large sectors of private industry), and other areas. Finding that government officials were relying on the doctrines current in psychoanalytic and other psychiatric circles to the effect that homosexuality was a debilitating mental illness, Kameny launched a systematic and rigorously formulated attack on the medical model in July 1964. While this effort would make considerable progress during the 1960s, gaining support from a National Institutes of Mental Health task force under Dr. Evelyn Hooker (1969), it was not to reach its triumphant conclusion until a 1973 vote by the American Psychiatric Association. More importantly, the campaign transformed the self-image of the American homosexual from one which internalized many of the most negative characteristics attributed to homosexuals by homophobic "authorities" to one which embraced his slogan "Gay is good."

Other activists, such as Laud Humphreys and Arthur Cyrus Warner, preferred to work more quietly, though their efforts too reflected the new mood of urgency. The National Committee for Sexual Civil Liberties, headed by Warner, orchestrated a subtle and resourceful campaign of sodomy decriminalization, which proceeded methodically on a state-by-state basis through the 1960s and 1970s.

Throughout the decade, mass media coverage of homosexuality snowballed, starting with Randy Wicker's publicity barrage of 1962 in New York and extending through articles on homosexual lifestyles in national magazines, until the once-forbidden topic had become a common subject for television and newspapers. In the process, previously isolated homosexuals became aware of the gay subculture and the homophile movement in large numbers and the ground was laid for substantial shifts in public, as well as professional, opinion on issues of concern to the movement. Notable also was the favorable publicity and financial support extended to the hard-pressed movement from the Playboy empire.

The movement's involvement with the social life of homosexuals was another major development of the sixties, originating in San Francisco. First came the organizing of gay bars there in the Tavern Guild (1962), then the founding of the Society for Individual Rights (S. I. R.) in September 1964, combining a militant stance with social activities. This led to the first gay community center in April 1966, and made S. I. R., with nearly a thousand members, the largest homophile organization in the country.

Other milestones in San Francisco saw the involvement of liberal clergymen and then whole religious groups (Council on Religion and the Homosexual), founded by the Rev. Ted Mcllvenna in December 1964, and spreading to a number of other cities later in the decade); and the beginnings of productive political involvement with candidates for office and city officials (August 1966). These innovations heralded San Francisco's later reputation as the "gay capital" of the United States.

Southern California contributed the first nationally distributed large-circulation homophile news magazine, The Advocate (1967 onward). Dick Michaels, the magazine's editor, represented a new type that became influential: the journalist-activist. In October 1968, Los Angeles witnessed the founding by the Rev. Troy Perry of the first gay church, the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC); from the start the MCC and its leaders were heavily involved in the homophile movement and provided major financial and personnel support.

Another organizational breakthrough of lasting importance was the establishment of the homophile movement in academia, beginning with the founding of the Student Homophile League at New York's Columbia University by Stephen Donaldson (Robert Martin) in October 1966. Granted a charter by the university in April 1967, and making front-page headlines around the world, the student movement spread quickly and contributed a major impetus first to the spread of militancy and later to the radicalization of the homophile movement.

An important victory on the issue of employment discrimination came with the Bruce Scott case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed Scott's disqualification for federal employment in a June 1965 decision. This set the ground for the Civil Service Commission's acceptance of homosexuals in the 1970s. Piecemeal progress was made on the issue of security clearances, while efforts to gain admission to the armed forces remained stymied.

Another result of the new mili­tancy was the recognition by the Ameri­can Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the move­ment as a legitimate civil rights activity. The national ACLU reversed its policy in 1967 under pressure from the Washington, D.C., area affiliate, which began backing homophile causes in 1964, supported by the two California affiliates; this decision did much to legitimize the movement and gave it much-needed support on a wide range of legal and legislative issues.

On a local rather than a national scale, homophile organizations were often involved in contesting police practices, and were successful in halting raids on gay bars and entrapment of homosexuals in New York, San Francisco, and other cities. This effort probably had the greatest impact on the life of the average homosexual in the cities concerned.

A major transformation in the movement of the 1960s led from the clos­eted, fearful members of the early 1960s, operating under pseudonyms and avoiding involvement with the public, to the highly visible and equally vocal activist of the latter part of the decade. Landmarks in this evolution were the first public demonstra­tions organized by the movement in the spring of 1965 at the United Nations in New York in April and at the White House on May 29. The latter picket, with seven men and three women participating, gained nationwide television coverage, thus exposing the new gay militancy to a nationwide audience for the first time.

These changes in philosophy, strategy, and tactics did not come easily, but were accompanied by bitter struggles within the movement between the new militants and the old-guard "accommodationists"; the New York Mattachine Society, which was captured by militants in a crucial election in May 1965, and the Daughters of Bilitis in particular were wracked by internal struggles and eventually foundered. New groups took their place; a tendency by the movement to devour its leaders generated continual organizational instability. Despite these problems, the period witnessed a growth in the total membership of its groups from under a thousand in 1961 to an estimated eight to ten thousand by the spring of 1969.

While there is a popular tendency to believe that nothing of importance happened in the homophile movement until it expanded to the dimensions of a mass movement in the summer of 1969, such a view proves on examination to be highly superficial. The explosion of the 1970s was made possible only by the laborious efforts of the pioneers of the 1960s, and in particular by the victory of the militants. As John D'Emilio pointed out, "their decisive break with the acommodationist spirit of the 1950s opened important options for the homophile cause. The militants' rejection of the medical model, their assertion of equality, their uncompromising insistence that gays deserved recognition as a persecuted minority, and their defense of homosexuality as a viable way of living loosened the grip of prevailing norms on the self-conception of lesbi­ans and homosexuals and suggested the contours of a new, positive gay identity."

One of the characteristic developments of the homophile movement in the 1960s was its attempt to forge a semblance of first regional, then national, and finally continental unity under the umbrella of a common organization. Frank Kameny initiated this effort, stimulating the for­mation in January 1963, in Philadelphia, of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO). It was this loose confederation of four groups which sponsored the series of public demonstrations launched in May of 1965 at the White House, and it played a major role in gaining control of the movement on the East Coast by the militants.

