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2.3 Impact and Influence

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    68355
  • LGBTQ ACTIVISM of this era had limited impact on broader civil rights law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 covered all Americans except those with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and undocumented immigrants. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 removed a discriminatory quota system, but it strengthened the exclusion of gay and lesbian immigrants. By 1969, only Illinois had decriminalized sodomy (1961), while guilty sentences for sodomy in many jurisdictions could result in life in prison. LGBTQ people still suffered from vague charges relating to morals, lewd conduct, and disorderly contact that sent them to jails and mental institutions because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): When the owners of Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco asked the police to run off their transgender patrons, LGBTQ activists set up a picket to protest the treatment. When Compton’s owners continued calling the police, the patrons turned against the police and chased them from the building. The ensuing riot in August 1966 spilled into the streets, smashing windows, vandalizing a police car, and burning down a newspaper stand.

    Regardless, this era saw a change in the mentality of the LGBTQ movement and set the stage for the successes to come. Before the 1950s, there were no activist-oriented LGBTQ organizations, no LGBTQ periodicals, and a worsening persecution of LGBTQ people. By the end of 1969, there were activist organizations throughout the American Northeast, Midwest, and West; open rebellion on the streets; and an increasingly visible and strident LGBTQ print media. Those courageous activists that came out of the closet to lead this charge risked their homes, jobs, families, and lives so that future generations would not be excluded from their civil rights.

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): In 1960, Virginia Prince launched Transvestia, the first transgender publication in the United States. Although a breakthrough for the time, Prince aimed the periodical for a narrow audience of heterosexually married cross-dressers. The first broad-based transgender support group did not emerge until 1966 in San Francisco with Vanguard, the nation’s first organization for LGBTQ kids (journals pictured). Conversion Our Goal, the nation’s first transgender peer support group, and the National Transsexual Counseling Unit formed in San Francisco in 1967 and 1968 respectively. New York City saw the formation of Labyrinth Foundation Counseling Service in 1968, the nation’s first organization devoted to transgender men.

    Although the LGBTQ movement was inspired by the tactics of the Civil Rights and Women's movements, LGBTQ activists' involvement in the struggles of other civil rights causes was often fraught by homophobic biases. Bayard Rustin, a leading strategist of the black civil rights movement and organizer of the historic 1963 March on Washington, was pushed into the background when his homosexuality became public. Ivy Bottini, a founder and president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women in the late 1960s, was driven out of the organization amid a purge of lesbian members. Not until the 1970s would such biases soften as black leaders such as Huey New- ton spoke out in support of LGBTQ rights and lesbian-feminism became an influential force in the women’s movement.

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