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LGBTQ Politics in America since 1945

Summary and Keywords

Since World War II, the United States has witnessed major changes in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) politics. Indeed, because the history of LGBTQ activism is almost entirely concentrated in the postwar years, the LGBTQ movement is typically said to have achieved rapid change in a short period of time. But if popular accounts characterize LGBTQ history as a straightforward narrative of progress, the reality is more complex. Postwar LGBTQ politics has been both diverse and divided, marked by differences of identity and ideology. At the same time, LGBTQ politics has been embedded in the contexts of state-building and the Cold War, the New Left and the New Right, the growth of neoliberalism, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As the field of LGBTQ history has grown, scholars have increasingly been able to place analyses of state regulation into conversation with community-based histories. Moving between such outside and inside perspectives helps to reveal how multiple modes of LGBTQ politics have shaped one another and how they have been interwoven with broader social change. Looking from the outside, it is apparent that LGBTQ politics has been catalyzed by exclusions from citizenship; from the inside, we can see that activists have responded to such exclusions in different ways, including both by seeking social inclusion and by rejecting assimilationist terms. Court rulings and the administration of law have run alongside the debates inside activist communities. Competing visions for LGBTQ politics have centered around both leftist and liberal agendas, as well as viewpoints shaped by race, gender, gender expression, and class.

Keywords: gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, homophile, gay liberation, lesbian feminism, New Left, New Right, AIDS

Contexts for Postwar LGBTQ Politics

Across the postwar era, urbanization and consumerism have propelled the growth of sexual communities; they have also embedded racial and class inequality as structuring problems of LGBTQ politics. Rights to sexual privacy and marriage have been won amid the loss of a social-welfare state and the containment of public sexual cultures. Advocates have disentangled gay and lesbian identities from criminality and illness, yet in the early 21st century many LGBTQ people—particularly people of color and transgender people—remain disproportionately policed and imprisoned.

These contradictions run alongside and help to explain the multiple visions of change that have structured LGBTQ politics. Major divergences in LGBTQ politics include liberal versus leftist agendas of sexual freedom; minoritarian versus universalist conceptions of sexuality; and strategies distinguished by race, gender, gender expression, and class.1 Liberal agendas for LGBTQ politics have prioritized civil rights and inclusion in the US nation-state. Activists in this tradition have most often relied on a minoritarian rhetoric of distinct sexual identities—advocating for the rights of people designated as homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender—though they have at times pursued universalist claims of sexual privacy and free expression. By contrast, leftist LGBTQ activists have sought possibilities beyond the norms of national citizenship, connecting sexual freedom to antimilitarist, anticapitalist, and antiracist goals. Leftist activists have used minoritarian rhetoric to call for radical solidarity, but at the same time, they have made universalist claims about everyone’s capacity for same-sex desire. Leftists have also argued that because “deviance” is regulated via race and class, as well as sexuality, organizing on the basis of sexual identity alone is insufficient to win freedom. Although liberal and leftist debates have defined themselves in relationship to the politics of race and class, differences of ideology have not been equivalent to differences of identity per se. People of color, transgender people, and working-class people have taken up both leftist and liberal goals, often organizing autonomously to counter the greater visibility of white, middle-class, and gender-conforming LGBTQ people.

The Straight State and Homophile Responses

Across the postwar era, LGBTQ life was structured in significant part by what Margot Canaday calls the “straight state.”2 The term describes the institutionalization of heteronormativity through law and policy, particularly at the federal level, and in multiple areas of governance, including the military, social-welfare policy, and immigration. Although the straight state began developing in the early 20th century, it cohered most strongly during World War II and the early years of the Cold War. Its construction designated homosexuals outside the boundaries of normative citizenship and influenced LGBTQ activism for years to come.

In the military, the straight state was produced not only through surveillance and the prosecution of sexual acts, but also through the institutionalization of “blue” or “other than honorable” discharges for those designated homosexuals.3 Military exclusion overlapped with social-welfare policy when those discharged veterans were denied the benefits of the GI Bill. An estimated nine thousand people were discharged from the military during World War II on the basis of homosexuality, and five thousand people who wanted to join the military were rejected for the same reason. The pattern continued in the 1950s and 1960s and resulted in nine hundred to eighteen hundred discharges a year.4 The earliest gay rights groups were formed partly in response to these exclusions, and civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Civil Rights Congress, voiced concern over them, as well.

The straight state became entrenched in the early 1950s, through restrictions on homosexual employees in the federal government and the exclusion of homosexual immigrants. The mass expulsion of federal workers in what is now known as the Lavender Scare was linked to anticommunism: homosexuals were designated as security threats, not only because homosexuality was considered a personality disorder, but also because it was thought that the anti-gay stigma made employees vulnerable to blackmail by foreign agents. Between 1947 and 1950, more than four hundred federal employees resigned or were dismissed on the basis of homosexuality, and an estimated seventeen hundred applicants for government jobs were denied.5 The pattern of dismissals led to congressional hearings and sparked a national debate over the threat posed by gay people lurking unnoticed in public life. In 1953, President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which listed “sexual perversion” among a list of character defects that could flag a federal employee as a potential “security risk.” The logic of the Lavender Scare was further reflected in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (McCarran-Walter Act), which denied entry to both communist and homosexual immigrants. In 1967, the Supreme Court affirmed the exclusion of homosexual immigrants in its ruling in Boutilier v. INS.6

State regulation took shape at the local level in response to a moral panic over sexual crimes against children and through ties between anti-gay policing and racial control. Sexual assaults against children had not grown numerically, but they were newly perceived as an epidemic and generated waves of arrests, as well as sensationalistic media coverage.7 Sources ranging from FBI reports to Hollywood films conflated pedophilia with consensual adult homosexuality. In Boise, Idaho, between 1955 to 1957, some fifteen hundred people were questioned in an investigation purporting to uncover the exploitation of adolescent boys; ultimately fifteen men were sentenced, the large majority only accused of contact with other adults. In Florida, between 1956 and 1965, a right-wing legislative committee purged dozens of gay and lesbian teachers from the public schools.8 Meanwhile, the policies of the Los Angeles Police Department carried national influence by systematizing anti-gay entrapment, surveillance, and raids, and by disproportionately concentrating these tactics in multiracial neighborhoods and gathering sites.9 Such policing caused lasting harm, including by constraining the recognition of gay and lesbian leaders in other movements. Civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin, arrested on anti-gay charges in 1953, found that the fallout from the scandal lingered for years, and resulted in the marginalization of his central role in organizing the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.10

Despite the severity of state regulations, the early postwar years saw growing gay and lesbian communities, and spaces for positive recognition of homosexuality could be glimpsed in venues ranging from the Kinsey Reports, to coverage of drag balls in the African American press, to the Beat counterculture.11 Yet organized LGBTQ activism—typically treated by historians as the central expression of LGBTQ politics—was far more contained in the 1950s and early 1960s than it would be in later years. The “homophile,” or early gay rights, movement was deeply shaped by the Cold War exclusions from citizenship. Homophiles on the left drew on Marxist thought to argue that gayness could be a basis of group politics, and liberal homophiles relied especially on Americanist rhetoric of privacy and freedom of expression to argue for their rights. Intriguingly, this pattern in the homophile era stood in contrast to the late 1960s and 1970s, when leftist gay radicals turned to a universalist language of liberation, and liberals invested in a minoritarian language of rights.

