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Page history last edited by Rob Darrow 7 years, 7 months ago

Organizations and Publications

Some of the historical organizations and publications that contributed to the gay rights movement and helped gay and lesbian people organize socially, politically and legally are listed below.


Mattachine Society (1950-1967). Founded by Harry Hay and a group of male friends in Los Angeles. It was one of the earliest gay rights organizations in the U.S. and was formed to protect and improve the rights of gay men. The Mattachine Society initially organized discussion groups that anyone could attend and eventually agreed on their mission, which was two-fold: to build community and to challenge anti-gay discrimination. The organization was responsible for many advocacy actions until the late 1960s. With time other branches of the society were formed in New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and other cities. The organization was associated with the publication, One Magazine that published a monthly periodical for gay men from 1953-1967. The Mattachine Society took its name from a French Renaissance group, Societe Mattachine, who were a band of men that went from town to town in masks, holding parties and protests against the ruling monarchs.


Daughters of Bilitis (1955-1969). Founded by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon in San Francisco. It was the first lesbian organization in the U.S. that organized for educational and social support for women. In the early days when there were laws against homosexuality, if others would ask, the members would say they were attending a poetry club. Chapters of the organization developed in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. The organization produced a monthly newsletter called, The Ladder, that was published from 1956-1972. The name of the group was based on a fictional lesbian character by the French poet Pierre Louys in his collection of poetry written in 1894 called “Songs of Bilitis.” 


Gay Liberation Front (GLF. 1969-1972). Formed in New York after the Stonewall Riots. Advocated for sexual liberation for all people and opposed social inequalities in the military, racism and sexism. The organization ended because of internal struggles about their overall direction.  The Gay Activists Alliance was one organization that grew from this.


Gay Activists Alliance (GAA. 1970-1981). Formed in New York after the Stonewall Riots. Their mission was to "secure basic human rights, dignity and freedom for all gay people.” One of their members was Sylvia Rivera who advocated for transgender rights. When the group became incorporated, they had to fight through the New York court system for five years for the right to have the word “Gay” as part of their name. GAA members performed “zaps” that were sometimes raucous and sometimes humorous public demonstrations designed to embarrass a public figure or celebrity while calling the attention to issues of LGBT rights. The framework of the GAA helped with the structure of the organization, Act Up, which was formed in response to the AIDS crisis.


AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT Up. 1987 - ). Founded in New York by Larry Kramer and others. The purpose of this organization is to advocate and impact the lives of people with AIDS through legislation, medical research and policies. The organization employed “zap” strategies to advocate for AIDS research and correct information with wall street, the Food and Drug Administration, Cosmopolitan Magazine and the Roman Catholic Church Archdiocese of New York. In the process of their actions, which were often condemned by some, the organization brought people together for advocacy and information, and furthered the gay rights movement.    


The Advocate Magazine (1967- ). This publication was established in Los Angeles to focus on news, politics, opinion, and arts and entertainment of interest to LGBT people. It is the oldest and largest LGBT publication in the U.S. that transformed from a newsletter to a newspaper and then a bi-monthly magazine. The publication began as a response to police raids of the gay bar, The Black Cat Tavern, in Los Angeles and the ongoing harassment and discrimination against LGBT people. The group that originated the first iterations of this publication as a one page newsletter was the Los Angeles group called Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE) that existed from 1966-1968, and who advocated and practiced a radical approach to gay rights.


Metropolitan Community Church (MCC. 1968 - ). Founded by Troy Perry, MCC was established in his house in Huntington Park, California. Partly in response to police raids and harassment of gay people at the Black Cat Tavern, a gay bar in Los Angeles, the purpose of this Christian Church is to minister to LGBT people. Over time, the church grew to 222 affiliated churches and had a presence in 37 countries. The church began performing same sex marriages in 1970. MCC congregations became a religious refuge where LGBT people met to worship, and it helped people to organize and galvanize the gay rights movement.


Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (1973- ). Founded by William J. Thom and others in New York for the purpose of legal, education and public policy work in support of LGBT people and those living with AIDS. Initially, the incorporation of this organization was denied because it was not viewed as not with the public policy. After a two year fight in the New York Court of Appeals, the incorporation was granted. Lambda Legal has played a role in many legal cases in the United States pertaining to gay rights, including the 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated sodomy laws.   


Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries, also known as Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR. 1970 - ). Founded by Sylvia Rivera and Martha P. Johnson in New York. The organization advocated and provided housing for homeless and runaway LGBT youth. In addition, they advocated for support of drag queens that were being discriminated against by the police. STAR was one of the first organizations to advocate in support of transgender people.


National Center for Transgender Equality (2003- ). Founded by Mara Keisling in Washington D.C. The purpose of NCTE is to change laws, policies and society through education and advocacy to improve the lives of transgender Americans, and to end the discrimination and violence against transgender people. The organization continues to advocate for transgender rights in the U.S. 


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