The Beginner’s Guide to Cruising (1964)

The Beginner’s Guide to Cruising
by George Marshall
55 pages, Washington, DC

From Chapter III: The Approach

“In these days of marvels of speed such as jet planes, time has come to be of enormous importance. While in days past, months, years, even a lifetime could be devoted to the pursuit of a gay, it just won’t do now. The would-be cruiser has a living, as well as gays, to make, and he can’t afford to take much time off from the one for the other. Also we live at a faster pace, and very few men indeed would be content to let one affair last for many years- off the old, on the new, if I may so phrase it, is the watchword. Therefore, the aspirant cruiser must pay particular attention to his approach. The right one saves time and (so far as mortals may order these matters) commands success.”

Beginner’s Guide to Cruising (full pdf)

The Woman Identified Woman

by Radicalesbians
Radicalesbians (formerly Lavender Menace) was a Gay Liberation Front splinter group
This essay was first distributed to attendees of the NOW-sponsored 2nd annual Congress to Unite Women and then published in Come Out! no 4
May 1, 1970
New York, NY
(note on the text)

What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society – perhaps then, but certainly later – cares to allow her. These needs and actions, over a period of years, bring her into painful conflict with people, situations, the accepted ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, until she is in a state of continual war with everything around her, and usually with her self. She may not be fully conscious of the political implications of what for her began as personal necessity, but on some level she has not been able to accept the limitations and oppression laid on her by the most basic role of her society–the female role. The turmoil she experiences tends to induce guilt proportional to the degree to which she feels she is not meeting social expectations, and/or eventually drives her to question and analyze what the rest of her society more or less accepts. She is forced to evolve her own life pattern, often living much of her life alone, learning usually much earlier than her “straight” (heterosexual) sisters about the essential aloneness of life (which the myth of marriage obscures) and about the reality of illusions. To the extent that she cannot expel the heavy socialization that goes with being female, she can never truly find peace with herself. For she is caught somewhere between accepting society’s view of her – in which case she cannot accept herself – and coming to understand what this sexist society has done to her and why it is functional and necessary for it to do so. Those of us who work that through find ourselves on the other side of a tortuous journey through a night that may have been decades long. The perspective gained from that journey, the liberation of self, the inner peace, the real love of self and of all women, is something to be shared with all women – because we are all women.

It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy. Those sex roles dehumanize women by defining us as a supportive/serving caste in relation to the master caste of men, and emotionally cripple men by demanding that they be alienated from their own bodies and emotions in order to perform their economic/political/military functions effectively. Homosexuality is a by-product of a particular way of setting up roles ( or approved patterns of behavior) on the basis of sex; as such it is an inauthentic ( not consonant with “reality”) category. In a society in which men do not oppress women, and sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings, the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality would disappear.

But lesbianism is also different from male homosexuality, and serves a different function in the society. “Dyke” is a different kind of put-down from “faggot”, although both imply you are not playing your socially assigned sex role. . . are not therefore a “real woman” or a “real man.” The grudging admiration felt for the tomboy, and the queasiness felt around a sissy boy point to the same thing: the contempt in which women-or those who play a female role-are held. And the investment in keeping women in that contemptuous role is very great. Lesbian is a word, the label, the condition that holds women in line. When a woman hears this word tossed her way, she knows she is stepping out of line. She knows that she has crossed the terrible boundary of her sex role. She recoils, she protests, she reshapes her actions to gain approval. Lesbian is a label invented by the Man to throw at any woman who dares to be his equal, who dares to challenge his prerogatives (including that of all women as part of the exchange medium among men), who dares to assert the primacy of her own needs. To have the label applied to people active in women’s liberation is just the most recent instance of a long history; older women will recall that not so long ago, any woman who was successful, independent, not orienting her whole life about a man, would hear this word. For in this sexist society, for a woman to be independent means she can’t be a woman – she must be a dyke. That in itself should tell us where women are at. It says as clearly as can be said: women and person are contradictory terms. For a lesbian is not considered a “real woman.” And yet, in popular thinking, there is really only one essential difference between a lesbian and other women: that of sexual orientation – which is to say, when you strip off all the packaging, you must finally realize that the essence of being a “woman” is to get fucked by men.

“Lesbian” is one of the sexual categories by which men have divided up humanity. While all women are dehumanized as sex objects, as the objects of men they are given certain compensations: identification with his power, his ego, his status, his protection (from other males), feeling like a “real woman, ” finding social acceptance by adhering to her role, etc. Should a woman confront herself by confronting another woman, there are fewer rationalizations, fewer buffers by which to avoid the stark horror of her dehumanized condition. Herein we find the overriding fear of many women toward being used as a sexual object by a woman, which not only will bring her no male-connected compensations, but also will reveal the void which is woman’s real situation. This dehumanization is expressed when a straight woman learns that a sister is a lesbian; she begins to relate to her lesbian sister as her potential sex object, laying a surrogate male role on the lesbian. This reveals her heterosexual conditioning to make herself into an object when sex is potentially involved in a relationship, and it denies the lesbian her full humanity. For women, especially those in the movement, to perceive their lesbian sisters through this male grid of role definitions is to accept this male cultural conditioning and to oppress their sisters much as they themselves have been oppressed by men. Are we going to continue the male classification system of defining all females in sexual relation to some other category of people? Affixing the label lesbian not only to a woman who aspires to be a person, but also to any situation of real love, real solidarity, real primacy among women, is a primary form of divisiveness among women: it is the condition which keeps women within the confines of the feminine role, and it is the debunking/scare term that keeps women from forming any primary attachments, groups, or associations among ourselves.

Women in the movement have in most cases gone to great lengths to avoid discussion and confrontation with the issue of lesbianism. It puts people up-tight. They are hostile, evasive, or try to incorporate it into some ”broader issue.” They would rather not talk about it. If they have to, they try to dismiss it as a “lavender herring.” But it is no side issue. It is absolutely essential to the success and fulfillment of the women’s liberation movement that this issue be dealt with. As long as the label “dyke” can be used to frighten women into a less militant stand, keep her separate from her sisters, keep her from giving primacy to anything other than men and family-then to that extent she is controlled by the male culture. Until women see in each other the possibility of a primal commitment which includes sexual love, they will be denying themselves the love and value they readily accord to men, thus affirming their second-class status. As long as male acceptability is primary-both to individual women and to the movement as a whole-the term lesbian will be used effectively against women. Insofar as women want only more privileges within the system, they do not want to antagonize male power. They instead seek acceptability for women’s liberation, and the most crucial aspect of the acceptability is to deny lesbianism – i. e., to deny any fundamental challenge to the basis of the female. It should also be said that some younger, more radical women have honestly begun to discuss lesbianism, but so far it has been primarily as a sexual “alternative” to men. This, however, is still giving primacy to men, both because the idea of relating more completely to women occurs as a negative reaction to men, and because the lesbian relationship is being characterized simply by sex, which is divisive and sexist. On one level, which is both personal and political, women may withdraw emotional and sexual energies from men, and work out various alternatives for those energies in their own lives. On a different political/psychological level, it must be understood that what is crucial is that women begin disengaging from maledefined response patterns. In the privacy of our own psyches, we must cut those cords to the core. For irrespective of where our love and sexual energies flow, if we are male-identified in our heads, we cannot realize our autonomy as human beings.

