|1. GAY LIBERATION IS INTERNATIONAL
Direct Action August 24 1978 First article in 4 page broadsheet as part of Direct Action., paper of the Socialist Workers Party.
The demonstrations that were held at the end of June to mark the ninth anniversary of the modern gay liberation movement once again showed the strength and internationalism of the movement. In cities across the world, tens of thousands became newly involved in activities which proclaimed solidarity with lesbians and homosexual men fighting their oppressors from Argentina to the Soviet Union and from New Zealand to India.
Gay rights organisations are growing faster than ever before and have reached dozens of new countries. After gay liberation became established in English speaking countries, it spread to Poland, East Germany, Israel, Mexico, India, Argentina and other countries.
New groups have been formed. In reaction to a bomb attack on a homosexual student, a Gay Freedom league ahs been organised in Jamaica, where homosexuality is strictly illegal.
Rouge, a Trotskyist daily published in Paris reports that homosexual militants in Greece have been organising to oppose new repressive laws. Their group, the AKOE circulated a petition and secured the signatures of 250 public figures.
They began publishing a journal, Amphi, and circulated among European intellectuals a petition condemning the new Greek laws, which threaten exile to concentration camps. The signatures of Simone de Beauvoir, Nicos Poulantzas, Jean Elleinstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, Costa-Gavras and Michael Foucault forced the Greek press to take notice.
National Co-ordinating Body in Spain
Again this year, Spanish cities held militant demonstrations to mark June 25 as the “International Day of Homosexual Liberation”. On that day in 1977 an unexpectedly large march in Barcelona was the first action held by the movement in Spain.
Now each nationality within the Spanish state has its own gay liberation group. Representatives from Euzkadi, Galicia, Andalucia, Murcia, Castille and Catalonia have formed a national coordinating body. Responding to the call it issued, 10,000 marched in Madrid, 2000 in Barcelona (although the demonstration there was prohibited), 1000 in Bilbao and large meetings were held in Vigo, San Sebastian, Cordoba and Murcia.
Exiled members of the Argentinian gay groups are active in Spain and the Spanish gay organisations gave them support.
The movement has won the support of most sectors of workers’ movement and has organised gay contingents for May Day and other mass mobilisations. The Liga Communista Revolucionaria, the Spanish section of the Fourth International, unconditionally supports the struggle for gay liberation; its members are playing leading roles in the gay movement in many cities. The LCR rejects the idea that gay issues are “marginal” to the class struggle. For example, the demand for the repeal of the Law of Social Danger, under which 600 homosexuals are imprisoned is an important aspect of the fight for democratic rights in post-Franco Spain.
In Canada the movement is defending itself from a right wing onslaught similar to the one the Festival of Light is preparing here. It is defending its magazine Body Politic from prosecution and pressing for anti-discrimination laws. In Quebec, last year’s raid on the Truxx, a gay bar, by 50 cops carrying machine guns, is still an issue. The 146 arrested are still standing trial.
The socialists of the Revolutionary Workers League [like SWP in Australia] put their ideas to the gay activists at the National Gay Rights Coalition Conference held in Halifax at the end of June. They urged that nationally coordinated protests be built to defend gay rights in English Canada and Quebec.
They argued that the unity desired by the gay liberation movement could come only when the movement as a whole recognised the double oppression of lesbian women and of Quebecois gays. The movement nationally needs to take up the special demands they bring forward and needs to guarantee their rights inside the gay liberation organisations.
Supporters of the Fourth International are important activists in the gay movement. Time Guest of the RWL, for example, helped form the Toronto Gay Youth, which has led to the formation of a binational gay youth movement. It seeks to dispel the “child molester” myths peddled by anti-homosexual bigots and campaigns against the special restrictions that affect young lesbians and male homosexuals.
Lessons of Miami defeat
The Stonewall anniversary parades in cities across America again proved the militancy of the gay communities. A quarter of a million marched in San Francisco and 85,000 in New York.
