Gay Liberation

Gay Liberation Movements of 1970’s

There was never a time in history where there were never any homosexuals in society.  Homosexuals aren’t some part of human evolution that appeared out of thin air one day, but a piece of our society that has been neglected, ridiculed, and hidden throughout history.  Social hostility forced this subculture into hiding and with no voice this subculture stayed dormant until the first appearance around the 1920’s.  WWII forced many gay men and women to embrace their sexual preference because of the sex-segregated community of the army.  When the war was over many of the gay soldiers stayed in the cities that they were stationed at due to the majority of openly gay men and women.  The visibility of this once secret subculture, prejudices were formed from the major society was provoked.  President Eisenhower issued an executive order in 1953 barring gay men and lesbians from all federal jobs (Houghton, 1991).  Even surveillance programs were implemented against homosexuals.  This allowed a blind eye for local police forces to harass gay citizens.  The bombardment of hatred and prejudices against this subculture is what forced them to fight back and catalyzed the gay social movements of the modern era.  Influenced by many militant black civil rights movements, the gay society took charge in the reformation to gain equality and acceptance.

The incident that gave birth to the modern gay liberation movement was in June, 1969 with the police raid of the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York.  The raid was not an unusual act by police, but the retaliation by the gay community inside the bar was revolutionary.  The bar controversy provoked three nights of rioting and protesting.  This was the first publicly social backlash of the gay community with gay power signs raging through the streets of New York City (Healey, 2006).    After Stonewall, hundreds of gay rights organizations in American cities demanded legal reform, access to public services, and an end to discrimination.  With the gay subculture growing so was pro gay events and openly public gay political figures.  Some examples of the growing awareness can be seen n 1972 with the United Church of Christ becoming the first U.S liberal church to ordain an openly gay man(Bryant, 1999).  In 1973 Kathy Kozachenko became the first openly gay candidate to run office in the U.S, 1974 the American Law Institute suggested that “private sexual behavior between consenting adults should be removed from the list of crimes and thereby legalized,” and a year later the American Bar Association agreed.  In 1974 homosexuality was also removed from the list of mental illnesses.  In 1975 the Civil Service Commission eliminated the ban on the employment of homosexuals in most federal jobs.  Openly gay political figures were also an enormous influence the gay liberation movements.  No political figure was more influential then Harvey Milk.  Harvey Milk was a gay activist who was elected to the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco.  His open homosexuality and strong views made him a great face for the proud gay nation.  In 1978 Harvey Milk was shot and killed which only strengthened the gay community (Curre, 2000).  In 1979 the second gay riot in the U.S occurred when the murder of Harvey Milk received a light jail sentence.  The riot was known as the “white night riot.”  With a large and well organized community, the gay rights movements were making noise and progress.  With this change of social views, many opposition groups of the gay rights attempted to stunt the gay cultures growth.  The 1980’s AIDS epidemic was used by many antigay groups to try and show the American culture the negativity brought by the gay community.  This however backfired when the gay community used this epidemic to strengthen their mobilization.  They protested the necessity to provide services and fund research for a cure making them stronger than ever.  The Gay Liberation Movements brought out a hidden subculture of American identity and changed social standards for a more accepting view of our constitutional rights.


1969:The Stonewall Riots

1969 is often regarded as the year that the gay rights movement took off, and for good reason. Before 1969, there was a real disconnect between political progress, which was most often made by straight allies, and lesbian and gay organizing, which was most often swept under the rug.

When the NYPD raided a gay bar in Greenwich Village and started arresting employees and drag performers, they got more than they bargained for–a crowd of some 2,000 lesbian, gay, and transgender supporters of the bar took on the police, forcing them into the club. Three days of riots ensued.

A year later, LGBT activists in several major cities, including New York, held a parade to commemorate the revolt. Pride parades have been held in June ever since.

1973: American Psychiatric Association Defends Homosexuality

The early days of psychiatry were both blessed and haunted by the legacy of Sigmund Freud, who created the field as we know it today but sometimes had an unhealthy obsession with normalcy. One of the pathologies Freud identified was that of the “invert”–one who is sexually attracted to members of his or her own gender. For most of the twentieth century, the tradition of psychiatry more or less followed suit.

But in 1973, members of the American Psychiatric Association began to realize that homophobia was the real social problem. They announced that they would be removing homosexuality from the next printing of the DSM-II, and spoke out in favor of antidiscrimination laws that would protect lesbian and gay Americans.

1980: Democratic National Convention Supports Gay Rights

During the 1970s, four issues galvanized the Religious Right: Abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and pornography. Or if you want to look at it another way, one issue galvanized the Religious Right: Sex.

Leaders of the Religious Right were squarely behind Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election. Democratic leaders had everything to gain and little to lose by supporting gay rights, so they inserted a new plank in the party platform: “All groups must be protected from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, language, age, sex or sexual orientation.” Three years later, Gary Hart became the first major-party presidential candidate to address an LGBT organization. Other candidates of both parties have followed suit.

1984: City of Berkeley Adopts First Same-Sex Domestic Partnerships Ordinance

A key component of equal rights is the recognition of households and relationships. This lack of recognition tends to affect same-sex couples most during the times in their lives when they already face the greatest levels of stress–in times of illness, where hospital visitation is often denied, and in times of bereavement, where inheritance between partners is often unrecognized.

In recognition of this, The Village Voice became the first business to offer domestic partnership benefits in 1982. In 1984, the City of Berkeley became the first U.S. government body to do so–offering lesbian and gay city and school district employees the same partnership benefits that heterosexual couples take for granted.

1993: Hawaii Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Support of Same-Sex Marriage

In Baehr v. Lewin (1993), three same-sex couples challenged the State of Hawaii’s heterosexual-only marriage code…and won. The Hawaii Supreme Court declared that, barring a “compelling state interest,” the State of Hawaii could not bar same-sex couples from marrying without violating its own equal protection statutes. The Hawaii state legislature soon amended the constitution to overrule the Court.