The next step was the formation of a national grouping, established at a Kansas City conference of fifteen groups in February, 1966, as the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations. Meeting in San Francisco in August of 1966, this loose assembly reconvened in Washington a year later, where it changed its name to the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), developed an organizational structure with officers, by-laws, and established three regional subsidiaries (ECHO became ERCHO).

Though wracked by infighting among the groups, NACHO provided a largely informal but no less important boost to a sense of common purpose and identity among the leaders who attended its annual meetings and more frequent regional conferences, and to a certain extent among the rank-and-file members who read of its activities. It facilitated the spread of a militant approach on a nationwide basis, and presented the national media and other nationally-organized groups with a more formidable-looking movement.

Much credit for holding NACHO together was due to its secretary and coordinator, Foster Gunnison. Among its more tangible accomplishments, it established a national legal fund, coordinated public demonstrations on a nationwide basis, undertook a number of regional projects, and officially adopted and publicized the "Gay Is Good" slogan (adopted in Chicago in 1968). Furthermore, NACHO and its regional affiliates were instrumental in spreading the movement from its bicoastal base by colonizing the major cities of the North American heartland. And from 1968 until its demise in 1970 it provided a major forum for the growing radical wing of the movement.


The slow pace of the American movement in the 1950s was accelerated in the early and mid-1960s in part under the influence of the black civil rights movement ("Gay Is Good" derives from "Black Is Beautiful"), then injected with the tremendous energies that accompanied the opposition to the war in Vietnam. With American involvement in Vietnam at its peak, student uprisings shook the campuses of Columbia and Harvard Universities in 1968 and 1969, and by the late spring of 1969 the country was in a mood of unprecedented mass agitation. It was against this background that New York's Stonewall Rebellion of June 27-30,1969, marked the start of a new, radical, and more militant phase of the homosexual movement in the United States.

In recent years, some scholars have sought to diminish the importance of the Stonewall Rebellion, claiming that it was mainly important because the media had played it up. There is some truth in this assertion, but still the incident had an enormous resonance. Frank Kameny has estimated that in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall, the number of gay and lesbian groups increased ten-fold. Others have pointed to the records of other episodes of resistance. For the most part, however, these were small-scale affairs, occasioned by the mundane occurrence of police raids against gay establishment. While it began as such a police raid, Stonewall expanded to become a mass event involving all sorts of people who were not patrons of the bar. (For a list of pre-Stonewall events, beginning in 1959, see

In the wake of the June 1969 event, the popular movement found a its most immediate expression in New York's Gay Liberation Front (GLF). The GLF was conceived as uniting homosexuals (without guidance or even participation from sympathetic heterosexuals) around their own identity and grievances against an oppressive American society and as organizing them to force their own liberation from the persecution and powerlessness that was their lot even in the "land of the free." The radicals saw themselves as part of a broad alliance of oppressed groups developing autonomously but in an atmosphere of mutual support.

Superficial as was the New Left rhetoric of the Gay Liberation Front, since the analysis of the whole problem began virtually “from scratch,” it had the merit of giving its followers a sense of identity as a group inevitably oppressed by the established social structure. The black and women's movements as well as their homophile predecessors supplied the ideological resources that the growing organization needed to legitimate itself in its own eyes, if not those of the larger society.

The new Gay Liberation activists quickly collided with the pre-Stonewall movement leaders, whom they saw as part of an establishment structure too rigid for the kind of guerrilla warfare unleashed by Stonewall. Only two months after the riot, at the August 1969 NACHO convention in Kansas City, the Youth Committee under Donaldson issued a 12-point "radical manifesto" which stated, "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." The youth leaders further demanded the removal of strictures against prostitution, public sex, and sex by the young; urged the development of independent "homosexual ethics and esthetics," denounced the Vietnam War and declared "the persecution of homosexuality" to be "part of a general attempt to oppress all minorities and keep them powerless."

The committee report was voted down, but the battle had just begun. The next confrontation came at the November 1969 meeting of ERCHO in Philadelphia, when GLF and SHL delegates pushed through a resolution declaring "freedom from society's attempts to define and limit human sexuality," a step beyond the movement's previous insistence on equality into the realm of social autonomy. Chaos ensued and the meeting broke up in disorder.

The handwriting was on the wall: when NACHO reconvened in San Francisco in August, 1970, gay liberation was over a year old and had no use for complex continental organizations with their by­laws, officers, and parliamentary procedures. Deeply divided between reformers and revolutionaries, itself the object of disruption by feminists on its first day and by radicals on its last, NACHO broke up in disorder as the more conservative delegates fled before an invasion by non-delegate radicals. Thus the five-year effort to bring all of North America's movement groups under a single roof collapsed in a tidal wave of gay activists.

In New York, those who called for a return to the "single-issue" approach seceded to found the Gay Activists Alliance, which retained radical tactics of confrontation but focused on the specific problems of homosexuals in American society. "Zaps," sit-ins, blockades, seizures of lecterns and microphones, and disruptive tactics of all kinds were featured in highly publicized scenes which astonished the American public, long used to an image of homosexuals as passive and weak. And now it was not just repeal of the sodomy laws that the movement demanded, but the enactment of positive legislation protecting the rights of homosexual men and women in all spheres of life. None of this would have been possible without the ability of the new groups to call out hundreds and then thousands of supporters, drawing on the post-Stonewall mass base which the homophile movement had never been able to mobilize.

This new wave of mass "coming out" led to the formation of hundreds of gay associations with particular identities: political clubs, student groups, religious organizations, professional caucuses, social clubs, and discussion groups in towns and neighborhoods from one end of the country to the other. Far from the margin to which it had been confined until the end of the 1960s, the movement became an institutionalized part of American life. In the two decades that followed the Stonewall uprising, the movement grew to a network of interest groups as diverse in its origins, as multi-faceted in its identities and aspirations as America itself. National marches held in Washington in 1979 and again in 1987 brought tens of thousands of participants from all sections of the country, rallying behind the banners of hundreds of different groups all demanding their place in the sun.

