Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity


Where did homosexuality start?
  That's an impossible question to answer. When were the first people? Maybe it's even before people. Maybe homosexuality/"gay consciousness," as we know it today, started back with the bonobos and the champanzees. The bonobos--the cuter of the two, with better hair--show little violence. They are very sexual, both heterosexually and homosexually, and seem to solve problem by having sexplay instead of by fighting, which is what chimpanzees do. Human beings are thought to be descended from the chimps. But maybe there's a parallel between mainstream, straight culture and chimpanzees and marginalized, gay culture as the bonobos.
  In the fanciful metaphor of reincarnation mythology, I wonder if good bonobos are reincarnated up the karmic ladder as sexually liberated gay men or conversely if good gay men might be rewarded karmically by being reincarnated as bonobos.

I want to present four seminal ideas. These come from the following books:

    ISHMAEL by Daniel Quinn
    BLOSSOM OF BONE by Randy Conner


    Human beings appear to have lived on Earth for a couple of million years. The dates have recently been pushed back even further. These people were roughly called "Hunters and Gatherers." They lived in harmony with nature and developed a stable ecological niche in which the population kept balanced with the food sources. The  fanciful, new age novel, ISHMAEL by Daniel Quinn, tells about a gorilla who has been taught to master human language and so is able to speak for the non-human inhabitants of planet Earth. The gorilla Ishmael calls the first humans “Leavers,” because they left things they found them.
    About 5-10 thousand years ago, a new idea developed among certain human beings. This is called The Agrarian Revolution and is thought of as the birth of humankind as we know it. Agriculture allowed food supplies to increase to keep up with population. And population increased to use up surplus food in an ever accelerating cycle. Ishmael calls these people “Takers” because they took what they could get. Their basic presumption is that Agrarians are above the exempted from the ecological order because they discovered how to tip the balance their way and keep it permanently tipped.
    The history of the civilized human race—at least in the West—is the history of Takers converting or killing Leavers.
    In less than 10,000 years the conquest of Taker values has resulted in the destruction and despoiling of the planet.
    In the last few decades, a new revolution has occurred—still looking for a name and an identity. It is based on the achievement of perspective. As no Takers ever before us, we can look back and see what’s happened. Scientific objectivism, though a Taker artifact, has allowed us to observe the patterns of history. We’re now beginning to question human beings’ place in Earth’s ecology.

   In the same way that there's a parallel between straight and gay and chimps and bonobos, there's also a parallel between straight and gay and Takers and Leavers.
   Those early Leaver cultures are thought to have generated shamanistic religions with cross-dressing/two-spirit tribval leaders. It's in the later Taker cultures that male dominant doctrinal religions develop.


    Randy Conner has researched the role of “gender variant” people in pre-Christian and non-Christian religions of the west. He’s found that what we might loosely call the religions of the Leavers were dominated by a homosexual priesthood.

    Androgynous people can achieve a perspective above males and females. They make good marriage counselors and conflict mediators. They function as surrogate parents.


The Greeks and Romans are thought to have relatively accepting of sexual behavior, at least of males, including homosexuality. The classical model tho' was quite unlike what we know as gay today, which emphasizes sameness and equality. Classical homosexuality was between men of power and boys or slaves--a great power imbalance.
   Biblical Hebrew culture was not very accepting of sexuality. The difference between the Mediterranean and the Hebrew is the difference between lush countryside and barren desert. Rules about behavior and about hygiene are much stricter in the desert. The risks are greater and the struggle for hygiene more difficult. How do you keep yourself clean when water is scarce?
   All sex is inherently messy, homosexual sex even almost necessarily "dirty," at least in the sense of violating the taboos of toilet training. Ancient Jewish culture--and modern Middle-Eastern--was patriarchal, male-dominant, and strict.
    The Bible imposed rules for sexual behavior. One such rule was certainly intended to condemn treating men as though they were women. Since homosexual anal intercourse could be construed to do that, it was included in these condemnations.
    And though Jesus was apparently unconcerned about sexual sins and may have been friends with known homosexuals (like the Roman Centurion whose "boy" He healed and who-knows-who among the Apostles--they were mostly all unmarried men at a time men were not likely to be unmarried), Christianity continued the condemnation of any and all sex outside strict married, reproductive intercourse. But there's evidence homosexuality was not particularly noticed; some books of instruction to confessors class homosexual behavior with spitting in the street, i.e., a hygiene violation, but not very serious, and not interpreted as unnatural, just uncleanly.
   Following the Black Death and the Hundred Years War and waves of plagues that devastated Europe, the Church--perhaps intentionally--came up with a strategy for encouraging rebuilding and repopulating: blame the plagues on non-reproductive sex. Then the answer to their threat was more reproductive sex. And that repopulated the continent. It was only at this time that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible was given the anti-homosexual spin. The idea that homosexuality was the sin of Sodom comes less from the Bible than from the Romanized Jewish historian Josephus who came up with the notion the people of Sodom wanted to anally rape the angel visitors.
   This was a useful strategy for social modification. It saved Europe from despair and depopulation. But for gay people, it would mean centuries of persecution.


