Disco & Gay Culture

The 1960s and 70s were the beginning of the rise of ‘Gay Culture’, despite the collective deprecation, which came from religious groups, as well as many scientists (The American Psychiatric Association would not remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders until 1973.)


When and why were Gay clubs born? 


The Continental Baths

In September 1968 in the basement of the old Hotel Ansonia


The Role Of Disco

“Disco- writes Shapiro – set out to break the shackles of shame that had kept men gay prisoners for centuries”, although for the Homosexuals life was still very difficult. The pill changed the concept of “sex” and the way of millions of Americans to relate to it. The early 70’s saw an explosion of sex in popular culture traditional straight: it was the period of the suburban swinging and open pairs, and was the years of films like Deep Throat, Last Tango in Paris and Shampoo. The opening, so if you want to call it, however, concerned only the heterosexual world.  


The first Gay Clubs which flourished were speakeasies where the sexual charge was dominant and where there were no social barriers. Homosexuals became crucial to the revival of clubs and had a considerable influence on American society, much more than activists in the Gay Liberation Front. Having a party for gays did not mean elegant dressing or walking with a drink maybe talking about business, but meant for fun, celebration (dance your troubles away … work hard and play hard). The new gay clubs know how to celebrate with company: being together in the same place, with the music that bound them, created an atmosphere of intensity and heat. 


 And what was the dance floor?


The dance floor was like a space flight cathartic and community expression. 


Shapiro writes: “The crowded multi-genre built from the ears and the restless fingers of the first djs reflected the promiscuity of saunas. Their mix of the smooth transitions and no interruptions were emblematic not only of a new group identity found, but also a hedonistic principle just emancipated; were a music and a scene of prodigious physicality, who embraced an idea of ​​the body to the limit. ” 

“Just as the soul music became the voice of pride and awareness that had animated the struggle for civil rights, the disc quickly assumed the role of the soundtrack of the gay movement. Disco was the incarnation of a morality that equated pleasure with the political demands of a new generation of gay culture, who had grown up with raids by police, draconian laws and the darkness of the locker room. […] The culture disc would never have changed the legal discrimination, but it was the most effective tool in the fight for gay rights. Disco should not shock anyone with slogans or statements of peremptory regiment militants with seriousness; its message was a hedonistic principle. Disco was born from an outlawed desire, branded as an affront to God and man: its relationship with pleasure, therefore, necessarily became his political platform, and by extension its policy merged with pleasure. The irrepressible sexual energy and community spirit of the first clubs were the perfect antidote to the lingering hangover of the 60s.”


Thus the disc, which conquered increasing numbers of sympathizers, became the symbol of a new type of political resistance. 


 Do you know who was the first openly gay city councilman in San Francisco?


Harley Bernard Milk (1930-1978) American politician, militant gay liberation champagner murdered in a homophobic attack. Who famously said “If a bullet should enter my brain, this can break down the doors of repression, behind which lurk gays in the country.” 


The gay community has devoted many institutions in honor of Milk (among them the Harvey Milk Institute and the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club of San Francisco), schools such as the Harvey Milk School in New York, and a restaurant called Harvey’s. The recent film “Milk” directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn, won an Oscar for Best Actor.


Posted on

31 March 2022

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