Martin Duberman: Why LGBT Activism Needs to Return to Its Radical RootsHistorians in the News
tags: LGBT, LGBT Activism
Renowned LGBT historian Martin Duberman, who turns 88 this August, says he has no nostalgia for the early, pre-Stonewall days of the gay movement.
Growing up in what he now ironically refers to as “liberated Manhattan,” and entering young adulthood in the 1950s, he remembers the extreme risks of being gay in public.
“I lived through it,” Duberman tells The Daily Beast. “When we went out at night to cruise or whatever, we would carry in our wallets the names of the one or two lawyers in New York who could get us out of jail if we were entrapped by a plainclothes cop.”
And yet, if this venerated scholar and author has a message for the current mainstream of the LGBT movement, it’s this: They need to look backwards for inspiration—back to the radical gay politics of the early 1970s that were, in turn, a direct response to the suffocating mid-century oppression that queer people of his generation bore.
Duberman, a pioneering gay activist and one of the original founders of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has written over two dozen books and several plays over the last five decades. He has been especially concerned with cataloging queer and radical history, from the abolitionist movement to the Stonewall riots to the AIDS crisis.
His new book Has the Gay Movement Failed? (University of California Press)makes the provocative but compelling case that the fight for same-sex marriage marked a costly detour away from the radical politics at the root of the LGBT rights movement.
In the book, Duberman remembers fondly the “boisterous, uncompromising, hell-raising” politics of the Gay Liberation Front, an activist group that was active after the Stonewall riots of 1969, and wonders where the LGBT rights movement lost its way. ...