The first major (though not the earliest) homophile organization was the Mattachine Society, founded in 1950 in Los Angeles. One of its key originators was Harry Hay, earlier a member of the Communist Party, though he had recently resigned because of the Party’s prohibition of openly homosexual members. Hay’s Marxism shaped Mattachine’s initial conception that “homosexuality” was analogous to “nation” or “race” and the broader view that homosexuality was a group identity that could be politicized.12 By 1953, thousands of people were participating in Mattachine discussion groups across California. However, amid the Lavender Scare and with Mattachine coming under investigation by the FBI and local media, moderates in Mattachine wrested control from Hay.13 From then on, the dominant voices in the homophile movement were those of the liberal, libertarian, and anticommunist left. Homophile activists were largely white, middle-class, and distanced from the experiences of working class queer people and queer people of color; their strategies emphasized rights of privacy and nondiscrimination in employment and the military, though they also pushed back against censorship and advocated for the protection of bars and cruising spots.

Propelled in part by federal exclusions, homophile activists won their biggest victories by challenging regulation at the state and local levels, particularly in the courts. In a number of cases in the 1950s, judges and juries affirmed the rights of businesses to serve a gay and lesbian clientele; rejected the censorship of homophile publications; and lessened the severity of police practices. In 1951, the California Supreme Court declared, in Stoumen v. Reilly, that the state could not revoke the licenses of bars that had a solely to homosexual clientele; in the 1959, in Vallerga v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the same court upheld the rights of homosexuals to congregate in bars. In 1958, in One, Inc. v. Olesen, the US Supreme Court affirmed the right of the homophile organization ONE to distribute its magazine—thereby agreeing that a publication was not obscene simply because it discussed gay and lesbian identities and politics. Beginning in 1952, activists won local challenges to police entrapment, as in the Dale Jennings case in Los Angeles and the Edward Kelly case in Washington, DC.14

Homophile responses to police practices reflected the movement’s efforts to politicize gay identity, and they also shaped the movement’s racial and class limits. The Mattachine Society was the lead organization behind the Jennings case, in which a gay man won acquittal on charges of solicitation of a police officer after testifying that he had been the target of police harassment and entrapment. Immediately before the trial, Mattachine had also backed five teenagers, four of them Mexican American, who had stated that although they were not gay, they too had been arrested and brutalized during an anti-gay entrapment operation.15 Mattachine initially sought to end entrapment regardless of its targets, and the group worked briefly with the Civil Rights Congress, a multiracial left organization that supported the teenagers’ case. However, they soon dropped this alliance and concentrated on Jennings, a white man who identified himself publicly as gay and who could argue for the distinction between gay identity and lewd behavior.16

Homophile activists also built change through publications. The Mattachine Society published the magazine Mattachine Review; ONE, Inc. produced One; and the lesbian feminist Daughters of Bilitis, founded in 1955, published The Ladder. All three publications, later joined by others, circulated nationally and transnationally (especially in Western Europe).17 These publications allowed homophile activists to report on many events and debates outside their own organizational circles, and so tracked a diversity of opinions, strategies, and approaches to sexuality. For example, The Ladder bridged literature and activism, while Drum (published by the Philadelphia-based Janus Society) combined physique images with editorials and articles on homophile politics.18

Activists helped to further advance new ways of thinking about homosexuality by reaching out to sympathetic psychiatrists and, by the mid-1960s, liberal members of the clergy. They organized educational events and collaborated with such figures as psychologist Evelyn Hooker, at times volunteering as subjects in research that demonstrated the psychological health of gay and lesbian people. In 1965 and 1966, the Daughters of Bilitis worked with antipoverty organizations and a progressive church to develop programs to serve gay youth and “street queens” in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.19 Such efforts built on the rebellion expressed in the Compton’s Cafeteria riot of 1966.

By the 1960s, the homophile movement was growing but fracturing as a new, increasingly militant politics began to emerge. The Mattachine Society split into distinct groups with varying agendas; for example, the Mattachine Society of Washington DC, led by Frank Kameny, embraced the tactic of public protest (see figure 1).

LGBTQ Politics in America since 1945Click to view larger

Figure 1. Barbara Gittings and Other Homophile Activists, Led by the Mattachine Society of Washington DC, Picket in Front of the White House, 1965.

Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen. New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division, GNU Free Documentation Creative Commons License.

Other homophile groups began to speak out more forcefully on the right to sexual expression, and efforts to develop community services grew. A rising countercultural and radical sexual politics would soon declare itself with the label “gay liberation.”

Gay Liberation, Lesbian Feminism, and the Gay and Lesbian Left

Although the Stonewall riots of 1969 mark a key event in queer history, gay liberation did not begin with that rebellion. In fact, a gay liberation movement was growing in the late 1960s as the activism of the New Left converged with everyday queer life and the counterculture to generate a new sexual politics. The vocabulary of gay radicalism developed among a generation that prompted by the Black Power movement, anticolonialism, and the antiwar movement to embrace the term “liberation” as a rhetoric of sexual and gender freedom—a way to reimagine sexuality and to declare solidarity with freedom struggles around the world.

One way to mark the emergence of gay liberation is by tracking its opposition to police. Increasingly, political demands were voiced in acts of rebellion. In August 1966, trans women and drag queens in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district fought back against routine police harassment; their rebellion became known as the Compton’s Cafeteria riot.20 In the weeks and months that followed, trans people increasingly organized and built ties with homophile and New Left groups. Six months later, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 1967, Los Angeles police raided two gay bars in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood. The patrons fought back and, in February, held the city’s first gay protest by picketing in front of the bar the Black Cat. Marking a trend, these activists connected gay politics to the hippie, Chicano, and black radical movements.21 In spring 1969, Carl Wittman’s “A Gay Manifesto” observed “an awakening of gay liberation ideas and energy,” and tracked the shift to 1968 when “Amerika in all its ugliness . . . surfaced with the [Vietnam] war and our national leaders.”22

Perceived in this context, the Stonewall riots were ordinary: a multiracial and gender-diverse assembly of patrons fought a police raid at the New York City bar the Stonewall Inn. But the scale of that rebellion soon outpaced past events. Begun on June 28, 1969, in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall riots occupied Christopher Street for two nights and attracted the attention of straight news outlets, including the Village Voice. Transgender people and gay youth, including the trans women of color Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (see figure 2), led the fight.23

LGBTQ Politics in America since 1945Click to view larger

Figure 2. Stonewall Veteran and Trans Activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy Honored in the San Francisco Pride March, 2014.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, Creative Commons License, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Within a month, neighborhood activists had founded the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), and in June 1970, they entrenched Stonewall’s significance with an anniversary march—the first of many commemorations to come.

