You talk about society and the first thing that comes to your mind is Men & Women. Invariably, we assume that the sexual orientations would be straight for all. But more recently, we see active movements for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgenders (LGBT) to help them provide a status as equal to people with straight orientations. Let us give a deep dive to understand the history of all this.
First of all, there isn’t one central organisation that fights for LGBT rights but there are many of them across countries carrying out political and social movements. The oldest organisation formed for support of LGBT in the United States was the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB in short or simply the Daughters) in the San Francisco back in 1955. The founding members included the very first married gay couple, well legally, of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The marriage of these two was in fact declared void by California Supreme Court 6 months later.
This organisation DOB was following the model of homophile movement which was the creation of the Mattachine Society. The organisation started its newsletter, The Ladder, in the month of October 1956. This was the first nationwide distributed LGBT publication in the US. Before the publication was discontinued in 1972 due to lack of funding, it was run by the editor Barbara Grier and Barbara Gittings. The organisations started having chapters in the major cities of the US like New York City, Rhode Island, Los Angeles and Chicago among others. The conferences were also held every 2 years from 1960 -68.
Other than the Chicago’s Society for Human Rights which was founded in 1924, The earliest known considerably influential movement groups was Mattachine Society. It was founded in year 1950. Harry Hay was the founding member along with others from Los Angeles. The group followed the cell organisation used by the Communist Party of the US. The name of the group is derived from a French medieval masque group which used entertainment to point out injustice. The LGBT people were considered to be masked & underprivileged.
The group started discussions & debates as a part of its activities in 1951, providing a platform to LGBT people to express themselves and openly state their thought process. Invariably, fear & internal disagreements along with emotional outbursts of LGBT’s would crop up. The group became popular quite quickly & the number of people following it increased exponentially. Sponsorships started coming in soon and the publication of newspaper and articles followed it.
The most important pillar was the Mission Statement of this group which clearly pointed out two things. Firstly, it invited all the Gay people to start working and take up the challenge of standing against the Gay discrimination at a grassroot level. Secondly, it importantly imbibed confidence in the LGBT communities by recognizing their importance and before anything else, made them to believe that they deserved to be treated equal.
The journey ahead for this group was not that rosy. A section of the society labelled them as sexual deviants or the one’s forming a strange new pressure group. Following this, the management of the group left and resigned in the year1953, making the organisation turn over to conservative elements which completely changed the group’s advocacy. Now they were seeking the support of psychiatric profession which in their terms held the key to reform. Although, this eventually led to the fall down of the society in 1961 as continuously since then the associations kept falling. Important thing to note here is that this group was different and unrelated to Chicago’s Mattachine Midwest, Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Liberation Front.
After this, in June 1969 the famous Stonewall Inn fiasco took place. This Stonewall Inn bar in the New York used to be frequently raided by police. This one time, the reaction of patrons was problematic for the police and as they refused to leave, the police officers’ raid led to the street riots. This actually worked by providing a lot of attention to the LGBT community across the United States. The public awareness took a sharp jump upwards. Thus, everything in the making of an influential movement was there.