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|Lesbian ∙ Gay ∙ Bisexual ∙ Transgender|
The connection between left-leaning ideologies and LGBT rights struggles has a long and mixed history. The status of LGBT people in socialist states have varied throughout history.
During the emergence of the new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the socialist left began to review its relationship to gender, sexuality and identity politics. The writings of the French bisexual anarchist Daniel Guérin offer an insight into the tension sexual minorities among the Left have often felt. He was a leading figure in the French Left from the 1930s until his death in 1988. After coming out in 1965, he spoke about the extreme hostility toward homosexuality that permeated the left throughout much of the 20th century. "Not so many years ago, to declare oneself a revolutionary and to confess to being homosexual were incompatible," Guérin wrote in 1975. In 1954, Guérin was widely attacked for his study of the Kinsey Reports in which he also detailed the oppression of homosexuals in France. "The harshest [criticisms] came from marxists, who tend seriously to underestimate the form of oppression which is antisexual terrorism. I expected it, of course, and I knew that in publishing my book I was running the risk of being attacked by those to whom I feel closest on a political level." After coming out publicly in 1965, Guérin was abandoned by the Left, and his papers on sexual liberation were censored or refused publication in left-wing journals. From the 1950s, Guérin moved away from Marxism–Leninism and toward a synthesis of anarchism and marxism close to platformism which allowed for individualism while rejecting capitalism. Guérin was involved in the uprising of May 1968, and was a part of the French Gay Liberation movement that emerged after the events. Decades later, Frédéric Martel described Guérin as the "grandfather of the French homosexual movement". Meanwhile, in the United States late in his career the influential anarchist thinker Paul Goodman came out as bisexual. The freedom with which he revealed, in print and in public, his romantic and sexual relations with men (notably in a late essay, "Being Queer"), proved to be one of the many important cultural springboards for the emerging gay liberation movement of the early 1970s.
Emerging from a number of events, such as the May 1968 insurrection in France, the anti-Vietnam war movement in the US and the Stonewall riots of 1969, militant Gay Liberation organizations began to spring up around the world. Many saw their roots in left radicalism more than in the established homophile groups of the time, such as British and American Gay Liberation Front, the British Gay Left Collective, the Italian Fuori!, the French FHAR, the German Rotzschwule, and the Dutch Red Faggots.
The then styled Gay Lib leaders and writers also came from a left-wing background, such as Dennis Altman, Martin Duberman, Steven Ault, Brenda Howard, John D'Emilio, David Fernbach (writing in the English language), Pierre Hahn and Guy Hocquenghem (in French) and the Italian Mario Mieli. Some were inspired by Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization, which attempts to synthesise the ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. 1960s and 1970s radical Angela Davis (who officially came out as a lesbian in 1999) had studied under Marcuse and was greatly influenced by him. In France, gay activist and political theorist Guy Hocquenghem, like many others, developed a commitment to socialism through participating in the May 1968 insurrection. A former member of the French Communist Party, he later joined the Front homosexuel d'action révolutionnaire (FHAR), formed by radical lesbians who split from the Mouvement Homophile de France in 1971, including the left ecofeminist Françoise d'Eaubonne. That same year, the FHAR became the first homosexual group to demonstrate publicly in France when they joined Paris's annual May Day march held by trade unions and left-wing parties.
In the United Kingdom, the 1980s saw increased LGBT rights opposition from the right wing Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher, who introduced Section 28 in 1988 in order to prevent what they saw as the "promotion" of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in schools. However, the Conservatives' main opposition, the Labour Party, did little to address the issue of LGBT rights, ignoring calls from left-wingers such as Ken Livingstone, to do so. Meanwhile, the popular right-wing press featured pejorative references to lesbians, supposedly especially associated with the all-female anti-nuclear protest camp at Greenham Common, and individuals such as Peter Tatchell, the Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election. However, the growing commercialisation of the western gay subculture in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (the "pink pound") has come under heavy criticism from socialists. Hannah Dee remarked that it had reached "the point that London Pride – once a militant demonstration in commemoration of the Stonewall riots – has become a corporate-sponsored event far removed from any challenge to the ongoing injustices that we [the LGBT community] face." At the same time, an anti-war coalition between Muslims (many organized through mosques) and the Socialist Workers Party led a leading member Lindsey German to reject the use of gay rights as a "shibboleth" that would automatically rule out such alliances.
The American Revolutionary Communist Party's policy that "struggle will be waged to eliminate [homosexuality] and reform homosexuals" was not abandoned until 2001. The RCP now strongly supports gay liberation. Meanwhile, the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the US released a memo stating that gay oppression had less "social weight" than black and women's struggles, and prohibited members from being involved in gay political organizations. They also believed that a close association with gay liberation would give the SWP an "exotic image" and alienate it from the masses.
As the gay liberation movement began to gain ground, many socialist organizations actively campaigned for gay rights. Notable examples are the feminist Freedom Socialist Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the International Socialist Organization, Socialist Alternative (United States) and the Socialist Party USA. The Socialist Party USA was the first American political party to nominate an openly gay man for President, running David McReynolds in 1980.