   The great heresies in the West have driven culture and religion. We’re most interested in just one of them, but it’s the most important and to some extent the basis of the others anyway.
   There's a gay theme that runs through these heresies. And indeed homosexuality itself was considered heretical and heretics were accused to sodomy. And homosexuality is tied into "countercultural" notions of self-actualization and personal fulfillment. The upper classes and intelligensia and artist classes could devote themselves to self-fulfillment--and, for homosexuals, that would mean being able to be homosexual.
    Broadly speaking, the great Western heresy that ties homosexuality into mysticism and self-actualization into religion is GNOSTICISM, the religious/mystical notion that things aren’t really the way they appear, that the world is a kind of illusion, and that mystical/initiated experience can give some individuals a glimpse of the Truth. These individuals probably won’t be able to communicate it to the masses. And so an elite develops. They are “the illuminati” and really should control the world.
    There’ve been many waves of gnosticism. Manicheism was one of the most important. It was Zoroastrian mysticism applied to the world view of the near East around the time of Jesus. Basic to Manicheism was the notion that matter was evil and dark. The soul was goodness and light. Procreating offspring thus involved imprisoning spirit in matter.
    Christianity is doctrinally prolife and so objected to this notion. Manicheans practiced celibacy and contraception in order to achieve the mystical experience of sexuality without the consequence of procreation. The original condemnation of birth control came out of this. They also believed that “the ritual eating of semen” helped overcome the power of the darkness and released spirit from its prison in matter.
    Greek gnosticism has survived as the Old Religions: witchcraft and nature worship was one side of it. Mysticism, Hermeticism and, in general,  “conspiracy theory” and various kinds of spiritual elitism were another side. The Counterculture of the 60s/70s was another manifestation.
    Crusaders traveling to the Holy Lands discovered Levantine culture, and sexuality that Europe just didn't know about. The "Treasure of the Knights Templar" might very well have been simply homosexual love as preferential to the socially imposed heterosexual marriage for procreation.
    Gnosticism reappeared in France in the early middle ages as Albigensianism or Catharism. This was centered in Languedoc in the area of Provence on the South of France.
    Languedoc was possibly the real world basis for the myth of Camelot. It was the San Francisco of its day: a countercultural, progressive, multi-cultural center. Here the notion of romantic love was born. Homosexuality is more like romance and arranged marriage.
    The Albigensian Crusade destroyed Langedoc.
    The counterculture of Provence generated non-canonical religious orders and associations of friends. One such group were called Mattachines.
    The esoteric religion has thus long been fascinated with sex magic and altered states of consciousness. Homosexuality is a natural part of sex magic. And even today drugs have been a natural part of the gay counterculture.


   There must have been a kind of homosexuality within medieval monasticism. The monasteries were populated with men (and convents with women) who weren't interested in marriage and family. The Church gave been an identity and legitimacy they wouldn't have had otherwise.  This is where gay people of those days could find acceptance and loving friendship, if perhaps only chastely (i.e. without intentional sex acts).
    Through most of European and British and then American history, there's probably always been a relatively invisible homosexual subculture of people who knew people who knew people…
   In 18th and 19th century England, there were institutions called Molly-houses that were effectively gay bars and bathhouses.


