The Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman begins with the stories of two homosexual individuals. The first was Professor E.K Johnston, a highly respected professor of the University of Missouri, who was prosecuted for committing sodomy in 1948. The Professor lost his career, his reputation, his students, and his pension. The other individual was Army Col. Tammy Smith, a lesbian Army Col., who chose the two most important people in her life to pin stars on her for the ceremony. She chose her wife and father and they pinned star on her while the audience watches with complete respect during the year 2012. Lillian Faderman than ask the most important question that outlines her entire process for the book: “What long-fought battles, tragic losses and hard-won triumphs have brought us as a country from the days when a much loved and gifted professor could be disgraced, thrown in jail and hounded out of his profession as soon as his private life was revealed, to the days when a military officer could marry the woman she loves in broad daylight and be promoted, in a very public ceremony, to the rank of general with her wife by her side?”1
Lillian Faderman starts off The Gay Revolution with the late 1940s, when homosexuality was considered an illness, could get individuals fired, and regular “witch hunts” took place, in which government personnel searched for gays to fire from government positions. There was a belief that gays could not control themselves and “ three or four days each month the homosexuals instinct broke down and he was driven to abnormal sexual practices.”2 Thousand of individuals were fired and laid off from their jobs just for being homosexual. Faderman also mentions how police officers would infiltrate gay bars and attempt to attract gay individuals so that the police officers could arrest them. One police officer, George Barrett, who called homosexuals “degenerates, perverts and other lawbreakers”3 exhibited the common thought among people at the time. In the late 1950’s the first male Gay Right’s group Mattachine and the first Lesbian group, Daughters of Bilitis were formed . Mattachine was founded by Henry Hay after a drunken night while the Daughters of Bilitis was founded by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, a lesbian couple who wanted to former a social club to meet fellow lesbians. The clubs gained their name because the clubs were trying to not blatantly announce that they were gay groups, but unfortunately throughout the 1950s the clubs anonymity did not attract a large sum of members.
The fate of these gay groups changed in the 1960’s with the introduction of some of the most important people in Gay Right’s History; Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings, who would spark Gay Right’s Activism. Court cases such as Scott vs. Macy , and Norton vs. Macy took place under the watchful eye of Kameny. These cases not only made it so that sexuality was not a determining factor in job placement, it also changed the civil service commission, which stated “you may not find a person unsuitable for federal employment merely because that person is homosexual or has committed a homosexual act.”4 This statement about the change the civil service commission's policy directly contradicted Macy’s earlier statement that “homosexuals should be barred from federal employment because their presence would offend the public.”5 Frank Kameny also believed in a united front, believing that both gays and lesbians should march together in unison. During one of these marches Kameny had some heterosexual females pretend to be lesbians just to give the effect of a united homosexual front. After Kameny was replaced as Mattachine’s president by Bob King he remained their chief strategist. Unfortunately for Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny by the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the desires of gay individuals changed and they no longer represented their ideals.
As time progressed the spirit of gay protest grew and important events such as the Stonewall Riots took place. A new era in the Gay Rights Movement was around and the old “plea for peaceful and quiet conduct seemed to them nothing short of laughable.”6 “Gay Power”7 was on the rise and groups such as the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Revolutionaries sprung up. A group that formed largely on the part of the Gay Liberation Front was the Gay Activist Alliance which used a method known as zapping, embarrassing political figures consistently to gain what they wanted, greatly helped the homosexual movement at the time. An example of zapping is when G.A.A “zapped” Carol Greitzer by having member of G.A.A marched into a meeting Carol Greitzer was in and shouting “Carol Greitzer is antigay!”.8United marches began and thousand of homosexuals marched hand in hand protected by the same policeman who used to stop and arrest them. These marches commemorated the Stonewall Riots and still take place today. The vocal Gay Rights Groups called to all homosexual individuals and beckoned to them to “come out”. Homosexual Groups were fighting for their rights and the chants of Gay Power and Gay Rights became ever stronger. Unfortunately when the 1980’s struck the homosexuals that came out would suddenly have to become a fully united front.
The 1980’s arrived and the individuals who admitted they were homosexual suddenly had a much harder time as a new christian conservative movement moved on the attack. These Christian conservative used accusations of child molestation to try and incriminate and intimidate gay activist. Then the AIDs pandemic arose and with more than a 100,000 affected Americans, the majority of which were gay, things were not looking up for the gay activist. Media was calling AIDs “Gay Cancer”9 and Paleoconservatives like Patrick Buchanan stated that “nature is exacting retribution.”10Homosexuals were not afraid, however, and an increasing number of homosexuals kept coming out about their sexuality, changing public opinion and policy. Faderman then goes into depth about the struggle for homosexuals to be open about themselves in the military.This fight for military acceptance was largely during the Clinton Administration and many homosexuals had a wide range of support from military officer who shared the common thought that “It should not be what you are, but who you are.”11 She continues with the struggle for working rights and then leads up to the fairly recent struggles that homosexuals have faced with marriage.