So began the national debate over same-sex marriage–and the pandering efforts of many state legislatures to ban it. Even President Clinton got in on the act, signing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 to prevent any future hypothetical same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits.

1998: President Bill Clinton Signs Executive Order 13087

Although President Clinton is often best remembered in the LGBT activism community for his support of a ban on lesbians and gay men in the military and his decision to sign the Defense of Marriage Act, he also had a positive contribution to offer. In May 1998, while he was in the midst of the sex scandal that would consume his presidency, Clinton authored Executive Order 13087–banning the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in employment. The policy has remained in effect under the Bush administration.

Bryant, A. (1999, November 13). Save our children:anita bryants 1977 anti-gay campaign. Retrieved from

Curre, E. (2000). State-by-state breakdown of sodomy laws. Crime and punishment in america, 122-178. Retrieved from

Healey, L. (2006). Early 1970’s: political split in gay movement. Workers World, 1(1), 1-3. Retrieved from

Houghton, D. (1991). gay liberation. American Decades, 1(16), 14-77.


Brenda Howard

Brenda Howard was an American bisexual rights activists and sex positive feminist.  She is known as the “Mother of Pride” for coordinating the one month anniversary of the stonewall riots through marches.  This anniversary created the one year anniversary of stonewall called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March and now known as the New York City Pride March.  These marches spawned marches nationally and worldwide for the right for equality for the gay community.  She ran the New York Area Bisexual Network Info Line which let people know where events where happening.  She was a fixture in New York City’s LGBT Community Howard was active in the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights which helped guide New York City’s LGBT rights law through the City Council in 1986.In 1987 Howard helped found the New York Area Bisexual Network to help co-ordinate services to the region’s growing Bisexual community. She was also an active member of the early bisexual political activist group BiPAC, a Regional Organizer for BiNet USA, a co-facilitator of the Bisexual S/M Discussion Group and a founder of the nation’s first Alcoholics Anonymous chapter for bisexuals. On a national level, Howard’s activism included work on the 1993 “March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian and Bi Rights and Liberation” where she was female co-chair of the leather contingent and “Stonewall 25” in 1994.

Arthur Evans

Arthur Evans was born on October 12, 1942.  As a young man he was admiteed in the Doctoral Program of Philosophy at Colombia University.  He was involved in “zaps” which are militant, but non-violent, face to face confrontations with homophobic people in positions of authority.  In 1976 he gave a series of public lectures, entitled “Faeries,” based on his research on the historical origins of the gay counterculture. These endeavors helped generate what is now known as “the Radical Faeries.” Evans was also active in the early stages of Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL-San Francisco’s belated version of GLF and GAA) and the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club. Evans has been active in AIDS politics in San Francisco called on the larger society to recognize four basic rights. The new group we were creating would be dedicated to attaining these rights.  Evans helped write the new constitution for the GLF.  The constitution was implemented to adhere to four basic rights.

 “The right to our own feelings. This is the right to feel attracted to the beauty of members of our own sex and to embrace those feelings as truly our own, free from any question or challenge whatsoever by any other person, institution, or moral authority.”

The U.S. constitutional tradition had spoken mostly of the rights of property, the mind, and speech. This new right touched on feelings as well. They are as much of who we are as our possessions and thoughts!

 “The right to love. This is the right to express our feelings in action, the right to make love with anyone, any way, any time, provided only that the action be freely chosen by all the persons concerned.”

This right goes beyond merely having feelings. We also should be able to express them in action, just as we can express our opinions in dialogue.

 “The right to our own bodies. This is the right to treat and express our bodies as we will, to nurture them, to display them, to embellish them, solely in the manner we ourselves determine, independent of any external control whatsoever.”

This right connects to something the U.S. Constitution hardly mentions, the body. It especially affirms the rights of drag-queens and transsexuals.

 “The right to be persons. This is the right freely to express our own individuality under the governance of laws justly made and executed, and to be the bearers of social and political rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Bill or Rights, enjoined upon all legislative bodies and courts, and grounded in the fact of our common humanity.”

This right acknowledges that the holding of private rights is always within the context of a larger legal and social contract. The only way we can be reasonably secure in our individual bodies and feelings is to sustain a lawful, democratic political order for the society at large. From the interaction of these two realms emerges personhood….

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was born in West Chester, New York on March 17, 1912.  He was a major figure in the American Civil Rights Movement.  He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington using non violent techniques of protest.  Being a gay, African American, he became vocal about his sexuality later in his life.  Rustin became outwardly vocal about his homosexuality during the late 1980s, with a series of essays on the subject. “The New ‘Niggers’ Are Gays,” written in 1986, and “The Importance of Gay Rights Legislation,” written in 1987 publicly announced Rustin’s views on gay rights. Rustin himself declared that “remaining in the closet is the other side of prejudice against gays. Because until you challenge it, you are not playing an active role in fighting it.” Rustin insisted that most of the necessary framework for the gay liberation movement had already been set in place by his own contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.  Bayard Rustin was an advocate for the gay and lesbian cause, testifying on behalf of New York State’s Gay Rights Bill. Rustin was quoted as saying, “Indeed, if you want to know whether today people believe in democracy, if you want to know whether they are true democrats, if you want to know whether they are human rights activists, the question to ask is, ‘What about gay people?’ Because that is now the litmus paper by which this democracy is to be judged.”

