Monday, September 13, 2010

Gay Rights Movement: Introduction

This post begins a new series on The Closet Professor about the history of the early gay rights movement.  Most if not all of you have heard of the Stonewall Riots, and though most people credit Stonewall with the beginning of gay rights, there were precursors to the movement.  This series is based on a paper I once wrote about the gay rights movement but has been updated to some extent.  I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.
The summer of 1969 showed the best and worst of America. In June, President Nixon announced Vietnamization as a way to get America out of image the Vietnam War, which reminds me a lot of our present policy of Iraqization of the now (supposedly) ended war in Iraq. Man stood on the moon for the first time on July 16 with the Apollo 11 landing. In August, Woodstock demonstrated to the world the epitome of the flower children’s culture and the height of the counter culture movement. While such events were celebrated in American culture, the summer of 1969 was also marked by a series of tragedies. Judy Garland died from an overdose of drugs. The Manson Family murdered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and four others in Bel Air, California, in what has image become known as Helter Skelter. Mary Jo Kopechne died in a drunk driving accident with Ted Kennedy in Chapppaquiddick, Massachusetts. And 248 people perished in Mississippi when Hurricane Camille crashed into the Gulf Coast. The Civil Rights Movement was also going through a change. With the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis in 1968, the end had come to the classic period of the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was becoming more radical and began to splinter off into more groups of people, including women and the gay and lesbian community.
With the Stonewall Riots, the modern gay and lesbian rights movement had its beginnings in Greenwich Village, New York, during the summer of 1969. image The Stonewall Riots marked a change in the direction of the gay liberation movement that had been brewing since the end of World War II with the founding of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles with chapters in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Gays and lesbians worked with the Civil Rights Movement, participated in the anti-war movement, and kept their sexuality in the background. But the “Friends of Dorothy” and “Daughters of Bilitis” were determined to no longer stay in the background and have homosexuality criminalized as it had been in the past. On the night of June 27, 1969, the gays and lesbians in the Stonewall Inn fought back after a police raid, and the modern gay liberation movement was born and would continue to grow as gay pride marches marked the subsequent anniversaries of the Stonewall Riots each year in New York during the month of June.
Although most historians of the gay liberation movement place the climax of image the beginning of the modern movement on the Stonewall Riots, some west coast historians give the metropolitan centers of the movement as Los Angeles and San Francisco in the fifties with the founding of the Mattachine Society, the earliest homophile activist organization, and the antiwar movement in San Francisco during the sixties. Martin Meeker of the University of Southern California presented a re-evaluation of the Mattachine Society in his article “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice 1950s and 1960s,” and Justin David Suran of the University of California, Berkeley examines the effects of the Vietnam War on the gay liberation movement in “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam.”
Next: The Mattacine Society
Announcement:  I have decided that I will try something new with The Closet Professor.  Most college classes either meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Therefore, I have decided that The Closet Professor, which has a very loyal but also relatively small following, will begin posting only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  These posts take more time to put together than the posts on my other blog, so I have chosen to give you quality not quantity.  I love this blog, and it is the blog I love to do: teach.  I hope that you will continue to read and comment as the posts slow down just a bit.  Occasionally, I will randomly post things for other days as the mood strikes but for now, I plan to follow the new schedule.
Thanks for reading.


fan of casey said...

Joe: We owe so much to these pioneers who paved the way for the more open reception we receive today (altho there's still a ways to go). It's so easy to focus on everyday issues and take for granted our lives so you do us a great service by reminding us of the truly dark times that others had to live before.

PS: I'm OK with your thrice-weekly posting schedule, i know you've got a busy life as well and the amount of time to read a post pales with all the writing and redrafting time you spend that we never see, so go ahead and take a break in between posts.

JoeBlow said...

Fan of Casey, I do think we sometimes take for granted how far we have come with gay rights. At least we are no longer considered insane or can go to jail for our homosexuality.

Also, thanks for the support about the cutting back on the blog posts.

drew said...

Hi Joe,

No matter how often you post, I'll look forward to each entry with the same anticipation. I always enjoy coming here and learning something new.

Best regards!

JoeBlow said...

Thanks Drew, that means a lot. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and learn something from it.