Although Stonewall was not an origin point, it served as a further catalyst of gay liberation. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender radicals around the country soon adopted the name of the Gay Liberation Front, creating dozens of GLFs from Philadelphia and Los Angeles to Tucson and Detroit. Within months, activists in multiple cities were protesting to win such changes as the right to same-sex affection in gay bars, and they built countercultural alternatives through collective living and by holding public gatherings, termed “gay-ins,” in public parks.

Gay liberation groups distinguished themselves from homophile organizations by opposing the Vietnam War, supporting Black Power, and critiquing the traditional political establishment. In San Francisco, the GLF broke with the homophile group SIR (Society for Individual Rights) over military inclusion: SIR advocated for gay men to be accepted as soldiers, and by contrast, the GLF opposed the Vietnam War and the draft. GLFs across the country urged activists to “come out against the war” and propelled gay contingents in antiwar marches.24 Gay caucuses developed inside GI antiwar groups and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and gay critiques of military masculinity found a welcome audience among many GIs and vets.25 Gay liberationists also built ties to black radicalism through a shared challenge to police abuse and by forging alliances with the Black Panther Party. These links accelerated after August 1970, when the Black Panther Huey Newton made statements in support of gay liberation and gay radicals participated in public defense of Panther chapters. Gay, and to a lesser extent lesbian, radicals participated in the Panthers’ Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention meetings held in fall 1970 in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Berkeley. These links proved strongest in Philadelphia, in part because the city’s GLF was majority people of color.26

At the outset of gay liberation, “gay” referred not just to gay men but also to lesbians and trans people; increasingly, however, those groups operated in parallel instead of under one umbrella. Lesbian feminists pursued autonomy from multiple forces, including the state, men, and straight feminists. In May 1970 in New York, lesbian feminists at the Second Congress to Unite Women organized the Lavender Menace action to challenge fears about their presence in the women’s movement. The Radicalesbians, formed in the aftermath of this event, argued that desire between women would subvert patriarchal norms.27 Meanwhile, through groups including Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR, in New York) and Radical Queens (in Philadelphia), trans activists challenged not only the exploitation they faced in broader society but also the hostility they met from many gay and lesbian radicals. Although gay liberation prized gender transgression, some gay and lesbian activists perceived trans people as upholding gender norms rather than transforming them.28

By 1972, GLFs around the country had dissolved, for reasons that were a combination of their internal differences and the broader downturn of radical activity in a climate of state repression. Yet this did not spell an end to radical sexual politics; rather, it marked a transition into a gay and lesbian left that persisted throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The gay and lesbian left developed after the height of the Vietnam War but during a continuation of Cold War foreign policy. Its activists saw radical solidarity and sexual liberation as interwoven goals. They engaged especially with socialist feminism and antimilitarism, and by the 1980s, they had fused those agendas through participation in the Central American solidarity movement. Explicitly antiracist and anti-imperialist, the gay and lesbian left often overlapped with organizing among gay and lesbian people of color. Broadly, the gay and lesbian left warrants attention as an important driver of mobilizations between Stonewall and AIDS.

Beginning in the early 1970s, gay and lesbian leftists drew on socialist feminism to critique discrimination against gay and lesbian workers and to explain how homophobia was intertwined with inequality in the capitalist nuclear family. By mid-decade, activists were forging alliances with organized labor. In San Francisco, the Gay Teachers Campaign laid groundwork for the 1978 defeat of California’s ballot initiative Proposition 6. Known as the Briggs Initiative for its author, state senator John Briggs, Proposition 6 sought to ban anyone who was who was gay, lesbian, or who supported gay and lesbian rights from working in the public schools.29 Gay and lesbian leftists of the 1970s also organized in support of the radical underground, the Chilean solidarity movement, the antinuclear movement, and struggles around housing and police, and against racism and anti-effeminate bias in gay bars.30 Lesbian leftists crafted a politics of collective defense against both gendered and state violence, linking the two concerns in national campaigns to defend Susan Saxe, a white lesbian being prosecuted for radical activism, and Inez Garcia and Joanne Little, women of color fighting murder charges for their acts of self-defense against rapists.31

In the 1980s, the gay and lesbian left coalesced around the Central American solidarity movement. In addition to participating in larger, visibly straight solidarity groups, activists formed specifically gay and lesbian solidarity organizations and travel brigades, particularly in support of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution.32 These efforts began at the end of the 1970s as the Sandinistas seized power, and they flourished in the 1980s as US intervention in Central America grew. Gay and lesbian leftists saw themselves as sharing common enemies with the Nicaraguans who were fighting against the global New Right, and they were inspired by the presence of Sandinista women leaders to hope for gay and lesbian inclusion in the country’s socialist revolution. Central American solidarity furthered multiracial queer organizing, especially in California and other sites with large Central American and Latinx communities.33 It also fostered transnational links because some gay and lesbian radicals in the United States collaborated directly with gay, lesbian, and AIDS activists in Nicaragua. Finally, lesbian and gay solidarity with Central America shaped the organizing for the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, in 1987, and the related day of civil disobedience at the Supreme Court.34

Gay and Lesbian Liberalism: At the Grass Roots, in the Ballot Box, and in the Courts

Gay and lesbian liberals of the 1970s and 1980s worked through legislation, electoral politics, and the courts. Early in the 1970s, some liberal groups were formed by splitting off from radical groups. This could be seen in the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), a splinter group of New York’s GLF founded in December 1969, and then in the National Gay Task Force (now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), which was formed in 1973 in a separation from the GAA. The first of these splits occurred because the GAA opposed the GLF’s support of the Black Panther Party. The GAA membership was predominately white, middle class, male, and gender normative, though it continued to employ militant protest tactics against the media and other targets and by the end of 1973 had succeeded in getting homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-II. The National Gay Task Force’s split from the GAA reflected a turn to the tactics of lobbying rather than protest. The ranks of national advocacy groups continued to grow with the founding of the Gay Rights National Lobby in 1976, the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1980, and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in 1978.

Gay and lesbian liberalism also gained grassroots strength in the 1970s (see figure 3).

LGBTQ Politics in America since 1945Click to view larger

Figure 3. Gay and Lesbian Political Buttons, 1970s and 1980s, Collected by the National Museum of American History.

Photo by Erinblasco, Creative Commons License, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Working at local and state levels, activists pressured candidates and developed voting blocs, including by creating Democratic Party clubs. In the 1970s, over forty cities and counties passed laws banning anti-gay discrimination on the job, in housing, and in public accommodation; in the 1980s these gains reached the state level in twelve states.35 Police entrapment operations and raids began to diminish; some courts struck down laws against cross-dressing and cruising; and by 1981, twenty-four states had overturned sodomy laws. Courts began to grant rights to parents who sought to retain custody of their children after having come out as gay or lesbian and having divorced heterosexual spouses. However, many of the early rulings awarded custody that was contingent on discriminatory conditions, such as prohibiting gay or lesbian parents from dating or from living with same-sex partners.36

In the electoral arena, gay and lesbian activists consolidated power at urban scales. The first openly gay or lesbian elected officials were Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGriek, in Michigan, who came out soon after being elected to the Ann Arbor city council in 1972. In 1974, lesbian Elaine Noble was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. In 1977, Harvey Milk, a gay activist representing the Castro District, won his third bid for San Francisco supervisor; in 1978, Milk and the city’s mayor, George Moscone, were assassinated by Dan White, a former police officer who had recently resigned his own supervisor post. In Chicago, gay and lesbian activists formed a voting bloc inside the urban political machine and eventually gained influence by embracing urban-development goals.37 Patterns of gentrification became interwoven with gay political power in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and other sites.38