But why is it that women have related to and through men? By virtue of having been brought up in a male society, we have internalized the male culture’s definition of ourselves. That definition consigns us to sexual and family functions, and excludes us from defining and shaping the terms of our lives. In exchange for our psychic servicing and for performing society’s non-profit-making functions, the man confers on us just one thing: the slave status which makes us legitimate in the eyes of the society in which we live. This is called “femininity” or “being a real woman” in our cultural lingo. We are authentic, legitimate, real to the extent that we are the property of some man whose name we bear. To be a woman who belongs to no man is to be invisible, pathetic, inauthentic, unreal. He confirms his image of us – of what we have to be in order to be acceptable by him – but not our real selves; he confirms our womanhood-as he defines it, in relation to him- but cannot confirm our personhood, our own selves as absolutes. As long as we are dependent on the male culture for this definition. for this approval, we cannot be free.

The consequence of internalizing this role is an enormous reservoir of self-hate. This is not to say the self-hate is recognized or accepted as such; indeed most women would deny it. It may be experienced as discomfort with her role, as feeling empty, as numbness, as restlessness, as a paralyzing anxiety at the center. Alternatively, it may be expressed in shrill defensiveness of the glory and destiny of her role. But it does exist, often beneath the edge of her consciousness, poisoning her existence, keeping her alienated from herself, her own needs, and rendering her a stranger to other women. They try to escape by identifying with the oppressor, living through him, gaining status and identity from his ego, his power, his accomplishments. And by not identifying with other “empty vessels” like themselves. Women resist relating on all levels to other women who will reflect their own oppression, their own secondary status, their own self-hate. For to confront another woman is finally to confront one’s self-the self we have gone to such lengths to avoid. And in that mirror we know we cannot really respect and love that which we have been made to be.

As the source of self-hate and the lack of real self are rooted in our male-given identity, we must create a new sense of self. As long as we cling to the idea of “being a woman, ” we will sense some conflict with that incipient self, that sense of I, that sense of a whole person. It is very difficult to realize and accept that being “feminine” and being a whole person are irreconcilable. Only women can give to each other a new sense of self. That identity we have to develop with reference to ourselves, and not in relation to men. This consciousness is the revolutionary force from which all else will follow, for ours is an organic revolution. For this we must be available and supportive to one another, give our commitment and our love, give the emotional support necessary to sustain this movement. Our energies must flow toward our sisters, not backward toward our oppressors. As long as woman’s liberation tries to free women without facing the basic heterosexual structure that binds us in one-to-one relationship with our oppressors, tremendous energies will continue to flow into trying to straighten up each particular relationship with a man, into finding how to get better sex, how to turn his head around-into trying to make the “new man” out of him, in the delusion that this will allow us to be the “new woman.” This obviously splits our energies and commitments, leaving us unable to be committed to the construction of the new patterns which will liberate us.

It is the primacy of women relating to women, of women creating a new consciousness of and with each other, which is at the heart of women’s liberation, and the basis for the cultural revolution. Together we must find, reinforce, and validate our authentic selves. As we do this, we confirm in each other that struggling, incipient sense of pride and strength, the divisive barriers begin to melt, we feel this growing solidarity with our sisters. We see ourselves as prime, find our centers inside of ourselves. We find receding the sense of alienation, of being cut off, of being behind a locked window, of being unable to get out what we know is inside. We feel a real-ness, feel at last we are coinciding with ourselves. With that real self, with that consciousness, we begin a revolution to end the imposition of all coercive identifications, and to achieve maximum autonomy in human expression.

Note: This text is from the print version retrieved from the Duke University Special Collections Library. However, their digitized text version has a few (minor) discrepencies and typos that were not in the original which I have corrected below. This also contains a few lines omitted from the version in Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement (which was based on a copy from the personal collection of Susan O’Malley). Those lines also appear in the copy printed in Notes from the Third Year: Women’s Liberation (1971) and Come Out! no 4. I doubt the Duke copy is from the originally-circulated pamphlet, if anyone knows where to find a copy please contact me.

Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto

by Carl Wittman
written slightly before 1969 Stonewall uprising, but first published December 1970
Text from Gay Flames Pamphlet No. 9 (including the stray quotation mark ;o)
New York, NY
See also The Red Butterfly “Comments on Carl Wittman’s ‘A Gay Manifesto'” (coming soon)

San Francisco is a refugee camp for homosexuals. We have fled here from every part of the nation, and like refugees elsewhere, we came not because it is so great here, but because it was so bad there. By the tens of thousands, we fled small towns where to be ourselves would endanger our jobs and any hope of a decent life; we have fled from blackmailing cops, from families who disowned or ‘tolerated’ us; we have been drummed out of the armed services, thrown out of schools, fired from jobs, beaten by punks and policemen.

And we have formed a ghetto, out of self-protection. It is a ghetto rather than a free territory because it is sill theirs. Straight cops patrol us, straight legislators govern us, straight employers keep us in line, straight money exploits us. We have pretended everything is OK, because we haven’t been able to see how to change it—we’ve been afraid.

In the past year there has been an awakening of gay liberation ideas and energy. How it began we don’t know; maybe we were inspired by black people and their freedom movement; we learned how to stop pretending form the hip revolution. Amerika in all its ugliness has surfaced with the war and our national leaders. And we are revulsed by the quality of our ghetto life.

Where once there was frustration, alienation, and cynicism, there are new characteristics among us. We are full of love for each other and are showing it; we are full of anger at what has been done to us. And as we recall all the self-censorship and repression for so many years, a reservoir of tears pours out of our eyes. And we are euphoric, high, with the initial flourish of a movement.

We want to make ourselves clear: our first job is to free ourselves; that means clearing our heads of the garbage that’s been poured into them. This article is an attempt at raising a number of issues, and presenting some ideas to replace the old ones. It is primarily for ourselves, a starting point of discussion. If straight people of good will find it useful in understanding what liberation is about, so much the better.

It should also be clear that these are the views of one person, and are determined not only by my homosexuality, but my being white, male, middle class. It is my individual consciousness. Our group consciousness will evolve as we get ourselves together—we are only at the beginning.


1. What homosexuality is: Nature leaves undefined the object of sexual desire. The gender of that object is imposed socially. Humans originally made homosexuality taboo because they needed every bit of energy to produce and raise children: survival of species was a priority. With overpopulation and technological change, that taboo continued only to exploit us and enslave us.

As kids we refused to capitulate to demands that we ignore our feelings toward each other. Somewhere we found the strength to resist being indoctrinated, and we should count that among our assets. We have to realize that our loving each other is a good thing, not an unfortunate thing, and that we have a lot to teach straights about sex, love, strength, and resistance.

Homosexuality is not a lot of things. It is not a makeshift in the absence of the opposite sex; it is not a hatred or rejection of the opposite sex; it is not genetic; it is not the result of broken homes except inasmuch as we could see the sham of American marriage. Homosexuality is the capacity to love someone of the same sex.

2. Bisexuality: Bisexuality is good; it is the capacity to love people of either sex. The reason so few of us are bisexual is because society made such a big stink about homosexuality that we got forced into seeing ourselves as either straight or non-straight. Also, many gays go turned off to the ways men are supposed to act with women and vice-versa, which is pretty fucked-up. Gays will begin to turn on to women when 1) it’s something that we do because we want to, and not because we should, and 2) when women’s liberation changes the nature of heterosexual relationships.

We continue to call ourselves homosexual, not bisexual, even if we do make it with the opposite sex also, because saying “Oh, I’m Bi” is a copy out for a gay. We get told it’s OK to sleep with guys as long as we sleep with women, too, and that’s still putting homosexuality down. We’ll be gay until everyone has forgotten that it’s an issue. Then we’ll begin to be complete.

