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19 June 2020

Gay Liberation Front (GLF) – New York

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


After the Stonewall Riots, radicalized gays and lesbians attempted to work with the Mattachine Society of New York but the MSNY urged a tempering of demands and the avoidance of further uprisings. On 9 July 1969 a meeting was called by Mattachine-New York, and almost a hundred attended, and a majority voted for a march. The march planning committee felt that it needed a name, and Gay Liberation Front was suggested: in homage to the Vietnamese Liberation Front which was fighting US imperialism and the Algerian Front de libération nationale, which had gained independence a few years earlier.

The GLF met again a week later independently of Mattachine, and decided on a march and protest one month after the riots. The ad placed in The Village Voice said that the march on 27 July was co-sponsored by Mattachine and the Daughters of Bilitis, but at the march 2000 appeared and it was clear that Mattachine and DoB were no longer in charge.

The GLF that emerged was what today would be called intersectional. It denounced racism and the US invasion of Vietnam, and allied itself with third-world struggles and the Black Panther party. They spoke out against capitalism and the nuclear family, psychiatry, organized religion and mafia-run gay bars. And also against lookism, role-playing and objectification in the gay culture. And the homophobia and sexism in the New Left. Meetings were based on consensus and the chair was rotated. This was sometimes chaotic, and some debates continued for weeks.

Their manifesto:
“Gay Liberation Front is a revolutionary homosexual group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished. We reject society’s attempt to impose sexual roles and definitions of our nature. We are stepping outside these roles and simplistic myths. We are going to be who we are.”
By December, some members had become dissident, and a donation to the Black Panthers was considered too much. They broke away and founded the Gay Activists Association.

Consciousness-Raising groups in GLF were organized. One cell published the newspaper, Come Out! – Zazu Nova was a contributor; another organized dances.

Bob Kohler became prominent in GLF. He lived close to the Stonewall Inn and befriended and helped the street queens who congregated in the park across from the Stonewall. He would sit and talk to them, give clothing or change, and sometimes pay for a room in a cheap hotel. He knew their problems. He spoke up for them in GLF meetings, despite opposition. At different times he brought along various queens, including Bambi L’Amour and Zazu Nova (who is cited by David Carter as being in the vanguard at the Stonewall riots). He had brought Boom Boom Santiago to an early meeting. “Here are the people that you’re supposed to be helping. Meanwhile they’re starving, they’re dying, they have no clothes, they have no food. They’re the ones who started the goddamn [Stonewall] riot”. Kohler’s appeal was actually met with hostility.

Only Sylvia Rivera had the staying power. Kohler was on the committee that organized GLF dances. He put Sylvia on door duty, where, even though often stoned, she fiercely collected and guarded the money.  However the queen known as Orphan Annie volunteered to distribute GLF leaflets in Greenwich Village, and gave one to lovers Arthur Evans and Arthur Bell – which led to them coming into the group.

There was an ongoing problem with homophobia within the Black Panthers. They had been confronted on this issue by GLF at a rally at New Haven on 1 May 1970. Shortly afterwards Panther Huey Newton published an admonishment that militant blacks should acknowledge their insecurities about homosexuality. The GLF was invited to send a delegation to a Panther convention in Philadelphia, and Sylvia was chosen as part of the delegation. Huey even remembered her from a demonstration in New York.

By this time GLF women were becoming impatient with the sexism of the men, and many of them left and founded Lavender Menace, which had a different fight after being excluded from the First and Second Congress to Unite Women.

New York GLF folded in 1971.

  • Martin Duberman. Stonewall. A Plume Book, 1993: 188-9, 219-32, 235-9, 246-53,
  • David Carter. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. St Martin’s Griffin, 2004: 213-232, 241-3.
  • Stephen L Cohen. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York “An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail”. Routledge, 2008:
  • Lillian Faderman. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. Simon & Shuster, 2015: 194-201, 210-3, 228-232, 265, 343, 589.

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