Pryor Rissover- Plotke
waves from a float
during the Gay Pride
Parade in Chicago,
June 30, 2002.

Beginning in the early 1900s, gays and lesbians began gathering together somewhat more openly in America’s large cities, creating a subculture in which they could express their identities with less fear of retribution. New organizations stressed assimilation with the heterosexual society, even as they argued for wider acceptance of gays, among them the Mattachine Society, founded in Los Angeles in 1951, and the Daughters of Bilitis, which started in San Francisco in 1955.

As the New Left emerged in the 1960s, many gays and lesbians began organizing around the idea of liberation–freedom to express their sexuality however they desired without harassment by police. The riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1969 galvanized the gay liberation movement. When police officers attempted a routine raid of the bar, hoping to catch people of the same sex dancing together or wearing gender-inappropriate clothing, the bar’s patrons rebelled and fought back against the police.

The 1980s saw an increase in gay activism. Organizations such as ACT UP and Keith Haring and other artists fought to move AIDS into the forefront as an issue affecting not only gays, but all Americans. Their success resulted in stronger AIDS education and awareness.

The gay and lesbian communities continue to struggle to gain civil rights in America, including the ongoing effort for marriage equality, gay adoption rights, and anti-discrimination laws that include gender variance.

Gay Liberation Front Poster\ Image, 1970.

Butch Femme Couples, c. 1920.

Keith Haring’s artwork in support of the activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power).