To Free Straight Society: Stonewall and Black Insurrection To Free Straight Society: Stonewall and Black Insurrection
To Free Straight Society: Stonewall and Black Insurrection

Michelle Esther O’Brien

One June night, fags and queens rioted. They burned police cars and pelted cops with whatever was at hand. Fifty years is a nice round number, and everyone wants to show their pride. The story has been told many times last year, in classrooms and libraries, on pride marches and corporate marketing campaigns. Some things will be easily forgotten, others easily repeated.

Two insights about the Stonewall Rebellion, of many, have not been made enough: first, the events in New York in June 1969 was part of a long wave of proletarian uprising that tore across much of the world. In the US alone, the Stonewall Rebellion was one of 750 violent urban riots from 1964 to 1971.1 In the US, we argue, the Black Liberation movement constituted the driving core of this working-class insurgency. Gay Liberation was deeply bound up with two other movements: Black American militancy, and the struggles around the world against colonialism. These movements directly made possible the rapid growth of the anti-war movement, second wave feminism, the wildcat workers strike wave, and radical gay activism.

Second, this wave of struggle at the end of the 1960s depended on long-term, major, underlying changes in the economy, in people’s relationship to work, and where people live. Built into capitalist development are long-term trends towards people moving to cities, moving from being farmers depending on their families to becoming wage workers, and coming into contact with many other people in new and changing ways. We can trace and explain much that’s important about how mass social movements emerge from looking at these long-term patterns in capitalist development. In particular, the economic changes of proletarianisation and urbanisation that peaked around World War II were the foundation of the rebellions of the 1960s.

These points are neither unique nor new, though require some cobbling together of multiple social movement literatures. The recent growth of queer marxism owes much to the historical work of John D’Emilio, Allan Bérubé, and Peter Drucker, who share a recognition of mass proletarianisation as essential to the emergence of gay movements. Major classics of social movement studies—Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward or Doug McAdam—located the development of the American Civil Rights Movement within the changing political economy of the American South in the 1930s and 1940s, the collapse of King Cotton, the Great Migration, and the emergence of a newly enfranchised, urban Black proletariat. More recent scholarship has recognised the essentially international character of the Black Power movement, closely shaped by the anti-colonial insurgencies of Africa and Asia. Of the many common errors of recent attention to Stonewall, these insights have been particularly neglected.

Freedom Struggle and Mass Proletarianisation

At the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of Americans worked in agriculture and lived on farms, constraining the kinds of social movements people were able to form. We highlight here two central coercive forces that operated on the lives of agricultural proletarians: family dependency and racial terror. It would take the mass entry into wage labour, with its peak during WWII, to enable the rebellions of the late 1960s.

For people living on family-operated farms, constituting movements around non- normative gender and sexual identities is exceedingly difficult. Those living within farming families depend entirely on their families for their reproduction and survival. Under such conditions one could pursue queer sex in private, and occasionally find limited degrees of acceptance, but could not rebel directly against the expectations of one’s family without dire material consequences. White families who settled the Midwest and Western US, backed by federal support and the genocidal displacement of Native Americans, differed in many ways from pre-capitalist farm life: they largely produced for the world market, they depended on credit and finance, and they were forced to pursue the most advanced agricultural techniques available for economic survival. But like most farming families everywhere, those growing up on the family- operated capitalist farms of American settler colonialism were restricted in sexual and gender expression. For those drawn to queer sex or non-normative genders, there were few opportunities for escape from the tyranny of their families.2

Black families in southern US agriculture were further constrained in their potential for rebellion through the coercive racial terror system of Jim Crow. At the turn of the century, nine out of ten of Black Americans worked in agriculture in the American South. They had driven forward the most massive class rebellion of the 19th century: the struggle of enslaved people for their freedom, radicalising the American Civil War, and successfully abolishing slavery. During Reconstruction, Black people pursued a campaign of extensive economic redistribution and a major restructuring of American capitalism. This was ultimately defeated when US troops pulled out of the South, and the former slave-owning class rearmed to set about defeating these new Black workers movements and the subsequent multi-racial small farmer movements of the 1880s. By the turn of the century, Black Americans were living under a new system of racial terror: weekly public lynchings, complete political disenfranchisement, and a farming tenant system known as sharecropping. Black people were nearly entirely barred from accessing any form of wage labour, from moving to cities, or to leaving the South. At its peak functioning in the 1890s, this system of Jim Crow made organised Black working class rebellion suicidal. For Black queers, Jim Crow posed an additional obstacle to organising: white landowners required Black sharecropping tenants to enter into heterosexual marriage prior to gaining access to land. Black people were forced to marry early, were not able to divorce, and had no economic options outside of the coercive heterosexuality and racial terror of sharecropping.

