January 19, 2022, marked the 50th anniversary of Sydney Gay Liberation. In recognition of this milestone, the 78ers association First Mardi Gras Inc is holding a Zoom forum featuring former Gay Lib activists Dennis Altman, Katy O’Rourke, Penny Gulliver, and John Witte. 

Sydney Gay Liberation commenced in July 1971 as a sub-group within CAMP Inc. but came out as an independent group at the Sex Lib Forum at Sydney University on 19th January 1972. Speakers at that forum included Germaine Greer, Liz Fell, Gillian Leahy and Dennis Altman.

Dennis’ ground-breaking work, Homosexual Oppression and Liberation, had been published in 1971 in the USA and was about to have its Australian release. Following the Sex Lib Forum, Gay Liberation soon set up in other states and on many campuses.

Veteran gay rights activist and academic Dennis Altman gives Andrew M Potts his take on the current state of politics in the US and Australia. Photo: supplied.

 Gay Liberation had a focus on activism that was both fun and confrontational. It organised zaps, street theatre, slogan ‘spraynting’, demonstrations and hug-ins at a time when showing same sex affection in public could get you arrested.

One of the major events staged by Gay Libwas the July 1, 1972 demonstration outside ABC Sydney Headquarters against the cancellation of a TV program on homosexuality.

The group also led efforts to hold the first national Gay Pride Week held in in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane from 9-15 September 1973. Events included zaps, hug-ins, a poetry reading, demonstrations and a wreath-laying at the Cenotaph, Martin Place to honour homosexuals murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

The Zoom forum on the history of Sydney Gay Liberation will be held on Saturday 19 February at 4pm. Register here to attend the online event.

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