The Gay Revolution:
The Story of the Struggle,
by Lillian Faderman
This Tuesday, Burbank Public Library will host a talk and book signing by Lillian Faderman for her newly published book, The Gay Revolution, at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium at the Buena Vista Branch.
Booklist writes, “Faderman has crafted an epic yet remarkably intimate work that belongs among the most definitive civil rights titles, LGBT specific or otherwise.... This book is destined to be one of the lasting contributions to the literature of the gay rights movement.” Other reviewers have praised the book as “superbly researched,” and have argued that it will “deservedly become a standard in the field.”
In The Gay Revolution, Lillian Faderman takes a critical look at the sporadic and seemly disparate events that took place over the last 60 years on the road to the decriminalization of gay people in American law and society. She has fashioned those events into a compelling and coherent historical narrative that chronicles the progress towards equal rights for LGBT people. As a pioneer in what is the relatively young field of gay historiography, she has identified the significant actors, organizations, and events of the movement, and has traced the connections and continuities. This is the significant achievement of The Gay Revolution. Faderman has been the first to map a new territory with authority. Her narrative of the movement makes previous accounts of “gay history” seem episodic rather than epic, anecdotal rather than connected. This is why her book is likely to be lasting and important. Subsequent histories that are written of the gay civil rights movement will have to deal with Faderman’s remarkably well argued and deeply researched version of that history. The Gay Revolution may very well be the founding document of contemporary gay historical studies.
The riots that resulted from police harassment of gays at the
Stonewall Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969 have come to be seen
as a watershed event in the modern gay civil rights movement.
This book presents a story of one recent (and ongoing) social and political movement in all its complexity. We learn the ways in which that movement was unique, but also about the ways that it was representative of other movements for social and political change in its time. We read here about all the strategic errors and miscues, the rancorous internal divisions and opposing philosophies, the struggle to unite in effective action, the presumed enemies as well as the unexpected ones, the often difficult process of defining goals and creating alliances with other social movements and with those in political power, the moments of impatience and persistence, and the formative power of both defeat and victory.
Anger over the AIDS health crisis and the seeming
indifference of government to address it or to find
a cure re-engergized the gay civil rights movement
in the early '80s.
The Gay Revolution is engaging on this level, as a look at the politics of a contemporary movement for political change, and the history we read here is perhaps suggestive of the kind of strategic and organizational problems that all activists today must solve in creating effective change. But what makes this ultimately a powerful and moving story is that Faderman has interviewed countless individuals, many unknown to most of us, who were the ones who made this revolution happen, who changed the world. The gay revolution, we come to understand, was not the work of charismatic leaders but rather came about as a result of the activism and courage of millions of LGBT people working for change. They eventually rallied the broad support of their own community, and won a broad base of support among their families and allies. In these times when so many of us feel we are powerless to make a difference, she gives us an uplifting story of what still seems (pinch yourself) a surprising and unlikely triumph.