   Down through history there have been homosexuals in prominent positions in the arts and letters. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and class of artists in Florence Rome were known to be homosexual. How many more there were who were not known!
   The great American poet, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), was "closeted," but pretty transparent and guileless in his poetry and expression of love for the beauty and touch of men.
   Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was part of a British homosexal culture that included a whole class of men called "Dandies." And of course everybody's favorite Dandy was the American farmboy hick Yankie Doodle who playfully mimicked the Italian (macaroni) style of the Dandies and stuck a feather in his cap.
   Wilde was outrageous and got himself in trouble by suing his boyfriend's father, the Marquis of Queensbury, for calling him homosexual--when he obviously was. Tragically Wilde ended up in prison and scared homosexuals into retreat.
   But that same period saw Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) explains same-sex love in the context of antrhopology and the study of religion.


    There’d been a resurgence of interest in sex in Europe of the late 18th C. In America Walt Whitman had just articulated a kind of homosexual nature mysticism—a modern gnosticism. Post World War I Germany saw a rise of a counterculture. The names of the sexologists Krafft Ebbing, Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud, Magnus Hirshfeld are familiar.

DER EIGENE, the first gay journal in the world, was published from 1896 to 1932 by Adolf Brand in Berlin. Though there were two prior issues to this date, this was the first issue that was fully gay in its content. Brand contributed many poems and articles himself. Other contributors included Benedict Friedlander, Hanns Heinz, Erich Muhsam, Kurt Hiller, Ernst Burchard, John Henry Mackay, Theodor Lessing, Klaus Mann and Thomas Mann, as well as artists Wilhelm von Gloeden, Fidus and Sascha Schneider. Like White Crane, the journal may have had an average of around 1500 subscribers per issue during its run, but the exact numbers are uncertain.
The title of the journal, Der Eigene (The Own), refers to the classic anarchist work Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (1844) by Max Stirner. Early issues reflected the philosophy of Stirner, as well as other views on the politics of anarchism, but in the 1920s the journal shifted to support the liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic and more specifically the Social Democratic Party. Der Eigene interwove cultural, artistic, and political material, including lyric poetry, prose, political manifesto and nude photography. A winning combination in our opinion.

Magnus Hirschfeld (14 May 1868 – 14 May 1935) was a German Jewish physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany; he based his practice in Berlin-Charlottenburg. An outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee. Historian Dustin Goltz characterized this group as having carried out "the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights".

In 1921 Hirschfeld organised the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. Congresses were held in Copenhagen (1928), London (1929), Vienna (1930), and Brno (1932).
Conrad Veidt and Hirschfeld as Paul Körner and the Doctor in Different from the Others

Hirschfeld was both quoted and caricatured in the press as a vociferous expert on sexual matters; during his 1931 tour of the United States, the Hearst newspaper chain dubbed him "the Einstein of Sex". He identified as a campaigner and a scientist, investigating and cataloging many varieties of sexuality, not just homosexuality. He developed a system which categorised 64 possible types of sexual intermediary ranging from masculine heterosexual male to feminine homosexual male, including those he described under the term transvestite (Ger. Transvestit), which he coined in 1910 to describe people who in the 21st century might be referred to as transgender or transsexual.

When the Nazis took power, they attacked Hirschfeld's Institute on 6 May 1933, and burned many of its books as well as its archives, the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft.

By the time of the book burning, Hirschfeld had long since left Germany for a speaking tour that took him around the world; he never returned to Germany. In March 1932 he stopped briefly in Athens, spent several weeks in Vienna and then settled in Zurich, Switzerland in August 1932.


The first organization for homosexual rights in America was established in Chicago in 1924. Henry Gerber founded the "Society for Human Rights," modeling his organization on the homosexual rights movement in Germany. The "Society for Human Rights" focused on educating the heterosexual community about the nature of homosexuality and reforming the laws that criminalized homosexuality. However, after only a few months of meetings and the publication of two issues of the society's paper "Friendship and Freedom," Chicago authorities shut down Gerber's organization in 1924 because of the anti-homosexual sentiment of the time.