Comrades of the US Socialist Workers Party helped build the marches nationally. They believe that lesbians and male homosexuals defending their right to teach in California against the infamous Briggs Initiative and campaigning for anti-discrimination laws in New York are especially important struggles at a time when the American ruling class is seeking to divide working people. With jobs scarce and major confrontations with unions growing more frequent , the bosses need to blame women and “aliens” for taking jobs and blame minorities for being “uppity”. The SWP sees the militant, massive gay rights marches as the way forward. It warns the gay movement against relying on the slimy politicians of the Democratic Party for reforms. Reliance on backroom lobbying has caused the loss of gay rights referendums in Florida, Oregon, Minnesota and Kansas.
Socialists and gay liberation
The international organisation to which the SWP in Australia belongs is the Fourth International. It unites revolutionary socialist parties in scores of countries. The support that its sections around the world gives to the struggles of lesbians and homosexual men is an indication of its revolutionary worth.
In countries mentioned above, in France, Britain, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Scandinavia, New Zealand and elsewhere, its newspapers report and discuss the gay liberation struggle. Its members work to build the campaigns against homosexual oppression. Its internal discussions seek to clarify the dynamics of homosexual oppression under advanced capitalism, neocolonialism and Stalinist bureaucracy.
The Fourth International seeks to chart the best path for gay liberationists to take to win their fight. Ultimately that will come through the elimination of structures like the family that are the basis of sexual oppression. These structures, which are powerful supports of capitalism, will be toppled only with capitalism itself - an event to which gays struggling for liberation will make a powerful contribution.
2. HOMOSEXUAL MOVEMENT IN AUSTRALIA: 8 YEARS OLD AND GROWING STRONG
The word “gay” has been used in Australia since the 1830s to refer to homosexuals. At that time on the goldfields, “gay bits” referred to the male prostitutes who were quite common.
From that time to the present day, homosexuals in Australia have been abused, bashed and even murdered for daring to express their sexuality openly.
However, it was not until the 1970s that men and women in Australia had the confidence to “come out” and to fight for their rights. The rise of the women’s liberation movement and gay pride, particularly in the United States, was largely responsible for this upsurge. Gay men and women not only found new confidence and pride in their homosexuality but also learned the lessons of how to organise to fight their oppression.
One of the first significant events here was the formation in 1970 in Sydney of CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution). Founding members of this organisation Chris Pol and John Ware were the first homosexuals to “come out” in the Australian media and bring the gay liberation movement to Australia.
Fight Against Repression
Since then, the fight against homosexual oppression in Australia has largely centred on particular figures singled out for special treatment by the state. The first of thee was Dr Duncan in Adelaide, who was beaten up and thrown into the Torrens River to drown, allegedly by the South Australian police.
The public outcry over his death led to an “impartial” inquiry by two Scotland Yard detectives – who could make no conclusion due to “lack of evidence”.
A big turning point for the movement came with Gay Pride Week in 1973. There had been demonstrations before and Gay Liberation had been holding regular meetings with up to 100 participants, but the Gay Pride Week marches really established the movement publicly. 300 marched in Sydney and were brutally attacked by police. Hundreds marched in Adelaide and Melbourne.
In 1973, Penny short’s teacher scholarship was cancelled by the NSW Education Department on the grounds that she was “medically unfit”. When applying for her scholarship, she refused to answer part of a questionnaires referring to her personal life and was given a psychiatric examination.
Later in 1973, the Macquarie University paper, Arena, published a poem Penny had written about making love with another woman. She had to submit to yet another psychiatric examination, in which a photostat of her poem was produced. She was told her scholarship would be cancelled without appeal.
Hundreds of students met at Macquarie University, outraged at Short’s victimisation. The extensive opposition to the Education Department’s actions even had effects in the psychiatric professions.
At their annual conferences the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (November 1973) and the Australian Psychological Society (February 1974) passed motions against the labelling of homosexuals as “sick “ and advocating full equality for homosexuals.
Support for Short spread and on March 29, 1974, 600 students met at Sydney University and 200 marched later that day from Town Hall to the Department of Education.
Another milestone in Australian gay history was the first national homosexual conference in August 1975.
For the first time, homosexuals from all over the country were able to meet, discuss their common problems and plan for different groups to be set up and for common political action to be undertaken in support of gay rights.
One group formed at the Conference was the Gay Teachers Group. This was seen as a particularly important area of work – defending the right of homosexuals to teach. The organisation is now the Gay Teachers and Students Group and is still very active in Melbourne.