By the late 1970s, gains in gay and lesbian freedoms were being constrained by the rising New Right, which had won power at state and local levels and would soon dominate the White House and the Supreme Court. The New Right fused populist and elite conservatism into a powerful coalition that opposed shifts toward civil rights, feminism, and sexual freedom and embraced privatization and cuts in social spending. Although gay and lesbian rights were not the New Right’s sole concern, these issues proved an effective target for mobilizing opposition, particularly among conservative Christians and through the rhetoric of child protection. Some states began to enact specifically anti-gay sodomy laws, and in 1986, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick upheld bans on sodomy. In 1977, a minor celebrity named Anita Bryant mobilized opposition to gay and lesbian rights with the slogan “Save Our Children”; her efforts rolled back a gay and lesbian rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, and helped achieve similar reversals in Boulder, Colorado; Eugene, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and San Jose, California. The interruption to this sweep came in California when liberals and leftists forged a successful coalition to defeat Proposition 6.39

At the federal level, gay and lesbian advocates won a hint of recognition under President Carter. The National Gay Task Force was granted the first White House meeting on gay and lesbian issues in 1977, and the National Coalition of Black Gays followed with their own White House meeting in 1979.40 In 1980, the Democratic Party convention passed a gay and lesbian rights plank, whereas the Republican platform supported the Family Protection Act—proposing to deny federal funding to people or groups that presented homosexuality as an “acceptable lifestyle.” The act died in Congress, but its impulses shaped the federal responses to the AIDS crisis. Less well-recognized shifts that took place under Carter concerned immigration and the military. In 1980, three advocates for military inclusion—Leonard Matlovich, Vernon Berg, and Miriam Ben-Shalom—contested their discharges from the armed forces in the federal courts and won. The same year, immigration authorities revised existing policy to only exclude homosexuals if they explicitly stated their sexual identities. Yet this shift continued to meet Cold War prerogatives: authorities applied the change almost exclusively to the Cuban refugees arriving through the Mariel boatlift and continued to exclude many other LGBTQ immigrants.41

Litanies of Survival and Difference: Race, Class, and Gender

Differences in LGBTQ politics have not only entailed splits between leftist and liberal points of view; they have also included differences of race, class, gender expression, and sexual nonconformity. Transgender people, queer people of color, working-class queer people, bisexual people, and sex radicals have often found themselves pushed to the margins of LGBTQ activism, and they have responded to such marginalization with distinct forms of political rhetoric and organizing practices.

LGBTQ people of color have often been compelled to respond to the pervasive comparisons drawn between sexuality and race.—comparisons that have obscured the intersections of racism and heterosexism and constrained work to challenge inequality. Starting in the late 19th century, eugenic and sexological discourses cited homosexuality and gender transgression as forms of racial degeneracy.42 By the 1950s, homophile activists were drawing on Marxist and liberal thought to define themselves as a minority group akin to African Americans and other people of color. Through such rhetoric—and despite regulations that tied communities of color to sexual “vice”—many activists imagined sexuality and race as being parallel but dichotomous.43 Gay liberationists and lesbian feminists at times imagined that, as Carl Wittman ingenuously put it, “Chick equals nigger equals queer. Think it over.”44 Meanwhile, racial and anticolonial nationalisms often mobilized heterosexist norms of reproduction and family. In the 1980s, the Christian right worked to undermine African American support for gay and lesbian issues by accusing gay and lesbian activists of falsely assuming the legacy of the civil rights movement and seeking “special rights.”45 Yet queer people of color also sharply contested the equation of LGBTQ freedom with racial justice, noting that analogies between sexuality and race were not only inaccurate but also failed to address racism in gay and lesbian life.

Responding to these contexts, LGBTQ people of color crafted independent narratives of their concerns and used them to network with one another and to mobilize for political change. At the emergence of gay liberation, they had asserted the interdependence of sexual and racial politics, forming groups such as Third World Gay Revolution (two formations, in New York and Chicago) and Third World Gay People (Berkeley). The term “Third World” signaled a conception of racial inequality as a system of “internal colonialism” and defined people of color, gay or straight, in anti-imperialist terms.

By the mid-1970s, organizing among lesbian and gay people of color was growing dramatically. Examples include the lesbian groups Gente (Oakland), Salsa Soul Sisters (New York), and the Combahee River Collective (Boston); the primarily gay men’s Gay Latino Alliance (San Francisco) and the national network Black and White Men Together (also formed in San Francisco, in 1981); and the National Black Gay Caucus (later, the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, based in Washington, DC).46 These activists challenged racist policies at gay bars and gentrification in urban “gayborhoods,” and they worked to develop gay and lesbian coalitions that would center racial justice and people of color. For example, in 1978, San Francisco’s Third World Gay Caucus organized to defeat both Proposition 6 and another California ballot initiative authored by John Briggs: Proposition 7, which reinstated the death penalty. The group’s call for solidarity stood in contrast to the broader gay and lesbian movement, which defeated Proposition 6 but did almost nothing to oppose Proposition 7.47 The following year, the first National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference—held in Washington, DC, organized by the National Coalition of Black Gays, and timed to coincide with the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights—engaged a language of breaking silence and enabling survival.

Activism by LGBTQ people of color expanded the boundaries of LGBTQ politics to more assertively include intellectual and cultural expressions as sites of struggle and tools of organizing. Queer and feminist bookstores, newspapers, film festivals, and conferences became increasingly important venues for antiracist critique and networking.48 By the 1980s and 1990s, a growing number of lesbian and gay people of color, among them Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, Joseph Beam, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, June Jordan, and Audre Lorde (whose poem “A Litany for Survival” inspired the title of this section), advanced LGBTQ cultural politics as writers, filmmakers, and theorists.49

Other sites for the expansion of LGBTQ politics lay in transgender and bisexual organizing and in debates over sex radicalism. Trans people, bi activists, and sex radicals shared experiences of being marginalized outside the boundaries of respectability and authenticity. In 1973, Sylvia Rivera was sharply challenged when she spoke at the Stonewall anniversary in New York, known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day, while participants at the West Coast Lesbian Conference divided over the presence of Beth Elliott, a white trans woman and singer. Fellow activist Robin Morgan termed Elliott “an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer—with the mentality of a rapist.”50 The hostility apparent in this language resonated for years, though a number of others at the conference defended Elliott’s presence.