Lillian Faderman focuses on the struggles of homosexuals from the late 1940’s up to current times. She informs the reader of the struggles going on at the time through the stories of individuals who were going through the events at the time and the individuals who were personally affected by these events, like the story of Professor E.K Johnston who was “much loved and well respected by students and colleagues alike”12, but then had his whole career ruined for being accused of homosexuality. Her main focus is on the 1960’s and 1970’s which she seems to believe were the most important decades for homosexual individual using figure such as Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. She also mention the importance of the groups of the time, using Mattachine’s name and the Daughters of Bilitis’s name to an extensive amount throughout the book.The basis of the book is Lillian Faderman’s belief that the formation of Gay Rights Groups, the rise of Gay Power, and the united front that Gays and Lesbians showed is what has largely progressed Gay Rights to such a huge extent.
Lillian Faderman is a revered scholar of lesbian history, ethnic history, and literature. She has received six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards and several lifetime achievement awards. She has wrote Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, which are both notable New York Times books. Her book and interest in the history and culture of lesbians has led her work to always show an extensive amount of research on lesbians and this shows in her book when she mention what was happening for lesbians for every gay male event. This is shown when Faderman dedicates a chapter to feminist lesbians, including Rita Mae Brown, an influential women who stated that “women have to overthrow the present system.”13 The author has written “ The Gay Revolution” fairly recently and that has allowed her to put the book in a more modern perspective. She is able to look back on the events from a more historically accurate point of view and she is in has been doing extensive research on this subject for many years. She has personally witnessed some of the events written in this book and while that put some bias on the story she is still looking back on events during the current time period. Having written this book in current time the book has been able to be written without a lot of the bias against gays throughout the 1900’s.
The New York Times believed that Lillian Faderman’s book is an extensive review of gay history, but also recognizes that it does have some flaws. One such flaw according to the New York Times is the “ multiplicity of voices threatens to devolve into cacophony”14. The amount of times she switches between characters can be overwhelming and the reader must pay attention to the reading to make sure the don’t get lost in the massive amount of characters. The New York Times also mentions that she does not provide enough information about transgender people, which is typical of most Gay Rights books.
The Chicago Tribune are much more critical of Lillian Faderman’s book stating that she “barely touches on two of the most significant forms of change that have occurred in the last 40 years.”15 This is also very accurate, as the main focus of Lillian Faderman’s book is very early gay rights history. The Chicago Tribune also criticizes the fact that the book primarily took place in four major cities and largely left out most of the midwest. They do state in the end that “The Chicago Tribune stated that aspects missing in the book were comparable to a book about the progress of black rights that did not mentions the NAACP. The Tribune also criticizes the book's lack of key figure like Ellen Degeneres, who rapidly advance the Gay Rights movement in current times. The Gay Revolution is an extensive book, but is lacking in certain aspects that are very important to the gay movement, but still is a good read for anyone who want to know a basic knowledge of the Gay Rights Movement..
The Gay Revolution is a vast timeline about the gay movement that the majority of people have very little knowledge about. The book is both compelling and beautifully written, but the time jumps in the book and the vast amount of characters can be confusing. Lillian does an excellent job of providing the viewpoints of both male and female homosexuals and does give the reader an inside look into how individuals involved in these events felt and how they were affected. Her focus relies heavily on the 1970’s and earlier, not even reaching 1980’s until very late in the book. She does accurately convey the importance of Gay Rights Groups and the individuals who built up the Gay rights movement. She also involves a heavy amount of comparison with the Black Rights movement, including when Faderman states that “SIR was to homosexuals what the NAACP was to black militants”16. This book is an excellent source of information for anyone who wishes to delve into the aspects of homosexual history.
The 1980’s were a time of conservatism and this greatly hindered the Gay Rights Movement in many ways. There were Paleoconservatives, like Patrick Buchanan, who stated that “nature is exacting retribution.”17 in regards to the AIDs pandemic, which greatly hurt the Gay Rights Movement in the eyes of the Republican Party. Another thing was the Reagan Administration completely ignored the AIDs pandemic and an interview with Larry Speakes, who stated “I don’t know anything about it,”18 reflected the thoughts of the entire Reagan Administration. While the democratic Party still protected he Gay Rights Movement it was greatly damaged by the Conservative time period. Despite this the time period would still be an era of Social Progressivism with Homoserxual increasinglky “coming out” and fighting for their rights. Even with the conservative time period, homosexuals just seemed more driven to accomplish their goals.
The Gay Revolution is an wonderful book on the history of the Gay Rights movement , and while lacking in certain aspects such as the Gay Rights movement in the midwest, it does inform the reader to a great extent of the history of Gay Rights. It is a magnificent read and should be read by anyone who has further interest in the history of the Gay Rights Movement.
1. Faderman, Lillian. The Gay Revolution. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015,XVII
2. Faderman, Lillian 4
3. Faderman, Lillian 8
4. Faderman, Lillian 159
5. Faderman, Lillian 159
6. Faderman, Lillian 184
7. Gay power: The feeling and mood at the time to rise up in social, economic, and culture by homosexuals
8. Faderman, Lillian 217
9. Faderman, Lillian 415
10. Faderman, Lillian 416
11. Faderman, Lillian 510
12. Faderman, Lillian XI
13. Faderman, Lillian 237
14. Yoshino, Kenji. “The Gay Revolution” by Lillian Faderman. New York Times. Web. 2 October 2016
15. D’Emilio, John. Review: “The Gay Revolution” by Lillian Faderman.. Chicago Tribune. Web. 3 September 2015
16. Faderman, Lillian 179
17. Faderman, Lillian 416 18. Faderman, Lillian 418