The timeliness of this group being set up was shown by the next two important struggles – Mike Clohesy and Greg Weir. Both were teachers and both were sacked for being openly homosexual.
Mike Clohesy, secretary of CAMP was dismissed from a Catholic school in late 1975 after he had appeared on television to discuss CAMP’s submission to the Royal Commission on Human Relationships.
CAMP organised a small protest against Clohesy’s sacking outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
Greg Weir was a graduate teacher from Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education in 1976. Although he was bonded to the Queensland government, he was not give a job because he talked openly about his homosexuality and had been a spokesperson for the Kelvin Grove Homosexual and Lesbian Group.
The following quotation is an indication of the government’s attitude. “Student teachers who participated in homosexual or lesbian groups should not assume that they would be employed by the Education Department on graduation.” (Courier Mail September 30, 1976)
Wei’s case drew wide support from groups as diverse as the Queenlsand Council for Civil Liberties, NSW Young Labor, Citizens for Democracy and Queensland State Council of the Young Liberals. There are still “Greg Weir” groups in some states fighting for the right of homosexuals to teach.
These years of activity had considerable effect both on the homosexual communities and on society as a whole. In terms of the overall effects of this period there seems to have been two reactions: a greater level of acceptance of homosexuals in the community as a whole and increased police attacks, both on individuals and on the movement.
Polls taken on people’s attitudes to legal equality for homosexuals published in the capitalist press showed that the percentage in favor increased from36 percent in 1976 to 77 percent in 1977.
The findings of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships were another example of the more liberal attitudes resulting from our increased presence in Australian political life.
The clearest recent example of the state backlash against the momentum of the gay liberation movement was the police attack on the June 24 Mardi Gras in Sydney.
Initially letters were sent by the San Francisco Gay Coalition to activists in Australia inviting us to participate in the International Day o9f Homosexual Solidarity, June 24.
In Sydney we organised a march through the city in the morning, a public meeting in the afternoon and a Mardi Gras starting at 10pm through the heart of the gay scene.
The march had been planned to end at Hyde Park, but because the police had hurried us down Oxford Street and the spirits were so high, the march continued up William Street to Kings Cross. It was there that over 100 police attacked the gathering and arrested 53 people.
Outside the court on the following Monday, the police illegally blo9cked the entrance and seven more arrests were made from the crowd of about 300 assembled there.
Upsurge of activity
The size of the Mardi Gras (over 2000) and the police riot that ensued has resulted in the greatest wave of activity the movement in this country has ever seen.
The Gay Solidarity Group, which organised the June 24 activities, decided to keep functioning and began to attract as many as 200 people to each meeting.
A demonstration was organised for July 15 to protest against the police brutality and demand the charges be dropped against the 60 people arrested. Again over 2000 people marched. Unfortunately some people marched on to Darlinghurst police station and 13 more were arrested.
In addition to that demonstration, the Gay Solidarity Group had two delegations to Premier Wran, several press releases and now a motorcade to the western suburbs of Sydney – again on the theme of “Drop the Charges”.
Demonstrations of support wee also held in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane as well as Los Angeles.
There is still a lot of activity and interest in the gay community in Sydney as well as a lot of public support for us against cop harassment. The fourth national conference comes at a very opportune time for us to review the situation and to plan our next steps.
3. WHERE DOES THE GAY MOVEMENT GO FROM HERE?
The lesbian and male homosexual movements face important choices on the weekend of August 25-27 with the holding of the Fourth National Homosexual Conference in Sydney. The conference will deal chiefly with the discrimination that homosexuals face in the workplace, but will also decide the general direction of the movements for the coming 12 months.
The recent upsurge in activity of the gay movement in this country, particularly in Sydney, indicates the potential of the movement.
The reaction of lesbian and male homosexual activists to the brutal attack on the June 24 Mardi Gras in Sydney was impressive – 2000 attended a demonstration in Sydney, 600 in Melbourne and smaller numbers in Adelaide and Brisbane. The size of the demonstrations certainly exceeded anything seen before in this country and points to their involvement of large numbers of previously uninvolved gays.