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk was born May 22, 1930, in  Woodmere, Long Island, New York, U.S. and died Nov. 27, 1978 in San Francisco, California.  He is considered the iconic leader of the Gay Liberation Movement  as an American politician and gay-rights activist.  After graduating from the New York State College for Teachers in Albany (1951), Milk served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and was discharged in 1955 . He held several jobs before becoming a financial analyst in New York. In 1972 he moved to San Francisco, where he opened a camera store and soon gained a following as a leader in the gay community. His popularity grew when he challenged the city’s gay leadership, which he thought was too conservative in its attempts to gain greater political rights for homosexuals.  In 1973 Milk ran for a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors but was defeated. After another unsuccessful bid in 1976, he was elected in 1977, becoming one of the first openly gay elected officials in U.S. history. The following year Milk and the city’s mayor, George Moscone, were shot and killed in City Hall by Dan White, a conservative former city supervisor. At White’s murder trial, his attorneys successfully argued that his judgment had been impaired by a prolonged period of clinical depression, one symptom of which was the former health enthusiast’s consumption of junk food. The attorneys’ argument, mischaracterized as the claim that junk food had caused White’s diminished capacity, was derided as the “Twinkie defense” by the satirist Paul Krassner while reporting on the trial for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. White’s conviction on the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter sparked an uproar in the city that was subsequently termed the “White Night Riot.” Numerous books and films were made about Milk, including the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, which earned an Academy Award; an opera, Harvey Milk (1995); and Milk (2008), a cinematic depiction of his political career that starred Sean Penn. In 2009 Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  His memorial service was attended by every member of the California Supreme Court, the year following his assassination 250,000 gays and lesbians marched on Washington D.C. in his memory; Time Magazine included Milk in their end-of-millennium, “Time’s 100 Most Important People of the Century;” a statue of his likeness was recently placed in San Francisco’s City Hall; and weeks ago the California legislature approved a bill that would have made Milk’s birthday a state day of recognition (it was subsequently vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger).

Rhetorical Artifacts

Speech given by Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panthers, August 15, 1970

“During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.
Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say ” whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.
We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.
Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppresed people in the society.
And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it’s a phenomenon that I don’t understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don’t know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.
That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn’t view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.
When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women’s liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary, because they are not.
We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counterrevolutionary, then criticize that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women’s liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are our potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.
We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say “insecurities,” I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process which builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.
We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms “faggot” and “punk” should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.
We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.”

A Gay Manifesto (1970)

by Carl Wittman

San Francisco is a refugee camp for homosexuals. We have fled here from every part of the nation, and like refugees elsewhere, we came not because it is so great here, but because it was so bad there. By the tens of thousands, we fled small towns where to be ourselves would endanger our jobs and any hope of a decent life; we have fled from blackmailing cops, from families who disowned or ‘tolerated’ us; we have been drummed out of the armed services, thrown out of schools, fired from jobs, beaten by punks and policemen.

And we have formed a ghetto, out of self-protection. It is a ghetto rather than a free territory because it is sill theirs. Straight cops patrol us, straight legislators govern us, straight employers keep us in line, straight money exploits us. We have pretended everything is OK, because we haven’t been able to see how to change it – we’ve been afraid.

In the past year there has been an awakening of gay liberation ideas and energy. How it began we don’t know; maybe we were inspired by black people and their freedom movement; we learned how to stop pretending form the hip revolution. Amerika in all its ugliness has surfaced with the war and our national leaders. And we are revulsed by the quality of our ghetto life.

Where once there was frustration, alienation, and cynicism, there are new characteristics among us. We are full of love for each other and are showing it; we are full of anger at what has been done to us. And as we recall all the self-censorship and repression for so many years, a reservoir of tears pours out of our eyes. And we are euphoric, high, with the initial flourish of a movement.

We want to make ourselves clear: our first job is to free ourselves; that means clearing our heads of the garbage that’s been poured into them. This article is an attempt at raising a number of issues, and presenting some ideas to replace the old ones. It is primarily for ourselves, a starting point of discussion. If straight people of good will find it useful in understanding what liberation is about, so much the better.

It should also be clear that these are the views of one person, and are determined not only by my homosexuality, but my being white, male, middle class. It is my individual consciousness. Our group consciousness will evolve as we get ourselves together – we are only at the beginning.


1. What homosexuality is: Nature leaves undefined the object of sexual desire. The gender of that object is imposed socially. Humans originally made homosexuality taboo because they needed every bit of energy to produce and raise children: survival of species was a priority. With overpopulation and technological change, that taboo continued only to exploit us and enslave us.

As kids we refused to capitulate to demands that we ignore our feelings toward each other. Somewhere we found the strength to resist being indoctrinated, and we should count that among our assets. We have to realize that our loving each other is a good thing, not an unfortunate thing, and that we have a lot to teach straights about sex, love, strength, and resistance.

Homosexuality is not a lot of things. It is not a makeshift in the absence of the opposite sex; it is not a hatred or rejection of the opposite sex; it is not genetic; it is not the result of broken homes except inasmuch as we could see the sham of American marriage. Homosexuality is the capacity to love someone of the same sex.

2. Bisexuality: Bisexuality is good; it is the capacity to love people of either sex. The reason so few of us are bisexual is because society made such a big stink about homosexuality that we got forced into seeing ourselves as either straight or non-straight. Also, many gays go turned off to the ways men are supposed to act with women and vice-versa, which is pretty fucked-up. Gays will begin to turn on to women when 1) it’s something that we do because we want to, and not because we should, and 2) when women’s liberation changes the nature of heterosexual relationships.

We continue to call ourselves homosexual, not bisexual, even if we do make it with the opposite sex also, because saying “Oh, I’m Bi” is a copy out for a gay. We get told it’s OK to sleep with guys as long as we sleep with women, too, and that’s still putting homosexuality down. We’ll be gay until everyone has forgotten that it’s an issue. Then we’ll begin to be complete.

