LETTER: Gay rights movement started in the ’50s

Posted 2/21/17

There is one history error in the otherwise wonderful and welcome Human Rights Proclamation of Jefferson County. The modern “Gay Rights and LGBTQ movement” in the U.S. did not begin in the …

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LETTER: Gay rights movement started in the ’50s

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There is one history error in the otherwise wonderful and welcome Human Rights Proclamation of Jefferson County. The modern “Gay Rights and LGBTQ movement” in the U.S. did not begin in the 1970s.

It actually began in 1950, when Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Dale Jennings and others founded the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles. Originally a secret organization whose name was changed to Mattachine in 1951, it rose to national prominence in 1952, after Jennings was entrapped by LAPD for supposed lewd behavior, and contested his arrest in court. That he dared fight in court, and actually won, was unheard of at the time.

While Mattachine soon lost its radical edge (and disavowed Hay’s leadership), another major first step was the founding, by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, of Daughters of Bilitis lesbian organization in LA in 1955.

Moving forward, the Compton Cafeteria Riots, which took place in San Francisco in August 1966, were the first major instance of what we would now term a transgender uprising against police harassment. Then followed the Stonewall Uprising in Greenwich Village at the end of June 1969. Martha Shelley, who was a member of Daughters of Bilitis, called a march to protest the police raid on the Stonewall and support demonstrators. Many of those demonstrators were drag queens and “fem” boys – the terms “transgender” and “queer” had not yet been coined.

Out of the march that Martha called arose, in 1969, the Gay Liberation Front. The first parade was in 1970. I know, because I was active in GLF, and marched in it.

In short, the correct wording would be “Gay Rights and LGBTQ movement of the 1950s onward.”

JASON VICTOR SERINUS

Port Townsend

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