Gay Liberation Front

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1970s poster used by the GLF

Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was the name of a number of gay liberation groups, the first of which was formed in New York City in 1969, immediately after the Stonewall riots, in which police clashed with gay demonstrators. Members of the GLF were a pro-gay organization.[1]

GLF in the United States[edit]

The Gay Liberation Front[edit]

The Activist GLF advocated for sexual liberation for all people; they believed heterosexuality was a remnant of cultural inhibition and felt that change would not come about unless the current social institutions were dismantled and rebuilt without defined sexual roles. To do this, the GLF was intent on transforming the idea of the biological family and clan and making it more akin to a loose affiliation of members without biological subtexts. Prominent members of the GLF also opposed and addressed other social inequalities between the years of 1969 to 1972 such as militarism, racism, and sexism, but because of internal rivalries the GLF officially ended its operations in 1972.[citation needed]

History of the GLF: the Stonewall riots[edit]

The Stonewall riots are considered by many to be the catalyst in the organization of the GLF and other gay and lesbian movements. These riots are also considered to be the origin of the gay rights pacifism movement.[citation needed]

On 28 June 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York, the New York City police raided a gay bar, a routine practice at the time.[citation needed] The establishment, the Stonewall Inn, was a well known LGBT establishment located on Christopher Street in two former horse stables which had been renovated into one building in 1930 and was subject to countless raids since LGBT activities and fraternization were generally illegal. When the police arrived, the customers began pelting them with coins, and later, bottles and rocks. The crowd also freed staff members who had been put into police vans, and the outnumbered officers retreated inside the bar. Soon, the Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), originally trained to deal with war protests, were called in to control the mob, which was now using a parking meter as a battering ram. As the patrol force advanced, the crowd did not disperse, but instead doubled back and re-formed behind the riot police, throwing rocks, shouting “Gay Power!”, dancing, and taunting their opposition. For the next several nights, the crowd would return in ever increasing numbers, handing out leaflets and rallying themselves. In early July, due in large part to the riots in June, discussions in the gay community lead to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front. Soon the word “Stonewall” came to represent fighting for equality in the gay community.[citation needed]

One of the GLF's first acts was to organize a march in response to Stonewall and to demand an end to the persecution of homosexuals. The GLF had a broad political platform, denouncing racism and declaring support for various Third World struggles and the Black Panther Party. They took an anti-capitalist stance and attacked the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.[2] Several GLF women, such as Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, and Michela Griffo went on to form the Lavender Menace.[citation needed]

In 1970, "The U.S. Mission", had a permit to use a campground in the Sequoia National Forest. Once it was learned that the group was sponsored by the Gay Liberation Front, the Sequoia National Forest supervisor cancelled the permit, and the campground was closed for the period.[3]

GLF in the United Kingdom[edit]

Original GLF activists in front of Hall-Carpenter Archive display at a LSE 40th anniversary celebration.[4]

In the United Kingdom the GLF had its first meeting in the basement of the London School of Economics on 13 October 1970. Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter had seen the effect of the GLF in the United States and created a parallel movement based on revolutionary politics and alternative lifestyle.[5]

1971 GLF cover version of Ink magazine, London

By 1971, the UK GLF was recognized as a political movement in the national press, holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people.[6] The GLF Manifesto was published, and a series of high-profile direct actions, were carried out, such as the disruption of the launch of the Church-based morality campaign, Festival of Light.[7]

We do not intend to ask for anything. We intend to stand firm and assert our basic rights. If this involves violence, it will not be we who initiate this, but those who attempt to stand in our way to freedom.

GLF Manifesto, 1971[5]

The disruption of the opening of the 1971 Festival of Light was the best organised GLF action. The first meeting of the Festival of Light was organised by Mary Whitehouse at Methodist Central Hall. Cliff Richard and Malcolm Muggeridge were among those also involved in the group. Groups of GLF members in drag invaded and spontaneously kissed each other; others released mice, sounded horns, and unveiled banners, and a contingent dressed as workmen obtained access to the basement and shut off the lights.[8]

Easter 1972 saw the Gay Lib annual conference held in the Guild of Undergraduates Union (students union) building at the University of Birmingham.[9]

By 1974, internal disagreements had led to the movement's splintering. Organizations that spun off from the movement included the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Gay News, and Icebreakers. The GLF Information Service continued for a few further years providing gay related resources.[10] GLF branches had been set up in some provincial British towns (e.g., Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, and Leicester) and some survived for a few years longer. The Leicester Gay Liberation Front founded by Jeff Martin was noted for its involvement in the setting up of the local "Gayline", which is still active today and has received funding from the National Lottery. They also carried out a high profile campaign against the local paper, the Leicester Mercury, which refused to advertise Gayline's services at the time.[11] [12]

The papers of the GLF are among the Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics.[citation needed]

Several members of the GLF, including Peter Tatchell, continued campaigning beyond the 1970s under the banner of OutRage!, which still exists today, using similar tactics such as "zaps" and performance protest to attract a significant level of media interest and controversy. It was at this point that a divide emerged within the gay activist movement, mainly due to a difference in ideologies, after which a number of groups including Organization for Lesbian and Gay Action (OLGA), Stonewall (which focused on lobbying tactics), the Lesbian Avengers, and OutRage! co-existed.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

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  1. Gay Rights
  2. "Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto. London". 1978 [1971]. 
  3. Lodi News Sentinel, Jun 26, 1970 retrieved from
  4. "Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front". 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lucas 1998, p. 2
  6. Victoria Brittain (28 August 1971). "An Alternative to Sexual Shame: Impact of the new militancy among homosexual groups". The Times. p. 12. 
  7. "Gay Liberation Front (GLF)". Database of Archives of Non-Government Organisations. January 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  8. Gingell, Basil (10 September 1971). "Uproar at Central Hall as demonstrators threaten to halt Festival of Light". The Times. p. 14. 
  9. "Gay Birmingham Remembered - The Gay Birmingham History Project". Birmingham LGBT Community Trust. Retrieved 3 October 2012. "Birmingham hosted the Gay Liberation Front annual conference in 1972, at the chaplaincy at Birmingham University Guild of Students." 
  10. Lucas 1998, p. 3
  11. Peace News John Birdsall page 2 (13 January 1978)
  12. Gay News (1978)'Demonstrators protest at ad ban on help-line' editor number 135


  • Canfield, William J. "We Raise our Voices". Gay & Lesbian Pride & Politics. 
  • Diaman, N. A. (1995). "Gay Liberation Front". Archived from the original on 2007-06-11. 
  • Kissack, Terence (1995). Freaking Fag Revolutionaries: New York’s Gay Liberation Front. Radical History Review 62. 
  • Lucas, Ian (1998), OutRage!: an oral history, Cassell, ISBN 978-0-304-33358-5 
  • Power, Lisa (1995). No Bath But Plenty Of Bubbles: An Oral History Of The Gay Liberation Front 1970-7. Cassell. p. 340 pages. ISBN 0-304-33205-4. 
  • Walter, Aubrey (1980). Come together : the years of gay liberation (1970-73). Gay Men's Press. p. 218 pages. ISBN 0-907040-04-7. 
  • Wright, Lionel (July 1999). "The Stonewall Riots – 1969". Socialism Today #40. 
  • Kafka, Tina (2006). Gay Rights. Thomson Gale Farmington Hills, MI. 

External links[edit]