Within six months of the landmark Stonewall Riots, visionary men and women founded the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) in New York City. They sought to institutionalize the energy of the riots, and saw GAA as a means to secure far-reaching change in the living conditions of America’s oppressed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender minority. Their lofty—some might have said delusional—goals found eloquent expression in the preamble to the group’s constitution, written by activist Arthur Evans, who passed on last September at the age of 68.
Forty-two years later and with undiminished profundity, this LGBT declaration of independence still resonates in its call to liberation. GAA demanded:
“The Right to Our Own Feelings”
“This is the right to feel attracted to the beauty of members of our own sex and to embrace these feelings as truly our own ….”
“The Right to Love”
“This is the right to express our feelings in action, the right to make love with anyone, anyway, anytime [so long as consensual].”
“The Right to Our Own Bodies”
“This is the right to treat and express our bodies as we will, to nurture, display and embellish them solely in the manner we ourselves determine ….”
“The Right to be Persons”
“This is the right freely to express our own individuality under the governance of laws justly made and executed, and to be the bearers of social and political rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights ….”
Early LGBT activists affirmed the feminist credo that “the personal is the political.” They undertook community organizing and political action so that each of us might live with safety, freedom, community solidarity, and respect. They believed in a world where all might enjoy the blessings of “Pride.”
Our yearly celebrations of Pride reflect the outstanding progress attributable to our collective willingness to fight for liberation after the Stonewall Riots. As we observe the 43rd anniversary of the riots and pay tribute to the worldwide phenomenon Pride has become, may we all revel in the hard-won freedom to express our uniqueness and flourish as the dynamic people we are.