Craig Griffiths is a Lecturer in Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches queer history, the history of sexuality and modern European history.
Escaping Stonewall? Gay Liberation in 1970s West Germany and Beyond
The Stonewall riots in June 1969 in New York City have often been seen as marking a caesura in queer history. Gone were the dark, shameful days of the closeted past; a new dawn of pride and liberation had arrived, as the politics of coming together and coming out dramatically eclipsed the politics of respectability and conformism. In this talk, I complicate this standard narrative in two ways. Firstly, I show that the emergence of gay liberation in West Germany (and elsewhere in Western Europe) had less to do with events on the other side of the Atlantic than with the impact of homosexual law reform and the wave of protest and activism associated with 1968. Secondly, I challenge the traditional chronology of 1969 marking a sharp historical divide. Partly because the Stonewall riots have been annually commemorated, ever since 1970, by “gay pride” rallies, our historical lens has struggled to accommodate that which does not fit narrowly into the optics of pride. “Escaping Stonewall” therefore also means foregrounding the ambivalence of gay liberation. In so doing, I disturb a well-told story of shame giving way to pride, subjugation transforming into freedom, and fear blossoming into hope.
Craig Griffiths is a Lecturer in Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches queer history, the history of sexuality and modern European history. He is an Associate of the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and a co-founder and co-convenor of the Seminar Series in the History of Sexuality at the Institute of Historical Research, London. His monograph The Ambivalence of Gay Liberation: Male Homosexual Politics in 1970s West Germany is currently under peer review.
Centre for Queer History
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