Although Gerber's "Society for Human Rights" was short-lived, lesbians and gay men were highly visible in 1920s Chicago, particularly in the bohemian world of Towertown, so-called because of its proximity to the Water Tower. Chicago, like many cities of the 1920s, had its Bohemian neighborhood where artists, poets, and lesbians and gay men lived and congregated. The visibility of lesbians and gay men in Towertown marks an important historical moment when there was an openness and acceptance of lesbians and gay men in certain artistic and bohemian worlds.


Homosexual activity was against the law in most of the world. Where it hadn't been before, the Brtish Empire inspired rigid morality laws than punished homosexuals severely. This is in a long tradition of poor gay men being caught and hanged or burned alive or shot or drowned in a variety of horrible ways. Imprisonment was relatively benign.

The World Wars in the 20th Century had a tremendous effect in exposing the common people to a bigger world. "How can you keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" Not unlike the Crusaders in the 12th Century who were exposed to the Levant, the Americans who went to Europe discovered more liberal ideas about sexuality AND the homosexuals among them saw each other in the Army and the Navy and around the world. It was eye-opening.

A little bit of homosexuality was accepted as part of boys being boys when there aren't any girls around. The Navy and merchant marine has a history of such carrying-on.

The US military accepted a certin amount. It wasn't all that forbidden. At the time of the World Wars, psychiatry was being developed as a branch of medicine. Psychiatrists were called in to treat "Shell-shock," as Post-traumatic Shock Syndrone was called in those days. But military psychiatrists didn't have a lot to do. (As M*A*S*H and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 have dramatized, it isn't crazy to be disturbed by war.) Towards the middle of World War II, military psychiatrists came up with a job for themselves--finding and curing, or punitively discharging, homosexuals in the ranks. And "homosexuality" became thought of as a mental illness. While this "more enlightened" shift probably saved some peopel from being treated as criminals going to prison for being gay, it meant they and others would endure electroshock, aversion therapy and other forms of coercive treatment and waste enormous amounts of money being analyzed insearch of a "cure" for being who they were.

An irony of history is that male homosexuals who were mustered out of the Army and Navy in the Pacific Theater were mostly discharged in San Francisco. They had dishonorable discharges, which were printed on blue paper, and the gay people had a big red H stamped on the discharge. These men, and women, couldn't go home. So they stayed in California and especially the Bay Area.

Inadvertently the US military made San Francisco the gay mecca.


    I worked with Toby Marotta on the revision of his PHD dissertation for Harvard. It set out to explain in political/sociological terms how and why the gay political movement happened and why its organizations have always been short-lived.
    He created a model that explains the variety of axes along which gay movement activity has happened. The model indeed explains why organizations rise and collapse, and more importantly, explains why there is so much strife.

    The Model:

    Up to the early 70s there were three waves. We can now identify two—and maybe three—more.


    Started by Harry Hay in California, this grew out of 50s idealistic Communism. Recall that following WW2, existentialist, bohemian, counterculturists adopted Marxist idealism. The counterculture always mixes up populism and egalitarianism with its own elitism. (The French Revolution is the classic example)
    Following WW2, a lot of homosexuals were dishonorably discharged and mustered out of the military in California and New York—the coasts.
    In the summer of 1948, Hay was at a party where an idea was brought up to form a group called Bachelors for Wallace to support the Progressive candidate Henry Wallace.
That group never formed. But a couple of years later while he was at the Southern California Labor school where he taught music, he came up with the idea of the “International Bachelors Fraternal Order for Peace and Social Dignity” or Bachelors Anonymous. Soon after the Korean War broke out, the political activists in California, calling themselves communist, put out a petition. Harry Hay took the petition to the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. Hay saw that homosexuals could organize politically. Soon the Mattachine Society was formed.
    In its creation, the Movement harked back to gnosticism.

    Franklin Kameny was a Harvard PhD astronomer who got a job with the Army Map Service. When they found he was gay, they fired him. He appealed to the Courts, getting all the way to the Supreme Court (which, however, refused to hear the case). Politicized by his experience he helped form a Washington branch.