Right wing offensive
The actions here occurred in the context of right-wing attacks on the rights of lesbians and male homosexuals in countries around the world where gays had apparently gained greater acceptance in the last nine years. The most important of these attacks was the defeat of the Miami anti-discrimination legislation on June 7, 1977, following a hysterical anti-homosexual slander campaign led by Anita Bryant, who was assisted by such groups as Ku Klux Klan.
In Britain, Mary Whitehouse and the Festival of Light successfully prosecuted the paper Gay News for “blasphemy”. A similar attack occurred on Body Politic in Canada.
Here in Australia, the Festival of Light (FoL) and other reactionary groups have attempted to whip up a similar campaign. FoL is touring Mary Whitehouse around the country in September this year. Two of the major themes of the tour relate to homosexuals – “blasphemy” (ie censorship) and “protection of children”.
What is quite apparent is an international offensive designed to force us back into our closets and to destroy any gains that have been made during the 1970s.
These attacks are not occurring in a vacuum. They are part of the reaction of the ruling class in the West to the international recession and to the gains made in the previous period by workers and other oppressed groups such as women, national minorities and homosexuals.
More and more the ruling class must attack the standard of living of workers and drive women out of the workforce and back into the home, in order to maintain its level of profits. To do this the role of the family and its rigid sex roles must be re-emphasised.
Function of oppression
Modern capitalist society, which assigns economic and social roles on the basis of sex and which pretends that this stereotyping is the result of some natural law, cannot permit any type of sexual behaviour which contradicts the myth that “biology is destiny”.
Male homosexuals, particularly those of us who are “effeminate”, are an affront to the morality of a society in which female means inferior. Lesbians defy the myth that the greatest aspiration of a woman is to marry and bear children.
In the long run, therefore, the ruling class cannot tolerate the rights of lesbians and male homosexuals – let alone an active lesbian and homosexual rights movement.
However, a strong gay movement, particularly in the US, stands in the way of the reactionaries. In addition, acceptance of homosexuality has increased considerably in the past nine years, to the extent that a majority of Australians – and the situation is similar elsewhere – support the full legal equality of homosexual woman and man with heterosexuals. In this situation, the attacks of the FoL and other extreme-right groups perform an important ideological function for society’s rulers.
The response of the gay movement must be as large as possible – seeking out allies to fight against these attacks. The National Homosexual Conference must look clearly toward its goals of planning the extension of gay rights and defending those the movement has already achieved.
The homosexual conference should look toward creating the basis of a number of campaigns for homosexual rights.
Repeal anti-homosexual laws
The homosexual movement should demand the repeal of all laws limiting homosexual behaviour. The only sexual activities which should be prohibited are those, whether heterosexual or homosexual, in which someone is coerced.
In some parts of the country, eg. South Australia and the ACT, sodomy between consenting adults (ie persons over 18) has been eliminated as a criminal offence. There have also been a number of attempts at reform of this particular law in other States. However, reform has been at best piecemeal and quite unsatisfactory.
Most prosecutions of female and male homosexuals occur under other legislation such as soliciting, inciting, indecent assault and indecent acts.
Most importantly, the laws give excuses for individual cops to prey on gays. Most “arrests” go unrecorded.
It is quite clear that the only course for the homosexual movement is to fight for the repeal of all these laws and to replace them with a law covering coercion.
Along with this, regulations covering homosexuals in the armed forces, prisons, schools, mental hospitals and “welfare” homes should be repealed. All those in prison or psychiatric hospitals should be released and compensation paid to them and others who have suffered from this persecution.
Legislation should be introduced banning the use of aversion therapy, chemical castration and brain surgery designed to eradicate homosexual behaviour.
At this stage, there is no legislation in Australia covering discrimination against homosexuals. In NSW the FoL and other reactionary religious groups forced the state government to drop the clause relating to homosexuality from its Anti-Discrimination Act.
Lesbians and male homosexuals frequently face discrimination in employment. This is to be the main area of concern for the homosexual conference.
In particular, teachers are often faced with the sack or non-employment because of their sexuality. A number of glaring examples stand out. In NSW, Penny short lost her teacher scholarship because she was a lesbian and Mike Clohesy was sacked for appearing publicly as a homosexual.