The proliferation of gay groups in the 1970s led to a fragmentation of concerns and a lessening of a sense of focus for the homophile movement as a whole. Victories were attained on the psychiatric front (the American Psychiatric Association's 1973 vote and subsequent defeat of a campaign to reverse that vote) and in a number of nationwide professional associations, but the struggle for decriminalization continued to be fought on a state-by-state basis, and with the demise of NACHO there was no longer a clearly legitimized national leadership. The Rev. Troy Perry was the most visible homophile spokesman as his Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches expanded to nearly two hundred congregations and Perry engaged in highly publicized hunger strikes, led marches, and addressed protest meetings, even as arson destroyed a number of his church buildings. In 1974, Dr. Bruce Voeller, formerly president of GAA in New York, founded the National Gay Task Force (NGTF, subsequently NLGTF), a membership organization rather than a federation. The NLGTF lobbied on nationwide issues and in the next decade moved to Washington, but it never developed a mass following.

In New York City the march (or parade) known as Christopher Street Liberation Day took place on June 28, 1970. This, the first gay pride march in the United States, covered 51 blocks from Christopher Street to Central Park. Today, GLBT pride parades are held annually in many cities and countries throughout the world, even (though controversially) in Jerusalem and Moscow. The month of June is widely considered Gay Pride Month.

In the seventies, much of the movement was turning its attention to the adoption of gay civil rights laws, ordinances, and executive orders, and to the blocking of numerous attempts to repeal their scattered successes. In the absence of major progress towards a federal civil-rights law, this was a local effort, though the campaigns pro and con often drew considerable nationwide publicity. Portland, Oregon, and St. Paul, Minnesota adopted rights ordinances in 1974, San Francisco in 1978, Los Angeles and Detroit in 1979, and New York City in 1986; Wisconsin adopted a statewide gay rights law in 1981, followed by Massachusetts in 1990 and Hawaii in 1991. Two Christian fundamentalists, the singer Anita Bryant and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, led extensive homophobic campaigns which produced repeal of rights measures in Miami (1977), St. Paul, and Wichita, Kansas. Their efforts, however, suffered a major setback with the defeat in a California statewide vote of the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gay teachers, in 1978.

The 1970s also saw the appearance of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Despite its controversial nature, this concern seemed at first destined to take a place in the overall spectrum of the nascent gay political-activism community. The first Gay Pride parades in New York City included boy-love-themed entries.  But this tolerance was not destined to last.  By 1994, the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the NAMBLA entry in the NYC Gay Pride parade was met with catcalls and derision by some observers.  NAMBLA was excluded from the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).  A key problem was the reluctance of the group to distinguish between pedophilia in the strict sense (erotic attraction to children) and pederasty and ephebophilia (erotic attraction to teenagers).  Even the latter was too much for most mainstream gay men and lesbians, who regarded NAMBLA as a distraction at best, a toxic danger at worst. After an extensive and highly damaging lawsuit (Curley v. NAMBLA) all that remains of the organization today is a website, two postboxes, an archive, and a loosely associated remnant of members.

The Radical Faerie movement started in the United States among gay men as a reflection of the 1970s counterculture.  The Faeries trace their name to the 1979 Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries, organized as a "call to gay brothers" by early gay rights advocates Harry Hay, John Burnside, Don Kilhefner, and Mitch Walker.  Adherents seek to challenge the commercial, consumerist, and "patriarchal" aspects of contemporary GLBT life.  The Faerie subculture shares some characteristics with Neo-Marxism, feminism, paganism, Native American and New Age spirituality, anarchism, the mythopoetic men's movement, radical individualism, the therapeutic culture of self-fulfillment and self-actualization, and earth-based movements in support of sustainable communities.  Embracing a range of expressive styles, the Faeries freely combine spiritual solemnity with camp, gender-bending, and drag.  The magical and "radical humanist" views of Arthur Evans, specifically his 1978 book “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture”, influenced some early members of the movement.   Evans had previously formed the Faery Circle in San Francisco in the fall of 1975, a group that "combined neo-pagan consciousness, gay sensibility, and ritual play."  Some participants have cooperated to create Radical Faerie sanctuaries in rural parts of the US and other countries.  Because of their tendency to separatism, the Faeries have had little direct political impact.

Gay men and lesbians became visible in party politics and sent openly homosexual delegates to Democratic national conventions, forcing battles over "gay rights" planks (a weak one was adopted in 1980), and making homosexuality a presidential campaign issue; under the Carter administration a gay delegation was received by aide Midge Costanza in the White House and military discharge policies were changed to provide for fully Honorable Discharges, though the exclusion of known homosexuals from the armed forces remained intact. Notable here was the effort to avoid discharge by Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, whose fight brought him a Time cover in 1975. In San Francisco, the movement rallied behind supervisor (councilman) Harvey Milk, who was first elected and then assassinated in 1978; elsewhere the movement welcomed the emergence (usually but not always involuntary) of gay legislators and congressmen from their closets.

Reinforcing this movement activity was a thriving gay subculture, with its bars, baths, bookstores, guest houses, and services of all kinds, and above all a press that discussed the issues that confronted the gay community as a segment of American society.

Given the extent of America's influence on popular culture throughout the world, this subculture became a model for gay life everywhere, from Norway to Taiwan--though the Islamic world still resisted this aspect of Westernization. The American example inspired countless imitators of the "life style" of the affluent and hedonistic America of the 1970s. In Europe bars adopted incongruous American names, such as The Bronx and Badlands, while gay rights organizations, retreating from their earlier radical stance, adopted American terminology and tactics.


The 1980s, with their conservative trend in most major industrial countries, confronted the movement with new obsta­cles and challenges. The spread of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the United States and Western Europe meant that ever larger resources of time and money had to go into lobbying around the issues of research on the causes and cure of AIDS and the financing of health care for victims of the syndrome.

The stigma that linked homosexuality with a contagious and fatal condition was exploited by sensation-mongering media eager to profit from public curiosity and fear. The columns of the gay press began to print, week after week, the obituaries of those who had died of the consequences of AIDS, and new organizations such as New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) were formed to deal specifically with this new challenge.