    These two men represent two different approaches. Hay was a communist militant calling for revolution. Kameny was a moderate reformer who wanted redress through the system. Kameny was in fact a militant compared to the moderates who followed him and formed the New York Mattachine.

    The homophile movement downplayed sexuality, thus its name. They believed that “prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination were the source of the homosexual’s problems and that education, policy reform, and help for individual homosexuals would bring about the recognition of basic similarity, equality of treatment, and integration that were tantamount to social progress.”

    The McCarthy hearings scared moderates away from Harry Hay’s communist idealism (while inspiring Hay to make his organization a secret society of cells that did not know who belonged to other cells).
    The homophile movement ended up organizing lectures by psychiatrists and seeking law reform on the grounds that homosexuals were hapless victims who didn’t deserve any more oppression. This retrechment was based in organizational maintenance concerns (they didn’t want to be outlaws), but made it difficult for the organization to attract members, because its basic argument (coming out of the civil rights movement) was that sexual orientation didn’t matter very much.
    It was hard to get members to risk their lives and livelihoods for something that didn’t matter.
    The Daughters of Bilitis was an organization for women formed first in San Francisco by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who had formed a social club, but having heard of the LA Mattachine and ONE Magazine, politicized the social group to become DOB.

    The axis we want to look at here is Moderate vs Militant.

In S.F. and L.A. and elsewhere around the country, mostly unknown, there were protests against police oppression of gay people.
like the Black Cat Bar Raid (1948) and the Compton’s Cafeteria riot (August 1966), both in S.F.  that weren't directly associated with any homophile organizations.

   In 1973, partly in response to Alfred Kinsey's discoveries about sexual behavior, sympathetic doctors, like Judd Marmor, and openly gay researchers, like Evelyn Hooker, successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.


    Following the so-called Stonewall Riots in New York City in late June 1969, hippies and anti-war politicized students and counterculturalists formed GLF, taking the name from the National Liberation Front of Viet Nam.
    GLF soon fell apart because it was too disorganized. Gay Activists Alliance (created by Arthur Evans) formed to replace it.
    GAA devised the action of “political zaps.” Chaining themselves to the mayor’s desk; clasping his hand in a crowd and not letting go; disrupting the opera. “Mr. Mayor (Lindsay), what are you going to do about the problems of homosexuals,” they’d ask.
    GAA created The Firehouse, the archetypal gay community center, where they held dances and meetings to educate gay people.
    A major change in strategy from the homophile movement to educate the public was to GLF/GAA’s strategy to educate gay people.
    Gay Liberation rose out of the counterculture and politicized anti-war movement.

    Marotta identifies two axes here.

    1) Political-economic vs. cultural concerns (i.e. leftist politicos vs. flower children)
    2) Radicals vs. reformers

    Political-economic radicals/revolutionaries were inspired by S.D.S and student protest. In fact, they saw homosexuals as simply another minority to mobilize in the revolution and overthrow of capitalism.

    Cultural radicals wanted to create a whole new gay culture, separate but equal (actually, of course, superior). The Firehouse was their creation, along with gay theater, arts, etc. Gay bookstores come under this rubric.

    Political reformers wanted to infiltrate the existing system to change laws to make them fairer. They were not trying to overthrow capitalism and were always frustrated and annoyed by all the radicals who didn’t seem to know how to get anything accomplished—and didn’t seem to care.

    Cultural reformers wanted to change the way gay people are portrayed in the culture. GLLAD is a manifestation of this; domestic partnership legislation; MCC.
Also gay capitalism which co-opted the movement in the 1970s and carried gay culture into the affluent gay ghetto, but diluted its political/radical punch.


    Marotta’s third wave is women’s participation.
    Early GLF was made up of both men and women. They had adopted GAY as their term. But what the women in the movement discovered was that the men (tho’ homosexual) were still men. AND that the word gay as an all-inclusive term made them and their cause invisible.
    Lesbians were torn between being gay liberationists OR feminists. And still are.
    The mainstream women’s movement, based on the civil rights movement for equality, not social upheaval, didn’t know what to do with lesbians. They were an embarrassment and a liability for organizational maintenance.

    Lesbian separatism was one reaction.