In Queensland, Greg Weir was refused a teaching position even though he had fulfilled the conditions of his teaching bond. He was later refused work in NSW and South Australia. There are certainly many other unpublicised examples of teachers sacked for their homosexuality.
After the Weir case, the Queensland minister of education gave instructions to education authorities to fail students who were not going to be employed. This was the most blatant example of victimisation of gay students.
Discrimination also occurs in the education process. Homosexuality is not discussed in schools. It should be treated on the same basis as heterosexuality in sex education courses.
Lesbians and homosexual men should be written back into the history and literature books.
In the Public Service, many gays have to keep their sexuality secret for fear of losing promotion. There are countless other examples of workers who have been sacked for their homosexuality or have had to live double lives to avoid discrimination and victimisation.
In Newcastle in 1977, hundreds of male homosexuals were questioned by the cops – many at their workplaces. A number were sacked on the spot.
Homosexual relationships do not received legal, social or economic recognition as do heterosexual relationship. All these should be placed on an equal footing.
Lesbian and male homosexuals are seldom allowed to keep their children in case of divorce – and never allowed to adopt children. Equality should be fought for in this area.
Homosexuals also face discrimination in housing, immigration and in other areas. The only way to end this is a full scale public campaign in favour of anti-discrimination legislation in all the above areas. To this end the homosexual conference should lay plans for a national campaign using such methods as a charter of homosexual rights in the trade union movement, similar to the Working Women’s Charter Campaign. A similar campaign is at present being waged by gay groups in Britain.
In California the homosexual movement has had a good deal of success in mobilising support from the trade unions in fighting the Briggs Initiative, which would ban homosexuals and the supporters of gay rights from any employment in schools.
Other possible actions that the homosexual conference should consider on this front could include a mass petition campaign to educate the public about homosexual discrimination and the setting up of a research body to collect evidence of discrimination.
However, the main method for gaining equality should be mass public protests aimed at getting the largest possible number of homosexuals and supporters active in the campaign.
The most overt oppression of lesbians and male homosexuals comes from the cops – the weapon the state uses against the working class and all the oppressed. The conference should project a campaign against the sort of police brutality and harassment that occurs daily in the lives of many homosexuals in all parts of the country.
The most visible example in recent days was the cop attack on a peaceful march in Sydney on June 24. The cops saw an opportunity to try and teach gays a lesson and force us back into our closets. They arrested 53 people, bashing them and many others as well. They followed this u p by illegally closing the courts on June 26, for the first time in over 100 years. This is only the tip of the iceberg compared to individual attacks on isolated homosexual women and men that occur daily.
This repression must be exposed. Any cops who engage in “poofter” or “dyke bashing” should be prosecuted.
Attacks by extreme-right groups
The most vocal anti-homosexual group in Australia is the Festival of Light. However they are not alone in engaging in anti-homosexual propaganda. In Britain, there are close links between the fascist National Front and the FoL. In the US the Ku Klux Klan supports Bryant’s campaign.
It should be noted that homosexuals have been among the first people attacked by right-wing and fascist dictatorships. Homosexuals were among the first victims of the Nazis in Germany and were, along with the communists, the main targets of the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s in the US. This was because they were vulnerable targets for the right’s reactionary campaigns.
In Australia, such groups as the National Front and the Australian National Alliance are as yet very small, but as the economic crisis worsens we can expect them to grown. Already they have launched attacks on women, gays and migrants.
The homosexual conference should consider how best to counter the filth peddled by the likes of Fred Nile. His should not involve physical confrontations with them or trying to prevent them speaking. This would only make martyrs of them and divert attention from the real issue – their attacks on the democratic rights of homosexuals. They can easily be defeated in argument. We have nothing to gain but a lot to lose by preventing them being heard, whether it be by physical force or by preventing their arrival here.
Even if they were prevented from speaking, this would be Pyrrhic victory. Almost certainly the same limitations would be placed on ourselves.
What is needed is a strategy of counter-mobilisation of the gay movement, the women’s movement and the trade unions to show the FoL that they are a minority, with very little support. Our aim should be to mobilisie as many people as possible in a massive repudiation of their lies, to demoralise them and to drive them back into the sewers they came from.
