Gay Liberation Movement & Disco
The Stonewall Inn riots has been coined as the beginning of the gay liberation movement (although gay liberation has occurred for many decades prior).
The goal of the riots was to defend one of the limited spaces, at the time, in American society where queer individuals could express their identity
It was one of the most popular gay bars in New York City in the late 1960’s. It was so popular because it was one of the only bars at the time that allowed people of the same sex to dance together.
NYPD deputy inspector at the time, Seymour Pine, was determined to take down the bar because it tried passing as a “bottle-bar,” a private club where members could leave their own bottles of alcohol in which they would only be served from.
Pine obtained a search warrant, and at 1:20 am on June 28, 1969, invited relevant representatives, city and federal agencies, and had also placed undercover police officers inside the club. They arrested anyone who rebelled against the raid or failed to show ID.
There were many bystanders witnessing the raid, and when police officers showed up and were seen manhandling their arrestees, the crowd started throwing coins, rocks, bottles, and more at the officers.
After the mob of people tried setting the bar on fire, the event became more violent and eventually, the fire department and riot squad showed up to rescue the police officers and break up the crowds. Riots continued for 4 more days to protest against police brutality towards the LBGTQ+ community.
The goal of the riots was to defend one of the limited spaces, at the time, in American society where queer individuals could express their identities.
The LGBTQ+ community used the 1970’s as a decade of transformation, and more specifically, this transformation had the intended goal to make the community itself more visible.
The first gay movie, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, was released during this time period, as well as Caberet which is known as the movie that “really celebrated homosexuality.”
In December of 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted 13-0 "to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders."
The transnational International Lesbian and Gay Association was founded in Coverty, England in 1978
Rise of Disco Movement & LGBTQ+ community
Instead of adhering to their behavior to fit the heterosexual notions of nightlife, the gay community forged their own spaces and means of expression through disco and disco clubs.
Originated from New York clubs that were designated for specific dance moves
Highly popularized by LGBTQ+ community
Because of movies like Saturday Night Fever, disco was as primarily white and heterosexual
In reality, the majority of the disco scene was made up of minorities, specifically the African American and LGBTQ+ communities.
NYC was a hotspot for disco; clubs like Studio 54 were extremely popular by both average citizens and many celebrities
Disco culture spilled over into the music industry when groups like Queen or the Bee Gees produced songs that were highly correlated with disco
Gay nightlife became extremely highlighted by disco
Significance of Disco
Gave people who identify as queer a place to find a sense of community
Danced-focused clubs (disco clubs) gave the queer community, for a short period of time, a place that allowed dancing with people of the same sex
Popular disco songs presented narratives that the queer community largely related to
“I Will Survive” was considered an anthem in the queer community at the time
The will not to give up
Songs contained narratives that resonated with the queer community’s understanding of what it meant to be gay during the height of the Gay Liberation movement
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Johnston-Ramirez, Manya. “Disco and Gay Culture in the 1970s.” ArcGIS
StoryMaps, Esri, 17 Dec. 2020,
Nalliah, Vignesh R. “NYC's 70's Disco Subculture.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 17
Rosen, Rebecca J. “A Glimpse into 1970s Gay Activism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic
Media Company, 26 Feb. 2014,
Thomas, June. “The Gay Bar: Why the Gay Rights Movement Was Born in One.”
Slate Magazine, 27 June 2011,