Throughout the 1970s, LGBT people wrote about the benefits of socialism…
Photograph by Bob Brophy
The historic achievement of marriage equality in the United States last year threw the 1969 Stonewall uprising back onto the public stage. In hundreds, perhaps thousands of media reports, commentators gave the world a story of gay liberation that, more often than not, began in 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people rose up in protest against a police raid on a bar. The uprising marked the start of gay liberation in the US, which reached a historic milestone in last year’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v Hodges legalising gay marriage. So, from Stonewall to the Supreme Court – a winning story of a marginalised people demanding their rights from the state.
Except it didn’t happen that way.
Stonewall is important, but not because it initiated the beginning of claims on state rights. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth: the political fervour of Stonewall launched LGBT people on a much deeper, more difficult journey. They began to rethink the very meaning of political power, ideology, and the role of the government. Instead of turning toward the state for recognition, they often turned away from it. They began to transform themselves, intellectually and politically, in ways that revolutionised how they understood oppression and the meaning of governmental and economic power. Throughout the 1970s, LGBT people theorised about the benefits of socialism in books and pamphlets and critiqued capitalism in the growing newspaper and print culture. In doing so, they also began to redefine their identity and to rewrite their history.