In the 20th century, capitalist development began to transform this racially stratified world of agricultural production. The steady expansion of industrialisation and growth of factories pulled first white wage labourers off the farms and into cities. Labour demand during WWI gave Black workers their first opportunity to flee sharecropping and the rural South, beginning what came to be a fifty-year Great Migration of Black movement into cities, and northern and western states. In the 1930s the Depression bankrupted many family-occupied farms, and then WWII drew these now landless workers into the war effort as soldiers or factory workers. During WWII, for the first time, a majority of Americans became wage workers in cities, rather than agricultural workers.

The war offered many new opportunities. Many African-Americans were able to escape the brutal racist violence of Jim Crow, remaking their lives in cities where they could potentially vote and organise. In factories, many Black people joined unions and political organisations they could not have accessed when working as farmers under the watch of the Klan. Gender and sexual minorities, both white and Black, similarly had new opportunities for queer sex and relationships while in the army or living in new cities. No longer dependent on their families for survival and instead relying on wages, gay men and women could have more choices about how they spent their time outside of work, and could more easily pursue gay sex, gender or sexual minority subcultural scenes, or other forms of sexual expression. The armed forces tolerated limited homosexuality for a time, and many people found gay relationships during the war. The escape from Jim Crow into wage labour enabled Black people to pursue new sexual freedoms, both through queer relationships and by heterosexuals refusing marriage.

WWII permanently changed the options, optimism and resources available to African-Americans broadly, and many sexual minorities. The right wing McCarthyist currents of the 1950s were an effort to reimpose the racism, homophobia and sexism of American social life that had loosened up due to the changes of WWII, particularly the opportunities offered by the forms of capitalist development of people moving to the cities and going to work in wage labour. For a time, in the 1950s, it seemed right wing politics backed by the FBI was successful in containing the social rebellions that began to brew during WWII. But despite this political repression, the underlying transformation from agricultural life to becoming urban proletarians created the opportunity for the re-emergence of later struggles.

Rebellion in the 1960s

With many more Black people living in Northern states where they could vote, or in Southern cities where they could more easily organise together, they seized the opportunities to confront Jim Crow. These new Black activists both organised together, and went out into the rural South to start building political movements with those still working as sharecroppers. They were empowered by two additional major economic trends: the collapse of the price of cotton with a growing world market; and the shifting relative power of different American elites due to industrialisation. Specifically, cotton-based Southern elites depending on racial terror and Jim Crow to control Black agricultural workers weakened in their power and influence, while manufacturing capitalists of the South grew in power. The latter were concerned to attract outside investment, more open to a variety of labour regimes, and hence more vulnerable to strategic Black organising that successfully drew national attention to the brutality of Jim Crow. These activists were aided by the growing numbers of Black people in Northern states able to vote, and the relative freedom in organising enabled by city life.3

Meanwhile, another major international context provided a strategic opportunity to Civil Rights organising, and shaped the political vision of later Black Power militants. Those living under European colonialism in Africa and Asia seized on the aftermath of WWII to gain political independence. After the initial wave of comparatively non-violent postwar decolonisation, intransigent European powers soon found themselves confronting protracted revolutionary wars of independence. Further, formal colonialism was increasingly ill-suited to the trends of global capitalist development, pushed forward by US elite interests calling for free trade and less encumbered international markets. The US and Soviet Union competed for influence among these decolonising nations. US elites were particularly vulnerable to accusations of racism as they sought to sway newly independent African leaders.

Black American activists were able to seize on these contexts to use nonviolent protest—and the well-publicised violent repression that followed from Southern white supremacists—to draw national and international attention to domestic US racial fascism, embarrassing national elites, the Federal government, and southern capitalists seeking new investment. Their organising through the late 1950s and early 1960s successfully toppled Jim Crow and the system of legal white supremacy that dominated the American South. This victory profoundly reshaped the consciousness of young Americans, indicating the power and effectiveness of sustained social movement organising. Tens of thousands of people, including many young white people, joined the Civil Rights Movement and learned concrete organising skills. Homophile activism—the dominant form of gay rights activism of the 1950s and 1960s—was closely modelled after Civil Rights activism. Like Civil Rights organising, they relied on the growing populations of gay people settled in cities and working for wages, and similarly working for equal rights.