Questions over trans and bi existence were interwoven with lesbian and feminist debates over butch-femme expression, sadomasochism, and pornography, as well as to a lesser extent with gay men’s debates over commercialized sexuality and masculinism. Such debates did not align neatly along left versus liberal divides, but the fact of conservative opposition to sex radicalism raised the stakes of activist responses.51 By 1989 and 1990, conservative politicians had mobilized controversies over the public funding of queer artists Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano, and the “NEA 4” (performance artists Tim Miller, Karen Finley, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes, whose grant applications to National Endowment for the Arts were denied). In response to these battles, which were often termed the “culture wars,” a queer politics emerged that was invested in oppositional aesthetics and that rejected strict boundaries around sexual or gender identity.52 The category of “queer” also helped to open space for, and was influenced by, bisexual and transgender organizing. In 1990, activists held the First National Bisexual Conference and formed the organization BiNet USA. Others founded Queer Nation in 1990; the Lesbian Avengers in 1992; Transgender Nation in 1992; and Transsexual Menace in 1994.

Mourning and Militancy: AIDS Activism, AIDS Care, and Queer Politics

AIDS transformed LGBTQ politics in the 1980s and 1990s, catalyzing new modes of grassroots activism and radicalism even as the scale of the deaths from the illness cut younger people off from an older generation’s political history. The epidemic brought the complexity of sexuality—especially its intersections with race, class, and global inequality—to the forefront of LGBTQ politics. It highlighted the gaps between sexual identity and practice, revealing the limits of strictly identitarian conceptions of gay and lesbian life, and fostered the rise of queer theory and queer activism. AIDS was also a site of intense mourning and of battles over memory, dynamics that persist today not only in scholarship on the history of HIV/AIDS, but also in contemporary activism aimed at reasserting the epidemic as a core issue in health care and in LGBTQ politics.53

Although it is now understood that HIV/AIDS was affecting large numbers of people by the 1970s (including intravenous drug users, sometimes then described as dying from “junkie pneumonia”), the first cases of AIDS illness were identified in the United States in 1981 and associated with gay men. In the first years of the epidemic a virus had yet to be identified, and the details of sexual transmission remained unclear. However, a gay men’s health movement had begun to develop in late 1970s, and this network initiated practices of community care and prevention, as well as efforts to establish what would come to be known as AIDS service organizations.

Fierce debates developed among gay activists over the sources of risk. Some held that bathhouses, commercialized sex, or gay men’s leather culture must be the problems; others viewed that argument as homophobic and argued, accurately, that the transmission of semen or blood was of greater concern than the number of partners. (Such debates also shaped reception of Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On, which popularized the now-disproven myth of a highly promiscuous “Patient Zero.”54) In 1982, Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz’s pamphlet “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic” extended an ethos of friendship to casual sex; in 1983, New York’s People with AIDS Coalition and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis crafted the first prevention messages; and by 1984, the discovery of the HIV virus condensed safe sex debates into an emphasis on condom use.55 Jennifer Brier argues that, for the majority of activists, “gay liberation and the sexual revolution were not the cause of AIDS but rather an answer to it.”56

Both sexual and racial politics were implicated in debates surrounding the origins of HIV. Although the dominant representations of people with AIDS and of AIDS activists centered on white men, blame for the source of the epidemic highlighted Central Africa and Haiti.57 In 1983, when the Centers for Disease Control designated those at high risk of HIV infection, Haitians were the only ethnic group identified (joined by homosexuals, heroin or intravenous drug users, and hemophiliacs to make up a so-called 4-H club). Meanwhile, safe sex messages tended to reify the splits between the categories “gay men” and “people of color.” Activists of color contested not only the rhetoric of these splits but also the broader health and economic inequalities that fueled HIV infection and disease.58 By the mid-1980s the range of AIDS service organizations had expanded to include such groups as the Minority AIDS Project (Los Angeles) and Blacks Educating Blacks about Sexual Health Issues (Philadelphia).

AIDS catalyzed energetic resistance to conservatism as the Reagan administration privileged moralism and nationalism over the arguments of science and public health. Although the surgeon general during the Reagan presidency, C. Everett Koop, proved to be an important supporter of HIV/AIDS education, research, and social spending, he represented an unusual voice in the administration as a whole. Many other conservatives took punitive approaches; some even argued that victims should be quarantined. Gay and lesbian anxieties accelerated in 1986 when the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s sodomy law in Bowers v. Hardwick and the Justice Department issued a ruling that allowed AIDS discrimination on the job.59 Reagan did not give a speech addressing AIDS until 1987, and when he did, he called for mandatory testing instead of prevention and treatment. He did form an AIDS commission, but it included several anti-gay conservatives, only one gay man (Dr. Frank Lilly), and no people with AIDS or AIDS activists. The same year, US senator Jesse Helms pushed through amendments that barred immigrants with HIV/AIDS from entering the country and that banned the granting of federal funds to any AIDS programs that appeared to condone homosexuality or drug use.60

Street protests demanding that government authorities confront the AIDS crisis grew out of networks fostered in the gay and lesbian left, but the AIDS movement also greatly altered the meanings of gay, lesbian, and queer radicalism. The first two AIDS direct-action organizations, Citizens for Medical Justice and the AIDS Action Pledge, formed in 1986 in San Francisco and were strongly shaped by gay and lesbian involvement in the Central American solidarity movement. These influences could be seen in the slogan “money for AIDS, not war,” which blended a critique of militarism with the view that the epidemic reflected unmet needs in housing, welfare, and healthcare.61

By March 1987, activists in New York had founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, which became one of the most influential radical organizations of the late 20th century. ACT UP combined powerful art and graphics with militant direct action against targets that included Wall Street, public health agencies, and the Catholic Church. It demanded lower drug costs, massive public education, and a national AIDS policy built on the needs and input of people with AIDS; it also forged strong ties to reproductive rights organizing, demands for universal healthcare, and the harm reduction movement (which argued for safety in intravenous drug use). ACT UP’s Treatment and Data Committee brought nonexperts into research and drug policy, and the Change the Definition campaign fought hard—and ultimately successfully—to expand the government’s definition of AIDS to better account for the presence of epidemic among women, poor people, and people of color. By 1990 and 1991, ACT UP was splitting between two approaches to organizing, one that centered on a “treatment” approach and the other that prioritized a “social” approach to AIDS. The first emphasized drug research and access, while the second sought to address poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and racism as agents in the disease. The split was also demographic; treatment activists were typically white, middle class gay men, whereas social activists included greater numbers of people of color and women. Yet despite its internal debates, ACT UP mobilized thousands of people and greatly accelerated research and treatment, including the development of the antiretroviral drug therapies that were made available in 1996 and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), approved in 2012. In the early 21st century, HIV/AIDS activists remain prominent in healthcare debates, helping to lead organizing to preserve the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid.

Normativity and Its Critics: Marriage, the Military, and Beyond

Since the early 1990s, LGBTQ politics has come to occupy an important place in neoliberal agendas and debates.62 Reflecting broad patterns across the postwar era, this shift has been both acclaimed and critiqued within LGBTQ communities. The LGBTQ demands that have, however unevenly, gained traction—corporate antidiscrimination, marriage equality, hate crime legislation, and military inclusion—are those that align with the loss of a social welfare state, the growth of incarceration, and post–Cold War and post-9/11 nationalisms. Many LGBT activists have used human rights discourse to pressure the US and international governments, whereas queer radicals have critiqued the alignment of rights discourse with neocolonialism and the war on terror. It remains as important to recognize the tensions that exist in LGBTQ politics as it is to note the changes that have been achieved.