3. Heterosexuality: Exclusive heterosexuality is fucked up. It reflects a fear of people of the same sex, it’s anti-homosexual, and it is fraught with frustration. Heterosexual sex is fucked up too; ask women’s liberation about what straight guys are like in bed. Sex is aggression for the male chauvinist; sex is obligation for the traditional woman. And among the young, the modern, the hip, it’s only a subtle version of the same. For us to become heterosexual in the sense that our straight brothers and sisters are is not a cure, it is a disease.

1. Lesbianism: It’s been a male-dominated society for too long, and that has warped both men and women. So gay women are going to see things differently from gay men; they are going to feel put down as women, too. Their liberation is tied up with both gay liberation and women’s liberation.

This paper speaks form the gay male viewpoint. And although some of the ideas in it may be equally relevant to gay women, it would be arrogant to presume this to be a manifesto for lesbians.

We look forward to the emergence of a lesbian liberation voice. The existence of a lesbian caucus within the New York Gay Liberation Front has been very helpful in challenging male chauvinism among gay guys, and anti-gay feelings among women’s lib.

2. Male Chauvinism: All men are infected with male chauvinism – we were brought up that way. It means we assume that women play subordinate roles and are less human than ourselves. (At an early gay liberation meeting one guy said, “Why don’t we invite women’s liberation – they can bring sandwiches and coffee.”) It is no wonder that so few gay women have become active in our groups.

Male chauvinism, however, is not central to us. We can junk it much more easily than straight men can. For we understand oppression. We have largely opted out of a system which oppresses women daily – our egos are not built on putting women down and having them build us up. Also, living in a mostly male world we have become used to playing different roles, doing or own shit-work. And finally, we have a common enemy: the big male chauvinists are also the big anti-gays.

But we need to purge male chauvinism, both in behavior and in thought among us. Chick equals nigger equals queer. Think it over.

3. Women’s liberation: They are assuming their equality and dignity and in doing so are challenging the same things we are: the roles, the exploitation of minorities by capitalism, the arrogant smugness of straight white male middle-class Amerika. They are our sisters in struggle.
Problems and differences will become clearer when we begin to work together. One major problem is our own male chauvinism. Another is uptightness and hostility to homosexuality that many women have – that is the straight in them. A third problem is differing views on sex: sex for them has meant oppression, while for us it has been a symbol of our freedom. We must come to know and understand each other’s style, jargon and humor.

1. Mimicry of straight society: We are children of straight society. We still think straight: that is part of our oppression. One of the worst of straight concepts is inequality. Straight (also white, English, male, capitalist) thinking views things in terms of order and comparison. A is before B, B is after A; one is below two is below three; there is no room for equality. This idea gets extended to male/female, on top/on bottom, spouse/not spouse, heterosexual/homosexual, boss/worker, white/black and rich/poor. Our social institutions cause and reflect this verbal hierarchy. This is Amerika.

We’ve lived in these institutions all our lives. Naturally we mimic the roles. For too long we mimicked these roles to protect ourselves – a survival mechanism. Now we are becoming free enough to shed the roles which we’ve picked up from the institutions which have imprisoned us.

“Stop mimicking straights, stop censoring ourselves.”

2. Marriage: Marriage is a prime example of a straight institution fraught with role playing. Traditional marriage is a rotten, oppressive institution. Those of us who have been in heterosexual marriages too often have blamed our gayness on the breakup of the marriage. No. They broke up because marriage is a contract which smothers both people, denies needs, and places impossible demands on both people. And we had the strength, again, to refuse to capitulate to the roles which were demanded of us.

Gay people must stop gauging their self-respect by how well they mimic straight marriages. Gay marriages will have the same problems as straight ones except in burlesque. For the usual legitimacy and pressures which keep straight marriages together are absent, e.g., kids, what parents think, what neighbors say.

To accept that happiness comes through finding a groovy spouse and settling down, showing the world that “we’re just the same as you” is avoiding the real issues, and is an expression of self-hatred.

3. Alternatives to Marriage: People want to get married for lots of good reasons, although marriage won’t often meet those needs or desires. We’re all looking for security, a flow of love, and a feeling of belonging and being needed.

These needs can be met through a number of social relationships and living situations. Things we want to get away from are: 1. exclusiveness, propertied attitudes toward each other, a mutual pact against the rest of the world; 2. promises about the future, which we have no right to make and which prevent us from , or make us feel guilty about, growing; 3. inflexible roles, roles which do not reflect us at the moment but are inherited through mimicry and inability to define equalitarian relationships.

We have to define for ourselves a new pluralistic, rolefree social structure for ourselves. It must contain both the freedom and physical space for people to live alone, live together for a while, live together for a long time, either as couples or in larger numbers; and the ability to flow easily from one of these states to another as our needs change.

Liberation for gay people is defining for ourselves how and with whom we live, instead of measuring our relationship in comparison to straight ones, with straight values.

4. Gay ‘stereotypes’: The straight’s image of the gay world is defined largely by those of us who have violated straight roles. There is a tendency among ‘homophile’ groups to deplore gays who play visible roles – the queens and the nellies. As liberated gays, we must take a clear stand. 1) Gays who stand out have become our first martyrs. They came out and withstood disapproval before the rest of us did. 2) If they have suffered from being open, it is straight society whom we must indict, not the queen.

5. Closet queens: This phrase is becoming analogous to ‘Uncle Tom.’ To pretend to be straight sexually, or to pretend to be straight socially, is probably the most harmful pattern of behavior in the ghetto. The married guy who makes it on the side secretly; the guy who will go to bed once but won’t develop any gay relationships; the pretender at work or school who changes the gender of the friend he’s talking about; the guy who’ll suck cock in the bushes but won’t go to bed.

If we are liberated we are open with our sexuality. Closet queenery must end. Come out.