ACT UP was effectively formed in March 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center on West 13th Street in New York City. Larry Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as politically impotent. Ironically, Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983. Kramer posed a question to the audience: "Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?" The answer was "a resounding yes." Approximately 300 people met two days later to form ACT UP.

ACT-UP emphasized direct action. The following are a few examples. On March 24, 1987, 250 ACT UP members demonstrated at Wall Street and Broadway to demand greater access to experimental AIDS drugs and for a coordinated national policy to fight the disease. An Op/Ed article by Larry Kramer published in the New York Times the previous day described some of the issues ACT UP was concerned with. Seventeen ACT UP members were arrested during this civil disobedience event. On March 24, 1988, ACT UP returned to Wall Street for a larger demonstration in which over 100 people were arrested.

On September 14, 1989, seven ACT UP members infiltrated the New York Stock Exchange and chained themselves to the VIP balcony to protest the high price of the only approved AIDS drug, AZT. The group displayed a banner that read, “SELL WELLCOME” referring to the pharmaceutical sponsor of AZT, Burroughs Wellcome, which had set a price of approximately $10,000 per patient per year for the drug, well out of reach of nearly all HIV positive persons. Several days following this demonstration, Burroughs Wellcome lowered the price of AZT to $6,400 per patient per year.

ACT UP held their next action at the New York City General Post Office on the night of April 15, 1987, to a captive audience of people filing last minute tax returns. This event also marked the beginning of the conflation of ACT UP with the Silence = Death Project, which created the famous poster consisting of a right side up pink triangle (an upside-down pink triangle was used to mark gays in Nazi concentration camps) on a black background with the text "SILENCE = DEATH." Douglas Crimp, the ACT-UP chronicler, speaks of the "media savvy" of ACT UP at this demonstration, because the television media "routinely do stories about down-to-the-wire tax return filers." As such, ACT UP was virtually guaranteed media coverage.

In December 1989, approximately 4,500 protesters arrived at St. Patrick's Cathedral during Mass in a demonstration directed toward the Roman Catholic Archdiocese's public stand against AIDS education and condom distribution, as well as its opposition to abortion. One-hundred and eleven protesters were arrested.

In May 1990, ACT UP organized a large choreographed demonstration at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Campus. According to Larry Kramer, this was their best demonstration, but the media almost completely ignored it because of a large fire in Washington, DC on the same day.

As such protests continued, ACT-UP chapters sprang up in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other cities. In Europe similar groups appeared. With success, though, came internal pressures and dissension. In recent years, with the changing nature of the AIDS crisis, ACT UP's membership has dwindled, though several chapters continue to meet.

Another response to the crisis was the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt was displayed first in Washington in 1987 and then in other major cities, providing a public symbol of grief. In many respects, the new activism showed some similarities with that of the sixties, but it was accompanied by a battle-scarred realism regarding means and ends.

In 1986 the gay rights movement suffered a great setback when the U. S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia's sodomy law in its Bowers v. Hardwick decision, dealing a bitter blow to hopes for legal reform. The divided Court not only found that the Constitution afforded no right to consensual homosexual activity in the privacy of one's bedroom, but dismissed arguments to the contrary as "facetious," while freely quoting from the Bible to deny equal protection under the law to gay men and lesbians.

Queer Nation arrived on the scene in the summer of 1990, when militant AIDS activists at New York's Gay Pride parade passed out to the assembled crowd an inflammatory manifesto, printed on both sides of a single newspaper-sized piece of newsprint, bearing the titles "I Hate Straights!" and "Queers Read This!" Within days, in response to the brash, "in-your-face" tone of the broadside, Queer Nation chapters had sprung up in San Francisco and other major cities.

Described by activist scholars Allan Bérubé and Jeffrey Escoffier as the first "retro-future/postmodern" activist group to address gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender concerns, the short-lived organization made a lasting impact on sexual identity politics in the United States. To a significant degree, the relative frequency and acceptability of glbtq representation in mass culture in the 1990s and early twenty-first century can be dated to the emergence of Queer Nation.

Queer Nation had no formal structure or leadership and relied on large, raucous, community-wide meetings to set the agendas and plan the actions of its numerous cleverly named committees and sub-groups (such as LABIA: Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action, and SHOP: Suburban Homosexual Outreach Project). Queer Nation's style drew on the urgency felt in the AIDS activist community about the mounting epidemic and the paucity of meaningful governmental response, and was inspired largely by the attention-grabbing direct-action tactics of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Rather than launching long-term campaigns to create social change, Queer Nation favored short-term, highly visible, media-oriented actions, such as same-sex kiss-ins at shopping malls. Their political philosophy was succinctly summed up in the now-cliched slogan, "We're Here. We're Queer. Get Used to It."

While many took up the new term queer, it eventually settled mainly in academia, where the new field of Queer Studies gained a foothold. Most of the movement adopted the acronym LGBT (sometimes enlarged to LGBTQ, where the Q could stand either for queer or questioning). In both forms, the T for transgender people reflected a new visibility of those groups.


The early 21st-century keynote was assimilation (however much decried by radicals, a dwindling band). The most prominent organization was Human Rights Campaign Fund, headquartered in Washington, DC. This group, well organized and funded though too conformist for the taste of some, was generally allied with the Democratic Party. The Log Cabin Republicans are a much smaller group.

At all events, the new century opened auspiciously with the most important federal ruling ever made in favor of GLBT rights: The 2003 Supreme Court decision of Texas v. Lawrence, which stunningly reversed the unfortunate 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. Bluntly declaring that "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today," the majority on the Court held that homosexuals are "entitled to respect for their private lives. . . . The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." This decision ended the sodomy laws in every state in the US, successfully concluding the campaign of legal activists that had gone on for decades.

Other developments have been less positive.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan highlighted the plight of gay and lesbian personnel in the military.  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) is the common term for the policy restricting the United States military from efforts to discover or reveal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members or applicants, while barring those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service. The restrictions are mandated by federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654). Unless one of the exceptions from 10 U.S.C. § 654(b) applies, the policy prohibits anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because "it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." The act prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces.