After the Reagan–George H. W. Bush years, advocates began to win important though uneven inroads during the presidency of Bill Clinton; these were interrupted under George W. Bush, expanded under President Obama, and are being contested under Trump. Although many of the victories were won in the courts rather than through legislation, presidents have carried significant weight through their appointment of judges, public statements, and directives for State Department and Department of Justice policy. Military and immigration policy, sodomy law, and marriage have been the most significant areas of change, while employment nondiscrimination has met significant challenges at the federal level.

In 1993, the March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights for Inclusion centered the call to “Lift the Ban” on gay and lesbian people in the military—a goal that many queer radicals strongly opposed. By the end of the year, President Clinton had issued the compromise policy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which barred openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from military service, resulted in an increase of expulsions (these dropped after 9/11), and fueled patterns of sexual harassment and rape.63 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was ended in 2011. In 2016 the military ended a ban on transgender service members, though this has been challenged under President Trump. The exclusion of homosexual immigrants was ended in 1990, and in 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno added homosexuality to the list of reasons migrants might petition for asylum.64 In 1996, in the precedent-setting Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court ruled that a Colorado state measure banning the inclusion of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in antidiscrimination law failed the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court declared bans on sodomy to be unconstitutional.65 Finally, in what arguably reflected the greatest shift in mainstream views, advocates for marriage equality moved from contestations over domestic partnerships and civil unions to the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) to the cascade of rulings in United States v. Windsor (2013), Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), and the granting of the right to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).66

Queer critics of marriage have voiced concern over the ways marriage has remained predicated on the perpetuation rather than transformation of the nuclear family—validating its role as a vehicle for the allocation of social resources. In 2006, the collectively authored document “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage” called for recognition of “diverse kinds of partnerships, households, kinship relationships and families” as a means to access not only love, but also “economic benefits and options.”67 Many activists, working through community groups such as FIERCE, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and Queers for Economic Justice, have defined welfare reform, criminalization, and poverty as important concerns of queer politics.68 Queer radicalism has also been developed through opposition to “homonationalism” and “pinkwashing.” The first of these terms, popularized by Jasbir Puar, criticizes the mobilization of LGBT rights as justification for Islamophobia and the war on terror.69 The second censures corporations and governments, particularly in the United States and Israel, for using a rhetoric of LGBT inclusion to draw attention away from state violence and inequality.

Today, a number of important LGBTQ issues remain situated at the margins of recognition in LGBTQ politics, and some have become sites of conservative retrenchment under President Trump. These include treatment on the job. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has repeatedly failed to advance in Congress, and in the 2000s, the best-funded gay and lesbian advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, repeatedly supported a version of ENDA that excluded trans people from coverage. Though a federal court has ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act can be extended to gay and lesbian workers, the Trump administration’s Justice Department contests this finding.70 Restrictions on LGBTQ recognition have also been tied to healthcare and education. President Trump justified his proposal to end trans inclusion in the military by citing medical costs. Further, within the first six months of his presidency, he expanded the global gag rule and proposed cuts to healthcare that greatly threaten HIV/AIDS treatment and policy.71 Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education reflects the neoconservative investments in both privatizing schools and restricting the civil rights of LGBTQ, especially trans, students. Other important concerns have been less visible, but they affect large numbers of people. LGBTQ youth make up a large portion of the homeless population, an issue generally not addressed by antibullying campaigns or the growth of Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. LGBTQ people remain disproportionately arrested and incarcerated, especially when they are transgender, gender nonconforming, or people of color—and in part because many are profiled as engaging in public sex and prostitution.72 Some thirty-six states criminalize HIV transmission, including in acts that pose very low risk; these penalties have especially affected African Americans and other people of color. All these contemporary concerns underscore the point that, across the postwar era, LGBTQ politics has proven complex in ideological content, uneven in recognition, and unstable in material gains.

Discussion of the Literature

Work in LGBTQ history began in the 1970s and initially developed outside traditional academic venues, crafted by independent scholars or by individuals who were trained in historical research but did not hold traditional academic appointments. Activism to gain recognition in professional organizations and academic curricula soon constituted an important facet of LGBTQ politics. Meanwhile, the field of LGBTQ history became enriched by the presence of community scholars, independent archives, and oral history projects. In the 1980s and 1990s, LGBTQ history emphasized local and community histories that blended ethnography or oral history with archival research. Rooted primarily in social history, these projects situated politics and activism alongside geography and the construction of identity-based communities. Starting in the 2000s, LGBTQ history expanded to place a stronger focus on histories of law and state regulation. Studies centering the intersections of race and class became more common, as did those that pursued the histories of LGBTQ people of color, transgender history, and transnational analyses of citizenship and activism. These shifts reflect the growing recognition of the field and a greater attention to sexuality within legal and political history. Going forward, LGBTQ history might benefit from more narratives that bridge accounts of activism with histories of the arts and artistic subcultures, including writing, performance, and visual expression.

The leading professional organization in the field is the Committee on LGBT History (CLGBTH), an affiliate society of the American Historical Association. The CLGBTH sponsors scholarly presentations at the AHA, awards book and article prizes, publishes a regular newsletter containing book and archive reviews, and serves as a network for both senior and rising scholars.

Primary Sources

LGBTQ materials are contained in a wide variety of venues, including university libraries, independent archives, oral-history collections, and online. Periodicals provide one of the most accessible and useful entry points for historical research; such publications were central sites of political organizing and discussion across the homophile movement during the growth of gay liberation and lesbian feminism and throughout the 1970s and the 1990s. Many important periodicals are held in university repositories or by independent archives. A significant number of these periodicals, as well as of unpublished primary sources, are also available online through the digital Archives of Human Sexuality and Identity, hosted by Gale/Cengage Learning. The first part of the archive, LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940, Part I,” covers the post-1940 period and includes roughly 1.5 million pages of fully searchable content, ranging from newsletters and government documents to pamphlets and organizational papers. Additional online venues of note include; the searchable online repository of the AIDS Memorial Quilt; the ACT UP Oral History Project; the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, at Smith College; and the African American AIDS History Project, organized by the scholar Dan Royles.

Among the many LGBTQ archival collections in the United States, standouts include the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives (Los Angeles), the GLBT Historical Society (San Francisco), the Cornell University Library Human Sexuality Collection (Ithaca, NY), the Lesbian Herstory Archives (Brooklyn, NY), and the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Chicago). The New York Public Library (International Gay Information Center), San Francisco Public Library (Hormel Center) and San Francisco History Center) hold important collections, as do a number of smaller, more localized archives, ranging from the Lambda Archives (San Diego) and Colorado LGBT History Project (Denver) to the Wilcox GLBT Archives (Philadelphia) and the LGBT collections of the Rose Library (Emory University, Atlanta). Researchers working in California should take note of the Online Archive of California, a searchable database that describes collections throughout the state in both independent and university holdings.

