30 June, 2021

ON 1 JULY 1972, the Gay Liberation Front organised the first ever pride march, from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park in London. The march, attended by over a thousand people, was the culmination of a weeklong celebration of gay pride. It was held on the closest Sunday to the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the protests that followed a violent police raid on a gay club in New York on 28 June 1969.

The GLF was founded at the London School of Economics, in October 1970, by Bob Mellors and Aubrey Walter. Although the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 had partially legalised homosexuality in England and Wales, the police still used public-decency and obscenity laws to crack down on gay communities. The GLF’s demands, first formulated at a convention organised by the Black Panthers, included an end to all forms of discrimination against gay people and to the treatment of homosexuality as a disease by psychiatrists. The group worked to empower gay people to come out of the closet, organised Maoist-inspired consciousness-raising groups, published journals and newspapers, and held several demonstrations and “gay days”—public celebrations of homosexuality and non-conformist behaviour. The GLF also extended solidarity to other oppressed identities, participating in protests against the Vietnam War, internment in Northern Ireland and the Industrial Relations Act of 1971.

Although the GLF rapidly expanded in size, with local groups formed in various cities and London boroughs, it soon broke apart due to internal strife. The first split was over the question of supporting revolutionary action, such as the Angry Brigade’s bombing campaign. In February 1972, the women’s group left the GLF over male chauvinism within the movement. Frequent arguments over gender conformity led to the suspension of all-London meetings in April 1972, and the GLF collapsed by the end of 1973.