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

I want to present four seminal ideas. These come from the following books:
    ISHMAEL by Daniel Quinn
    BLOSSOM OF BONE by Randy Conner
    COMING TO OUR SENSES by Morris Berman


    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. Daniel Quinn’s character Ishmael calls them “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.


    Berman analyzes the great heresies in the West that have driven culture and religion. He identifies five. We’re interested in just one of them, but it’s the most important and to some extent the basis of the others anyway.
    Broadly speaking this 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.
    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.
    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.


    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.


    There’d been a resurgence of interest in sex in Europe of the late 18th C. 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.
    Walt Whitman had just articulated a kind of homosexual nature mysticism—a modern gnosticism.

    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. They couldn’t go home because their blue discharge papers were stamped with a red H.
    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 coupe 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.


    Following the Stonewall Riots, 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.
    It’s countercultural styles are those of the late 80s punks and skin heads, not the 60s hippies and flower children.

    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.


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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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