By the mid-1960s, the limits of the strategy of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement were becoming clear. Millions of Black Americans had moved into Northern cities where they were free of Jim Crow, but faced a new set of problems in poverty, police violence, bad housing, and exclusion from stable employment. Many Civil Rights organisers began to imagine a multi-racial poor people’s movement to address the intensity and severity of Black social exclusion, including turning to labour organising or the expansion of social welfare programs. Their efforts were both challenged and rapidly accelerated when poor Black youth who rioted in hundreds of cities in the late 1960s.

These riots, neither organised nor planned, profoundly reshaped the American social landscape. Thirty thousand people joined the 1965 riot in Watts, Los Angeles. In 1967, following a police raid on an unlicensed bar, Black residents of Detroit rioted for five days, destroying over 2,000 buildings. One-hundred-and-twenty-five cities rioted following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. This mass rioting pushed forward the entire political landscape of American social movements. The days of rioting at the Stonewall Inn was not only a part of increasing militancy by queers with escalating fights against police in the months prior, but was one riot among hundreds that swept the country, constituting together the biggest wave of working-class insurgency since Black Reconstruction. These riots collectively indicated a depth and scope of outrage and rebellion that outstripped the visions of both Civil Rights and homophile rights activists, posed a massive challenge to the sufficiency of American liberalism and social equality, and revealed the depth of the political and economic violence of American racial capitalism. Black youth, rioting by the hundreds of thousands in response to chronic poverty and social exclusion, and sparked by police violence, broke open the political imagination of the American left.4

Called on by these riots to find a new revolutionary language and vision, American militants turned to the global revolutionary struggles against colonialism. Anti- colonial, “Third World Marxism” offered the language and vision of this new politics: armed nationalism, committed to a vision of socialism and international solidarity, simultaneously challenging a racial imperialist world order and capitalism. Through the 1950s and 1960s, socialist revolutionaries were playing leading and visible roles in anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique, Angola, Algeria, Guinnea-Bissau, Ghana, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Kenya and Vietnam. Socialist revolutionaries were playing growing roles in the newly post-colonial societies of India, Egypt, Indonesia, China, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Socialists played a leading role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Socialists were growing in power throughout Latin America. Some of these revolutionaries were aligned to the Soviet Union, some to Mao in China, and many were somewhat independent. In many cases, these revolutionary parties had to brutally subjugate key elements of proletarian self- activity to consolidate their control over the anti-colonial struggle, a fact largely lost on the American revolutionaries they inspired. The US government positioned itself as a major opponent to these militant and socialist anti-colonial movements through invading Vietnam, and becoming heavily involved in backing apartheid South Africa in a war against independence and socialism in Angola. The theorists, poets, novelists and leaders of these international anti-global movements put out many books that became available to activists in the United States. Facing the limits of the Civil Rights Movement, many activists turned towards the revolutionary thinking of these movements from across the world to forge new kinds of politics. They envisioned socialist, people of colour led revolutions as not only possible in Africa or Asia, but also in the United States.

The Black Power movement that grew in the wake of these riots took many forms. The largest and most respected, the Black Panther Party, explicitly sought to organise criminalised, unemployed Black youth as its central constituency, within a broader multi-national political coalition of socialist national liberation movements. Some cultural nationalist groups obscured the class tensions within Black communities and rejected socialist politics. Others, like the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, saw the substantial number of waged Black workers as the central force of building a multi-racial socialist movement, particularly in major industrial sectors like auto manufacturing and later in healthcare and education. Crucially, the Black Power movement included both the large Black industrial proletariat and the criminalised and unemployed people, and many groups sought to negotiate and bridge the tensions between the two to incorporate their relative strategic strengths.

