Before the Stonewall Riots

Andrew Gaines

It turns out Stonewall didn’t really start the gay-rights movement. A new social history of the early gay and lesbian rights movement is shocking in its depth and breadth. And thankfully, its academic tone never grows monotonous. C. Todd White starts his Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights with the foundation of the homosexual rights group Mattachine, the launch of ONE magazine and the relationships that formed amongst these progressive individuals. Combining historical fact, social commentary and personal anecdotes, Pre-Gay L.A. is both engaging and informative. Mattachine was formed in 1948—21 years before the Stonewall riots happened in New York City. Listen to C. Todd White and Karen Graves, author of And They Were Wonderful Teachers: Florida’s Purge of Gay and Lesbian Teachers, read excerpts of their respective books at this year’s Printers Row Literary Festival in Chicago. (Their segment starts about two hours into this video.) Although the prevalence and openness of LGBT activist groups has certainly increased since the initial foundation of Mattachine, ONE, the Homosexual Information Center and the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (the four organizations that White details in his book), there is clearly still a ways to go. Check out an excerpt of Pre-Gay L.A. in our August issue! (But you’ll have to buy the actual magazine to find it.) For more information on other pre-Stonewall homosexual rights movements, check out Doug Ireland’s piece in the same issue.

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