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LGBTQIA+ Studies: A Resource Guide

Before Stonewall: The Homophile Movement

The Library of Congress is a research destination for those interested in early LGBTQ+ activism, and is particularly strong in holdings related to the U.S. Homophile movement. The Homophile Movement refers to the local, national and international social-political movement for gay and lesbian rights which emerged following World War II. Many consider the birth of the homophile movement to be sometime around 1950/1951, a date that corresponds to the founding of the Mattachine Society, and then eventually, to ONE Inc., and the Daughters of Bilitis. U.S. gay rights organizations that pre-date the Mattachine Society include the Chicago Society for Human Rights, founded by Henry Gerber in 1924, the Sons of Hamidy (est.1934 in the Midwest), and the Veterans Benevolent Association founded in New York in 1945.

Before Stonewall, there were by conservative estimates at least 60 homophile or gay rights groups operating. According to NACHO, in 1970 there were 143 "homosexual or gay groups" operating in the United States and Canada.  After Stonewall, the number of LGBTQIA+ groups proliferated so rapidly it becomes difficult to keep track. However, just a year after Stonewall, there were upwards of 1500-2000 LGBT+ liberation groups in the United States, and many more internationally. While the term "homophile" eventually fell out of use, there were notably a number of organizations who continued to employ this term even into the 1980s. 

Some examples of U.S. homophile organizations organizing before Stonewall (Not a comprehensive list):

U.S. West

  • The Mattachine Society (Founded in Los Angeles, CA, 1950). See The Mattachine Society to learn more.
  • Knights of the Clock (Founded in Los Angeles, CA, 1950). An interracial social homophile organization founded by a Black man, Merton Bird and his white partner, W. Dorr Legg. They offered social services including employment, housing, and counseling service. They also hosted social events.
  • One, Inc. (Los Angeles, CA, founded in 1952). See One, Inc. to learn more.
  • Daughters of Bilitis (Founded in San Francisco, 1955) by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, it grew into a national organization. See The Daughters of Bilitis to learn more.
  • One of Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona. 
  • League for Civil Education (San Francisco, CA, Founded in 1960/1). Published The LCE News(1961–?) and Citizens-News.
  • Tavern Guild of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA, 1962-1995). Organization of gay bar owners formed in response to police harassment.
  • The Coits (San Francisco, CA, established 1962?)
  • Dionysus (Orange County, CA, 1962-1965)
  • Society for Individual Rights (San Francisco, 1964-1976). Published Vector from 1965-1977.
  • Council on Religion and the Homosexual (San Francisco, CA, founded 1964)
  • Circle of Loving Companions (San Francisco, CA, founded by Harry Hay in 1965)
  • Citizen's Alert. San Francisco, CA. Focused on police brutality, prison reform. 
  • Committee for Homosexual Freedom (San Francisco, CA Founded April 1969 by gay activists Leo E. Laurence and Gayle Whittington).
  • Strait and Associates (San Francisco). Published The Citizen's News. Founded by Guy Strait.
  • National League for Social Understanding aka NLSU (Founded 1961 in Los Angeles, with branches in San Francisco and Long Beach, CA). Co-founded by Revered Jerome Stevens. Some publications of NLSU are available on-site via the subscription databases by Alexander Street Press.

U.S. East 

  • Veterans Benevolent Association (founded in New York in 1945).
  • Homophile Action League (Philadelphia, PA, formed August 1968), formerly the Philadelphia Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis.
  • Demophil Center (Boston, MA)
  • GULP (Gay Union League of Philadelphia)
  • Janus Society (Philadelphia, PA,1962-1969). They published Drum Magazine. The group had originally attempted to form a Philadelphia chapter of the Mattachine Society. The Janus Society was a founding member of E.C.H.O. 
  • Homosexual Law Reform Society (Philadelphia, PA founded in 1966). Founded by Clark Polak of the Janus Society. Polak would go on to be arrested for selling obscene materials and screening obscene films. 
  • Le-Hi-Ho (Bethlehem, PA)
  • Project H, Hartford, Conneticutt. 
  • West Side Discussion Group (New York)
  • Washington Area Council on Religion and the Homosexual

