The Lambda: A Symbol of Liberation

Gay in its most far-reaching sense does not mean homosexual but sexually, intellectually and emotionally free.

Allan Young , 1972

The Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet and in its lower case form is the Greek letter L.

The Lambda as a symbol of gay liberation
The Lambda

The early members of Gay Liberation chose the Lambda as our symbol.

 L for Liberation.

In ‘More Man Than You’ll Ever Be’ Joseph P. Goodwin writes:

The lowercase Greek letter lambda carries several meanings. First of all, it represents scales, and thus balance. The Greeks considered balance to be the constant adjustment necessary to keep opposing forces from overcoming each other. The hook at the bottom of the right leg of the lambda represents the action required to reach and maintain a balance. To the Spartans, the lambda meant unity. They felt that society should never infringe on anyone’s individuality and freedom. The Romans adopted the letter to represent “the light of knowledge shed into the darkness of ignorance.”

Finally, in physics the symbol designates and energy change. Thus the lambda, with all its meanings, is an especially apt symbol for the gay liberation movement, which energetically seeks a balance in society and which strives through enlightenment to secure equal rights for homosexual people.

The Lambda as a symbol of gay liberation

 

Art by Rob Goldstein

This is the birth of Gay Liberation as described by Allan Young in the 1972,  Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation:

“The birthday of Gay Liberation is June 1969, when gay people fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn. The Police invaded the bar, forcing people onto the street. But instead of running away, the gay people, led by transvestites locked the police inside the bar, set the place afire, and then threw coins and bottles when the police worked their way out. Participants in the incident along with others in the community got together to plan an ongoing political group for gay people. They chose the name, Gay Liberation Front.”

The Gay Liberation Front is based on the idea of liberating the human spirit and the human mind from all forms of racial and sexual oppression.

Gay in its most far-reaching sense, does not mean homosexual but sexually, intellectually and emotionally free.

This includes a vision of equality as a basis for sexual relationships regardless of gender.

From the Gay Liberation Front: Manifesto: 

“We do not intend to ask for anything. We intend to stand firm and assert our basic rights. If this involves violence, it will not be we who initiate this, but those who attempt to stand in our way to freedom.”

I used to say it like this:  “We don’t want your tolerance. We just want you out of our way.”

Art by Rob Goldstein
Gay Liberation 1970

 

 

 

Rob Goldstein 2016-2018

 

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Heroes of the Revolution: Sylvester

Art by Rob Goldstein
Sylvester

Sylvester James, Jr. (September 6, 1947 – December 16, 1988), was the first openly gay recording artist to gain international fame.

His first hit, Disco Heat, peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the fall of 1978.

It also reached #29 on the UK Singles Chart.

Sylvester was born in Watts, Los Angeles, to a middle-class family.

He first sang as a child with the gospel choir of his Pentecostal church.

Sylvester knew that he was gay while still a child.

At the age of eight Sylvester had sex with an older man.

His Mother could not accept his homosexuality and neither could his church.

He left the church because the congregation disapproved of his homosexuality and he found friendship among a group of cross-dressers and transgender women who called themselves The Disquotays.

He moved to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 22 where he found acceptance and fame.

“I’ve never been a crusader, but I’ve always been honest. I may not volunteer details to the media, but I’ve never believed in lying or denying what I am to anyone.” Sylvester, September 10, 1988

The English journalist Stephen Brogan described Sylvester as “a star who shined brightly. He only happened once. He was a radical and a visionary in terms of queerness, music and race.”

Sylvester was a man of integrity and courage and that courage is clear in this interview with the Los Angeles Times in September of 1988:

Sylvester learned three months ago that he has AIDS, and he has spent most of the last few weeks at home, trying to regain his strength.

While often plagued by fatigue, the singer, 40, was well enough last June to lead a gay pride parade in San Francisco, albeit from a wheelchair.

“I can’t walk very well anymore,” he said in a phone interview. “I have problems with my feet and sometimes the pain is unbearable. But I don’t like to take pain killers because of the side effects.”

Despite the physical setbacks, Sylvester insists that his outlook remains positive.

“I’ve been in situations I shouldn’t have been in. We all have. But I still think that I’m a good person and I don’t regret anything I’ve done in my life,” he said.

“Down the line, I hope I won’t be in a lot more pain. But I don’t dwell on that. I’ll be fine, because my spirit is fine.”

Sylvester says that while black people are 12% of the population, more than 25% of all reported AIDS cases in this country involve blacks.

“It bothers me that AIDS is still thought of as a gay, white male disease,” said the singer, who has long been openly frank about his homosexuality.

“The black community is at the bottom of the line when it comes to getting information, even when we’ve been so hard hit by this disease. I’d like to think that by going public myself with this, I can give other people courage to face it.”

Sylvester, who rose to international fame during the late ’70s with such disco hits as “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” had been hospitalized three times before being diagnosed as having the AIDS virus.

“I’d been having throat problems and I thought it was bronchitis. I wasn’t worried. Having AIDS hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

Since that time he has spent five weeks in a hospital with pneumocystis, during which time he confronted his own mortality. “I was ready to go,” he said. “I made peace with that and I never thought, ‘Why me?’ I just accepted it.”

Disco Singer Sylvester Confronts AIDS Without Any Regrets

Sylvester died in his bed on December 16, 1988.

For a more complete biography of Sylvester I recommend this one at  Pop Matters.

Sylvester with Patrick Cowley: Don’t Stop
Community Audio

Not-Christian Explains Love and Marriage to Gays

Right Wing Watch posted about Christian conservative activist Wayne Allyn Root—the same one who posited that Obama must have blackmailed Justice Roberts on the Obamacare decision—going on a radio show and positing that gay people are just going to be getting all divorced all the time. From their coverage:

“Marriage is the most difficult thing in the world,” he said, “I’m talking to you as someone who has been married 24 years, marriage is so difficult that if you do not go to church every Sunday and your whole life isn’t built on a bedrock faith in God and you don’t have kids and your whole life isn’t built around those kids and none of that’s in place and you’re married, the odds of you staying married are close to zero. Divorces will now triple. Gays will never stay married. They just bought themselves the biggest bunch of unhappiness and legal bills that they could ever imagine.”

Oh dear! I’ve been with the same man for 22 years and our lives aren’t built on a bedrock of misunderstood scripture, children who hate us, and the hypocrisy of going to church every Sunday while voting for virulent racists.

My partner and I should probably start saving for the divorce.

40 years ago the Not-Christians said that Gay relationships never last more than six months.

I guess willful idiots breed more willful idiots.

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