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Resources in LGBTQ History in the United States: 1900 to 2019 (November 2019): 1969–1981

by Lisa N. Johnston

1969–1981

Immediately following Stonewall, using newly gained strength and unity, as well as inspiration from the anti-war movement, the first gay liberation marches were organized. In his richly detailed The Gay Militants, originally published in 1971, Donn Teal reports on the early days of gay liberation, most significantly the first “pride parades.” Katherine Bruce’s Pride Parades: How a Parade Changed the World is a history of the movement through these actions. Jim Downs’s Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation emphasizes the community beyond protests covered by the media during the 1970s. Downs uses primary sources from community centers to trace the Metropolitan Community Church, bookstore culture, and the friendships that developed. Winner of both the 2019 Lambda Literary and Edgar awards, Robert W. Feiseler’s Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation is an account of the 1973 arson at a New Orleans bar that also served as a community gathering space. Members of the Metropolitan Community Church, discussed in Downs’s book had joined a pride celebration at the small bar. Thirty-two people died in the fire, which was largely ignored by the media.

Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation, by scholar and early Gay Liberation Front member Karla Jay, is an invaluable account of the life of a woman in early the post-Stonewall years. The Lavender Menace was a group of activists formed to protest the exclusion of lesbians from the newly mainstream women’s liberation movement. When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love & Revolution by activist/journalist Jeanne Cordova was awarded the 2012 Lambda Book Award. Her memoir is indispensable for understanding lesbian culture in Los Angeles during the 1970s.  The Disappearing L: The Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture, by Bonnie J. Morris, captures the history of women-only spaces and their importance to lesbian identity. Morris vividly depicts the atmosphere of women’s music festivals and bookstores, as well as the concept of “women’s music” as a separate genre during the 1970s and beyond.

The history of the LGBTQ movement was forever changed when Harvey Milk became the first out gay candidate for public office when he was elected as San Francisco City Supervisor. Lillian Faderman’s 2018 biography Harvey Milk: His Life and Death, explores Milk’s Jewish heritage in relation to his political service. The Times of Harvey Milk, the 1984 documentary film directed by Rob Epstein, received the 1985 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film was re-released in 2008 as part of the Criterion Collection featuring new interviews and footage.

The 1970s were a period of sexual freedom in the LGBTQ community. Some gay men became, in their words, “sexual outlaws,” viewing the choice to be promiscuous as a political statement. John Rechy’s account of the sexual underground in Los Angeles, The Sexual Outlaw: A Documentary; a Non-fiction Account, with Commentaries, of Three Days and Nights in the Sexual Underground, takes the reader into this world through the eyes of a hustler in 1970s Los Angeles. Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality by Patrick Moore analyzes and reclaims gay men’s sexual culture before AIDS. Katie Batza’s Before AIDS: Gay Health Politics in the 1970s changes the narrative of the “sexual revolution” the mainstream was fed as the cause of AIDS in the gay community. Gay men’s clinics grew out of early LGBT Rights organizing because gay men were not receiving quality care from larger health organizations. Batza uses case studies, archives, and interviews to highlight how these care providers came to be the first to address the AIDS/HIV crisis.

Reveal Digital’s Independent Voices: An Open Access Collection of Alternative Press is a valuable primary source featuring LGBTQ newspapers and small press magazines from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Works Cited