U.S. South

  • Circle of Friends, Dallas, Texas
  • Dallas Council on Religion and the Homosexual
  • Atheneum Society (Miami, FL, Founded by Richard Inman in 1963). Published a newsletter, Viewpoint and a periodical, the Atheneum Review (Some issues are available on-site at the Library via the Gale Archives of Sexuality and Identity).
  • The Mattachine Society of Florida.
  • Texas Homophile Education Movement (THEM), Houston, Texas.
  • Homophile League of Richmond, Virginia. 
  • Homosexual Underground Action Committee, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Legion of the Damned, est. 1944 as a "gay underground cell of Solider at Cooledge in Arizona", according to the Jim Kepner Papers) 

U.S. Midwest

  • Central Ohio Mattachine Society, Columbus, Ohio. 
  • Cincinnati Homophile League.
  • Cincinnati Mattachine Society, Ohio.
  • Dayton Mattachine Society, Dayton, Ohio. 
  • Toldeo Mattachine Society, Toledo, Ohio.
  • Youngston Mattachine Society, Youngston, Ohio.
  • Personal Rights Organization of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio.
  • Mattachine Midwest (Chicago, IL 1965-1986) Founded by Robert Sloane Basker, Pearl M Hart, Ira H. Jones, Bruce C. Scott, and Valerie Taylor.
  • One of Detroit, Michigan. 
  • One of Chicago, Illinois. 
  • Lincoln-Omaha Council on Religion and the Homosexual, Lincoln, Nebraska. 
  • Canton Mattachine Society, Canton, Ohio.
  • Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom (Kansas City MO) published The Phoenix: Midwest Homophile Voice and served as a publishing house for NACHO.
  • HUAC (Homophile Underground Action Committee), Kansas City. 
  • Society Advocating Mutual Equality (SAME) Rock Island IL, published "The Challenger" newsletter.

Youth Organizations

  • Vanguard (1966, San Francisco). Formed by and for trans and gay youth, including sex workers and homeless people.
  • Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN), published the periodical HYMNAL beginning in 1968.
  • The Student Homophile League (Established in 1966 at Columbia University, New York. Founded by Bob Martin (student, activist, and sex worker). The Student Homophile League became widely known as the first University recognized organization for gay students.

Conferences, Collectives & Consortium

  • E.C.H.O., (Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations) later named E.R.C.H.O. formed in 1963 to coordinate the homophile groups of the Eastern U.S. This originally included groups from New York,, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
  • N.A.C.H.O. (North American Conference for Homophile Organizations). Founded in 1966 to coordinate homophile groups of North America. The first meeting was held on February 18, 1966. At the conference in 1968, N.A.C.H.O. formally adopted the slogan "Gay is Good" devised by member Frank Kameny. The slogan "Gay is Good" was modeled off of "Black is Beautiful."

Homophile activists protest at the the annual Fourth of July (1967-1969) "Reminder Day Picket," held at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After Stonewall, the organizations that planned this annual demonstration turned their attentions to planning the first Pride march in New York City in 1970. 

Some examples of homophile organizations outside the U.S. (Not a comprehensive list)

  • Albany Trust (London, England)
  • Arcadie (France, 1954-1982) and they published a journal with the same name)
  • Homosexual Law Reform Society (England, Founded 1948). Unlike other homophile organizations, most of the founders were heterosexual.
  • COC Nederland (Amsterdam 1946-Today). They published Vriendschap(Friendship) from 1949 to 1964, and have produced a number of other publications.
  • Der Kries (Zurich, Switzerland)
  • International Committee for Sexual Equality (ICSE) (1951–1963). Umbrella organization for homophile organizations all over the world. Formed by the Dutch COC. They published two German language periodicals ICSE Kurier and ICSE-PRESS.
  • International Homosexual World Organisation (IHWO), 1952-1970s. Founded by Axel and Eigil Axgil, German chapter named: Internationale Homophile Welt-Organisation.
  • Kredsen af/became Forbundet af 1948 also known as F-48. Founded in Denmark, 1948. Published the periodicals Vennen and Panbladet. 
  • RSFL, Riksförbundet för homosexuellas, bisexuellas, transpersoners och queeras rättigheter, formerly Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande. Sweden, 1950-Present. 
  • University of Toronto Homophile Association

Browse the Library of Congress Online Catalog using subjects or personal names of specific activists to locate additional titles:

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.