Stonewall 50 years on: Gay Liberation and Lesbian Feminism in its European Context
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which began in the early hours of Saturday, 28 June 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street defended themselves against police oppression. The Stonewall riots are often credited as the spark that set the gay liberation movement alight, not just in the United States, but around the Western world.
With this one-day conference, we want to rethink the movements that the riots supposedly spawned in a European context. Gay liberation was never a one-way flow from across the Atlantic. While the Gay Liberation Front, set up in late 1969 in New York, was an important catalyst for similar groups in Europe, activist innovations crossed the Atlantic in the other direction too. Rather than walking fully formed off New York’s Christopher Street, the European gay liberation movements that sprang up in the early 1970s were influenced by national events, or groups elsewhere on the continent. In particular, gay liberation was enabled by the upheavals associated with “1968”, even as activists struggled with the sexual politics of the New Left. We hope that placing individuals and movements in a European context will help to situate properly a phenomenon that has always crossed national borders, whilst offering an antidote to the overwhelming dominance of the American movement in gay, lesbian and queer historiography.