The Stonewall Rebellion and the Gay Liberation Front

It was in this context that in June, 1969 four nights of riots fought back against anti-gay police violence in Greenwich Village in New York in what was called the Stonewall Rebellion. Gay activism and gay nightlife had been growing through the 1960s, driven by the new opportunities of gay people settling in cities and working for wages. Yet urban proletarianisation for American queers, as for Black Americans and generations of European urban proletarians, entailed both the relative autonomy of wage labour, and a growing and overlapping population of lumpenproletariat— those excluded from wage labour, surviving on the fringes through crime and various hustles. The homophile organising of the 1950s and 1960s depended almost exclusively on waged professionals, dealing with forms of state repression and the threat of police violence. But alongside them, was another overlapping world of poor queers: sex workers, Black and brown queens, or homeless queers. Enabled by the militancy of these lumpen queers and the Stonewall riot, gay activism exploded internationally into something much more visible, militant and fierce. Like many gay bars in New York, the Stonewall bar, run by the mafia, was part of a criminalised world of gay life. Trans sex workers of colour played a prominent role in the Stonewall riots, with names famous among young queer activists today: Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major. Let us listen to Miss Major:

They come, take that night stick, hit the door down, the lights come on and you’re streamed out. That’s the routine, that’s what they did, everybody knew it. They checked for ID to see if minors were in the bar. And the routine started but nobody would budge, everyone would just look at each other. And when we got our nerves together and everybody decide “Okay, we’re going to go out”, a fight ensued and all this crap that I’ve been hearing through the years, “Oh someone threw a shoe, someone threw a Molotov cocktail, someone did something else, someone slugged a cop”. I don’t know what happened! All I know is, a fight ensued. And we were kickin’ their ass. So much so, they backed into the bar for protection. And then the next thing you knew, the riot squad was there and then it was on...I snatched this cops mask, spit in his face, he knocked my black ass out. And he dragged me to the fucking truck and threw my ass in there. But I’m still here.5

The gay and trans people who fought the police at Stonewall knew they were fighting alongside the tens of thousands of Black youth who had rioted in cities all across the US over the four years before. Analogous to how the homophile movement was enabled and modelled after Civil Rights activism, Stonewall was made possible because of the broader milieu of Black insurrection. Black, white and Latinx queers rioting in the West Village shared Black youth in Detroit or Watts’ outrage at police violence. Like the youths, they fought police in the street, adopted a new fierce militancy, and felt the riots as a form of freedom and rebellion. Just as the wave of riots produced a new era of internationalist Black Power militancy, Stonewall rapidly transformed the landscape of gay activism. Soon after, the newly-formed Gay Liberation Front (GLF) emerged as the main immediate political outgrowth of the Stonewall rebellion, followed by the rapid growth of gay rights groups of all sorts.

Like many radicals of 1969, the Gay Liberation Front turned towards the world movements against colonialism for their inspiration and rhetoric. They took their name from the National Liberation Front, the Communist forces of Vietnam that were waging a war against the US invasion. The GLF saw itself as among the many other revolutionary groups emerging all over the US, joining a united front against capitalism, against the racist American state, against empire and war, and against an oppressive and alienated society. They saw themselves as a front against straight society within this broader multi-issue insurrection centrally driven by socialist, internationalist, and anti-white supremacist militancy. The GLF, like many other mostly white radical groups, took the Black freedom movement as their central frame of reference, particularly the Black Panther Party. The Gay Liberation Front initially formed as a group from the Mattachine Society that marched as a contingent in a Black Panther-led protest, and later segments of the GLF worked closely with the Black Panthers. The GLF was joining many other radical groups of the era in supporting the Panthers, as the leading American form of what they saw as a global rebellion against capitalism and racism.6

Internally, New York City’s Gay Liberation Front was a wild group. They used rotating facilitation, allowed anyone to be a full member the moment they showed up, and encouraged independent affinity groups that each did their own separate work within the overall GLF. Quickly, affinity groups formed out of many particularly marginalised sub-groups within the gay liberation movement: gay women formed the Radicalesbians; trans people formed multiple GLF affinity groups, including one of mostly sex workers called Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) led by Rivera and Johnson; people of colour formed Third World Gay Revolution; and socialists formed the Red Butterfly. An affinity group called Aquarius organised gay dances that could be an alternative to mafia-controlled bars. Another called June 28 published a newspaper for the GLF. These groups tried to make some decisions together through the GLF, and mobilised to participate together in rallies against the US war in Vietnam and in support of the Panthers. They were highly visible, very militant, involved hundreds of people, and took on extensive organising over the course of the group’s lifespan.

