The Gay Rights Movement


The Gay Rights movement was inspired by the African-American Civil Rights movement (1954-1968) and then by the Stonewall Riots of 1969 (a series of violent protests by the gay community against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn).

In the 1950s and 1960s homosexuality had existed largely as an underground subculture that was steeped in and thrived in secrecy. However, gay rights activists became enthused by the Stonewall Riots and by the radical politics and 1960s counterculture movement of the time. They saw an opportunity to politicise homosexuality and bring it ‘out of the closet’ into the public arena.

The meaning of ‘coming out’ fueled a political campaign and the gay community were rallied by the gay activists to embrace and commit to an open and full homosexual lifestyle rather than act in secret or on occasional homosexual urges. Alfred Kinsey’s research, that alleged that 39% of unmarried men had encountered at least one homosexual experience, undoubtedly encouraged this ‘coming out’. What was previously considered psychological and personal became extended into the forefront of political and private life.

The 1970s consequently saw a culture of heightened gay sexual promiscuity that viewed committed relationships as superficial and depressing as opposed to fun and exciting.

Due to political exertion in 1973, The American Psychological Association (APA) decided homosexuality was not a mental illness. The World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted this decision in 1990.

Since then the meaning of being homosexual has become more about adopting an identity than about the actual practice

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