3. Heterosexuality: Exclusive heterosexuality is fucked up. It reflects a fear of people of the same sex, it’s anti-homosexual, and it is fraught with frustration. Heterosexual sex is fucked up too; ask women’s liberation about what straight guys are like in bed. Sex is aggression for the male chauvinist; sex is obligation for the traditional woman. And among the young, the modern, the hip, it’s only a subtle version of the same. For us to become heterosexual in the sense that our straight brothers and sisters are is not a cure, it is a disease.


1. Lesbianism: It’s been a male-dominated society for too long, and that has warped both men and women. So gay women are going to see things differently from gay men; they are going to feel put down as women, too. Their liberation is tied up with both gay liberation and women’s liberation.

This paper speaks form the gay male viewpoint. And although some of the ideas in it may be equally relevant to gay women, it would be arrogant to presume this to be a manifesto for lesbians.

We look forward to the emergence of a lesbian liberation voice. The existence of a lesbian caucus within the New York Gay Liberation Front has been very helpful in challenging male chauvinism among gay guys, and anti-gay feelings among women’s lib.

2. Male Chauvinism: All men are infected with male chauvinism – we were brought up that way. It means we assume that women play subordinate roles and are less human than ourselves. (At an early gay liberation meeting one guy said, “Why don’t we invite women’s liberation – they can bring sandwiches and coffee.”) It is no wonder that so few gay women have become active in our groups.

Male chauvinism, however, is not central to us. We can junk it much more easily than straight men can. For we understand oppression. We have largely opted out of a system which oppresses women daily – our egos are not built on putting women down and having them build us up. Also, living in a mostly male world we have become used to playing different roles, doing or own shit-work. And finally, we have a common enemy: the big male chauvinists are also the big anti-gays.

But we need to purge male chauvinism, both in behavior and in thought among us. Chick equals nigger equals queer. Think it over.

3. Women’s liberation: They are assuming their equality and dignity and in doing so are challenging the same things we are: the roles, the exploitation of minorities by capitalism, the arrogant smugness of straight white male middle-class Amerika. They are our sisters in struggle.

Problems and differences will become clearer when we begin to work together. One major problem is our own male chauvinism. Another is uptightness and hostility to homosexuality that many women have – that is the straight in them. A third problem is differing views on sex: sex for them has meant oppression, while for us it has been a symbol of our freedom. We must come to know and understand each other’s style, jargon and humor.


1. Mimicry of straight society: We are children of straight society. We still think straight: that is part of our oppression. One of the worst of straight concepts is inequality. Straight (also white, English, male, capitalist) thinking views things in terms of order and comparison. A is before B, B is after A; one is below two is below three; there is no room for equality. This idea gets extended to male/female, on top/on bottom, spouse/not spouse, heterosexual/homosexual, boss/worker, white/black and rich/poor. Our social institutions cause and reflect this verbal hierarchy. This is Amerika.

We’ve lived in these institutions all our lives. Naturally we mimic the roles. For too long we mimicked these roles to protect ourselves – a survival mechanism. Now we are becoming free enough to shed the roles which we’ve picked up from the institutions which have imprisoned us.

“Stop mimicking straights, stop censoring ourselves.”

2. Marriage: Marriage is a prime example of a straight institution fraught with role playing. Traditional marriage is a rotten, oppressive institution. Those of us who have been in heterosexual marriages too often have blamed our gayness on the breakup of the marriage. No. They broke up because marriage is a contract which smothers both people, denies needs, and places impossible demands on both people. And we had the strength, again, to refuse to capitulate to the roles which were demanded of us.

Gay people must stop gauging their self-respect by how well they mimic straight marriages. Gay marriages will have the same problems as straight ones except in burlesque. For the usual legitimacy and pressures which keep straight marriages together are absent, e.g., kids, what parents think, what neighbors say.

To accept that happiness comes through finding a groovy spouse and settling down, showing the world that “we’re just the same as you” is avoiding the real issues, and is an expression of self-hatred.

3. Alternatives to Marriage: People want to get married for lots of good reasons, although marriage won’t often meet those needs or desires. We’re all looking for security, a flow of love, and a feeling of belonging and being needed.

These needs can be met through a number of social relationships and living situations. Things we want to get away from are: 1. exclusiveness, propertied attitudes toward each other, a mutual pact against the rest of the world; 2. promises about the future, which we have no right to make and which prevent us from , or make us feel guilty about, growing; 3. inflexible roles, roles which do not reflect us at the moment but are inherited through mimicry and inability to define equalitarian relationships.

We have to define for ourselves a new pluralistic, rolefree social structure for ourselves. It must contain both the freedom and physical space for people to live alone, live together for a while, live together for a long time, either as couples or in larger numbers; and the ability to flow easily from one of these states to another as our needs change.

Liberation for gay people is defining for ourselves how and with whom we live, instead of measuring our relationship in comparison to straight ones, with straight values.

4. Gay ‘stereotypes’: The straight’s image of the gay world is defined largely by those of us who have violated straight roles. There is a tendency among ‘homophile’ groups to deplore gays who play visible roles—the queens and the nellies. As liberated gays, we must take a clear stand. 1. Gays who stand out have become our first martyrs. They came out and withstood disapproval before the rest of us did. 2. If they have suffered from being open, it is straight society whom we must indict, not the queen.

5. Closet queens: This phrase is becoming analogous to ‘Uncle Tom.’ To pretend to be straight sexually, or to pretend to be straight socially, is probably the most harmful pattern of behavior in the ghetto. The married guy who makes it on the side secretly; the guy who will go to bed once but won’t develop any gay relationships; the pretender at work or school who changes the gender of the friend he’s talking about; the guy who’ll suck cock in the bushes but won’t go to bed.

If we are liberated we are open with our sexuality. Closet queenery must end. Come out.

But: in saying come out, we have to have our heads clear about a few things: 1) closet queens are our brothers, and must be defended against attacks by straight people; 2) the fear of coming out is not paranoia; the stakes are high: loss of family ties, loss of job, loss of straight friends – these are all reminders that the oppression is not just in our heads. It’s real. Each of us must make the steps toward openness at our own speed and on our own impulses. Being open is the foundation of freedom: it has to be built solidly. 3) “Closet queen” is a broad term covering a multitude of forms of defense, self-hatred, lack of strength, and habit. We are all closet queens in some ways, and all of us had to come out – very few of us were ‘flagrant’ at the age of seven! We must afford our brothers and sisters the same patience we afforded ourselves. And while their closet queenery is part of our oppression, it’s more a part of theirs. They alone can decide when and how.


It is important to catalog and understand the different facets of our oppression. There is no future in arguing about degrees of oppression. A lot of ‘movement’ types come on with a line of shit about homosexuals not being oppressed as much as blacks or Vietnamese or workers or women. We don’t happen to fit into their ideas of class or caste. Bull! When people feel oppressed, they act on that feeling. We feel oppressed. Talk about the priority of black liberation or ending imperialism over and above gay liberation is just anti-gay propaganda.

1. Physical attacks: We are attacked, beaten, castrated and left dead time and time again. There are half a dozen known unsolved slayings in San Francisco parks in the last few years. “Punks,” often of minority groups who look around for someone under them socially, feel encouraged to beat up on “queens” and cops look the other way. That used to be called lynching.

Cops in most cities have harassed our meeting places: bars and baths and parks. They set up entrapment squads. A Berkeley brother was slain by a cop in April when he tried to split after finding out that the trick who was making advances to him was a cop. Cities set up ‘pervert’ registration, which if nothing else scares our brothers deeper into the closet.

One of the most vicious slurs on us is the blame for prison ‘gang rapes’. These rapes are invariably done by people who consider themselves straight. The victims of these rapes are us and straights who can’t defend themselves. The press campaign to link prison rapes with homosexuality is an attempt to make straights fear and despise us, so they can oppress us more. It’s typical of the fucked-up straight mind to think that homosexual sex involves tying a guy down and fucking him. That’s aggression, not sex. If that’s what sex is for a lot of straight people, that’s a problem they have to solve, not us.

