June 30th, 2007
Gay journalism launched gay-lib In ’69, not the Stonewall Riots in NYC
By Leo Laurence
Every summer, Gay and Lesbian communities nationwide celebrate Gay Pride, usually in commemoration of the infamous Stonewall riots of ’69 in New York.
By, Gay Lib didn’t grow out of those riots. That’s a myth.
Rather, the now world-wide movement was launched by gay
journalism in the San Francisco Bay Area months earlier.
Unfortunately, even our current, national gay journalism organizations, like the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, ignore that connection.
Stonewall was simply a large street fight between Gays – including drag queens and high school students from New Jersey – and the police. It had no planned civil rights connection.
Three months earlier, however, the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF) was launched to fight for gay civil rights in San Francisco; and more specifically, employment rights.
Today, we have the Unruh Civil Rights Act in California (Civil Code §51) which forbids discrimination by any business on the basis of sexual orientation. But, back in ’69, that law didn’t exist.
So, risking everything in their lives, a band of young gay man formed the CHF after co-founder Gale Whittington was fired from the States Steamship Lines in San Francisco’s famous financial district for being Gay.
At the time, I was a reporter/editor/producer for ABC/KGO Radio in San Francisco by day and covered the Gay Community for the Berkeley Barb, an underground newspaper, by night.
That weekly coverage exposed the hell of living in the closeted, gay world and urged homosexuals to join the civil rights revolution led by the black community. Gay Lib grew out of the black civil rights movement.
Indeed, the Black Panther Party was one of the earliest supporters of gay militants.
That coverage launched Gay Lib – before Stonewall.
Unfortunately, gay history books and our current gay journalism organizations (e.g., NLGJA) ignore the connection between gay journalism and the launch of Gay Lib.