During the Fall Quarter of 1969 two new student organizations were
formed on the Berkeley campus: the Students for Gay Power and the Gay
Liberation Front, among the first gay liberation groups in the country.
The GLF was the more politically radical of the two. In a Fact Sheet
distributed in January 1970, the group explained its mission:
“The Gay Liberation Front is a nationwide coalition of revolutionary
homosexual organizations creating a radical Counter-Culture within the
homosexual lifestyles. Politically, it’s part of the radical ‘Movement’
working to expose and eliminate discrimination and oppression against
homosexuals in industry, the mass media, government, schools, and
churches. GLF is organized in many major US cities from NY to SF and
LA, in the midwest and south.”
The plaza in front of Harmon Gymnasium (now known as Spieker Plaza) was
the site of the first gay liberation demonstration on the Berkeley
campus. During the Fall Quarter of 1969 students picketed, calling for
an end to the efforts of campus police to suppress homosexual activity
within the environs of the gym.
Though Berkeley’s student body in general was still highly closeted,
the two gay liberation organizations attempted to create a safe space
where gay people could mingle openly. “The Berkeley GLF and the UC
Students for Gay Power,” a leaflet announced, “meet to rap and dance in
the ground-floor restaurant of the Student Union UC Berk. The Bear’s
Lair is not a Gay coffee shop ordinarily so many straight students are
surprised to find Gay’s [sic] out in public having so much fun. Come
every Wednesday at 8 pm.”
Gay students also created a community center called Sherwood Forest,
which met at the Wesley Center (2398 Bancroft Way). Sherwood Forest
offered counseling, a social coffee club on Friday and Saturday nights,
and two religious services on Sunday.
An article published in the San Francisco Chronicle described
the new spirit among gay men and lesbians at Cal:
GAYS SEEKING A “COMMUNITY”
An intellectual and artistic movement for homosexuals is evolving in
And, if the predictions of its proponents materialize, it may even
assume national scope....
“Normally homosexuals meet only on a social or sexual level in places
like some darkly-lit gay bar,” Dunbar Aitken[s], chairman of the
newly-formed Gay Liberation Front, explained yesterday at a West Coast
all-gay symposium in Berkeley....
Aitken[s], a tall, bearded young man, stood near a starkly-lettered
“GAY IS GOOD” sign yesterday as more than 150 people congregated in
Berkeley’s Sherwood Forest Center for the third day of symposium.
Most of them were men — many of them intensely serious, self-professed
homosexuals. They talked together informally throughout the afternoon,
some of them holding hands, but all of them intent on forming a “working
[Aikens] noted that heterosexual men usually establish intellectual and
working contacts only with other men, and reserve their emotional and
sexual contacts for women.
“Men have this ego hang-up,” Aitken[s] said. “Most of them wouldn’t
think of having close intellectual relations with women. It’s sad and
there’s no reason for such a superiority complex.”
Indeed, several avowed lesbians attending the symposium agreed. They
said they were there to discuss the possibility of some sort of alliance
with other gay groups.
“Traditionally, male and female homosexuals have had difficulty
cooperating,” one of them admitted....
[Aitkens] gazed sadly at the crowd in the main meeting room.
“We had hope to have more people from the physical sciences and
mathematics here,” he said. “But a lot of them wouldn’t show up because
they have to worry about security clearances in their fields. People
are still pretty up tight about all this.”
By Spring Quarter of 1970, the Students for Gay Power had changed their
name to the Gay Students Union, and had begun to distance themselves
from the Gay Liberation Front, pursuing a more moderate approach to
Read More About It
Social Protest Collection, Container 8, Gay Movement (BANC MSS
86/157c), The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
“Gays Seeking a ‘Community’,San Francisco Chronicle, 30 December