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Gay Liberation Front (GLF)

Come Out!: A New Generation of Activists
Come Out!: A New Generation of Activists

Gay Liberation Front members marching on Times Square, Fall 1969. Photograph by Diana Davies.
NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Diana Davies Papers. Copyright Diana Davies.
Digital ID: 1582230
Mattachine worked hard to capitalize on the energy released by the Stonewall Riots, holding public forums and demonstrations to bring gays and lesbians into organized activism. These efforts caught the attention of the generation that had come of age in the civil rights and antiwar movements. However, this younger generation had little patience for the tactics and politics of their elders.

Michael Brown, a young veteran of the New Left, contacted Mattachine president Dick Leitsch after reading his position paper on Stonewall, "The Hairpin Drop Heard Around the World," and with Leitsch's support he created the Mattachine Action Committee. But the new committee soon seceded from Mattachine, rechristening themselves the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). GLF members openly claimed the word "Gay," which had been avoided by the previous generation of gay and lesbian activists in favor of cryptic, inoffensive names: Mattachine, Bilitis, Janus. They demanded liberation in the spirit of the national-liberation and anti-capitalist struggles around the world.

GLF meetings were run by consensus. While this was not the most efficient method of decision-making, it created an opportunity for dialogue that transformed its members. The core activists of GLF — who included Michael Brown, Martha Shelley, Lois Hart, Bob Martin, Marty Robinson, Karla Jay, and Bob Kohler among many others — organized marches on Time magazine and The Village Voice, fund-raising dances, consciousness-raising groups, and radical study groups, and published their own newspaper, Come Out!, out of the Alternate U. on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. GLF eventually became a network of semi-autonomous cells. Groups such as the Red Butterfly Cell, the 28th of June Cell, the Planned Non-Parenthood Cell, the Gay Commandoes, and the Aquarius Cell each pursued a specialized agenda, free from the demands of establishing an overall GLF consensus. GLF quickly became the incubator of the new gay and lesbian mass political movement. Although many activists moved on to create more focused gay and lesbian organizations, GLF transformed the consciousness of everyone it touched.



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