In the forty years since the Stonewall riots, and the emergence of the gay liberation movement, a process of historical archaeology has been underway. Its aim has been to make the hidden past visible.
This timeline of anniversaries is a look into what we now know of this hidden past, and also the revealed present.
Publication of Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
1959, 50 years ago
The controversy surrounding this book, which was published first in France by the Olympia Press in 1959 and then by the Grove Press in the US in 1962, heralded a change in the publishing laws of the US.
It heralded an end to overt literary censorship.
The Stonewall Riots
1969 , 40 years ago
After years of persecution in Manhattan’s Village district, an area that had become a Mecca for gay men, something had to give. For years the police had terrorised the streets employing illegal entrapment techniques and unrestrained verbal abuse.
In the early hours of June 28, police raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. The patrons of the bar fought back.
This event witnessed the emergence of the gay liberation movement. It is now the stuff of legend.
1974, 35 years ago
The esteemed writer and journalist Jan Morris, formerly James Morris, published Conundrum, a memoir of her transition.
Morris was a Times correspondent and accompanied the British expedition, the first to scale Mount Everest, in 1953. The Times named her the 15th greatest British writer since World War II in 2008.
Morris started to take estrogen in 1964 and underwent surgery in 1972.
The first openly gay American, Kathy Kozachenko, elected to public office
1974, 35 years ago
Ann Arbor, Michigan city council.
Kozachenko ran on the ticket of the progressive Human Rights Party (HRP). The Party had already succeeded in winning two Ann Arbor council seats in 1972.
Interestingly, her predecessor, Nancy Wechsler, had come out as a lesbian during her first and only term on city council. She became the first openly lesbian public-office holder in the United States, but Kozachenko was the first to run a campaign and win as an out candidate.
Robert Grant founds American Christian Cause
1974, 35 years ago
The Cause represented an effort to institutionalize the growing Christian Right as a politically active social movement. It aimed to oppose what it, and no one else, called the “gay agenda”.
The Cause, like the Christian Right, did not recognise the separation of Church and State in America.
It claimed that separation is not explicit in the Constitution. In so doing it twists the First Amendment, and the 18th Century arguments expounded in The Federalist Papers.
The election of the Conservative Party in the UK, with Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister
1979, 30 years ago
Thatcher intended to turn the clock back to a mythical time in which Family Values ruled. Her rhetoric was a toned down rendition of the Christian Right in the US. In the years of her stewardship there was a backlash against LGBT groups, which culminated with the Section 28 legislation, a schizophrenic law which stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
The economic policies that she and Ronald Reagan sanctioned freed financial institutions from many restrictions. This inaugurated the 1980s era of Fat Cat greed, and led to the 2008-and-continuing Credit Crunch.
The White Night Riots
May 21, 1979, 30 years ago
Dan White, who shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, and supervisor Harvey Milk, in 1978 sentenced for manslaughter. The Twinkie Defense, as it was later dubbed, was presented by a psychiatrist. It argued that White had a diminished capacity due to depression, and that the large amounts of junk food he consumed as a result altered his mental state. The white, working class, Roman Catholic jury – a jury of White’s peers – bought the argument.
The activist Cleve Jones led thousands on a protest march to City Hall. Rioting ensued.
“The rage in people’s face — I saw people I’d known for years, and they were so furious. That to me was the scariest thing. All these people I’d know from the neighborhood, boys from the corner, these people I’d ridden the bus with, just out there, screaming for blood.” Cleve Jones.
1979, first national homosexual rights marched on Washington, D.C.
October 14, 1979, 30 years ago
In the final days of the Carter administration, and a month before the election of the former Hollywood b-movie actor Ronald Reagan to the presidency, this march drew 75,000 gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. They demanded equal civil rights and urged the passage of protective civil rights legislation.
The election of Reagan would mark a step backward for gay rights, as well as the rights of many other minority groups, although not the Christian Right.