One affinity group at the GLF, alienated by the broader multi-issue revolutionary politics, split off to form the Gay Activist’s Alliance. The GAA was committed to winning concrete reforms in support of gay rights, and continued to organise through the 1970s as New York’s main gay rights organisation, on a much larger and more public scale than previous homophile activists. Similar split-off groups from the GLF won many major policy changes in the 1970s, including getting homosexuality removed from the official list of medical disorders, reducing police arrests for being gay, and expanding social and political spaces in which people could be openly gay. Where the GLF was oriented towards freedom through the revolutionary transformation of society, the GAA was oriented towards equality through winning policy changes.

Sexuality and the New Left

The militants of the Gay Liberation Front did not simply adopt their politics wholesale from the broader New Left and Black liberation struggle, but offered to it a major and transformative contribution: a critical challenge to the sexual politics of movement militancy. They faced two dominant logics of sexuality on the left: on the one hand, an enthusiastic sexual rebellion of youth that provided more opportunities for sexual experimentation and gender expression in pursuit of a non- alienated life; and on the other, an increasing investment in hyper-masculinity as a key constituting feature of political militancy.

Though pro-gay sexual freedom policies were a part of early socialism in Russia after the revolution, by the 1960s, many socialists had come to think that homosexuality was a form of capitalist decadence, and such sexual deviancy would naturally disappear in a socialist society. Revolutionary China and Cuba had adopted repressive policies towards gay people, and many socialists in the US supported these policies. Further, waging a revolution according to these militants required one to be very, very tough. It required both men and women to be extremely strong, ready to battle police, ready to wage a war, ready to do anything. Many revolutionaries conflated hard masculinity and sexism with radicalism. Afraid of accusations of weakness or homosexuality for avoiding the US draft in Vietnam, many young radicals would accuse those in power of being not masculine enough. Calling Nixon a faggot was a common insult.

For some, gay liberation was a chance for gay people to overcome being soft and powerless, and take on the masculine toughness needed to be a revolutionary. For others, gay liberation was a chance to express their gender in wacky, lovely, fun, and different ways. Many made the novel argument that soft masculinity and forms of trans femininity, could actually be a form of revolutionary militancy. This went along with very intense fights about the role of gay people and women among many radical groups across the left. In the largest radical student organisation—the nearly all-white Students for a Democratic Society—these fights didn’t go well. Women ended up leaving SDS in large numbers due to intense misogynistic harassment, and instead started what became the second wave feminist movement. Out gay people were never substantially welcome in SDS.

But in the Black Panther Party, the other major radical group of this era, these internal fights ended up being much more productive and transformative. Several major members of the Black Panthers, such as Eldridge Cleaver, had very openly called his political enemies faggots, and opposed women and gay rights. Women who were playing major behind-the-scenes roles in the Panthers were actively challenging this misogyny and homophobia. Huey P. Newton, the head of the Panthers at the time, ended up convinced that homophobia and sexism were obstacles to the solidarity needed by the left. Though homophobia was prevalent on the left, it was in the leading currents of the Black liberation movement where straight militants were occasionally won over to a pro-gay politics.

Newton issued an order insisting gay people and women belonged in the revolutionary front. He writes: “We know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants”.7 Bodily self-autonomy is a huge issue for women fighting for abortion, for trans people fighting to be able to change their gender, for gay people being able to have sex. It’s a fundamental theme of freedom for many people today, but it actually wasn’t widely recognised as such by radicals in the 1960s. “Maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary,” Newton goes on, in a context where being the most revolutionary was a central concern, and gay people had long been excluded as inherently somehow reactionary. Newton admits to dealing with his own homophobia, and through doing so demands Panther members challenge their own. Newton identifies women’s liberation and gay liberation movements as friends of the Black Panther Party.

This recognition was a major victory for the gay liberationists, who had long fought for their place in a revolutionary front in which the Panthers were the most important force. Newton followed through with this letter in welcoming the GLF into the Panther’s coalition meetings. With Newton’s support, the GLF joined the People’s Constitutional Convention the Panthers held in Philadelphia in 1970, mobilised in support of the Panther 21, a group of prisoners in New York, and played an ongoing visible role in Panther solidarity work.