2. Psychological warfare: Right from the beginning we have been subjected to a barrage of straight propaganda. Since our parents don’t know any homosexuals, we grow up thinking that we are alone and different and perverted. Our school friends identify ‘queer’ with any non-conformist or bad behavior. Our elementary school teachers tell us not to talk to strangers or accept rides. Television, billboards and magazines put forth a false idealization of male/female relationships, and make us wish we were different, wish we were ‘in’. In family living class we’re taught how we’re supposed to turn out. And all along, the best we hear if anything about homosexuality is that it’s an unfortunate problem.

3. Self-oppression: As gay liberation grows, we will find our uptight brothers and sisters, particularly those who are making a buck off our ghetto, coming on strong to defend the status quo. This is self oppression: ‘don’t rock the boat’; ‘things in SF are OK’; ‘gay people just aren’t together’; ‘I’m not oppressed’. These lines are right out of the mouths of the straight establishment. A large part of our oppression would end if we would end if we would stop putting ourselves and our pride down.

4. Institutional: Discrimination against gays is blatant, if we open our eyes. Homosexual relationships are illegal, and even if these laws are not regularly enforced, they encourage and enforce closet queenery. The bulk of the social work psychiatric field looks upon homosexuality as a problem, and treats us as sick. Employers let it be known that our skills are acceptable as long as our sexuality is hidden. Big business and government are particularly notorious offenders.

The discrimination in the draft and armed services is a pillar of the general attitude towards gays. If we are willing to label ourselves publicly not only as homosexual but as sick, then we qualify for deferment; and if we’re not ‘discreet’ (dishonest) we get drummed out of the service. Hell, no, we won’t go, of course not, but we can’t let the army fuck over us this way, either.


1. What sex is: It is both creative expression and communication: good when it is either, and better when it is both. Sex can also be aggression, and usually is when those involved do not see each other as equals; and it can also be perfunctory, when we are distracted or preoccupied. These uses spoil what is good about it.

I like of think of good sex in terms of playing the violin: with both people on one level seeing the other body as an object capable of creating beauty when they play it well; and on a second level the players communicating through their mutual production and appreciation of beauty. As in good music, you get totally into it – and coming back out of that state of consciousness is like finishing a work of art or coming back from an episode of an acid or mescaline trip. And to press the analogy further: the variety of music is infinite and varied, depending on the capabilities of the players, both as subjects and as objects. Solos, duets, quartets (symphonies, even, if you happen to dig Romantic music!) are possible. The variations in gender, response, and bodies are like different instruments. And perhaps what we have called sexual ‘orientation’ probably just means that we have not yet learned to turn on to the total range of musical expression.

2. Objectification: In this scheme, people are sexual objects, but they are also subjects, and are human beings who appreciate themselves as object and subject. This use of human bodies as objects is legitimate (not harmful) only when it is reciprocal. If one person is always object and the other subject, it stifles the human being in both of them. Objectification must also be open and frank. By silence we often assume or let the other person assume that sex means commitments: if it does, ok; but if not, say it. (Of course, it’s not all that simple: our capabilities for manipulation are unfathomed—all we can do is try.)

Gay liberation people must understand that women have been treated exclusively and dishonestly as sexual objects. A major part of their liberation is to play down sexual objectification and to develop other aspects of themselves which have been smothered so long. We respect this. We also understand that a few liberated women will be appalled or disgusted at the open and prominent place that we put sex in our lives; and while this is a natural response from their experience, they must learn what it means for us.

For us, sexual objectification is a focus of our quest for freedom. It is precisely that which we are not supposed to share with each other. Learning how to be open and good with each other sexually is part of our liberation. And one obvious distinction: objectification of sex for us is something we choose to do among ourselves, while for women it is imposed by their oppressors.

3. On positions and roles: Much of our sexuality has been perverted through mimicry of straights, and warped from self-hatred. These sexual perversions are basically anti-gay:

“I like to make it with straight guys”
“I’m not gay, but I like to be ‘done’”
“I like to fuck, but don’t want to be fucked”
“I don’t like to be touched above the neck”

This is role playing at its worst; we must transcend these roles. We strive for democratic, mutual, reciprocal sex. This does not mean that we are all mirror images of each other in bed, but that we break away from the roles which enslave us. We already do better in bed than straights do, and we can be better to each other than we have been.

4. Chickens and Studs: Face it, nice bodies and young bodies are attributes, they’re groovy. They are inspiration for art, for spiritual elevation, for good sex. The problem arises only in the inability to relate to people of the same age, or people who don’t fit the plastic stereotypes of a good body. At that point, objectification eclipses people, and expresses self-hatred: “I hate gay people, and I don’t like myself, but if a stud (or chicken) wants to make it with me, I can pretend I’m someone other than me.”

A note on exploitation of children: kids can take care of themselves, and are sexual beings way earlier than we’d like to admit. Those of us who began cruising in early adolescence know this, and we were doing the cruising, not being debauched by dirty old men. Scandals such as the one in Boise, Idaho—blaming a “ring” of homosexuals for perverting their youth—are the fabrications of press and police and politicians. And as for child molesting, the overwhelming amount is done by straight guys to little girls: it is not particularly a gay problem, and is caused by the frustrations resulting form anti-sex puritanism.

5. Perversion:  “We’ve been called perverts enough to be suspect of any usage of the word. Still many of us shrink from the idea of certain kinds of sex: with animals, sado/masochism, dirty sex (involving piss or shit). Right off, even before we take the time to learn any more, there are some things to get straight:

1. we shouldn’t be apologetic to straights about gays whose sex lives we don’t understand or share;

2. it’s not particularly a gay issue, except that gay people are probably less hung up about sexual experimentation;

3. let’s get perspective: even if we were to get into the game of deciding what’s good for someone else, the harm done in these ‘perversions’ is undoubtedly less dangerous or unhealthy than is tobacco or alcohol.

4. While they can be reflections of neurotic or self-hating patterns, they may also be enactments of spiritual or important phenomena: e.g. sex with animals may be the beginning of interspecies communication: some dolphin-human breakthroughs have been made on the sexual level; e.g. one guy who says he digs shit during sex occasionally says it’s not the taste or texture, but a symbol that he’s so far into sex that those things no longer bug him; e.g. sado/masochism, when consensual, can be described as a highly artistic endeavor, a ballet the constraints of which are thresholds of pain and pleasure.


We are refugees from Amerika. So we came to the ghetto—and as other ghettos, it has its negative and positive aspects. Refugee camps are better than what preceded them, or people never would have come. But they are still enslaving, if only that we are limited to being ourselves there and only there.

Ghettos breed self-hatred. We stagnate here, accepting the status quo. The status quo is rotten. We are all warped by our oppression, and in the isolation of the ghetto we blame ourselves rather than our oppressors.

Ghettos breed exploitation: Landlords find they can charge exorbitant rents and get away with it, because of the limited area which us safe to live in openly. Mafia control of bars and baths in NYC is only one example of outside money controlling our institutions for their profit. In San Francisco the Tavern Guild favors maintaining the ghetto, for it is through ghetto culture that they make a buck. We crowd their bars not because of their merit but because of the absence of any other social institution. The Guild has refused to let us collect defense funds or pass out gay liberation literature in their bars—need we ask why?

Police or con men who shake down the straight gay in return for not revealing him; the bookstores and movie makers who keep raising prices because they are the only outlet for pornography; heads of ‘modeling’ agencies and other pimps who exploit both the hustlers and the johns – these are the parasites who flourish in the ghetto.

