Anarchism and LGBT rights

Queer anarchism (or Anarcha-queer) is an anarchist school of thought which advocates anarchism and social revolution as a means of gay liberation and abolition of homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transphobia, heteronormativity, heterosexism, patriarchy, and the gender binary. LGBT anarchists who campaigned for LGBT rights both outside and inside the anarchist and LGBT movements include Oscar Wilde, John Henry Mackay,[1] Adolf Brand, and Daniel Guerin.[2] Individualist anarchist Adolf Brand published Der Eigene which was the first publication dedicated to gay issues in the world, published from 1896 to 1932 in Berlin.[3][4]


Anarchism's foregrounding of individual freedoms made for a natural defense of homosexuality in the eyes of many, both inside and outside of the Anarchist movement. Emil Szittya, in Das Kuriositäten-Kabinett (1923), wrote about homosexuality that "very many anarchists have this tendency. Thus I found in Paris a Hungarian anarchist, Alexander Sommi, who founded a homosexual anarchist group on the basis of this idea.” His view is confirmed by Magnus Hirschfeld in his 1914 book Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes: “In the ranks of a relatively small party, the anarchist, it seemed to me as if proportionately more homosexuals and effeminates are found than in others.” Italian anarchist Luigi Bertoni (who Szittya also believed to be homosexual) observed that "Anarchists demand freedom in everything, thus also in sexuality. Homosexuality leads to a healthy sense of egoism, for which every anarchist should strive."[5]

In Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism, he passionately advocates for an egalitarian society where wealth is shared by all, while warning of the dangers of authoritarian socialism that would crush individuality.[6] He later commented, "I think I am rather more than a Socialist. I am something of an Anarchist, I believe.".[7] "In August 1894, Wilde wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, to tell of “a dangerous adventure.” He had gone out sailing with two lovely boys, Stephen and Alphonso, and they were caught in a storm. “We took five hours in an awful gale to come back! [And we] did not reach pier till eleven o’clock at night, pitch dark all the way, and a fearful sea. . . . All the fishermen were waiting for us.”...Tired, cold, and “wet to the skin,” the three men immediately “flew to the hotel for hot brandy and water.” But there was a problem. The law stood in the way: “As it was past ten o’clock on a Sunday night the proprietor could not sell us any brandy or spirits of any kind! So he had to give it to us. The result was not displeasing, but what laws!”...Wilde finishes the story: “Both Alphonso and Stephen are now anarchists, I need hardly say.”"[6]

Heterosexual anarchist Robert Reitzel (1849–98) spoke positively of homosexuality from the beginning of the 1890s in his German-language journal "Der arme Teufel" (Detroit).

John Henry Mackay was an individualist anarchist known in the anarchist movement as an important early follower and propagandizer of the philosophy of Max Stirner.[10] Alongside this Mackay was also an early signer of (Magnus) Hirschfeld´s "Petition to the Legislative Bodies of the German Empire" for "a revision of the anti-homosexual paragraph 175 (his name appeared in the first list published in 1899)".[11] He also kept a special interest about Oscar Wilde and was outraged at his imprisonment for homosexual activity.[11] Nevertheless Mackay entered into conflict with Hisrchfeld and his organization the Scientific Humanitarian Committee.[12]

The individualist anarchist Adolf Brand was originally a member of Hirschfeld's Scientific-Humanitarian committee, but formed a break-away group. Brand and his colleagues, known as the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen ("Community of Self-owners"), were also heavily influenced by the writings of Max Stirner.[4] They were opposed to Hirschfeld's medical characterisation of homosexuality as the domain of an "intermediate sex".[13] Ewald Tschek, another homosexual anarchist writer of the era, regularly contributed to Adolf Brand's journal Der Eigene, and wrote in 1925 that Hirschfeld's Scientific Humanitarian Committee was a danger to the German people, caricaturing Hirschfeld as "Dr. Feldhirsch". Although Mackay was closer in views to Adolf Brand and his "Community of Self-owners" in some respects as compared to Hirschfeld's Scientific-Humanitarian committee, nevertheless he did not agree with Brand´s antifeminism and almost misogynistic views believing his "anarchist principle of equal freedom to all certainly applied to women as well as men".[14]

Der Eigene was the first gay Journal in the world, published from 1896 to 1932 by Adolf Brand in Berlin. Brand contributed many poems and articles himself. Other contributors included Benedict Friedlaender, Hanns Heinz Ewers, Erich Mühsam, Kurt Hiller, Ernst Burchard, John Henry Mackay, Theodor Lessing, Klaus Mann, and Thomas Mann, as well as artists Wilhelm von Gloeden, Fidus, and Sascha Schneider. The journal may have had an average of around 1500 subscribers per issue during its run, but the exact numbers are uncertain. After the rise to power by the Nazis, Brand became a victim of persecution and had his journal closed.