But: in saying come out, we have to have our heads clear about a few things: 1) closet queens are our brothers, and must be defended against attacks by straight people; 2) the fear of coming out is not paranoia; the stakes are high: loss of family ties, loss of job, loss of straight friends – these are all reminders that the oppression is not just in our heads. It’s real. Each of us must make the steps toward openness at our own speed and on our own impulses. Being open is the foundation of freedom: it has to be built solidly. 3) “Closet queen” is a broad term covering a multitude of forms of defense, self-hatred, lack of strength, and habit. We are all closet queens in some ways, and all of us had to come out – very few of us were ‘flagrant’ at the age of seven! We must afford our brothers and sisters the same patience we afforded ourselves. And while their closet queenery is part of our oppression, it’s more a part of theirs. They alone can decide when and how.

It is important to catalog and understand the different facets of our oppression. There is no future in arguing about degrees of oppression. A lot of ‘movement’ types come on with a line of shit about homosexuals not being oppressed as much as blacks or Vietnamese or workers or women. We don’t happen to fit into their ideas of class or caste. Bull! When people feel oppressed, they act on that feeling. We feel oppressed. Talk about the priority of black liberation or ending imperialism over and above gay liberation is just anti-gay propaganda.

1. Physical attacks: We are attacked, beaten, castrated and left dead time and time again. There are half a dozen known unsolved slayings in San Francisco parks in the last few years. “Punks,” often of minority groups who look around for someone under them socially, feel encouraged to beat up on “queens” and cops look the other way. That used to be called lynching.

Cops in most cities have harassed our meeting places: bars and baths and parks. They set up entrapment squads. A Berkeley brother was slain by a cop in April when he tried to split after finding out that the trick who was making advances to him was a cop. Cities set up ‘pervert’ registration, which if nothing else scares our brothers deeper into the closet.

One of the most vicious slurs on us is the blame for prison ‘gang rapes.’ These rapes are invariably done by people who consider themselves straight. The victims of these rapes are us and straights who can’t defend themselves. The press campaign to link prison rapes with homosexuality is an attempt to make straights fear and despise us, so they can oppress us more. It’s typical of the fucked-up straight mind to think that homosexual sex involves tying a guy down and fucking him. That’s aggression, not sex. If that’s what sex is for a lot of straight people, that’s a problem they have to solve, not us.

2. Psychological warfare: Right from the beginning we have been subjected to a barrage of straight propaganda. Since our parents don’t know any homosexuals, we grow up thinking that we are alone and different and perverted. Our school friends identify ‘queer’ with any non-conformist or bad behavior. Our elementary school teachers tell us not to talk to strangers or accept rides. Television, billboards and magazines put forth a false idealization of male/female relationships, and make us wish we were different, wish we were ‘in.’ In family living class we’re taught how we’re supposed to turn out. And all along, the best we hear if anything about homosexuality is that it’s an unfortunate problem.

3. Self-oppression: As gay liberation grows, we will find our uptight brothers and sisters, particularly those who are making a buck off our ghetto, coming on strong to defend the status quo. This is self oppression: ‘don’t rock the boat’; ‘things in SF are OK’; ‘gay people just aren’t together’; ‘I’m not oppressed.’ These lines are right out of the mouths of the straight establishment. A large part of our oppression would end if we would end if we would stop putting ourselves and our pride down.

4. Institutional: Discrimination against gays is blatant, if we open our eyes. Homosexual relationships are illegal, and even if these laws are not regularly enforced, they encourage and enforce closet queenery. The bulk of the social work psychiatric field looks upon homosexuality as a problem, and treats us as sick. Employers let it be known that our skills are acceptable as long as our sexuality is hidden. Big business and government are particularly notorious offenders.

The discrimination in the draft and armed services is a pillar of the general attitude towards gays. If we are willing to label ourselves publicly not only as homosexual but as sick, then we qualify for deferment; and if we’re not ‘discreet’ (dishonest) we get drummed out of the service. Hell, no, we won’t go, of course not, but we can’t let the army fuck over us this way, either.

1. What sex is: It is both creative expression and communication: good when it is either, and better when it is both. Sex can also be aggression, and usually is when those involved do not see each other as equals; and it can also be perfunctory, when we are distracted or preoccupied. These uses spoil what is good about it.

I like of think of good sex in terms of playing the violin: with both people on one level seeing the other body as an object capable of creating beauty when they play it well; and on a second level the players communicating through their mutual production and appreciation of beauty. As in good music, you get totally into it – and coming back out of that state of consciousness is like finishing a work of art or coming back from an episode of an acid or mescaline trip. And to press the analogy further: the variety of music is infinite and varied, depending on the capabilities of the players, both as subjects and as objects. Solos, duets, quartets (symphonies, even, if you happen to dig Romantic music!) are possible. The variations in gender, response, and bodies are like different instruments. And perhaps what we have called sexual ‘orientation’ probably just means that we have not yet learned to turn on to the total range of musical expression.

2. Objectification: In this scheme, people are sexual objects, but they are also subjects, and are human beings who appreciate themselves as object and subject. This use of human bodies as objects is legitimate (not harmful) only when it is reciprocal. If one person is always object and the other subject, it stifles the human being in both of them. Objectification must also be open and frank. By silence we often assume or let the other person assume that sex means commitments: if it does, ok; but if not, say it. (Of course, it’s not all that simple: our capabilities for manipulation are unfathomed – all we can do is try.)

Gay liberation people must understand that women have been treated exclusively and dishonestly as sexual objects. A major part of their liberation is to play down sexual objectification and to develop other aspects of themselves which have been smothered so long. We respect this. We also understand that a few liberated women will be appalled or disgusted at the open and prominent place that we put sex in our lives; and while this is a natural response from their experience, they must learn what it means for us.

