The Homophile Movement

A Shared Identity

In an effort to address the discrimination they faced by authorities, gays and lesbians started organizing formally in the early 1950s. Called “homophile organizations” in order to emphasize their sense of community and deemphasize the sexual aspect of their identity that so concerned the public, these pioneering groups worked to provide awareness, education, and unification of this oppressed minority.

In 1951, the Mattachine Society was founded in Los Angeles. Several organizations followed, including ONE, Inc., which produced the first widely circulated gay publication in 1953, and the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization in the United States.

Operating in an era of legal and social oppression, these early gay rights groups sought acceptance from the general community and turned to professionals to legitimize homosexuality rather than engage in direct political action.

Despite this focus on accommodation, the early movement was instrumental in creating a group identity, an identity that would later enable gay men and women to rally together and demand change on a broader scale.

“We are sworn that no boy or girl, approaching the maelstrom of deviation, need make that crossing alone, afraid and in the dark ever again.”
—Initiation pledge of the Mattachine Society