The prominent American anarchist Emma Goldman was also an outspoken critic of prejudice against homosexuals. Her belief that social liberation should extend to gay men and lesbians was virtually unheard of at the time, even among anarchists.[15] As Magnus Hirschfeld wrote, "she was the first and only woman, indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public."[16] In numerous speeches and letters, she defended the right of gay men and lesbians to love as they pleased and condemned the fear and stigma associated with homosexuality. As Goldman wrote in a letter to Hirschfeld, "It is a tragedy, I feel, that people of a different sexual type are caught in a world which shows so little understanding for homosexuals and is so crassly indifferent to the various gradations and variations of gender and their great significance in life."[16]

Despite these supportive stances, the anarchist movement of the time certainly wasn't free of homophobia: an editorial in an influential Spanish anarchist journal from 1935 argued that an Anarchist shouldn't even associate with homosexuals, let alone be one: "If you are an anarchist, that means that you are more morally upright and physically strong than the average man. And he who likes inverts is no real man, and is therefore no real anarchist."[17]

Lucía Sánchez Saornil was a main founder of the Spanish anarcha-feminist federation Mujeres Libres who was open about her lesbianism.[18] At a young age she began writing poetry and associated herself with the emerging Ultraist literary movement. By 1919, she had been published in a variety of journals, including Los Quijotes, Tableros, Plural, Manantial and La Gaceta Literaria. Working under a male pen name, she was able to explore lesbian themes[19] at a time when homosexuality was criminalized and subject to censorship and punishment. Dissatisfied with the chauvinistic prejudices of fellow republicans, Lucía Sánchez Saornil joined with two compañeras, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascón, to form Mujeres Libres in 1936. Mujeres Libres was an autonomous anarchist organization for women committed to a "double struggle" of women's liberation and social revolution. Lucía and other "Free Women" rejected the dominant view that gender equality would emerge naturally from a classless society. As the Spanish Civil War exploded, Mujeres Libres quickly grew to 30,000 members, organizing women's social spaces, schools, newspapers and daycare programs.

The writings of the French bisexual anarchist Daniel Guérin offer an insight into the tension sexual minorities among the Left have often felt. He was a leading figure in the French Left from the 1930s until his death in 1988. After coming out in 1965, he spoke about the extreme hostility toward homosexuality that permeated the left throughout much of the 20th century.[20] "Not so many years ago, to declare oneself a revolutionary and to confess to being homosexual were incompatible," Guérin wrote in 1975.[21] In 1954, Guérin was widely attacked for his study of the Kinsey Reports in which he also detailed the oppression of homosexuals in France. "The harshest [criticisms] came from marxists, who tend seriously to underestimate the form of oppression which is antisexual terrorism. I expected it, of course, and I knew that in publishing my book I was running the risk of being attacked by those to whom I feel closest on a political level."[22] After coming out publicly in 1965, Guérin was abandoned by the Left, and his papers on sexual liberation were censored or refused publication in left-wing journals.[23] From the 1950s, Guérin moved away from Marxism-Leninism and toward a synthesis of anarchism and marxism close to platformism which allowed for individualism while rejecting capitalism. Guérin was involved in the uprising of May 1968, and was a part of the French Gay Liberation movement that emerged after the events. Decades later, Frédéric Martel described Guérin as the "grandfather of the French homosexual movement."[24]

Meanwhile in the United States late in his career the influential anarchist thinker Paul Goodman came out as bisexual. The freedom with which he revealed, in print and in public, his romantic and sexual relations with men (notably in a late essay, "Being Queer"[25]), proved to be one of the many important cultural springboards for the emerging gay liberation movement of the early 1970s.

Contemporary Queer Anarchism

Anarcha-queer originated during the second half 20th century among Anarchists involved in the Gay Liberation movement, who viewed Anarchism as the road to harmony between heterosexual and LGBT people. Anarcha-queer has its roots deep in Queercore, a form of Punk rock which portrays homosexuality in a positive manner. Like most forms of Punk rock, Queercore attracts a large Anarchist crowd. Anarchists are prominent in Queercore Zines. There are two main Anarcha-queer groups, Queer Mutiny, a British group with branches in most major cities and Bash Back! An American network of queer anarchists. Queer Fist appeared in New York City and identifies itself as "an anti-assimilationist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian street action group, came together to provide direct action and a radical queer and trans-identified voice at the Republican National Convention (RNC) protests."[26]

Anarcha-feminist collectives such as the Spanish squat Eskalera Karakola and the Bolivian Mujeres Creando give high importance to lesbian and bisexual female issues.

See also

Further reading

  • C. B. Daring; J. Rogue; Deric Shannon and Abbey Volcano (Eds). . AK Press. 2012
  • Lena Eckert. as a Tool for Queer and Transgender Politics and/or Vice Versa?"
  • Terence Kissack. ISBN 978-1-904859-11-6


External links

  • at the zine library
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