    The axis here is biological identity vs. behavior.
    This is similar to the issue involved currently with the gays in the military question

    Lesbian feminism in some ways has had the greatest effect on how we all think about and discuss these issues. That’s because feminism analysized how words and word usage affects people’s thinking (hence the effort at inclusive language).  But lesbians observed their issues needed to not be inclusively covered. We now all use the expressions Lesbian and Gay.

Marotta’s analysis ended here with what he called The Explosion of Things Gay, i.e. the inclusion of gay people in everybody’s understanding of what human beings are like.
The fourth wave started a couple of years later. It rose out of efforts of cultural reformers to get the health and medical needs of homosexuals identified. Health activists were radicals or reformers.


    The whole thrust of gay organizing changed with the appearance of AIDS. The disease politicized a segment of people who had not paid much attention to the political side of gay liberation.
    This also forced a reassessment of the norms of sexual liberation and of the meaning and significance of death and mortality.

    It’s clear there are reformist groups: ASA, AmFAR, etc
    And radical, non-conformist groups: HIV Wellness Project, Attitudinal Healing
    Also moderate and militant groups, to wit, GMHC  and ACT UP


    The nihilistic, angry cultural reaction to AIDS has given rise to a non-medical reaction to the health crisis. This wave set out again to select and all-inclusive word: Queer.
    Its countercultural styles are those of the late 80s punks and skin heads, not the 60s hippies and flower children.
  By the 2000s, "Queer" had come to develop a newer meaning. It has come to be seen as an umbrella term for sexual diversity than transcends political-cultural identification. "Queer" now includes a generational cohort that experiences sexual attraction and sexual identification as fluid and changeable and inclusive.

    Or maybe this is what has been at the heart of all his activity all along: the collapse and overthrowal of male-dominated, patriarchal mythologies and values.
    I would like to call this emerging theme Gay Eco-Spirituality.  This takes us back to Ishmael and the Takers and the Leavers.
    I am arguing that the perspective given to gay people by our not fitting in and not identifying as either male or female gives us CRITICAL DISTANCE. We can see what’s happening.
    Taker values are all founded on reproduction of offspring and cultivation of the earth to produce harvest. What you are is what you produce and your value to society lies in production of desired and needed goods (including children).

    New Leaver values are founded on understanding of dynamic systems and ecological balances. Gaia, not Jehovah, is the god. And we are created as instruments of her guidance of planetary evolution.

Author note: The Sixth Wave I envisioned in 1990 when I wrote this article (and when I was reading Daniel Quinn's and Morris Berman's books) never quite materialized. Though it woukld be included in the larger notion of "Gay Spirituality" which I came to champion.

  What DID happen, starting in the 90s and succeeding in 2015 with the Supreme Court was the recognition of Same-Sex Marriage. This is an example of what Marotta would have called Political-economic Reformism. To the larger world, gay marriage was radical, but within liberated gay life getting your relationship approved by the government seems anything but. Recognition of gay relationships and acknowledgement of our issues and of our individual rights was something we always believed the Supreme Court would have to approve of once these issues got to its docket. But they weren't getting there. And the push for marriage forced our issues into public view--and in a fairly sympathetic way.

Trans* identity is an artifact of medicine and surgical prowess, but it responds to an important segment of gay people's consciousness. The asterisk in Trans* is ussed like the wildcard in a computer search. It acknowledges that there are a variety of gender identities and roles and appearances that one can transition into.

Drag and cross-dressing have always been parts of gay life. During the heyday of gay liberation, cross-dressing--especially "genderfuck cross-dressing"--was a parody of how traditional society treated women. And the idea of surgical reassignment or surgical gender confirmation was new--and the medical implications only partly understood.

The drag queens at The Stonewall weren't really "trans*" because that label didn't exist yet. But some of the people who were drag queens back then would later come to think of themselves and their gender experiences as trans*.

It's a curious question how trans* fits into gay/queer. Trans* is tied into the heterosexual duality. The whole idea of transforming from one side to the other emphasizes the two sides. But surely all sexually-diverse people must support one another in achieving the goals of self-actualization and psychological fulfillment.


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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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