Come Together

The US Gay Liberation Front was formed in New York City in 1969 shortly after the Stonewall riots; a series of violent conflicts between the police and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people in New York. The riots began on 27 June 1969 after police raided a gay bar known as the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall riots are considered a turning point in the worldwide gay rights movement. The following year thousands of men and women attended a march in New York to commemorate Stonewall, and the New York Gay Liberation Front launched its newspaper Come Out! in 1969.

The UK Gay Liberation Front first met in October 1970. They drew up the following manifesto:

That all discrimination against gay people, male and female, by the law, by employers, and by society at large should end.

That all people who feel attracted to a member of their own sex be taught that such feelings are perfectly valid.

That sex education in schools stop being exclusively heterosexual.

That psychiatrists stop treating homosexuality as though it were a problem or sickness, thereby giving gay people senseless guilt complexes.

That gay people be legally free to contact other gay people through newspaper ads, on the streets, and by any other means they may want, as are heterosexuals, and that police harassment should cease right now.

That employers should no longer be allowed to discriminate against anyone on account of their sexual preferences.

That the age of consent for gay males be reduced to the same as for straights.

That gay people be free to hold hands and kiss in public, as are heterosexuals.

November 1970 saw Britain's first gay public demonstration, a torchlight protest of 80 GLF members. In 1971 the GLF's newspaper Come Together was launched, in 1972 the first Gay Pride took place and in 1973 Icebreakers was set up to provide support though a free telephone help-line, weekly forums and a network of small mutual support groups.

At the time there were very few openly gay celebrities or public figures in Britain, and homosexuality was routinely portrayed through negative stereotypes. In order to challenge this, the GLF often used deliberately spectacular and visually conspicuous forms of direct action -when GLF protests made the headlines, gay issues entered the public agenda. They staged provocative and spectacular 'agitprop' (short for agitation propaganda) demonstrations which communicated the gay rights message by 'agitating' the audience's senses. In 1971 they staged an alternative pageant in support of Women's Liberation protests outside the Miss World contest featuring 'Miss Used, Miss Conceived and Miss Treated'. They adopted positive slogans such as 'Gay Is Good' and 'Come Together', and they tackled homophobia head-on by staging sit-ins at a number of pubs that refused to serve gay men and lesbians.