SAN FRANCISCO—Ghetto or Free Territory: Our ghetto certainly is more beautiful and larger and more diverse than most ghettos, and is certainly freer than the rest of Amerika. That’s why we’re here. But it isn’t ours. Capitalists make money off of us, cops patrol us, government tolerates us as long as we shut up, and daily we work for and pay taxes to those who oppress us.

To be a free territory, we must govern ourselves, set up our own institutions, defend ourselves, and use our won energies to improve our lives. The emergence of gay liberation communes, and out own paper is a good start. The talk about gay liberation coffee shop/dance hall should be acted upon. Rural retreats, political action offices, food cooperatives, a free school, unalienating bars and after hours places—they must be developed if we are to have even the shadow of a free territory.


Right now the bulk of our work has to be among ourselves—self educating, fending off attacks, and building free territory. Thus basically we have to have a gay/straight vision of the world until the oppression of gays is ended.

But not every straight is our enemy. Many of us have mixed identities, and have ties with other liberation movements: women, blacks, other minority groups; we may also have taken on an identity which is vital to us: ecology, dope, ideology. And face it: we can’t change Amerika alone:

Who do we look to for collaboration?

1. Women’s Liberation: summarizing earlier statements, 1) they are our closest ally; we must try hard to get together with them. 2) a lesbian caucus is probably the best way to attack gay guys’ male chauvinism, and challenge the straightness of women’s liberation; 3) as males we must be sensitive to their developing identities as women, and respect that; if we know what our freedom is about, they certainly know what’s best for them.

2. Black liberation: This is tenuous right now because of the uptightness and supermasculinity of many black men (which is understandable). Despite that, we must support their movement, particularly when they are under attack form the establishment; we must show them that we mean business; and we must figure out which our common enemies are: police, city hall, capitalism.

3. Chicanos: Basically the same problem as with blacks: trying to overcome mutual animosity and fear, and finding ways to support them. The extra problem of super up-tightness and machismo among Latin cultures, and the traditional pattern of Mexicans beating up “queers” can be overcome: we’re both oppressed, and by the same people at the top.

4. White radicals and ideologues: We’re not, as a group, Marxist or communist. We haven’t figured out what kind of political/economic system is good for us as gays. Neither capitalist or socialist countries have treated us as anything other than non grata so far.

But we know we are radical, in that we know the system that we’re under now is a direct source of oppression, and it’s not a question of getting our share of the pie. The pie is rotten.

We can look forward to coalition and mutual support with radical groups if they are able to transcend their anti-gay and male chauvinist patterns. We support radical and militant demands when they arise, e.g. Moratorium, People’s Park; but only as a group; we can’t compromise or soft-peddle our gay identity.

Problems: because radicals are doing somebody else’s thing, they tend to avoid issues which affect them directly, and see us as jeopardizing their ‘work’ with other groups (workers, blacks). Some years ago a dignitary of SDS on a community organization project announced at an initial staff meeting that there would be no homosexuality (or dope) on the project. And recently in New York, a movement group which had a coffee-house get-together after a political rally told the gays to leave when they started dancing together. (It’s interesting to note that in this case, the only two groups which supported us were the Women’s Liberation and the Crazies.)

Perhaps most fruitful would be to broach with radicals their stifled homosexuality and the issues which arise from challenging sexual roles.

5. Hip and street- people: A major dynamic of rising gay lib sentiment is the hip revolution within the gay community. Emphasis on love, dropping out, being honest, expressing yourself through hair and clothes, and smoking dope are all attributes of this. The gays who are the least vulnerable to attack by the establishment have been the freest to express themselves on gay liberation.

We can make a direct appeal to young people, who are not so uptight about homosexuality. One kid, after having his first sex with a male said, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about, making it with a girl just isn’t that different.”

The hip/street culture has led people into a lot of freeing activities: encounter/sensitivity, the quest for reality, freeing territory for the people, ecological consciousness, communes. These are real points of agreement and probably will make it easier for them to get their heads straight about homosexuality, too.

6. Homophile groups: 1) reformist or pokey as they sometimes are, they are our brothers. They’ll grow as we have grown and grow. Do not attack them in straight or mixed company. 2) ignore their attack on us. 3) cooperate where cooperation is possible without essential compromise of our identity.


1. Free ourselves: come out everywhere; initiate self defense and political activity; initiate counter community institutions.

2. Turn other gay people on: talk all the time; understand, forgive, accept.

3. Free the homosexual in everyone: we’ll be getting a good bit of shit form threatened latents: be gentle, and keep talking & acting free.

4. We’ve been playing an act for a long time, so we’re consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it’ll be a good show!

A Comic Guide to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Dignity & Respect: A Training Guide on Homosexual Conduct Policy
Distributed by the United States Army
(scanned by Comics with Problems)

Click here to download a PDF of the entire comic.

Title: Dignity & Respect:
A Training Guide on Homosexual Conduct Policy.

Publication: [Washington, D.C.]: Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Dept. of the Army, Year: 2001 Description: 30 p. : col. ill. ; 17 cm. Language: English

OCLC: 52583606

Available libraries that have a copy in their holdings(2): Pritzger Military Library and Michigan State University.

Platform of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation

The March on Washington took place April 25, 1993
Washington, D.C.

Action Statement Preamble to the Platform

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender movement recognizes that our quest
for social justice fundamentally links us to the struggles against racism
and sexism, class bias, economic injustice and religious intolerance. We
must realize if one of us is oppressed we all are oppressed. The diversity of
our movement requires and compels us to stand in opposition to all forms of
oppression that diminish the quality of life for all people. We will be
vigilant in our determination to rid our movement and our society of all forms
of oppression and exploitation, so that all of us can develop to our full
human potential without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation,
identification, identity, gender and gender expression, ability, age or class.


1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil
rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments
including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that
criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.
2. We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research,
and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative
therapies; and an end to sexism in medical research and health care.
3. We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians,
Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered people in the areas of family diver-
sity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of family
includes the full diversity of all family structures.
4. We demand full and equal inclusion of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and
Transgendered people in the educational system, and inclusion of Les-
bian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies in multicultural curricula.
5. We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control
our own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.
6. We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.
7. We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppression based on
actual or perceived sexual orientation, identification, race, religion, iden-
tity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.