Over the past few years, homosexuals and lesbians have gained a number of victories. This has occurred particularly in the social sphere. There are now gay bars in most cities where lesbians and male homosexuals can go without fear of being bashed. There is also a national gay newspaper, Campaign, with a high circulation.
However, these are very limited, if still significant, gains. They have allowed a much larger degree of social activity for homosexuals and assisted the development of greater consciousness of our oppression. But they have occurred within the limits of capitalism. Thus many of the bars are firetraps, charge exploitative prices, discriminate against women and Blacks and ban the distribution of political literature.
The gay movement should seek to organise the customers and workers of these bars to force the owners to lift the bans, to introduce fire safety and to cut their prices. This is a concrete area for cooperation with the trade union movement, but it will require a long term propaganda campaign on the issues.
Need for action campaign
All of the above individual campaigns are of course merely part of a broader campaign to end the oppression and exploitation of lesbians and male homosexuals.
Winning all these demands would be a great step forward for lesbians and homosexual men. Not because we would have won full liberation, but because in securing and maintaining these rights we would have assembled a human force capable of contributing to the revolutionary overthrow of the system of oppression. The ultimate goal can be reached only through the widest possible support.
At present, acceptance of homosexuals seems to have increased immeasurably from the situation ten years ago. However these gains can easily be lost.
The gay community cannot sit back and thank the politicians and society for the few small changes that have occurred. In particular, the homosexual conference must look to political solutions to the problem that we face.
Betrayal by liberal politicians
In defending our rights a variety of tactics can be adopted. The method that has been most often used in the past is putting faith in such liberal reformers as Neville Wran. Various Australian groups, such as CAMP in NSW and Society Five in Melbourne, have relied on lobbying such liberals for reform of the laws.
These politicians come back and say: “just play things quiet and I’ll see what I can do for you next year. At the moment I have this conservative upper house, (or back bench) but next yea things will be different.”
Of course, next year never comes, because they are always under vocal right-wing pressure from such groups as the FoL or the police force.
An example of this occurred in NSW in early 1977. Just after he told CAMP that he was seeing what he could do for homosexuals. Neville Wran sent greetings to a Festival of Light rally in Sydney.
The most glaring failure of this lobbying technique happened in Miami last year. The council had passed a gay right ordinance after lobbying by gay groups. The right wing, led by Bryant, had repeal of the ordinance placed on the ballot in the middle of the year. The leaders of the gay movement in Florida accepted the advice of the liberal capitalist politicians in playing things quietly. Instead of mobilising gays throughout the city, they paid for respectable TV advertisements. They did not actively seek the support of the women’s movement, Blacks, Latinos, or the trade unions. They even prevented gays from handing out leaflets.
The result was a minimal turnout in areas of gay supporters and strong voting in conservative areas. Most of the movement in the US has learned its lesson from this defeat and similar defeats in Witchita, St Paul and Eugene, Oregon. The homosexual conference must reject this approach for the Australian movement.
Another tactic supported by some groups, such as the anarchists and the International Socialists, involves the use of what they call “militant tactics”. These “militant” actions range from such macho performances as challenging the cops to a physical confrontation, to the puerile “unplanned” flour bomb attack on Darlinghurst police station at the end of the July 15 gay rights march in Sydney.
To think that a successful takeover of a police station, even one as brutally oppressive as Darlinghurst, would halt cop harassment of homosexuals for even one hour shows an amazing lack of understanding of the class character of oppression in this society.
In fact, the motivation of the ultralefts is similar to those who advocate lobbying liberal politicians. Instead of relying on liberals to end oppression, they think that they can be physically scared into ending it.
The effect of these sorts or tactics can be just as disastrous for our cause as relying on the liberals. In a situation where the homosexual rights movement has gained more and more support as our oppression becomes known in society and when more and more homosexuals are willing to come out publicly for our rights, the ultralefts threaten the support that we have gained. They place the movement in the position of being viewed as a group of violent, flour-bomb-throwing ratbags.
Further, the concept of “militant” demands o an ultimate program that can be watered down at the bargaining table with the Wrans and Hamers of this world only serves to weaken the gay movement and stop it focussing on specific demands.
The homosexual conference must soundly reject the proposals of the ultralefts and the liberals. The perspective that the movement should lay down is the mobilisation of as many lesbians and male homosexuals as possible and to use the support of as many allies as possible against our oppression.
