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Three revolutionary years: The impact of the counter culture on the development of the gay liberation movement in Britain

By Lucy Robinson


The gay liberation movement in Britain has been understood as forged between reform and spontaneous revolt. The New York Stonewall riots in 1969 offered a technicolour explosion of spontaneity which was then imported into the British context, whereas Britain's partial decriminalization of homosexuality through the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 demonstrated monochrome manoeuvring through parliamentary procedure, beset with compromise. Both events suggest that gay liberation was without a theoretical or self-organized base. As a counter point, this article uses the Dialectic of Liberation conference held at London's Roundhouse in 1967 as a way of exploring the impact of the emerging counter culture on the development of gay liberation. The counter culture, defined against the existing left, developed a theory of oppression that accepted the contradictions of its constituent's experiences - that they could be heterosexual, white, male, and middle class, and yet still 'feel' oppressed. This article argues that while the gay liberation movement went on to challenge some of these assumptions, the movement also inherited many of the counter culture's approaches: a distrust of rigid structures, a focus on the experience of oppression and the politics of the inner mind, and its tendency towards fragmentation and discord

Topics: DA, HQ0012
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Year: 2006
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