As it exists, DADT specifies that the "don't ask" part of the policy stipulates that superiors should not initiate investigation of a service member's orientation in the absence of disallowed behaviors, though credible and articulable evidence of homosexual behavior may trigger an investigation. Violations of this aspect through persecutions and harassment of suspected servicemen and women resulted in the policy's current reformulation as "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass, don't pursue."

In 2010 the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would repeal the relevant sections of the law, but this measure was stalled in the Senate.  In the autumn of 2010, a federal district court judge declared the Don't ask, don't tell policy unconstitutional and issued an injunction prohibiting the Department of Defense from enforcing or complying with the policy. However, the appellate court stayed the injunction pending appeal; thus Don't Ask, Don't Tell remains in effect.

Same-sex marriage emerged in 2004 as one of the hottest issues of the campaign season. But in a severe blow to gay rights advocates, all eleven states that had the issue on the ballot passed amendments banning the practice. While the subject may have seemed to have dropped off the US media radar, it soon reemerged, in part because during the ensuing years, the same-sex marriage movement gained a number of victories in foreign countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, and Sweden.

A serious setback in America was the 1996 passing of the Defense of Marriage Act with the support of the Clinton Administration. As of 2010, in the United States same-sex couples can marry in five states and one district (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,Vermont and the District of Columbia). The married couples receive state-level benefits, but not federal ones. The states of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Rhode Island do not have provisions for same-sex marriages, but do recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Additionally, several states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, granting all or part of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage. Discouragingly, however, thirty-one states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one woman and one man. The battle rages on: court rulings and local legislatures have kept the issue alive in the political sphere, and conservatives and gay rights advocates have made the issue a key battlefield in the culture wars.

(this article incorporates material from the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, used with permission)


Limited to the United States movement, this list omits works of fiction, young-adult works, and some items judged redundant or ephemeral. Note that this is not a general listing of gay and lesbian life in the period: only included are items that offer significant coverage of the movement for gay and lesbian rights.


Brandt, Eric. Dangerous Liaisons : Blacks, Gays and the Struggle for Equality. New York : New Press, 1999.

Clendinen, Dudley, and Adam Nagourney. Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Dynes, Wayne R., ed. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. 2 vols. New York and London, Garland Publishing, 1990

Faderman, Lillian. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Haeberle, Erwin J., A "Movement of Inverts" - An Early Plan for a Homosexual Organization in the US, in: Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 10, no. 1/2, reprinted in: Homophobia: An Overview, J. P. De Cecco, ed., The Haworth Press, New York, 1985, pp. 127 - 134

Hunt, Richard J. Historical Dictionary of the Gay Movement. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999.

Johansson, Warren, and William A Percy. Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1994.

Kaiser, Charles. The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Levin, Jim. Reflections on the American Homosexual Rights Movement. New York: Gay Academic Union, 1983. 67 [contains an "Afterword" by Wayne R. Dynes, as well as Levin's essay-review of Jonathan Katz's Gay American History]

Loughery, John. The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth-Century History. New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1998.

Marcus, Eric. Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights. Rev. ed. New York: Perennial, 2002.

McGarry, Molly, and Fred Wasserman. Becoming Visible: An Illustrated History of Lesbian and Gay Life in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Penguin Studio, 1998.

Meeker, Martin. Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s-1970s. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Miller, Neil. Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. New York, Vintage Books, 1995.

Murray, Stephen O. American Gay. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Myers, JoAnn. Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian Liberation Movement: Still the Rage. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2003.

Rimmerman, Craig. From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.

Stein, Marc, ed. Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History in America. 3 vols. New York: Scribner, 2005.

Streitmatter, Rodger. Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America. Boston: Faber, 1995.

Thompson, Mark. Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York : St. Martin's Press, 1994.


Bull, Chris, ed. Come Out Fighting: A Century of Essential Writing on Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York : Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2001.

Bull, Chris, ed. Witness to Revolution: The Advocate Reports on Gay and Lesbian Politics, 1967-1999. Los Angeles, Calif. : Alyson Books, 1999.

Hay, Harry, with Will Roscoe, ed. Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Katz, Jonathan, ed. Gay American History. New York: Crowell, 1976 [documents].

Katz, Jonathan, ed. Gay/Lesbian Almanach: A New Documentary. New York: Harper and Row, 1983 [to 1950].

Kepner, Jim. Rough News, Daring Views: 1950s Pioneer Gay Press Journalism. New York: Haworth, 1997.

Ridinger, Robert B., ed. Speaking for Our Lives: Historic Speeches and Rhetoric for Gay and Lesbian Rights/1892-2000. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Samar, Vincent Joseph, ed. The New York Times Twentieth Century in Review: The Gay Rights Movement. London; Routledge, 2001. [reprints articles]

Teal, Donn. The Gay Militants. New York: Stein and Day, 1971. [primary material documenting the first year of gay liberation, from June 1969 to June 1970]

Williams, Walter L., and Yolanda Retter, eds. Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States: A Documentary History, Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2003.


Bell, Arthur. Dancing the Gay Lib Blues: A Year in the Homosexual Liberation Movement. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Brown, Howard. Familiar Faces Hidden Lives: The Story Of Homosexual Men In America Today. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1977.

Cain, Paul D. Leading the Parade: Conversations with America's Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men. Lanham, Md : Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Campbell, J. Louis, III. Jack Nichols, Gay Pioneer: "Have You Heard My Message?" New York: Haworth Press, 2006.

Clarke, Lige, and Jack Nichols. I Have More Fun with You Than Anybody. St. James Press, 1976.

Duberman, Martin B. Stonewall. New York: Plume, 1994. [group biography of six NYC activists]

Gambone, Philip. Travels in a Gay Nation: Portraits of LGBTQ Americans. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.

Hansen, Joseph. A Few Doors West of Hope : The Life and Times of Dauntless Don Slater. Los Angeles: Homosexual Information Center, 1998.

Jay, Karla. Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation. New York: Basic Books, 1999.