Stonewall Now

The Gay Liberation Front was a short-lived project, and the gay liberation movement didn’t last too much longer. The GLF in New York City fell apart in 1971. The organisation could no longer hold its internal contradictions between single- issue gay activists wanting to win specific reforms, revolutionary socialists, lesbian feminists critical of sexism in the organisation, and many other tendencies. Within a few years, however, the broad left it had been a part of also collapsed. The Panthers and similar groups faced a brutal FBI-sponsored campaign of targeted assassination and incarceration of its leaders, deliberate sabotage from secret FBI infiltrators, and relentless police harassment. Growing mass incarceration undermined the broader Black liberation movement. When the US withdrew from the Vietnam War in 1973, many young white students left radical movements, no longer so motivated by their fear of and opposition to the draft. Public attention drifted away, and many liberal sympathisers lost enthusiasm for left social movements. A rising right wing movement among Evangelical Christians began to push back against the gains of the feminist and gay rights movements. By the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, it was clear to everyone the rebellions of the late 1960s and early 1970s had completely come to an end.

As the rebellions of the 1960s were enabled by the long-term trends of capitalist development towards urbanisation and proletarianisation, producing the large urban populations of Black and gay people with opportunities to organise they lacked in agricultural life, the political trends from the mid-1970s on were driven by new dynamics of capital accumulation. Due to a global oversupply in manufacturing capacity, the average rate of profit began to decline in the 1970s. Worldwide, the industrial proletariat began to shrink, and with it a global political imagination that centred factory work as the heart of a socialist imagination. Facing the extreme challenges of a global capitalist market, the newly independent and supposedly socialist-led nations of Africa and Asia pursued many of the same neoliberal, anti- working-class politics of their openly capitalist counterparts. Socialist parties across Europe, one-by-one, abandoned their commitments to working class power and comprehensive social welfare states, adopting policies oriented towards stabilising profit accumulation. US corporations launched a brutal crackdown on American labour, coupled with the restructuring of workplaces to reduce worker power through the 1980s and 1990s. All these politics driven by capitalist elites are best understood as various strategies to displace the costs of a protracted capitalist crisis onto working class people.

For queers, neoliberal austerity took the particularly murderous form of the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. Queer politics today has been deeply reshaped by this context of massive dismantling of social welfare, weakening of organised labour, mass incarceration, and the collapse of any coherent socialist vision.

Queer radicalism both reflects the limitations and contradictions of this political and economic context, and in new and multiple ways directly seeks to contest the violence of neoliberal austerity. Both mainstream gay rights activists and queer radicals today reference Stonewall as an inspiration and frame of reference. Debates over the legacy of Stonewall continue to animate struggles over how LGBTQ politics relate to white supremacy, imperialism, police violence, and class domination. Recently, Miss Major’s call for police to be barred from Pride festivals for the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion gained some international attention by queer activists, continuing to raise the stakes of an ongoing battle over the political content of LGBTQ movements.

The half-century of queer movements since Stonewall gives us a chance to reflect on these broader arcs of social movement struggle, shaped by global dynamics of capitalist accumulation as it conditions and constrains the lives of working class people and the poor. Stonewall was embedded in a global Black insurrection of urban riots and armed struggle drawing attention to the fundamental inseparability of queer militancy from movements against racial capitalism. We can learn from the failures of national liberation and state socialism as dead-end paths that did not ultimately lead towards freedom, but still be moved by much in their visions of internationalist solidarity, direct resistance to state violence, and an attempt at grasping imperialism, capitalism and—as the gay liberationists added—straight society as integrated systems of domination. Like the gay liberationists, we can challenge the reproduction of heteronormativity and misogynistic masculinity as toxic obstacles to solidarity and struggle. But we are also in a transformed world, living in a different landscape of capital accumulation and working-class struggle. Our struggle today must take new forms specific to our era. A new generation of queer and trans militants today, both incorporating and moving beyond the insights of gay liberationists, are again claiming our freedom is essentially embedded in a global struggle for communism and human emancipation.

  1. Virginia Postrel, “The Consequences of the 1960’s Race Riots Come Into View,” New York Times, December 30, 2004, sec. Economic Scene.
  2. This analysis is from John D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity,” in Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, ed. Ann Barr Snitow and Christine Stansell (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983).
  3. This argument is drawn directly from Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (New York: Vintage, 1979); and Doug McAdam, Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency 1930-1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).
  4. We particularly appreciate George Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, Detroit I Do Mind Dying (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1975) and the writing of James Boggs on the importance of these mass riots in reshaping political consciousness.
  5. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, NYC Trans Oral History Project.
  6. This history is documented in Terry Kissack’s 1995 essay “Freaking Fag Revolutionaries: New York’s Gay Liberation Front, 1969-1971”, Radical History 62.
  7. Huey P. Newton, “The Women’s and Gay Liberation Movements,” Black Past (blog), 1970. 18
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