For us, sexual objectification is a focus of our quest for freedom. It is precisely that which we are not supposed to share with each other. Learning how to be open and good with each other sexually is part of our liberation. And one obvious distinction: objectification of sex for us is something we choose to do among ourselves, while for women it is imposed by their oppressors.

3. On positions and roles: Much of our sexuality has been perverted through mimicry of straights, and warped from self-hatred. These sexual perversions are basically anti-gay:

“I like to make it with straight guys”
“I’m not gay, but I like to be ‘done’”
“I like to fuck, but don’t want to be fucked”
“I don’t like to be touched above the neck”

This is role playing at its worst; we must transcend these roles. We strive for democratic, mutual, reciprocal sex. This does not mean that we are all mirror images of each other in bed, but that we break away from the roles which enslave us. We already do better in bed than straights do, and we can be better to each other than we have been.

4. Chickens and Studs: Face it, nice bodies and young bodies are attributes, they’re groovy. They are inspiration for art, for spiritual elevation, for good sex. The problem arises only in the inability to relate to people of the same age, or people who don’t fit the plastic stereotypes of a good body. At that point, objectification eclipses people, and expresses self-hatred: “I hate gay people, and I don’t like myself, but if a stud (or chicken) wants to make it with me, I can pretend I’m someone other than me.”

A note on exploitation of children: kids can take care of themselves, and are sexual beings way earlier than we’d like to admit. Those of us who began cruising in early adolescence know this, and we were doing the cruising, not being debauched by dirty old men. Scandals such as the one in Boise, Idaho – blaming a “ring” of homosexuals for perverting their youth – are the fabrications of press and police and politicians. And as for child molesting, the overwhelming amount is done by straight guys to little girls: it is not particularly a gay problem, and is caused by the frustrations resulting form anti-sex puritanism.

5. Perversion: We’ve been called perverts enough to be suspect of any usage of the word. Still many of us shrink from the idea of certain kinds of sex: with animals, sado/masochism, dirty sex (involving piss or shit). Right off, even before we take the time to learn any more, there are some things to get straight:

1. we shouldn’t be apologetic to straights about gays whose sex lives we don’t understand or share;

2. it’s not particularly a gay issue, except that gay people are probably less hung up about sexual experimentation;

3. let’s get perspective: even if we were to get into the game of deciding what’s good for someone else, the harm done in these ‘perversions’ is undoubtedly less dangerous or unhealthy than is tobacco or alcohol.

4. While they can be reflections of neurotic or self-hating patterns, they may also be enactments of spiritual or important phenomena: e.g. sex with animals may be the beginning of interspecies communication: some dolphin-human breakthroughs have been made on the sexual level; e.g. one guy who says he digs shit during sex occasionally says it’s not the taste or texture, but a symbol that he’s so far into sex that those things no longer bug him; e.g. sado/masochism, when consensual, can be described as a highly artistic endeavor, a ballet the constraints of which are thresholds of pain and pleasure.

We are refugees from Amerika. So we came to the ghetto – and as other ghettos, it has its negative and positive aspects. Refugee camps are better than what preceded them, or people never would have come. But they are still enslaving, if only that we are limited to being ourselves there and only there.

Ghettos breed self-hatred. We stagnate here, accepting the status quo. The status quo is rotten. We are all warped by our oppression, and in the isolation of the ghetto we blame ourselves rather than our oppressors.

Ghettos breed exploitation: Landlords find they can charge exorbitant rents and get away with it, because of the limited area which us safe to live in openly. Mafia control of bars and baths in NYC is only one example of outside money controlling our institutions for their profit. In San Francisco the Tavern Guild favors maintaining the ghetto, for it is through ghetto culture that they make a buck. We crowd their bars not because of their merit but because of the absence of any other social institution. The Guild has refused to let us collect defense funds or pass out gay liberation literature in their bars – need we ask why?

Police or con men who shake down the straight gay in return for not revealing him; the bookstores and movie makers who keep raising prices because they are the only outlet for pornography; heads of ‘modeling’ agencies and other pimps who exploit both the hustlers and the johns – these are the parasites who flourish in the ghetto.

SAN FRANCISCO – Ghetto or Free Territory: Our ghetto certainly is more beautiful and larger and more diverse than most ghettos, and is certainly freer than the rest of Amerika. That’s why we’re here. But it isn’t ours. Capitalists make money off of us, cops patrol us, government tolerates us as long as we shut up, and daily we work for and pay taxes to those who oppress us.

To be a free territory, we must govern ourselves, set up our own institutions, defend ourselves, and use our won energies to improve our lives. The emergence of gay liberation communes, and out own paper is a good start. The talk about gay liberation coffee shop/dance hall should be acted upon. Rural retreats, political action offices, food cooperatives, a free school, unalienating bars and after hours places – they must be developed if we are to have even the shadow of a free territory.

Right now the bulk of our work has to be among ourselves – self educating, fending off attacks, and building free territory. Thus basically we have to have a gay/straight vision of the world until the oppression of gays is ended.

But not every straight is our enemy. Many of us have mixed identities, and have ties with other liberation movements: women, blacks, other minority groups; we may also have taken on an identity which is vital to us: ecology, dope, ideology. And face it: we can’t change Amerika alone: Who do we look to for collaboration?

1. Women’s Liberation: summarizing earlier statements, 1) they are our closest ally; we must try hard to get together with them. 2) a lesbian caucus is probably the best way to attack gay guys’ male chauvinism, and challenge the straightness of women’s liberation; 3) as males we must be sensitive to their developing identities as women, and respect that; if we know what our freedom is about, they certainly know what’s best for them.

2. Black liberation: This is tenuous right now because of the uptightness and supermasculinity of many black men (which is understandable). Despite that, we must support their movement, particularly when they are under attack form the establishment; we must show them that we mean business; and we must figure out which our common enemies are: police, city hall, capitalism.

