The 1960s saw an extraordinary change in the social acceptance of gay people. At the start of the decade, all sex between men was illegal in Britain and those convicted faced two years in jail. In New York no gay bar could get a licence, and raids on unlicensed bars were commonplace. Lesbians and gay men could be sacked from their jobs, and trans people lived on the fringes of society. Partial decriminalisation in 1967 in England and Wales made little change to overwhelming homophobic prejudice.
The 1960s saw other oppressed groups fighting for change in America. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s became more militant in the 1960s, and thousands joined the Black Panthers. The Women's Liberation Movement was born. In June 1969, several thousand queer people rioted for two nights in New York City, and Gay Liberation was born, as part of a broader radical movement fighting for social change. LGBT people began to demand that they be accepted. The movement came to Britain in 1971.
This meeting will look at the pre-Stonewall world of the 1950s and 60s; how the broader radicalisation of American society affected gay people; the extraordinary and inspiring details of the riot; and the movement which grew out of the riot in the US and Britain.
Colin Wilson has been active in socialist and LGBT politics for almost forty years. He campaigned against Clause 28; was an organiser for Lesbians and Gays Against Pit Closures in Manchester; has been active in UNISON LGBT campaigns; was one of the organisers of an anti-racist Pride in London in 2012; and has campaigned against Israeli pinkwashing. He has written for various left publications and is currently writing a book on capitalism and the history of gender and sexuality.
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