Stonewall and the emergence of the sexual revolution among gay men

Despite Kinsey's studies of human sexuality, which openly described relatively prevalent homosexual behavior, gay lifestyles remained largely hidden until the late 1960s and early 1970s. The loosening of sexual mores and the climate of rebellion (including the Women's Liberation Movement) which typified the late 1960s, however, encouraged a demand for gay rights and the freedom to engage in a gay lifestyle. Resistance to a police raid of a well-known gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, on the evening of 27 June 1969, was a public first step towards this goal. The raid of the Stonewall Inn precipitated several days of rioting, and within weeks the formation of the Gay Liberation Front

(d'Emilio, 2002). Members of the Gay Liberation Front ultimately formed the Gay Activists Alliance, a gay rights group which organized "gay-ins" in which gays gathered for picnics and dancing in public areas, encouraged the public demonstration of affection in same-sex couples, and campaigned for the repeal of sodomy laws (Andriote, 1999). The fight for gay civil rights was energized over the next decade by events such as Anita Bryant's successful campaign to overturn a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, in 1977 and in 1979, the minimal sentence given to the murderer of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and his openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk. Later that year, on 14 October 1979, over 100,000 gay men, lesbians, and their supporters participated in the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Dramatic changes in gay lifestyles mirrored this dramatic progress in gay rights. As the locations where gay men had historically gathered, including gay bathhouses, gay bars, sex clubs, and adult bookshops, were no longer targeted by police, the number of these establishments grew. Gay bathhouses, in particular, encouraged a sense of gay community and supported an active gay lifestyle. In the 1970s, the proliferation of bathhouses gave gay men easy access to other gay men interested in sex. The bathhouse environment facilitated sexual activity with multiple partners, and made anonymous sex possible. Increases in the number of sexual partners and anonymous partners in the 1970s were linked to increases in reports of STI among gay men (Fichtner et al., 1983; Ostrow and Altman, 1983). Higher rates of STI in gay men were reported as compared with heterosexual men (Judson et al., 1980), and in gay men tested at bathhouses as compared with gay men tested in gay health clinics (Carlson et al., 1980). The recognition that hepatitis B was epidemic among gay men (Rotello, 1997) reinforced growing concerns about the public health implications of the gay lifestyle of the 1970s.

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