Further Reading

Brier, Jennifer. Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.Find this resource:

    Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press, 2012.Find this resource:

      Canaday, Margot. The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

        Duggan, Lisa. The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press, 2003.Find this resource:

          Eaklor, Vicki L. Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United States. New York: New Press, 2008.Find this resource:

            Frank, Miriam. Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

              Gould, Deborah B. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                Hanhardt, Christina B. Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

                  Hobson, Emily K. Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016.Find this resource:

                    Johnson, David K. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in Federal Government. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                      Luibheíd, Eithne, and Lionel Cantú Jr., eds. Queer Migrations: Sexuality, US Citizenship, and Border Crossings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.Find this resource:

                        Mumford, Kevin J. Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.Find this resource:

                          Rivers, Daniel Winuwe. Radical Relations: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                            Rupp, Leila J., and Susan K. Freeman, eds. Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.Find this resource:

                              Stein, Marc. Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: Routledge, 2012.Find this resource:

                                Stein, Marc. Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions from Griswold to Roe. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.Find this resource:

                                  Stewart-Winter, Timothy. Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.Find this resource:

                                    Stryker, Susan. Transgender History. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2008.Find this resource:


                                      (1.) On minoritarian versus universalist conceptions, see Eve Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); and Marc Stein, City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945–1972 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004).

                                      (2.) Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

                                      (3.) When the American Psychiatric Association issued its first diagnostic manual in 1952, it built on the systems of classification enacted by the military and termed homosexuality a “sociopathic personality disorder.” Multiple government agencies relied on the APA definition. Eithne Luibheíd, Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 87.

                                      (4.) Canaday, Straight State; and Marc Stein, Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement (New York: Routledge, 2012), 42.

                                      (5.) David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004); see also Stein, Rethinking, 43, 65.

                                      (6.) Marc Stein, “All the Immigrants Are Straight, All the Homosexuals Are Citizens, but Some of Us Are Queer Aliens: Genealogies of Legal Strategy in Boutilier v. INS,” Journal of American Ethnic History 29.4 (Summer 2010): 45–77.

                                      (7.) George Chauncey Jr., “The Postwar Sex Crime Panic,” True Stories from the American Past, ed. William Graebner (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993), 160–178.

                                      (8.) Karen L. Graves, And They Were Wonderful Teachers: Florida’s Purge of Gay and Lesbian Teachers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009); and Stacy Braukman, Communists and Perverts under the Palms: The Johns Committee in Florida, 1956–1965 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012).

                                      (9.) Emily K. Hobson, “Policing Gay LA: Mapping Racial Divides in the Homophile Era, 1950–1967,” in The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements across the Pacific, ed. Moon-Ho Jung (Seattle: University of Washington Press), 188–212.

                                      (10.) John D’Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Mumford, Not Straight, Not White.

                                      (11.) On coverage in the black press, see Kevin J. Mumford, Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016); and Allen Drexel, “Before Paris Burned: Race, Class, and Male Homosexuality on the Chicago South Side, 1935–1960,” in Brett [Genny]Beemyn, ed., Creating a Place for Ourselves: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community Histories (New York: Routledge, 1997), 119–144.

                                      (12.) Hobson, “Policing Gay LA”; Daniel Hurewitz, Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). The foundational work on the homophile movement is John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940–1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).

                                      (13.) Martin Meeker, “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10.1 (2001): 78–116.

                                      (14) Stein, Rethinking, 48, 61. See also Marc Stein, Sexual Injustice: Supreme Court Decisions from Griswold to Roe (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

                                      (15.) Hobson, “Policing Gay LA.”

                                      (16.) Hobson, “Policing Gay LA.”

                                      (17.) David Churchill, “Transnationalism and Homophile Political Culture in the Postwar Decades,” GLQ 15.1 (2009), 31–65. See also “U.S. Homophile Internationalism,” special issue, Journal of Homosexuality 64 (2017): 843–990.

                                      (18.) Marcia M. Gallo, Different Daughters: A History of Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Seal Press, 2006); and Marc Stein, “Canonizing Homophile Respectability: Archives, History, and Memory,” Radical History Review 120 (2014): 53–73. On the homophile press, see Martin Meeker, Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s–1970s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Craig M. Loftin, Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012); and Craig M. Loftin, ed., Letters to ONE: Gay and Lesbian Voices from the 1950s and 1960s (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012).

                                      (19.) Christina B. Hanhardt, Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).

                                      (20.) Susan Stryker and Victor Silverman, dirs., Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria San Francisco: Independent Television Service, 2005), DVD; and Susan Stryker, Transgender History (Berkeley: Seal Press, 2008).

                                      (21.) Mike Davis, “Riot Nights on Sunset Strip,” in In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire, ed. Mike Davis (Chicago: Haymarket, 2007).

                                      (22.) Carl Wittman, “A Gay Manifesto” (1969),” in We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics, eds. Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan (New York: Routledge, 1997), 380–390.

                                      (23.) Annalise Ophellian, Major! (Floating Ophelia Productions, 2015), DVD; Arthur Dong, The Question of Equality: Outrage ’69 (San Francisco: Independent Television Service, 1995), VHS; and Martin Duberman, Stonewall (New York: Penguin, 1994).

                                      (24.) Justin David Suran, “Coming Out against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam,” American Quarterly 53.3 (2001): 452–488.

                                      (25.) Emily K. Hobson, Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), 39–40.

                                      (26.) Amy Abugo Onigiri, “Prisoner of Love: Affiliation, Sexuality, and the Black Panther Party,” Journal of African American History 94.1 (2009): 69–86; Marc Stein, “‘Birthplace of the Nation’: Imagining Lesbian and Gay Communities in Philadelphia, 1969–70,” in Creating a Place for Ourselves, ed. Beemyn, 253–288; and Hobson, Lavender and Red, 31–34, 51–53. On the question of gay support for Cuba, see Ian Lekus, “Queer Harvests: Homosexuality, the U.S. New Left, and the Venceremos Brigades to Cuba,” Radical History Review 89 (Spring 2004): 57–91.

                                      (27.) Anne M. Valk, “Living a Feminist Lifestyle: The Intersection of Theory and Action in a Lesbian Feminist Collective,” Feminist Studies 28.2 (Summer 2002): 303–332; and Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967–75 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

                                      (28.) Stryker, Transgender History; Betty Luther Hillman, “‘The Most Profoundly Revolutionary Act a Homosexual Can Engage In’: Drag and the Politics of Gender Presentation in the San Francisco Gay Liberation Movement, 1964–72,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 20.1 (2011): 153–181.

                                      (29.) See especially Miriam Frank, Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015). Other important works on LGBTQ labor include Ryan Patrick Murphy, Deregulating Desire: Flight Attendant Activism, Family Politics, and Workplace Justice (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2016); and Phil Tiemeyer, Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

                                      (30.) Hanhardt, Safe Space; Tamara Lea Spira, “Intimate Internationalisms: 1970s ‘Third World’ Queer Feminist Solidarity with Chile,” Feminist Theory 15.2 (2014): 119–140.

                                      (31.) Emily Thuma, “Lessons in Self Defense: Gender Violence, Racial Criminalization, and Anti-carceral Feminism,” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 43.3–4 (2015): 52–71; Judy Grahn, A Simple Revolution: The Making of an Activist Poet (San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 2012); and Hobson, Lavender and Red.

