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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Saturday 7

A continuum of tasty words…

Heroes of the Revolution: Harold Norse

Art by Rob Goldstein
Portrait of Harold Norse by Jim Breeden

In 1977 I lived in New Haven, Connecticut.

There are hundreds of reasons I loved my time in New Haven.

One was Manhattan was an hour away by train.

I took Amtrak to New York at least twice a month to hang out in the Village.

One weekend in the Fall of 1977 I stopped for a drink at Uncle Charlie’s on Greenwich Avenue.

I met a hot guy who invited me home.

He had a studio apartment with a bed, a chair and a nightstand.

On the nightstand was a book of poems by Harold Norse,  Carnivorous Saint.

A devouring saint?

I sat on the bed and opened the book.

I’d never seen poetry like this before.

I said good-bye to the hot guy, raced to the bookstore, got Carnivorous Saint, and hopped the train back to New Haven.

I was smitten.

The poetry in Carnivorous Saint was political, sexy and full of humor.

Norse used his poetry to define gay liberation in language that included working class men.

Norse is a working class man who declares that he is not a Man:

Art by Rob Goldstein
Scanned from my copy of Carnivorous Saint, purchased in 1977.

I’m Not A Man

I’m not a man, I can’t earn a living, buy new things for my family.

I have acne and a small peter.

I’m not a man. I don’t like football, boxing and cars.
I like to express my feeling. I even like to put an arm
around my friend’s shoulder.

I’m not a man. I won’t play the role assigned to me- the role created
by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver Cromwell,
Television does not dictate my behavior.

I’m not a man. Once when I shot a squirrel I swore that I would
never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me sick.
I like flowers.

I’m not a man. I went to prison resisting the draft. I do not fight
when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike violence.

I’m not a man. I have never raped a woman. I don’t hate blacks.
I do not get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think I should
love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I’m not a man. I have never had the clap.

I’m not a man. Playboy is not my favorite magazine.

I’m not a man. I cry when I’m unhappy.

I’m not a man. I do not feel superior to women

I’m not a man. I don’t wear a jockstrap.

I’m not a man. I write poetry.

I’m not a man. I meditate on peace and love.

I’m not a man. I don’t want to destroy you

San Francisco, 1972

Carnivorous Saint
Scanned cover of my copy of Carnivorous Saint, purchased in 1977.

There is more to my story about Harold Norse but that is for another post.

To learn more about the poet, Harold Norse, click here:

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17 St Phillip Street –Part 7-

Bobby stood in the doorway of the parlor and heaved a long sad sigh.

Miss Jenny and Paul were watching Password.

Paul looked up at Bobby, “What’s the password Bobby?”

“Screwed.”

Miss Jenny: “You had to go an’ play with it, didn’t ya?”

“No, Miss Jenny! I swear!’

Steve stormed into the parlor, his face flushed with rage: Miss Bobby! My boss told me today that he had proof from your boss that you an’ me are queer!”

“Pictures is the only proof!’ snapped Bobby. “An’ if Nestor took pictures they will show him for queer too!’

Paul suppressed a grin. His eyes twinkled: “It doesn’t do to screw your boss, Bobby.”

Steve sat, dumbfounded: “Here I go getting you a job—an’ look what you do. I’m fired!” Steve pointed at Bobby. “You’re a disaster!”

Bobby: “You should talk about disasters with that music you listen to.”

Bobby did a mocking impersonation of Karen Carpenter: “jesssst like meeeeeh, they long to beeeeeh, close tew yeeeeeeeeew…aeeeeeeewwwww! If you listened to the Moody Blues you’d realize that nothing on this planet matters!”

“In theory,” said Paul.

Miss Jenny stared at Bobby in shock. “Bobby? This is the only planet we live on an’ on this planet we need money.”

Bobby decided to change the subject. “What did you do today, Paul?”

“I spent most of it consoling Steve.”

Bobby rolled his eyes: “You’re good at consolation.”

“Not as good as you at providing reasons for it.”

Bobby plead his case: “Nestor is lying! I swear I didn’t do nothin!”

Miss Jenny and Paul hovered over the inconsolable Steve.

Bobby was over it. “If folks is gonna bad mouth me I’m leavin’’

And when no one tried to stop him he did.

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Story and image (c) Rob Goldstein 2016 All Rights Reserved

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