A Radical Manifesto: The Homophile Movement Must Be Radicalized! OURstories 1969

Posted: October 15, 2017 in Fight Back, In Remembrance, Our Stories

In 1999 a small group of LGBTQ folks met at the University of Connecticut with the purpose to go through boxes of archives from Foster Gunnison. Mr. Gunnison was a early gay civil rights pioneer and involved with many of the Homophile movements of the early 1960’s.  In going through these archives, ourstories, stories of before Stonewall and after Stonewall began to emerge. This was the first time that anyone had gone through box after box containing leaflets, minutes of meetings, early planning for actions, newspapers and photograph after photograph. A treasure chest of our people. In 1966 Gunnison was appointed chairman of the Credentials Committee with the job of deciding who should or should not be invited to attend conferences. In 1967 he founded the Institute of Cocial ethics in Hartford Ct. which would maintain the records and archives of the American Homophile Movements, facilitate communications among homophile organizations and handle business for NACHO, ECO and the Christopher Liberation Day Committee. In August 1969, 2 months after Stonewall, radicals within NACHO and ERCHO attacked the respectable approach taken by the homophile organizations and issued the following 12 point program to the movement. This was the beginning of the end of the conservative homophile movement. The Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations, (ERCHO) voted at this time to disband to prevent further take over by what liberals and conservatives saw as a radical element.

The following A Radical Manifesto was among the Gunnison papers.

(August 28, 1969)
l) We see the persecution of homosexuality as part of a general attempt to oppress all minorities and keep them powerless. Our fate is linked with these minorities; if the detention camps are filled tomorrow with blacks, hippies and other radicals, we will not escape that fate, all our attempts to dissociate our- selves from them notwithstanding. A common struggle, however, will bring common triumph.
2) Therefore we declare our support as homosexuals or bisexuals for the struggles of the black, the feminist, the Spanish-American, the Indian, the Hippie, the Young, the Student, and other victims of oppression and prejudice.
3) We call upon these groups to lend us their support and encourage their presence with NACHO and the homophile movement at large.
4) Our enemies, an implacable, repressive governmental system; much of organized religion, business and medicine, will not be moved by appeasement or appeals to reason and justice, but only by power and force.
5) We regard established heterosexual standards of morality as immoral and refuse to condone them by demanding an equality which is merely the common yoke of sexual repression.
6) We declare that homosexuals, as individuals and members of the greater community, must develop homosexual ethics and esthetics independent of, and without reference to, the mores imposed upon heterosexuality.
7) We demand the removal of all restriction on sex between consenting persons of any sex, of any orientation, of any age, anywhere, whether for money or not, and for the removal of all censorship.
8) We call upon the churches to sanction homosexual liaisons when called upon to do so by the parties concerned.
9) We call upon the homophile movement to be more honestly concerned with youth rather than trying to promote a mythical, non-existent “good public image.”
10) The homophile movement must totally reject the insane war in Viet Nam and refuse to encourage complicity in the war and support of the war machine, which may well be turned against us. We oppose any attempts by the movement to obtain security clearances for homosexuals, since these contribute to the war machine.
11) The homophile movement must engage in continuous political struggle on all fronts.
12) We must open the eyes of homosexuals on this continent to the increasingly repressive nature of our society and to the realizations that Chicago may await us tomorrow.

These 12 points when voted on did not pass the convention. Losing to the conservative members the split began to widen between the two groups.

Note: The exhibition Challenging and Changing America: The Struggle for LGBT Civil Rights opened in October 1969 at the Hartford Public Library. This exhibition traveled around the state of Ct. Not only were the archives of Foster Gunison used in this exhibition but archives from Central Connecticut State University in the Equity and Diversity Collection. Most LGBT scholars had thought prior to this exhibition that the Foster Gunison archives were tossed out by his family after his death but our little group sent out the notice via the New York Public Library that the archives were alive and well.

Note: From the papers of Gunnison: Foster Gunnison Jr. declares he is ipposed to the notion that heterosexuality is somehow the “norm” by which all other relationships must be judged. He urges homosexuals to expose themselves for who they are and to aim for “free and open expressions of homosexual affection.” In the name of these goals he calls for radical-militant tactics, including confrontations, street demostrations, blatant and hard-hitting assaults on social institutions, and even welcome, where called for, riots and violence.

This quote rings true today. The more things change.

Word went out in the early days, “All of the oppressed have to unite. The system keeps us all weak by keeping us separate.”… Jim Fouratt, one of the organizers of the Gay Liberation Front.


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