                                      (32.) Important groups included Gay People for the Nicaraguan Revolution, Lesbians and Gays against Intervention, the Victoria Mercado Brigade, and the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Work Brigade. Several gay and lesbian newspapers, including the Boston-based Gay Community News, covered the issue.

                                      (33.) Latinx has become adopted as a gender-neutral term to refer to Latina and Latino people and communities.

                                      (34.) Hobson, Lavender and Red, 155–185.

                                      (35.) Stein, Rethinking, 103–105, 114, 167; see also Vicki L. Eaklor, Queer America: A People’s GLBT History of the United States (New York: New Press, 2008), 155–156.

                                      (36.) Daniel Winuwe Rivers, Radical Relations: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

                                      (37.) Timothy Stewart-Winter, Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

                                      (38.) Hanhardt, Safe Space.

                                      (39.) Fred Fejes, Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America’s Debate on Homosexuality New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). On impacts among gay and lesbian activists, see Heather Murray, Not in This Family: Gays and the Meaning of Kinship in Postwar America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); and Rivers, Radical Relations.

                                      (40.) Eaklor, Queer America, 149; Stein, Rethinking, 134; and Mumford, Not Straight, Not White.

                                      (41.) Julio Capó Jr., “Queering Mariel: Mediating Cold War Foreign Policy and US Citizenship among Cuba’s Homosexual Exile Community, 1978–1994,” Journal of American Ethnic History 29.4 (2010): 78–106. See also Susan Peña, !Oye Loca! From the Mariel Boatlift to Gay Cuban Miami (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

                                      (42.) See, for example, Siobhan Somerville, “Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body,” Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 15–38.

                                      (43.) On links to vice, see Kevin J. Mumford, Interzones: Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); and Kwame Holmes, “Beyond the Flames: Queering the History of the 1968 D.C. Riot,” in No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies, ed. E. Patrick Johnson (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 304–322.

                                      (44.) Wittman, “Gay Manifesto.”

                                      (45.) A vehicle of this argument was the documentary Gay Rights, Special Rights (Hemet, CA: Jeremiah Films, 1993), VHS. On LGBTQ responses at the time, see Mab Segrest, Memoir of a Race Traitor (Boston: South End Press, 1999).

                                      (46.) Horacio N. Roque Ramírez, “‘That’s My Place!’: Negotiating Racial, Sexual, and Gender Politics in San Francisco’s Gay Latino Alliance, 1975–1983,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 12.2 (2003): 224–258; and Mumford, Not Straight, Not White.

                                      (47.) Hobson, Lavender and Red, 91–92.

                                      (48.) Kristen Hogan, The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).

                                      (49.) Key primers include Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, 4th ed. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015). Anzaldúa and Moraga originally published their work in 1981 and it was quickly followed by a second edition in 1983. See also David L. Eng and Alice Y. Hom, eds., Q&A: Queer in Asian America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998); E. Patrick Johnson and Mae J. Henderson, eds., Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); and Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez, eds., Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).

                                      (50.) Emma Heaney, “Women-Identified Women: Trans Women in 1970s Lesbian Feminist Organizing,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3.1–2 (2016): 137–145.

                                      (51.) Whitney Strub, Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); and Lisa Duggan and Nan D. Hunter, Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture, 10th anniversary edition (New York: Routledge, 2006).

                                      (52.) The term “culture wars” refers to the political conflicts over obscenity, sexuality, and the arts in the 1980s and 1990s. It is also used more broadly to describe battles over traditionalist versus progressive, liberal, or secular points of view, or to chart neoconservatism in general; see Andrew Hartman, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

                                      (53.) Jonathan Bell, et al., “Interchange: HIV/AIDS and U.S. History,” Journal of American History 104 (September 2017): 426–455.

                                      (54.) Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: People, Politics, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987).

                                      (55.) Jennifer Brier, Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Responses to the AIDS Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 35–44.

                                      (56.) Jennifer Brier, “How to Teach AIDS in a U.S. History Survey,” in Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, eds. Leila J. Rupp and Susan K. Freeman (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), 282.

                                      (57.) Among the best histories of the origins are Jacques Pepin, The Origins of AIDS (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2011); and Paul Farmer, AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). Farmer’s book was originally published in 1992.

                                      (58.) Cathy J. Cohen, The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); and Adam Geary, Antiblack Racism and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

                                      (59.) Deborah B. Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 138.

                                      (60.) Stein, Rethinking, 157–158; Jennifer Brier, “The Immigrant Infection: Images of Race, Nation, and Contagion in Public Debates on AIDS and Immigration,” in Modern American Queer History, ed. Allida Black (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001): 253–270. See also Anthony M. Petro, After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

                                      (61.) Hobson, Lavender and Red, 155–185.

                                      (62.) Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003); and Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Politics, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of the Law, rev. ed (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015).

                                      (63.) Tim McFeeley, “Getting It Straight: A Review of the ‘Gays in the Military’ Debate,” in Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights, eds. John D’Emilio, William B. Turner, and Urvashi Vaid (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 236–250; Allan Bérubé, “How Gay Becomes White and What Kind of White It Stays,” My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History, eds. John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 202–230; Aaron Belkin, Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American Empire, 1892–2001 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); and Doug Ireland, “Gay-Baiting under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” The Nation, July 3, 2000.

                                      (64.) Alissa Solomon, “Trans/Migrant: Christina Madrazo’s All-American Story,” in Queer Migrations: Sexuality, US Citizenship, and Border Crossings, eds. by Eithne Luibheíd and Lionel Cantú Jr. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 3–29.

                                      (65.) George Chauncey, “What Gay Studies Taught the Court: The Historians’ Amicus Brief in Lawrence v. Texas,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.3 (2004): 509–538.

                                      (66.) For primary sources and firsthand accounts, see Kevin M. Cathcart and Leslie J. Gabel-Brett, Love Unites Us: Winning the Freedom to Marry in America (New York: New Press, 2016).

                                      (67.) “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships,” Monthly Review, August 8, 2006. Available online.

                                      (68.) Scholarly arguments in this regard include Cathy Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?” in Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology, eds. E. Patrick Johnson and Mae J. Henderson (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 21–51; and Laura Briggs, How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017).

                                      (69.) Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).

                                      (70.) Matthew Haag and Niraj Choksi, “Civil Rights Act Protects Gay Workers, Court Rules,” New York Times, April 4, 2017; and Alan Feuer, “Justice Dept. Weighs in against Protections for Gays in the Workplace,” New York Times, July 27, 2017.

                                      (71.) On trans military service, see Phil McCausland, “Trump Claims Transgender Service Members Cost Too Much: But Is That True?,” NBC News, July 27, 2017. On HIV criminalization, see Center for HIV Law and Policy, Ending and Defending against HIV Criminalization, 2d ed. (New York: Center for HIV Law and Policy, 2015); and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “HIV-Specific Criminal Laws.” On the impact of the global gag rule under Trump, see Jerome A. Singh and Salim S. Abdool Karim, “Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’: Implications for Human Rights and Global Health,” The Lancet 5.4 (2017): 387–389.

                                      (72.) Mitch Kellaway, “Phoenix Drops ‘Walking While Trans’ Charge against Monica Jones,” The Advocate, February 27, 2015; Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2012); and Regina Kunzel, Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).