Is Gay Lib Still Liberated?

19720914-04One of my regular occupations in the homphile movement seems to be to try to explain what the Gay Liberation Front is doing, and why, to hostile members of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality who hate to think their ‘respectable’ image is being tarnished by radical gays. On the occasion of the GLF All-London Come Together (also known as a Think-in and a Whither GLF?) at the Holborn Assembly Hall on Saturday, September 9, however, I couldn’t help but compare this meeting with one held in the same place by London CHE a few weeks back — a meeting which started on time, got through an enormous amount of work, and gave considerable (and well-deserved) satisfaction to most of those who participated.

In contrast, the GLF meeting had – for GLF – a poor attendance: about 120 brothers and a few sisters for all of London; by 1 pm, when the meeting was scheduled to start, the hall was still almost empty, and only in fact began soon after 3 pm because one brother got fed-up at the time being wasted and shouted to everyone to sit down.

As for deeds accomplished, there were the usual arguments among groups and individuals, many of whom displayed an arrogant, smug, holier-than-thou attitude that accorded ill with the ideology of love that they were expounding. The arguments were those that have been repeated ad nauseum in GLF circles for the past year or so. Only two practical proposals emerged from all the bluster and were apparently accepted: one was that all-London meetings should be held once every month, and the other was that a ginger group be formed in order to attempt to restore the spirit that made GLF such a force to be reckoned with up to a few months ago.

I don’t for one moment suggest that GLF adopt any of the often-stifling forms and rituals of the CHE bureaucratic structure, but some means must be found to make the term liberation meaningful again.

Much talk has gone on lately about self-awareness being the most important aspect of gay consciousness. Okay. But self-awareness is only a part of gay life, not its totality. Self-awareness, consciousness-raising, call it what you will, is frequently used as an excuse for sitting around rapping and taking little or no action about anything. To be truly liberated means to care about your brothers and sisters, to want to protect them against the oppressions of the straight world; the obvious corollary is that they shouldn’t have to be protected against you. Yet ‘liberated’ gays are still oppressing their own brothers and sisters and this is an oppression that takes many forms. A heavy form is being vicious, either verbally or physically, towards a brother or sister; another form is simply being late to a meeting and thereby wasting the time of those who are waiting for you. If you want to do your own thing, as many GLF people declare they do, then you can’t belong to a group, because every individual doing his own thing is going to tear that group apart. But if you are really committed to GLF, then some personal sacrifice is involved, because commitment means a love of those people who are working with you and a respect for their ideas, even when they differ from your own.