Nichols, Jack, The Tomcat Chronicles: Erotic Adventures of a Gay Liberation Pioneer. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Paul, Jay P.: San Francisco's Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement

Perry, Troy. The Lord is My Shepherd and He knows I'm Gay: The autobiography of the Rev. Troy D. Perry, as told to Charles L. Lucas. New York: Bantam, 1973.

Sears, James T. Behind the Mask of Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation. New York; Harrington Park Press, 2006.

Shilts, Randy. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982.

Spring, Justin. Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade. New York: Ferrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.

Timmons, Stuart. The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement. Boston : Alyson, 1990.

Tobin, Kay, and Randy Wicker. The Gay Crusaders. New York: Paperback Library, 1972.

4. THE HOMOPHILE ERA (1950-1969)

Bullough, Vern L. Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. New York: Haworth Press, 2002.

Cutler, Marvin. (pseud, of W. Dorr Legg/William Lambert). Homosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations and Publications. Los Angeles: ONE, Inc., 1956.

D'Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Gallo, Marcia M. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement. New York : Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006.

Johnson, David. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Legg, W. Dorr, ed. Homophile Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: ONE Institute Press, 1994. [pioneering educational work of ONE Institute]

Masters, Robert E. L. The Homosexual Revolution: A Challenging Expose of the Social and Political Directions of a Minority Group. New York: Julian, 1982.

Onge, Jack. The Gay Liberation Movement. Chicago: Alliance Press, 1971.

Sagarin, Edward (aka Donald Webster Cory). Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants. New York: Arno Press, 1975. [participant-observation of Mattachine Society, NY; reprint of NYU doctoral dissertation]

Sweet, Roxana. Political and Social Action in Homophile Organizations. New York: Arno Press, 1975. [reprint of her Ph.D. dissertation in criminology, University of California, Berkeley]


Altman, Dennis. Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation. New York: Outerbridge and Dienstfrey, 1971.

Avicolli Mecca, Tommi., ed. Smash the Church, Smash the State!: The Early Years of Gay Liberation. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2009. [chiefly retrospective essays from forty years after]

Carter, David. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004.

Eisenbach, David. Gay Power: An American Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006.

Jay, Karla, and Allen Young, eds. Out of the Closets; Voices of Gay Liberation. New York, Douglas/Links, distributed by Quick Fox, 1972.

Marotta, Toby. The Politics of Homosexuality: How Lesbians and Gay Men Have Made Themselves a Political and Social Force in Modern America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Picano, Felice. Art and Sex in Greenwich Village: Gay Literary Life after Stonewall. New York : Carroll & Graf, 2007.

Richmond, Len, and Gary Noguera, eds. The Gay Liberation Book. San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1973.


Bawer, Bruce. A Place at the Table. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Epstein, Steven. Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Frank, Nathaniel. Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2009.

Gould, Deborah B. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight against AIDS. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Murdoch, Joyce, and Deb Price. Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court. New York: Basic Books, 2001.

Rimmerman, Craig A. The Lesbian and Gay Movements: Assimilation or Liberation? Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2007.

Rimmerman, Craig A. The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Sullivan, Andrew. Virtually Normal: An Argument about Homosexuality. New York: Knopf, 1995.

Vaid, Urvashi. Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York; Anchor, 1996.

Warner, Michael, ed. Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Welzer-Lang, Daniel, Jean-Yves Le Talec, and Sylvie Tomolillo. Un mouvement gai dans la lutte contre le SIDA: les Soeurs de la Perpétuelle Indulgence. Paris : L'Harmattan, 2000.


Armstrong, Elizabeth. Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco, 1950-1994. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Atkins, Gary L. Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging. University of Washington Press, 2003.

Baim, Tracy, ed. Out and Proud in Chicago. Chicago: Surrey Books, 2008.

Boyd, Nan Alamilla. Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965. Berkley: University of California Press, 2003.

Faderman, Lillian, and Stuart Timmons. Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. New York: Basic Books, 2006.

Fellows, Will, ed. Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.

History Project, The. Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.

Howard, John. Men Like That: A Southern Queer History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Hurewitz, Daniel. Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapofsky, and Madeleine D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of the Lesbian Community. New York: Routledge, 1993 [on Buffalo]

Newton, Esther. Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America's First Gay and Lesbian Town. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

Nickels, Thom. Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

Sears, James T. Growing Up Gay in the South: Race, Gender, and Journeys of the Spirit. New York; Harrington Park Press, 1991.

Stein, Marc. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Striker, Susan, and Jim Van Buskirk. Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996.

Wallace, David. A City Comes Out: The Gay and Lesbian History of Palm Springs. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, 2008.

White, C. Todd. Pre-Gay LA: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

In addition to the above references, one may consult a number of entries in Wikipedia, starting with


APPENDIX: Bibliographical Control

Achieving bibliographical control of the vast body of writings on homosexuality is a challenging, sometimes vexatious task.  Yet it is not beyond reach. 

While the middle and later years of the nineteenth century saw a number of important bibliographies of erotica they were not specifically geared to the study of same-sex love.  For that one one is again indebted to the first homosexual emancipation movement appearing in Berlin in 1897. This movement firmly held that progress toward homosexual rights must go hand in hand with intellectual enlightenment. Accordingly, each year's production was noted in the annual volumes of the Jahrbuch fürsexuelle Zwischenstufen (1899-1923); by the end of the first ten years of monitoring over 1000 new titles had been recorded. Although surveys were made of earlier literature, up to the time of the extinction of the movement by National Socialism in 1933, no attempt had been made to organize this material into a single comprehensive bibliography of homosexual studies.

It is still worthwhile to comb the classic German works of the pre-Nazi period for bibliographical nuggets that have escaped attention.  Still, it is regrettable that this foundational era in homosexual scholarship produced no single comprehensive bibliography of the subject.

