Thursday, January 26, 2017
This week’s reading of Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians moves from the oppression of homosexual expression to the rising up of gay people in response to the extended harassment and mistreatment of society. In tandem with the Sexual Revolution and other movements for minority rights, gay men and women were stepping into the light to fight for liberation against homosexual discrimination and harassment. This part of the reading was inspirational because it was an unprecedented moment; this generation of young gays were mobilizing outright to demand change whereas their predecessors took more conservative measures to organize underground. One quote that stuck out from chapter 5:
“Before they began their work as gay liberationists, the new gays learned to conceptualize minority oppression not as a problem for the oppressed individual to suffer alone but as a social ill that a mass movement might eradicate. As one veteran of civil rights and union organizing, who became a gay activist, recalled: `All of us, to a person, had been involved in other struggles." Finally, they asked, "What about our liberation?”
The Sexual Revolution influenced gay men and women to join in and challenge traditional views on sexuality while creating a whole movement of their own concentrating on gay liberation.
Unlike a decade before, gay men and women were able to assemble under the identity of homosexuals despite their class differences. Previously, middle-class lesbians were reluctant to organize or even join lesbian groups because of the fear of losing their professional jobs. While gay men had less difficulty in crossing class lines, this new decade proved to have a greater integration of gay men and women across class lines. In addition, gay men and gay women overcame some gender differences and joined forces under the banner of the Gay Liberation Front.
Although gay men and gay women were working together like never before, it is important to point out that lesbians felt a gender divide. They felt like they were not as included within the Gay Liberation movement as gay men were. Lesbian women were not often represented at overarching gay organizations due to lack of participation and they did not feel like these movements catered to their identity as lesbians. As such, lesbians had to carve out their own spaces, communities, and organizations that focused on their identity as homosexuals as well as their identity as women. One such moment was when lesbians infiltrated a L.A. NOW meeting and demanded that the organization recognize the oppression of lesbian women within the overarching aim to liberate all women. It was interesting to read about all the lines of division that can work against a movement like gender, race, and class. In contemporary movements, organizers have learned to adopt the term of ‘intersectionality’ to describe the oppression of peoples across these divides which allows people to embrace intersecting identities in the fight for the liberation of all.