Book Feature: The Gay Liberation Book
Today’s feature is The Gay Liberation Book, edited by Len Richmond and Gary Noguera and published by Ramparts Press (San Francisco) in 1973.
Basically, this book is a collection of essays, poetry, photography, and personal stories by a number of well-known authors, including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon, Huey Newton, Gore Vidal, Alan Watts, Perry Brass, and N.A. Diaman. It’s divided into three sections: Gay Oppression, Gay Liberation, and Beyond Gay Liberation.
The editors plainly state that they are dealing with the Gay Liberation Front specifically and not trying to cover all of gay history or every gay subgroup. If you’re not familiar the the Gay Liberation Front (GLR), a number of activist groups claimed that name, most of which were formed immediately after the Stonewall riots in 1969. This book deals with those activist groups pre-GLR, during the height of GLR activity, and after many GLR groups disbanded.
One of the essays included in the book is translated from Fuori, the first gay liberation newspaper in Italy. It states, “To make revolution you have to have one or more antagonists; if they don’t exist, you have to create them.” While that statement is undoubtedly debatable, the list of “antagonists” presented after the above statement is interesting:
MOTHER: Cries when she learns we’re homosexual.
FATHER: Wants to disown us.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS: Are afraid of catching it.
AUNTS: Believe themselves to be the direct cause by means of alternating hereditary cycles.
HUMOR: We are one of its most sparkling subjects.
HOMOSEXUALS: Those who camouflage themselves and don’t come out.
HETEROSEXUALS: Those who believe themselves to be the sexual norm.
SEX: In its least liberated, i.e., bars, urinals, saunas, pools, parks.
TOLERANT SOCIETY: Accuses the other half of intolerance and then says we are sick.
PSYCHIATRY: Says we are “curable” and therefore sick.
MARX: Ignores the question of sex.
MARXISTS: Say homosexuality is a decadent bourgeois disease.
THE PROLETARIAT: Creators of the myth of the masculine, virile man. In the style of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
MARXISM-LENINISM: Ignores us because Marx ignored us.
HITLER: Eliminated us in concentration camps.
MAO: Eliminated ten thousand of us in the Night of the Long Knives. (But this might be a capitalist tale.)
CASTRO: Castrates us.
THE GREATS: Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Caesar, Alexander, etc., etc., whom we present with pride as magnificent examples: They too! They too!
Ramparts Press, the publisher of The Gay Liberation Book, published radical political books in the 1970’s-80’s, including Beat the Heat, a book about radical activism (including “first aid for activists” and “firearms and self-defense”); Big Brother and the Holding Company, a book about the Watergate scandal; and Black Power and the Garvey Movement.
I think it’s fascinating that the editors of this book didn’t publish through one of the many established LGBTQ publishers at the time; but rather used a publisher of radical, political activist literature. I think that says a lot about the early queer rights movement: it was viewed as “legitimate” activism and not just a polite, assimilationist civil rights movement.
To get a copy of this book for yourself, visit Abebooks.com.
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