l was born in Los Angeles in 1947 and learned from my classmates in seventh grade that boys who wrote with their left hand or wore green and yellow on Thursdays were homos. Because I did both, I knew I was in deep trouble from the start and might have some pretending to do. Such was the atmosphere for LGBTQ folks in the United States throughout the 1950s. Things loosened just a bit in the 1960s, when hippies were shaking society up. Then, in the 1970s, gay folks seemed to be-a lot more visible--disturbingly so, in the minds of many-and lesbian women were suddenly a force to be reckoned with. In the 1980s, gays and lesbians were popping up all over the place: the love that dared not speak its name was shouting from the rooftops. Bisexuals gained a voice; transgendered individuals began the long struggle that is still in its infancy. "Queer" began to blur the distinctions that had defined the identity politics of these early decades.
In short, "non-heterosexual" America during these decades was as much a part of the civil rights movement as was any ethnicity. Back in 1956, set to Leonard Bernstein's haunting tunes, Stephen Sondheim could write soulful, yearning lyrics that West Side Story put in the mouths of a heterosexual couple ("There's a place for us,/ Somewhere a place for us .... We'll find a new way of living, / We'll find a way of forgiving/ Somewhere ... . "), but by 1990 Queer Nation was stripping away all pretence of quiet compliance, shouting "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!"
LGBTQ America Today
John C. Hawley
Hawley, J. C. (2009). Introduction. In J.C. Hawley (Ed.), LGBTQ America Today (pp. xxv-xxix). Greenwood Press.