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23 June 2020

Gay Liberation Front (GLF) - London

The post-Stonewall activist organizations:

While QLF and STAR were run by trans women, trans women also played significant roles in GLF and GAA. 

Queens Liberation Front (QLF)
StreetTransvestite Action Revolutionaries. (also Part III of Sylvia Rivera)
Gay Liberation Front (GLF) - New York
Gay Activists Alliance (GAA)
Gay Liberation Front (GLF) - London

See also The Five Years Following Stonewall - A New York Timeline

GLF London was founded in the basement of the London School of Economics in October 1970 inspired by what Bob Mellors had seen happen in New York. All-London meetings were held at All Saints Hall in Powis Square, Notting Hill. The newspaper put out was Come Together, named for a song on the Beatles’ Abbey Road album.

At first there was no drag, but slowly a significant minority started wearing frocks for the dances. This extended to street theatre, notably the Miss Trial demo outside the Old Bailey in support of the women who were on trial for disrupting the Miss World contest.  Then GLF disrupted the 1971 Christian Festival of Light. Some GLF queens wore drag because it felt right, some for fun and some for political reasons. Some were living in communal squats and in poverty in Brixton and in Notting Hill, and wore drag all day every day – and became known as Radical Feminists.

They aligned themselves with lesbians against the masculine gay men who were dominating the GLF meetings. When the women finally split from GLF in February 1972, the Rad Fems began to dominate at the All-London meetings, which was a bit intimidating for newcomers. However the RadFems also demonstrated against the launch of the feminist magazine Spare Rib, which allowed The Sunday Times to run an article on the irony of feminist men telling women how they should behave. The fledgling Gay News used this to disassociate from what they referred to as 'fascists in frocks'. The initial issues of Gay News were hostile to GLF in general and even more so to the queens.

Separate from the RadFems and political drag was the GLF Transvestite, Transsexual and Drag Queen Group which started meeting in late 1971 run by Rachel Pollack and Roz Kaveney which formed a trans presence at the GLF meetings. They collectively wrote a manifesto which was published in Come Together, 11, the Lesbian Issue.

Separately from that, Bob Mellors befriended the eccentric trans woman Charlotte Bach, who wasn’t a member, and Bobbie MacKenzie, who was.

The official first gay pride march in London was the Carnival Parade on 1 July 1972. However a few days earlier, GLF had been allocated a time-slot with the Boilermakers Union to picket the US Embassy about what they were doing to Vietnam. Only the Radfems turned up, a band was playing, and a few started a waltz. The US school band packed up in a fit of pique. The queens sauntered off and ended up at Piccadilly Circus. The police asked where they, the queens and the rent boys, intended to go, and said they would escort the march which went via Oxford Street to Hyde Park.

As the all-London meetings declined, they were replaced by separate GLFs in different parts of London. Some of these put on dances which became welcoming places for those who wished to explore their gender expression.

By late 1973 the all-London meetings were almost over. Some of the surviving RadFems took over the anarchist Agitprop bookshop/commune at 248 Bethnal Green Road which they renamed Bethnal Rouge. In 1974 two buildings in Railton Road, Brixton were squatted and became the South London Gay Community Centre.


  • Jeffrey Weeks. “The Gay Liberation front, 1970-72” in Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain, from the Nineteenth Century to the Present. Quartet Books, 1977.
  • Aubrey Walter (ed). Come Together: The Years of Gay Liberation, 1970-73. London: Gay Men's Press, 1980.
  • Bob Mellors. We Are All Androgynous Yellow. Another-Orbit Press, 1980.
  • Kris Kirk with photographs by Ed Heath. Men In Frocks. London: Gay Men's Press 1984: 95-107. Review.
  • Lisa Power. No Bath but Plenty of Bubbles: An Oral History of the Gay Liberation Front 1970-73. Cassell, 1995.
  • Stuart Feather. Blowing the Lid: Gay Liberation, Sexual Revolution and Radical Queens. Zero Books, 2015.
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None of this is found at all in Christine Burns' Trans Britain.  Review

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