News & Resources: Learning from History: Lessons for activism today

A homophile magazine that had to fight just for the right to use the US Mail.

The GLBT movement has been one of the most successful social movements in the West in recent generations. Yet the struggle to fight sexual injustices and hysterias – now in new guises – seems greater than ever. Learning from the paths taken by the gay activists – especially from a time when the movement’s later success was but a gleam in the eye of a generation unborn – is a good place to start. The 1950s US was a time when basic battles over publishing and assembling were the order of the day, and arguments for why homosexuals shouldn’t just be imprisoned or hospitalized needed honing in the face of deliberately conjured hatred and fears. The introduction to Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States (Greenwood Press, 2003) describes the unlikely context for the launch of a wildly successful social movement.