3. Chicanos: Basically the same problem as with blacks: trying to overcome mutual animosity and fear, and finding ways to support them. The extra problem of super up-tightness and machismo among Latin cultures, and the traditional pattern of Mexicans beating up “queers” can be overcome: we’re both oppressed, and by the same people at the top.

4. White radicals and ideologues: We’re not, as a group, Marxist or communist. We haven’t figured out what kind of political/economic system is good for us as gays. Neither capitalist or socialist countries have treated us as anything other than non grata so far.

But we know we are radical, in that we know the system that we’re under now is a direct source of oppression, and it’s not a question of getting our share of the pie. The pie is rotten.

We can look forward to coalition and mutual support with radical groups if they are able to transcend their anti-gay and male chauvinist patterns. We support radical and militant demands when they arise, e.g. Moratorium, People’s Park; but only as a group; we can’t compromise or soft-peddle our gay identity.

Problems: because radicals are doing somebody else’s thing, they tend to avoid issues which affect them directly, and see us as jeopardizing their ‘work’ with other groups (workers, blacks). Some years ago a dignitary of SDS on a community organization project announced at an initial staff meeting that there would be no homosexuality (or dope) on the project. And recently in New York, a movement group which had a coffee-house get-together after a political rally told the gays to leave when they started dancing together. (It’s interesting to note that in this case, the only two groups which supported us were the Women’s Liberation and the Crazies.)

Perhaps most fruitful would be to broach with radicals their stifled homosexuality and the issues which arise from challenging sexual roles.

5. Hip and street- people: A major dynamic of rising gay lib sentiment is the hip revolution within the gay community. Emphasis on love, dropping out, being honest, expressing yourself through hair and clothes, and smoking dope are all attributes of this. The gays who are the least vulnerable to attack by the establishment have been the freest to express themselves on gay liberation.

We can make a direct appeal to young people, who are not so uptight about homosexuality. One kid, after having his first sex with a male said, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about, making it with a girl just isn’t that different.”

The hip/street culture has led people into a lot of freeing activities: encounter/sensitivity, the quest for reality, freeing territory for the people, ecological consciousness, communes. These are real points of agreement and probably will make it easier for them to get their heads straight about homosexuality, too.

6. Homophile groups: 1) reformist or pokey as they sometimes are, they are our brothers. They’ll grow as we have grown and grow. Do not attack them in straight or mixed company. 2) ignore their attack on us. 3) cooperate where cooperation is possible without essential compromise of our identity.

1. Free ourselves: come out everywhere; initiate self defense and political activity; initiate counter community institutions.

2. Turn other gay people on: talk all the time; understand, forgive, accept.

3. Free the homosexual in everyone: we’ll be getting a good bit of shit form threatened latents: be gentle, and keep talking & acting free.

4. We’ve been playing an act for a long time, so we’re consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it’ll be a good show!


Carl Wittman’s “A Gay Manifesto” represents an important step forward for our movement. Gay Liberation is struggling for a self-understanding which would probe deeply enough into the causes of our oppression to give us a clear vision of the forms and directions our struggle must take. Wittman has provided an analysis of homosexual oppression in America which links the individual-psychological experiences of oppression to the social and economic facts which are at once the causes and effects of this situation. He has spelled out the various aspects of gay oppression from his own vantage point, with self-acknowledged limitations.

Most importantly, Wittman’s “Manifesto” provides a clear statement of Gay Liberation’s goal: to free ourselves as gays and to free straight society in as much as it represses its own homosexual aspects. What is noteworthy in Wittman’s approach is his insistence that we must change our own consciousness to be free to change the institutions which shape our lives. Liberation of the head can never be more than a half-step, a transitional move, until fundamental changes are made in the institutions and cultural forms which create gay oppression. By making this connection so explicit, Carl Wittman is able to go on to link our struggle to those of the other oppressed groups in this society, thus widening the viewpoint of the movement as a whole.

Our criticisms are intended as friendly amendments to Wittman’ s “Manifesto.” As Wittman says, “we are only at the beginning.” Hopefully these comments of ours will foster discussion and new thinking throughout the movement.

We feel that two aspects of the “Manifesto” invite further clarification and development. They are difficult issues central to the entire movement. The first is the notion of “coming out” and the importance it ought to have within our movement. The second is the question Wittman raises in section VII of the “Manifesto”: the kind of social and economic viewpoint most conducive to our liberation as gays.

On the matter of “coming out,” we agree that the phrase is a description of our movement’s overall process, that it both describes what we are about and what we are working for. However, concealed within this idea is an important tension which ought to be unpacked and examined. It is the same tension which Wittman develops throughout the pamphlet: the polarity between personal head-freeing and the need for collective, social action to change institutions. This is no simple issue and it cannot be solved by simple slogans or catchwords. As in any process which has to unite two distinct and in some ways opposed actions, problems result from overemphasis on either of the poles.

Emphasis on personal liberation, the experience of feeling free, which is the meaning often given to “coming out,” can and often does lead to a kind of escapism or regression, to detachment from the actual conditions confronting us. It can also lead to real personal problems for people who act unthinkingly; they end up “free” in their heads but cut off in fact from access to means for changing social conditions. This problem is especially acute for our movement since so much of our oppression consists precisely in being forced to choose between a personal life in a gay ghetto or a de-personalized 1ife in straight society — usually to the detriment of individual growth, no matter which option is taken.

Emphasis on effective action, pushed to excess, leads to similar immobility, but in the opposite direction. The homosexual who hides his identity for the sake of the political movement, the good of his family or whatever, is likely to run into the dilemma of all “boring from within”; the inability to effect change because he is not recognized for what he is or has actually forgotten who he is himself. This is not to say that sisters and brothers may not be entirely correct to go incognito at least for a time and in certain parts of their lives. However, the danger here of copping out is real, and if this strategy were applied by everyone there would obviously be no Gay Liberation movement.