Platform Demands and Related Items

1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender civil
rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments
including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and others laws that
criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.
  • Passage of “The Civil Rights Amendment Act of 1991” (HR 1430 & S574).
    Repeal of Department of Defense directive 1332.14.
  • Repeal of laws prohibiting sodomy, cross-gender expression (dress codes) or
    non-coercive sexual
    behavior between consenting adults.
  • Amendment of the Code of Federal Regulations to recognize same-sex
  • Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Implementation of, funding for and enforcement of the Americans with
    Disabilities Act of 1991.
  • Passage and implementation of graduated age-of-consent laws.
2. We demand massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research,
and patient care; universal access to health care including alternative
therapies; and an end to seism in medical research and health care.
  • The provision of responsive, appropriate health care for people with
    disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • Revision of the Centers for Disease Control definition of AIDS to include
    infections particular to women.
  • Implementation of the recommendation-of the National AIDS Comrnission
  • A massive increase in funding for AIDS education, research and care–money for
    AIDS, not for war.
    This money should come from the defense budget, not existing social services.
  • An increase in funding and research to provide an independent study of
    HIV infection in women, People of Color, Bisexuals, Heterosexuals, children,
    and women to women transmission.
  • Access to anonymous testing for HIV.
  • No mandatory HIV testing.
  • A cure for AIDS.
  • The development and legalization of a national needle exchange program.
  • Free substance abuse treatment on demand.
  • The redefinition of sexual reassignment surgeries as medical, not cosmetic,
  • The provision of appropriate medical treatment for all transgendered people in
    prisons and hospitals.
  • An increase in funding and research for chronic illness, including breast
    ovarian, and other cancers particular to women.
  • The right of all people with chronic illness, including HIV/AIDS, to choices
    in medical treatment as well as the right to end such treatment.
3. We demand legislation to prevent discrimination against Lesbians,
Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgendered people in the areas of family di-
versity, custody, adoption and foster care and that the definition of
family includes the full diversity of all family structures.
  • The recognition and legal protection of whole range of family structures.
  • An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against youth.
  • An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against older/old people.
  • Full implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the
    Health and Human Services Task Force on Youth Suicide.
  • Recognition of domestic partnerships.
  • Legalization of same sex marriages.
4. We demand full and equal inclusion of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and
Transgendered people in the educational system, and inclusion of Les-
bian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender studies in multicultural curricula.
  • Culturally inclusive Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies program;
    and information on abortion, AIDS/HIV, childcare and sexuality at all levels
    of education.
  • Establishment of campus offices and programs to address Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
    and Transgender students special needs.
  • The ban of all discriminatory ROTC programs and recruiters from learning
  • An end to discrimination at all levels of education.
5. We demand the right to reproductive freedom and choice, to control our
own bodies, and an end to sexist discrimination.
  • The right to control our bodies.
  • Unrestricted, safe and affordable alternative insemination.
  • An end to sterilization abuse.
  • That access to safe and affordable abortion and contraception be available to
    all people on demand, without restriction and regardless of age.
  • That access to unbiased and complete information about the full range of
    reproductive options be available to all people, regardless of age.
6. We demand an end to racial and ethnic discrimination in all forms.
  • Support for non-racist policies and affirmative action.
  • An end to institutionalized racism.
  • Equal economic opportunity and an end to poverty.
  • Full reproductive rights, improvement of prenatal services, availability of
    alternative insemination for Lesbians and Bisexual women of color.
  • Repeal all ‘English Only’ laws and restore and enforce bilingual education.
  • Repeal all discriminatory immigration laws based on race and HIV status.
  • A commitment to ending racism, including internalized racism, sexism and all
    forms of religious and ethnic oppression in our communities and in this country.
  • An end to the genocide of all the indigenous peoples and their cultures
  • Restoration of the self-determination of all indigenous people of the world.
7. We demand an end to discrimination and violent oppresion based on
actual or perceived sexual orientation/identification, race, religion,
identity, sex and gender expression, disability, age, class, AIDS/HIV infection.
  • An end to anti-Semitism.
  • An end to sexist oppression.
  • An end to discrimination against people with disabilities, deaf and hard of
    hearing people.
  • An end to discrimination based on sexual orientation in all programs of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • An end to economic injustice in this country and internationally.
  • An end to discrimination against prisoners with HIV/AIDS.
  • An end to discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, and those perceived as
    having HIV/AIDS.
  • An end to consideration of gender dysphoria as a psychiatric disorder.
  • An end to hate crimes including police brutality, rape and bashing.
    An end to censorship.

All Together Now (A Blueprint for the Movement)

by Evan Wolfson
September 11, 2001
Originally published in The Advocate (via Google Books archive)

Just as the far right is launching another attack against the freedom to marry — this time in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment — marriage-rights expert Evan Wolfson outlines the blueprint for a new campaign to secure equal marriage rights for all lesbians and gay men.

Why marriage and why now?

We can win the freedom to marry. Possibly within five years. This bold declaration, which I hope becomes a rallying cry, raises many questions – not the least of which are: Why marriage and why now? Who’s “we”? How do we do it? And, five years?

Before I tackle those questions, though, let’s savor the possibilities: We can seize the terms of the debate, tell our diverse stories, engage the nongay persuadable public, enlist allies, work the courts and the legislatures in several states, and achieve a legal breakthrough within five years. I’m talking about not just any legal breakthrough but an actual change in the law of at least one state, ending discrimination in civil marriage and permitting same-sex couples to lawfully wed. This won’t just be a change in the law either; it will be a change in society. For if we do it right, the struggle to win the freedom to marry will bring much more along the way. It is not just the attainment but the engagement that will move us furthest and fastest.

But first, let me tackle those questions.
Why marriage and why now?

Marriage is many things in our society. It is an important choice that belongs to couples in love. In fact, many people consider their choice of partner the most important choice they ever make. Civil marriage is also a legal gateway to a vast array of protections, responsibilities, and benefits (most of which cannot be replicated in any other way). These include access to health care and medical decision making for your partner and your children; parenting and immigration rights; inheritance, taxation, Social Security, and other government benefits; rules for ending a relationship while protecting both parties; and the simple ability to pool resources to buy or transfer property without adverse tax treatment.

After passing the federal antimarriage law marketed as the “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996, the government cataloged more than 1,049 ways in which married people are accorded special status under law. Add in the state-level protections and the intangible and tangible privileges marriage brings in private life, and that makes more than 1,049 ways in which lesbians and gay couples are ripped off.

Marriage is a known commodity, permitting couples to travel without playing “now you’re legally next of kin; now you’re legally not.” It is a social statement, describing and defining one’s relationships and place in society. It is also a personal statement of commitment that receives public support and can help achieve common aspirations for stability and structure in life. It has spiritual significance for many of us and familial significance for nearly all of us.

Finally, marriage is the vocabulary in which nongay people talk of love, family, dedication, self-sacrifice, and stages of life. It is the vocabulary of love, equality, and inclusion. While recognizing that marriage should not be the sole criterion for benefits and support, nor the only family form worthy of respect, the vast majority of lesbians and gay men want the freedom to marry for the same mix of reasons as nongay people.

In the past several years we have turned an idea virtually no one talked about into a reality waiting to happen. A 1999 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported that two thirds of all Americans have come to believe that gay people will win the freedom to marry. And we know that if they believe it will happen, on some level they are learning to live with it – the positive precondition to our achieving it. This extraordinary new receptivity comes only eight years after the Hawaii supreme court first launched this national discussion.

We can call the first chapter of our ongoing freedom to marry movement the “Hawaii/Vermont” chapter. Its successes were enormous. Through court cases in both states we showed that there is no good reason for sex discrimination in civil marriage, just as there was no good reason for race discrimination in civil marriage a generation ago.

We also redefined the national debate over lesbian and gay inclusion, fostering recognition that marriage is central to any discussion about lesbian and gay equality. This was dramatically demonstrated by last year’s vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman, both of whom answered a question about gay love by talking about their evolving (and increasingly supportive) positions on marriage.

The Hawaii/Vermont chapter moved the center of our country to the “all but marriage” position. Whereas before the marriage debate, the nongay majority did not support any kind of partner recognition for same-sex couples, now we see majority support for health benefits, inheritance, and other kinds of recognition of our family relationships. That is a product of talking about our lives in the vocabulary of full equality and a happy consequence of asking nongay people to hear our stories.

In June 2000 an Associated Press poll put opposition to our freedom to marry at only 51% ; the latest Gallup Poll puts it at 52%. A recent survey shows college freshmen strongly supporting our freedom to marry as well. My latest favorite poll, however, came in New York magazine early this year. It reported that 58% of nongay New Yorkers support civil marriage for gay people, and that 92% (!) of gay people agree.