The conference should look toward the hundreds of thousands of lesbians and male homosexuals ho have never been in a gay rights demonstration. We must mobilise our sisters and brothers in the homosexual and lesbian community, who in the past have looked on the gay liberation movement as a group of radicals who merely criticised the gains that had already been made and threatened their complacency.
The homosexual movement must also relate to the understanding the homosexual community has, at present, of its oppression. In a sense we have been considerably helped by the appearance of such reactionaries as Bryant and Whitehouse. They have shown the community how flimsy and how threatened are the few gains that have been made.
In September, the Festival of Light will stage its first major anti-homosexual campaign for over a year. This will be the opportunity for the political movement for lesbian and homosexual rights to mobilise homosexuals in this country on a large scale.
And it can be done. In San Francisco last June over 250,000 people marched for homosexual rights and against the anti-gay Briggs Initiative; 50,000 marched in New York at the same time. Last year there were huge homosexual mobilisations in London, Barcelona and a score of other cities.
The only way to achieve gay rights is to force the politicians to introduce them. This can be done, not by pleading with them, o by physically threatening them, but by showing them that the community is demanding gay rights and that they will be in trouble if they don’t introduce the legislation.
Of course the homosexual movement should seek out and get the support of the other social movements. In particular, the women’s liberation movement is clearly a natural ally. We are fighting exactly the same enemy – patriarchal, capitalist society. Also, we often have the same opponents. The Festival of Light is as vigou8rsou in its attacks on the rights of women as it is in its attacks on homosexuals.
The other ally that the gay movement must get the support of is the trade union movement. We must force the trade union leaders to take up our struggle. It is the organised working class which has the power to deal death blows against our oppression.
While at all times looking for support from our allies, we must keep the movement independent. That is, we should reassert our right to organise ourselves free from the control of non-homosexuals. This is important because it is only homosexuals who understand the oppression we face. Having a movement where non-homosexuals participate in decision making meetings leads away from the basic goal of organising the oppressed themselves against their oppression.
This does not, of course, preclude work within wider campaigns to defend our rights along with non-homosexual organisations or in united fronts against right-wing or cop attacks.
However the biggest danger to the independence of the homosexual movement comes from the threat of being bought off by liberal politicians who stand for nothing but selling us out.
A national co-ordinating structure needs to be established by this conference, so that campaigns for the right to work and against the Festival of Light can be organised efficiently.
Any organisation coming out of the homosexual conference should be action-oriented. Our task is to mobilise the homosexual communities and supporters in general behind our demands. We need as many people involved as possible, particularly in demonstrations and pickets for gay rights and against homophobes like Whitehouse.
National coordination of the various independent groups is necessary. Offices should be maintained in major cities to provide resources to activist gay groups.
A national monthly (or more frequent) newsletter would obviously be of great use. The movement must be as flexible as possible, unhampered by bureaucratic control.
General meetings of the homosexual movement, including all gay groups and individuals who wish to attend, should be head regularly to plan out coordinated strategy.
Within the movement and within gay groups the right of lesbians to organise separately or as caucuses within groups should be recognised, as lesbians are doubly oppressed – for their sex and their sexuality. The rights of women within the movement must be accepted.
This does not mean that the homosexual movement should decide that all members must be feminists (or pro-feminists) and socialists. The movement should not exclude people on this basis. Through struggle against oppression, male activists will see the connection of their oppression and that of women and the working class in general.
Radical homosexuals can best show support for the women’s movement by fighting our own battles hard. A victory against gay oppression is in the long run a victory for women and for the working class – just as an injury to one is an injury to all.
The movement for the liberation of homosexuals, if it consistently fights for its demands, takes its place among the forces that will eventually side with the working class in overturning the whole system of inequality and misery.
The homosexual movement can look forward to great victories both here and overseas. We are still seeing only the tip of the iceberg of our potential, yet gay liberation has already proven that it can mobilise people in their hundreds of thousands to end our oppression. It has shown that it can win the support of major allies in the women’s movement and the trade unions. If this national homosexual conference lays down the perspective of a broadly based mass campaign, the movement can look forward to growth and success over the next year.