The second issue, the social and economic perspective most conducive for Gay Liberation, is also very basic. On this question Red Butterfly takes a socialist perspective. We assert that human liberation in all its forms, including Gay Liberation, requires effective self-determination, i.e., democracy, in all spheres of social life affecting the lives of people as a whole. This means particularly economic and political democracy: common ownership and decision-making with regard to economic and social matters by society as a whole. We believe that economic and social democracy are the necessary conditions for liberation. In Marxist language, we assert that a democratic socialism is the necessary basis for building a classless society, i.e., communism.

To facilitate discussion of this issue we propose the following scheme for judging a social and economic system which can make a free society possible: Given the material and technological resources of American society, how well can the system in question provide:

1) ecological well-being for the nation and the planet as a whole.

2) the basic economic and social necessities: adequate income, housing, medical care; meaningful employment and democratic civil rights for all participants in the society.

3) protection for minority groups, such as homosexuals; equal opportunities for education, leisure, and personal development for all participants.

4) cooperation with world-wide social and economic development and the self-determination of peoples.

5) effective political power for all, the ability of all social groups to resist exploitation and to determine their own destinies.

This question is basic to our movement, since the answers we give to it will determine the concrete political alignments we make and, ultimately, the success or failure of our struggle for liberation — which in the long run is a political struggle.

H. Marcuse

    “GAY IS GOOD!”





The rhetoric’s used by the gay liberation movement of the 1970s were a way to unite the gay community and allow the opposition to view them as human beings who deserve equality.  The first of many slogans, “gay is good,” allowed the members and followers to view themselves through a positive identity.  The slogans expressed pride while also portraying defiance. These slogans were able to alter the self perception of protestors.  This is essential because protestors must have strong, healthy egos when they take on powerful institutions and entrenched cultural norms and values.  The gay liberation was able to use persuasion with self directed, in that they are created, led, and populated primarily by those who perceive themselves to be dispossessed and are struggling primarily for personal freedom, equality, justice, and rights, and with other directed, in that they are created, led, and populated primarily by those who do not perceive themselves dispossessed and are struggling for the freedom, equality, justice, and rights of others.  The rhetoric of the gay community emphasized that they were being oppressed by powers that are out of their control.  Many of the slogans gave them a sense of community, togetherness, and solidarity.

Since the group was a large minority, they were able to grab the attention of society and many institutionalized in-groups.  Their ideology of creating a positive self image was hard to ignore with their arguments that their minority is based on such a minor aspect of life in sexual preference.  They used protest marches to promote the indecency of institutionalized agents like brutality by police while also marching for social acceptance and equality.  A prime example of the gay liberation movements attempt to exemplify unwanted confrontation from institutionalized agents is the stonewall riots where many members of the gay community were beaten for no better reason than their sexual orientation.  This allowed for disaffection from many non followers by shining a light on the immoral, unconstitutional acts of societies law enforcers.  Creating sympathizers helped legitimize and strengthen the size of the movement.  Creating manifestos and using traditional rights were a big part of the rhetoric for this movement.  These co-active strategies create legitimacy by portraying the movement as similar to the social order by being law abiding, supporters of tradition, and morally good, while making the opposing institutions look unappealing.

The parades are able to energize the discontent and persuade them to join the action.  Also since this movement was around the same time as the civil rights movement, a lot of the rhetoric of being an oppressed minority allowed them to identify with other successful civil rights organizations.  this allowed for more legitimacy and attained a more positive relational pattern with society.  Music was also able to bind the gay population.  Disco was considered the gay man’s musical preference.  Since it was usually affiliated with gay men, when heterosexuals listened to it, they were reminded of the movement without throwing out defense mechanisms.  The growing movement gave a higher sense of unity and strength in the gay community that allowed gay men and women to vocalize their sexual orientation more comfortably.  The bad The Village People, with one of their singers being openly gay, created songs that had many ties with the gay community.  The Village People had a lot of success in the billboards and in record sales which exemplified the growing acceptance of the gay community.  Having figures of great influence like rock stars advocate for the gay liberation movement also helped legitimize the movement even further.  Speeches, posters, and pamphlets were also a way to spread the movement to society.  Speeches gay the viewer a better grasp of the ideology of the specific leader and organization while posters and pamphlets were a way to spread the need to mobilize the action of the organization.

The Gay Liberation Movement created gay rights organizations that were among the most successful organizations formed in the 1970’s.  The agendas of this movement used rhetoric to promote their need for fundamental change in societies opinions and laws about the gay community.  This agenda was in a large part built around gay identity and educating the people that being gay is something they are born with and acceptance should be sustained in politics, law, and overall social equality.

Archer, Bert (2004). The End of Gay: And the Death of Heterosexuality. Thunder’s Mouth Press.

Alfred, Randy, Advocate; 9/2/70, Vol. 4 Issue 14, p21

Carter, David, 2004. Stonewall:The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.

Hogan, Steve and Lee Hudson (1998). Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. New York, Henry Holt and Company

Labonte, Richard, Gay & Lesbian Times; 6/25/2009, Issue 1122, p44

Miller, Neil (1995). Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. New York, Vintage Books

Shelley, Martha, 1970. Gay is Good.

Sibalis, Michael. 2005. Gay Liberation Comes to France: The Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire (FHAR), Published in ‘French History and Civilization. Papers from the George Rudé Seminar. Volume 1

Stewart, Charles. Persuasion and Social Movements. 5th. 1. Illinios: Waveland Press, Inc, 2007. 85. Print.

Traiman, Leland, Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide; Jul/Aug2008, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p23


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