All of this is occurring, of course, against a backdrop of international advances. It has been only 12 years since Denmark became the first country to create “gay marriage” (not marriage itself but a parallel marital status for same-sex couples). This year the Netherlands became the first to dispense with separate and unequal formulas and allow same-sex couples to lawfully wed. Other European nations, and possibly the European Union as a whole, will certainly follow suit in the years to come. Meanwhile, Canada — which already has recognized same-sex couples’ legal entitlement to “all but marriage” — is also in the midst of a campaign aimed at securing the freedom to marry.

Finally, the Hawaii/Vermont chapter brought us “gay marriage” — though not yet marriage itself — here at home. With the passage of the civil union law, Vermont created a parallel nonmarriage marital status for same-sex couples, upon which we can build.

It is worth remembering that we didn’t get civil unions by asking for civil unions. We got this separate and unequal status by pressing for the freedom to marry. In Vermont local activists, New England’s Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and our allies mounted a campaign of public outreach, enlisting clergy, speaking at county fairs, and then folding in litigation — groundwork that led to victory through sustained engagement. With these successes as our new starting point, it’s time for us to open the next chapter in our movement.
What about asking for less?

Civil unions are a tremendous step forward, but they are not good enough. They do not provide equal benefits and they leave couples and those who deal with them exposed to legal uncertainty. What we want is not separate and unequal “gay marriage” but marriage itself, the full range of choice and protections available to our nongay sisters and brothers. We do ourselves no favor when we enter this civil rights discussion bargaining against ourselves.

The attempt not to talk about marriage, to have a discussion without using the m word, increasingly fails. The fierce (and ongoing) right-wing backlash against civil unions in Vermont (and the right wing’s use of marriage and civil unions as a club against us in campaigns in other states) shows that we do not gain much ground by calling it something else or running away from the debate. Our opponents are against us no matter what we seek. When we fight merely not to be beaten up in the streets, they are against us. If we were asking for oxygen, they would be against us. Our opponents will redefine everything we seek as “a slippery slope to gay marriage” and attack us with equal ferocity, no matter what.

If we are going to have to face opposition and work to engage the middle no matter what we strive for, why not ask for all we deserve? Remember, it is no coincidence that the two states in which we have the most expansive protections and recognition for gay people are the two in which we framed the discussion in terms of full equality.
Who’s “we,” and what is the new approach?

It is time for a peacetime campaign to win the freedom to marry. We cannot win equality by focusing just on one court case or the next legislative battle — or by lurching from crisis to crisis.

Rather, like every other successful civil rights movement, we must see our struggle as long-term and must set affirmative goals, marshal sustained strategies and concerted efforts, and enlist new allies and new resources.

More than ever, then, “we” means key organizations in key battleground states working in partnership; a national resource center doing what is best done centrally; talented and dedicated individuals who bring new resources and new focus to the table; existing and new national groups prioritizing real work on marriage; and most critically, nongay allies.

Clearly we can — and must — motivate nongay allies to become vocal advocates. Fortunately, we have good models for doing so. For instance, we can examine and replicate how the parents of students creating gay-straight alliances — or the parents, funders, and others who have taken action against Boy Scouts discrimination — have defined their relation to our civil rights and created a public responsibility and role for themselves.

Since there is no marriage without engagement, we must make enhanced efforts to have our allies speak out in a variety of forums — everything from advertorials to interfaith dialogues to TV talk shows such as Oprah and Larry King Live — describing to other nongay Americans why it’s important for them to support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

We also can enlist diverse allies among other constituencies (religious, labor, child welfare, youth, seniors, business, etc.) and seek ways to work together with overlapping communities such as women and people of color. For example, we can find common ground through joint projects to deal with problems we all face with immigration discrimination or access to health care.

Imagine, for example, a collaboration between the National Center for Lesbian Rights and La Raza or the Japanese American Citizens League, in which each group agreed to send collective information on immigration concerns to its mailing lists and then cohost a program that included gay concerns, spokespeople, and stories.

The good news here is that nongay people live in the world of marriage, and in many cases they will be more responsive to our call to join this work. As the growing list of signatories on the Marriage Resolution ( attests, many of them have already. We must give nongay opinion leaders at the national level as well as local clergy or organizations the impetus and framework for engaging the public on our freedom to marry.
How do we do it?

Our opponents have announced yet another antigay campaign – an effort to promote a federal constitutional amendment to permanently exclude lesbians and gay men from all family protections, including marriage. Outrageous as this latest assault is, there are lessons we can learn from them: the power of a campaign over time, the importance of framing the terms of the debate, the need to present diverse and compelling stories and allies, the ability to make attainable what at one time seemed radical. The good news here is that their attack offers us an occasion to take our case to the people. We should not shy away.

I envision a sustained effort to win the freedom to marry, centering on focused work to attain a legal breakthrough in one or more states, together with sophisticated national work to create a climate of receptivity. The elements of this sustained effort would be serious multimethodology, multiyear freedom-to-marry efforts under way in the most promising breakthrough states. The partners in these efforts would strategically mount litigation or legislative measures to end discrimination in civil marriage, but the specific vehicles would take place within the context of our undertaking enhanced public education and outreach work.
development of a clear and sophisticated understanding of what demographics we need to reach in order to firm up our 30%-35% base and soften up and move the 15%-20% of the public who are movable.
deployment of resources, trainings, messages, messengers, and vehicles to help nongay and gay partners in different states and constituencies communicate transformative information and enlist additional nongay support.

For example, we need to communicate resonant portrayals that show how the exclusion of gay people from marriage has a real and detrimental impact on children, families, and society; how withholding marriage does injustice and cruel harm to lesbian and gay seniors; how the United States is lagging behind other countries; how separate and unequal treatment is wrong; and why the government should not interfere with same-sex couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage.

Let’s relate the stories of seniors and how they are denied the social safety net that comes with marriage. Let’s talk about the California schoolteacher who died after 30 wonderful years teaching kids, leaving her partner unable to share her pension or Social Security death benefits — or even remain in the home they shared. Or we can discuss how, if the teacher had survived and sought to move with her partner into an assisted-living facility, they might have found themselves forbidden to live together.

Marriage discrimination wreaks real harms — kids teased because they don’t have a “real family,” a nonbiological parent told he or she cannot pick up an ailing child at the school because of not being legally related, couples unable to transfer income or property between them.

Let’s trace the experiences — good and bad — of the 2,000-plus couples that have joined in civil union in Vermont. Let’s pick up on reports such as the 1999 Stanford University study that showed how denying marriage to same-sex couples hurts kids. Let’s describe the cruel sundering of binational couples, the partners turned away at hospitals, the callous dismissal of a lifetime of love in cases such as Sharon Smith’s claim for wrongful death when her partner was killed in a horrible dog mauling. Let’s also convey the strengths and vibrancy of many gay and lesbian couples such as my former clients Richard and Ron, who just celebrated their 31st anniversary, or my friends Jamie and Mark, who gathered friends and family from around the country to celebrate their wedding in a lovely church ceremony. Let’s make sure that America hears the voice of Jamie’s father, describing his growth in acceptance and wish that society could now do the same. Our job is to develop and deploy a strategic mix of messages that tell the diverse and real stories of our lives and love in a vocabulary of equality that reaches the middle.
Why five years?

Obviously no one can promise this breakthrough on any specific timetable, so of course I mean that this is doable within five years, but the victory may happen later … or sooner. We had victory within our reach in Hawaii years ago, only to see it blocked there because of our failure to act swiftly and strongly enough. But our opponents know the importance of sticking with the fight, and so must we. We must be prepared to ride the ups and downs. Our leaders and national organizations need to understand the lessons of the previous marriage battles as well as the lessons we should have learned from the battles over the military, federal civil rights legislation, and the Boy Scouts. Among those lessons: We cannot expect to win equality in one short burst of attention or one wartime campaign alone. Rather, we must lay the groundwork and not just try to cherry-pick the easy wins or “flavor of the month” issues.

