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Stonewall At Fifty | Boston Review

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A gay liberation reading list. 

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising, which in many respects was the beginning of the modern LGBTQ movement. There were, of course, efforts prior to Stonewall to improve the lives of sexual minorities. But nothing like Stonewall had ever happened before: a group of sexual outsiders—mainly drag queens and trans women of color—stood up to police brutality. 

Many were liberationists who wished to radically transform society—tearing down systems of oppression that included everything from Wall Street to the nuclear family. Today’s reading list puts them front and center, with essays on the demands of the Gay Liberation Front, communist East Germany’s dynamic queer politics, and why Mayor Pete (and our contemporary “gay rights” movement in general) betrays the radicalism of Stonewall.

—Rosie Gillies


Is Pete Buttigieg the Face of Stonewall?
by Micki McElya

The press has crowned Buttigieg the inheritor of Stonewall’s legacy, but this doesn’t square with what we know of Stonewall activists and the world they hoped to create.

• • •

What’s Wrong with Queer History?
by Samuel Clowes Huneke

Should we worry, as philosopher Anthony Appiah does, that queer history champions the work of Stonewall activists over that of reformist lawmakers? And what is queer history’s relationship with political liberation?

• • •

When Gays Wanted to Liberate Children
by Michael Bronski

The Gay Liberation movement of the 1970s advocated for collective child-rearing and legally emancipated children. So how did we end up with gay marriage and nuclear families instead? 

• • •

Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Beloved Radical
by Kenneth W. Mack

As a black, gender-ambiguous pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance, Pauli Murray’s biography seems to dramatize many of the most critical social and political struggles of the twentieth century.”   

• • •

Gay Liberation Behind the Iron Curtain
by Samuel Clowes Huneke

A gay golden age in East Germany reveals that Soviet politics were more dynamic than we admit—and that gay rights has less to do with democracy than we tend to assume.


• • •

Queers Against Hate
by Michael Bronski

The more radical Gay Liberation movement laid the groundwork for today’s moderate legal gains and the “reformist successes” of gay rights.

• • •

 Those Left Behind When Love Won
by Hugh Ryan

Homonormative politics argue that queers deserve rights because they are similar to heterosexuals, rather than challenging how rights and privileges are doled out in society generally.”

• • •

Toward a Trans* Feminism
by Jack Halberstam

Trans* feminisms in other parts of the world are more likely to understand trans* liberation as central to the fight against patriarchal systems.”

• • •

The Last Gay Liberationist
by Michael Bronski

Famous at the height of Gay Liberation in the 1970s and ’80s as a theorist, writer, and activist, Shively was mostly forgotten during the last three decades of his life, not unlike the radical social movement to which he gave so much.” 

• • •

Queer in Rural America
by Hugh Ryan

For many gay Americans, the countryside is a place we escaped. But for people of color who have been excluded from urban communities—which are overwhelmingly white, bourgeois, and male—rural queerness can be radical. 

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