For that one must await the participation of the United State, whose gay-rights movement only emerged with the Mattachine Society in 1950-51.  In the context of the Cold War and the McCarthyite frenzy, efforts at organizing and diffusing better knowledge were at first very difficult and unpromising--but some dedicated individuals kept going all the same.  An early document of the period was the little Gay Girl's Guide (New York,1949 with two subsequent editions; despite the title, this mimeographed item was intended for gay men).  Somewhat bizarrely, the principal author was identified as one Swarsarnt Nerf (probably a pseudonym of Edgar Leoni).  At the end this booklet offers ten pages of book listings, fiction and nonfiction.

As a rule, respectable publishers avoided the topic of homosexuality, except for judgmental works by psychiatrists and other medical writers.  A partial exception was Donald Webster Cory's The Homosexual in America (New York, 1951), well-written and edited, though issued  by Greenberg, a somewhat marginal publisher.  In addition to a lucid, though now dated text, this volumed offered appendices with lists of both non-fiction and fiction on the subject.

After the Stonewall Rebellion in June of 1969, things began to improve.  In 1971 or '72 Jack Stafford, a librarian based in Queens, NY, began an effort, supported by a committee of the American Library Association (ALA), for a comprehensive bibliography of homosexuality, which would emphasize the positive aspects.  When Jack died unexpectedly in 1973, Barbara Gittings took charge of the manuscript on behalf of the ALA.  With their approval, she utilized the material to create a 16-page leaflet of highlights, called A Gay Bibliography. Distributed pretty much for free to libraries and other interested parties, this selection greatly enhanced readership, and eventually publishing prospects as well.

By contrast, the compilation of Martin S. Weinberg and Alan P. Bell, Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography (New York, 1972)  represents a step backwards.  This bulky work, compiled under the auspices of the Kinsey Institute of Indiana University, provides detailed but uncritical abstracts for 1,263 books, pamphlets, and articles published in the English language from 1940 to 1968. The book stresses psychiatric, medical, and social-science contributions, many harshly negative,  It is now mainly of interest to those seeking to reconstruct the repressive atmosphere of the middle years of  the twentieth century.

In this context, it was clear that a real effort must be made by the nascent gay organizations themselves.  To ONE, Inc. of Los Angeles belongs the honor of addressing this task on an appropriate scale.  After many delays, the ONE efforts yielded the most ambitious project attempted up to that point: Vern Bullough et al., Annotated Bibliography of Homosexuality (New York, 1976), which was prepared in the Los Angeles offices of ONE, Inc. This work provides about 13,000 entries arranged in twenty broad subject categories. Some notion of the enormousness of the whole subject is conveyed by the fact that, even at that date, the number of entries could probably have been doubled.  Unlike most of the other American bibliographies, this work is international and multilingual in scope; unfortunately the two-volume set is marred by thousands of small errors and lacunae, especially in foreign-language items. The title notwithstanding, annotations are very sparse, and uncertain in their critical stance. Full subject indexes, which would have served to offset some of these shortcomings are lacking; instead each volume has its own author indexes. The shortcomings of this major work, undertaken largely by volunteer staff working under movement auspices, illustrate the problems that have, as often as not, been made inevitable by the social neglect and obloquy in which the subject has been enveloped. To his credit, W. Dorr Legg, the project director, realized that an altogether new work was needed, one that would remedy the all-too-evident faults of the existing work.   After several years of intense work, it was found that fundamental disagreements prevented the editors from concluding the task, which had reached the letter N. The copious materials for this unfinished project are now preserved in the ONE archives at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In San Francisco in the 1960s William Parker began gathering material for a one-person effort. His first attempt was Homosexuality: Selected Abstracts and Bibliography (San Francisco, 1966); this publication, and a number of other earlier lists, are now most easily accessible in the Arno Press omnibus: A Gay Bibliography: Eight Bibliographies on Lesbianism and Male Homosexuality (New York, 1975). Parker's more substantial work is Homosexuality: A Selected Bibliography of over 3,000 Items (Metuchen, NJ, 1971), followed by two supplements (published in 1977 and 1985), which carry coverage up through 1982. These volumes arrange the material (English-language only) by types of publication; there are helpful subject indices. Although some note is taken of films, television programs and audiovisual materials, the coverage of print items is almost entirely restricted to nonfiction.

Parker's two supplements cover six- and seven-year periods respectively, but even as of 2010 there is no current annual bibliography of homosexuality.   For a time, the best means of of monitoring current production was through the "Relevant" section of the scholarly Dutch bimonthly Homologie (Amsterdam, 1978-97 ), which utilized the resources of Homodok (Dokumentatiecentrum Homostudies), founded in 1977 under the auspices of the University of Amsterdam.

In San Francisco the lesbian monthly The Ladder, published by the Daughters of Bilitis organization, included notices of books from its inception in 1956 (the full set was reissued with a new index in New York in 1975). Eventually these notices were coordinated on a monthly basis by Gene Damon (Barbara Grier), whose later columns have been recently collected in a handy, indexed volume: Lesbiana: Book Reviews from the Ladder, 1966-1972 (Reno, 1976). Utilizing input from Marion Zimmer Bradley and others, Damon and Lee Stuart produced the first edition of The Lesbian in Literature: A Bibliography (San Francisco, 1967). This work subsequently appeared in an expanded, third edition: Barbara Grier, The Lesbian in Literature (Tallahassee, 1981), with about 3100 items, including some nonfiction. The entries are labeled with an ingenious coding system, balancing relevance and quality.

The complement to Grier in the male sphere is Ian Young, The Male Homosexual in Literature: A Bibliography (second ed.  Metuchen, NJ, 1982), with 4282 items, interpretive essays by several hands, and title index. While there are no annotations, Young sweeps the field: fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography. Like Grier, the volume is restricted to works written in English and translations of foreign works.  Regrettably, no scholars have come forward to update these exemplary works by Grier and Young on creative literature.

