A Gay Manifesto
by Carl Wittman
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
And we have formed a ghetto, out of self-protection.
It is a ghetto rather than a free territory because it is still 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
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.
I. ON ORIENTATION
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
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
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 cop-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
II. ON WOMEN
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
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
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
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.
III. ON ROLES
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
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,
role-free 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
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
And while their closet queenery is part of our
oppression, it's more a part of theirs. They alone can decide when and
IV. ON OPPRESSION
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.
V. ON SEX
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
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
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
VI. ON OUR GHETTO
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
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.
VII. ON COALITION
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
CONCLUSION: AN OUTLINE OF IMPERATIVES FOR GAY LIBERATION
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
from 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!
# # #
COMMENTS ON CARL WITTMAN'S “A GAY MANIFESTO”
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 life 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
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
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.
“TODAY THE FIGHT FOR EROS, THE FIGHT FOR LIFE,
IS THE POLITICAL FIGHT.”