Another lesson is that it is a mistake to define our cultural engagement and the work of our civil rights movement by what seems currently realistic or attainable in the legislatures (or the courts). For one thing, our ability to predict is often limited. I have seen us win battle after battle in state legislatures, even when our lobbyists and some of our groups said it couldn’t be done; likewise, courts sometimes surprise us. More broadly, the larger work we must do (the multimethodology peacetime campaign) should not be reduced to the bills. We do the groundwork in order to build up ammo and allies for eventual legislative battles, and in order to create the climate of receptivity to prepare and embolden the courts. Our job, of course, is not to make it easy for politicians or judges (even friendly ones) to do what they want; rather, it is to make it easier for politicians to do what we want – to do justice. We should not dumb-down our demand for equality, for possibilities open up not in some linear, tidy way but in spurts of creeping and leaping. Through our work and by aiming high, we make room for luck.
What do we want to build now?

Last year marked the end of an extraordinarily successful chapter in the history of our civil rights movement, from the attainment of “gay marriage” to the nongay response against the Boy Scouts’ discrimination. Now, in this next chapter, each of us must ask what we want to create for the young gay and nongay people watching our work and finding their voice.

To me the answer is clear: Let us build not a building or a halfway house or a better ghetto but rather a movement unafraid to seek what we and all others deserve, unafraid to reach beyond itself to talk with our nongay fellow Americans. Shimmering within our reach is a legal structure of respect, inclusion, equality, and enlarged possibilities, including the freedom to marry. Let us build the new approach, partnership, tools, and entities that can reach the middle and bring it all home.

Evan Wolfson is Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, a gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide. Before founding Freedom to Marry, Mr. Wolfson served as marriage project director for Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, was co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case, Baehr v. Miike, and participated in numerous gay rights and HIV/AIDS cases. Citing his national leadership on marriage equality and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, the National Law Journal named Mr. Wolfson one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America.

Silicon Valley Leaders Denounce Prop 8 in Newspaper Ad

November 2, 2008
Printed in The San Jose Mercury News
Click the image for a full view

High Tech Business Executives, Venture Capital leaders to Urge Californians to Stand Up for Equality

Santa Clara – The leadership of the nation’s high-tech industry feels so strongly that Prop 8 is wrong and unfair, that a coalition of key leaders is running a full page advertisement in a major daily newspaper urging Californians to vote NO on Prop 8. The ad, running in Friday’s San Jose Mercury News, includes a list of “Who’s Who of the Silicon Valley”, including the founders and CEOs of Google, Yahoo!, Adobe Systems and Cisco Systems.

Prop 8 would eliminate the fundamental right to marry for same-sex couples in California by amending the state’s Constitution.

Jerry Yang, co-Founder of Yahoo! Inc. said, “Silicon Valley has always been an example for the rest of the country of how diversity and openness help to drive innovation and value creation. This divisive measure is the antithesis of those values that make Silicon Valley so unique.”

Chuck Geschke, Founder & Chairman, Adobe Systems Inc, said, “Equal rights under the law is one of the cornerstones of our California constitution and one of the guiding values for Silicon Valley leaders. Prop 8 would take the extreme step of amending our constitution to strip rights away from one group of people.”

“Today prominent leaders from across California – and around the nation – have become part of the NO on Prop 8 campaign,” said Geoff Kors, a NO on Prop 8 Executive Committee Member. “We welcome the support and leadership of these technology and business leaders who believe Prop 8 is unfair and must be defeated and we look forward to seeing that number grow.”

Below is the text of the ad:

Silicon Valley Leaders Urge You to Stand for Equality.

Vote No on Proposition 8.

As Silicon Valley leaders, we are committed to equality and fairness. We are opposed to Proposition 8 because it would change our state constitution to take away rights from one group of people. It would set our state, and our country, back in the fight for fundamental fairness and equal rights.

Please join us by reaching out to friends and neighbors and asking them to stand for fairness: Vote No on Proposition 8 on November 4th.

Silicon Valley Leaders Say NO on Proposition 8 (Updated Thursday, Oct 30, 2008)

(titles are for identification purposes only)


  • Sergey Brin, Founder, Google, Inc.
  • Bill Campbell, Chairman, Intuit Inc.
  • David Filo, Founder, Yahoo! Inc.
  • Chuck Geschke, Founder & Chairman, Adobe Systems, Inc.
  • John Morgridge, Former CEO & Chairman, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Pierre Omidyar, Founder and Chairman, eBay Inc., Founding Partner, Omidyar Network
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
  • Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google, Inc.
  • Jerry Yang, Founder, Yahoo! Inc.

LEADERS (partial list):

  • Deborah Barber, Principal, Jackson Hole Group
  • John Battelle, Chairman & CEO, Federated Media
  • Marc Benioff,CEO,
  • Larry Birenbaum, Former Senior Vice President, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Lorna Borenstein, President, Move, Inc.
  • Larry Brilliant, Executive Director,
  • Owen Byrd, President, Byrd Development
  • John Chisholm, Chairman & CEO, CustomerSat, Inc.
  • Barry Cinnamon, CEO, Akeena Solar
  • Tod Cohen, Vice President and Deputy General Council, Government Relations, eBay Inc.
  • LaDoris Cordell, Administrator, Stanford University
  • Sue Decker, President, Yahoo! Inc.
  • Jack Dorsey, Chairman, Twitter
  • David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development & Chief Legal Officer, Google, Inc.
  • Donna Dubinsky, CEO, Numenta, Inc.
  • Alan Eustace, SVP, Engineering and Research, Google, Inc.
  • Naomi Fine, President & CEO, Pro-Tec Data, Inc.
  • Rachel Glaser COO/CFO,
  • Carl Guardino, President & CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
  • Andre Haddad, CEO,
  • Jeff Hawkins, co-Founder Palm, Handspring, and Numenta
  • David Karnstedt, Investor
  • Scott Kaspick, Managing Director, Kaspick & Co.
  • Steve Kirsch, Serial Entrepreneur
  • John Koza, CEO, Third Millennium
  • Ross LaJeunesse, Head of State Policy Western US, Google, Inc.
  • Gary Lauder, Managing Partner, Lauder Partners Venture Capital
  • Laura Lauder, General Partner, Lauder Partners Venture Capital
  • Len Lehman, Investor
  • Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Corporation
  • John Luongo, Former CEO, Vantive Corporation
  • Roger McNamee, Managing Director & co-Founder, Elevation Partners
  • Ken McNeely, President, AT&T California
  • Michael Moritz, Partner, Sequoia Capital
  • Susan Packard Orr, CEO, Telosa Software, Inc.
  • Randy Pond, Executive Vice President, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Amy Rao, Founder & CEO, Integrated Archive Systems
  • Jana Rich, Managing Director, Russell Reynolds
  • Miriam Rivera, Former Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Google, Inc.
  • John Roos, CEO, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
  • Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP, Product Management, Google, Inc.
  • Dan Rosensweig, Investor
  • Dan Rubin, Partner, Alloy Ventures
  • Hilary Schneider, Executive Vice President US Region, Yahoo! Inc.
  • Len Shustek, Chairman, Computer History Museum
  • Jeff Skoll, Former President, eBay Inc.
  • Stephanie Tilenius, SVP, eBay North America
  • Joy Weiss, President & CEO, Dust Networks
  • Steve Westly, former California State Controller & former SVP eBay Inc.
  • Evan Williams, CEO, Twitter

For a complete list of NO on 8 endorsements, visit