Apart from the general bibliographies just discussed, which claim to cover at least the whole-English language production in their chosen domains, there are also a number of works defined by the country in which they appeared. William Crawford (ed.J, Homosexuality in Canada: A Bibliography (Toronto, 1984), contains a good deal of material, in French as well as English, that has been overlooked elsewhere. 
Manfred Herzer, Verzeichnis des deutschsprachigen nicht belletristischen Schrifttums zur weiblichen und männlichen Homosexualität aus den Jahren 1466 bis 1975 in chronologischer Reihenfolge (Berlin, 1982) is an exemplary compilation of some 3500 nonfiction items published in German up to 1975 .  For Italian-language material, see the annotated listing by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Leggere omosessuale (Turin, 1984), a roster of publications from 1800 to 1983. Still awaiting systematic treatment is the rich Italian material before 1800, though much of this can be recovered from Dall'Orto's extenive website, http://www.giovannidallorto.com. Claude Courouve's work on French bibliography was privately published.

Almost from the beginning homosexual organizations have created their own periodicals to supplement the mainstream journals which tend to scant, or even exclude altogether research on sexual variation. A detailed roster of no less than 1924 publications existing (or believed to exist) in the 1980s is Robert Malinowsky, International Directory of Gay and Lesbian Periodicals (Phoenix, 1987). By definition, this work does not include older journals that had ceased (309 of these are listed in Bullough, et al., cited above), nor does it provide, for obvious reasons, a listing of the contents of these publications. Gay and lesbian journals are covered only sporadically in current bibliographies, and even copies of the less familiar newspapers are hard to find once they leave the stands; here the gay and lesbian archives are doing an essential job of preservation, since public and univer­sity libraries usually do not preserve these materials. In the early twenty-first century, unfortunately, poor economic conditions caused the demise of a number of gay and lesbian periodicals.

A summation of bibliographical work appears in Wayne R. Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide
(New York, 1987): http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/ResGde/index.htm .  In addition to the bibliography sections proper, each of the approximately 170 subject groups contains an introduction outlining the strengths and problems of the topic in its current state of development (or lack of development). This volume is conceived as interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and transhistorical, and may be consulted for a sense of the complexity of the overarching field.  Unfortunately, an updated edition has proved unfeasible due to the flood of new publications.

More specialized, but quite thorough is Linda Garber, Lesbian Sources: A Bibliography of Periodical Articles, 1970-1990 (New York, 1993).  Like Dynes, this list is organized in terms of categories, from "Abortion" to "Youth."   However, Garber does not provide annotations.

Neither Dynes nor Garber were prepared to attempt a sequel to their vast works.  The reason was this.  By the early 'nineties it was clear that the proliferation of material was outrunning the feasibility of efforts to monitor it.  Here the Internet seemed to offer an ideal solution, but unfortunately it was not as effective as one would have thought. The advantages of publishing bibliographies in this format are obvious: economy, since no publisher of the traditional kind would be required and no one need pay to consult the compilation; ease of access; and flexibility, since the editor(s) could keep constantly adding new items as they appeared.

Yet things did not quite work out as expected.  The problems are illustrated by the fate of a truly remarkable effort conducted by the Englishman Paul Halsall while he was a graduate student at Fordham University in New York.  Working selflessly and with almost feverish energy, during the 1990s Halsall created “People with a History” (PWH) (
www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/). This a major annotated bibliography covering gays, lesbians, and trans people for all historical periods and areas, including  non-Western ones.  Fully annotated, the site contains links to other sites created by Halsall.   While PWH can be used as a supplement and continuation of Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide (see above), the site also notices earlier works.  Unfortunately, Halsall had to stop work in 1998 in order to complete his dissertation.  He has since returned to England, where he has moved on to other tasks.

Working at the same time as Halsall, Gary Simes of Sydney Australia, created the last printed bibliography of the subject that is comprehensive in scope.  This is Simes, Bibliography of Homosexuality (Sydney: University of Sydney Library & The Australian Centre for Lesbian and Gay Research, 1998), based on the holdings of the University of Sydney Library.  This listing of 6129 items is selectively annotated.  A different approach appears in the massive volume edited by Timothy F. Murphy, the Reader's Guide to Gay and Lesbian Studies (Chicago, 2000).  The Guide consists of some 430 essays, from “Academicians” to “World War II, Cultural Effects of.”  Each entry begins with a short list of publications; these are mostly books and items written in the English language--two serious limitations.  While a few of the essays that follow are thoughtful, even penetrating, many are lackluster, having apparently been compiled by graduate students.  A stronger hand by the overall editor would have been helpful.

Returning to Internet resources, probably the best way for the tyro scholar to begin is to turn to the lists maintained by the London-based scholar Rictor Norton at his site:
http://rictornorton.co.uk. One may also consult online the collective work known as GLBTQ, which bills itself as “the world's largest encyclopedia of gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture” (www.glbtq.com).  The articles are generally clear and reliable, though coverage is limited to literature, the arts, and the social sciences, with inclusion of numerous relevant biographies  For the older, entries, however, the attached bibliographies tend not to be up-to-date.  Many relevant Wikipedia entries contain bibliographies,  Finally, one may consult the listings in the CD-ROM of Paul Knobel of Sydney, Australia.  His Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Poetry and its Reception History (2002) covers poetry with 6,300 entries. (See http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/knobelworld.htm)

Online one can also browse two large and continuously updated repertoires that stem from the library world.  The first, Harvard Libraries' HOLLIS Classical is relatively concise, with somewhat under 5000 items appearing when one types in the key word “homosexualty.”   One may also access the vast list of the holdings of the Library of Congress on line. Finally, one can proceed to a truly enormous compilation, that of Worldcat (www.worldcat.org).  Among its 1.2 billion items are more than 50,000  entries relevant to our subject, including books, periodicals and periodical articles, dissertations, CD-ROMS and other electronic compilations.  The enormous profusion of periodical articles, of varying quality, poses a huge problem of bibliographical control.  Worldcat presents these selectively (e.g. the Journal of Homosexuality), but seems to be constantly increasing coverage.

Using the resources of Worlcat, Paul Knobel created an invaluable Bibliography of Homosexuality: The Non-English Sources, comprising an astonishing 4600 entries from 39 non-English languages.  Consulting this landmark work will do much to correct the Anglophone exclusivity that limits scholarship in many areas. 

(Knobel's work may be viewed at http://www.sexarchive.info/BIB/knobelneng.htm.)