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As laws change and we move several generations away from the times of greatest struggle, the atmosphere that created the contemporary scene for gay and lesbian citizens, their culture and politics, becomes increasingly remote and potentially forgotten. As recent historians have recalled, though, “This was a population too shy and fearful to even raise its hand, a group of people who had to start at zero in order to create their place in the nation’s culture,” –an “invisible people” (Clendinen, 11). The movement for gay and lesbian rights in the United States, considered by many to have originated with the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn in New York on June 28, 1969, had taken a long time to reach that night’s critical mass of public resistance among gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals against institutional prejudice. The Society for Human Rights, founded in 1924 in Chicago, was the first recognized gay rights organization in the United States, and activists went on to form the Mattachine Society in 1950 in Los Angeles and the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 in San Francisco. Coinciding with these early stirrings of resistance during the McCarthy era in the early ‘50s, hundreds of those considered to be homosexual were denied employment from the federal government and discharged from the military services. Many justified this bias by making reference to the American Psychiatric Association’s 1952 inclusion of homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a mental disorder. In 1959 gays and transgender people protested in Los Angeles, and in 1966 drag queens, hustlers, and transvestites rioted outside Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco when police began arresting transvestites. Nonetheless, the “riots” that went on for five days at Stonewall received greater attention and are now commemorated throughout the United States in the month of June in a series of Gay Pride parades and other events. In 1973 homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in the DSM, and the pace of gay, lesbian, transgender, as well as bisexual and queer rights accelerated.

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Encyclopedia of American Political Culture


Michael Shally-Jensen


American Political Culture: An Encyclopedia by Michael Shally-Jensen, General Editor; Mark J. Rozell and Ted G. Jelen, Advisory Editors. Copyright © 2015 by ABC-CLIO, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.



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