Subverting the Gender System


“GLF’s critique of straight society amounted to more than condemning violations of gay civil rights and campaigning for equal treatment. Revolutionary not reformist, our ultimate goal was an end to “male chauvinism” and the “gender system”.

We saw queer oppression as a consequence of the way lesbian and gay people deviate from the socially-prescribed gender roles of masculine and feminine. Men are expected to act masculine and desire women. Women are supposed to behave feminine and be attracted to men. Queers subvert the gender system. Gay men love males and are not adequately macho and aggressive. Lesbians love women and are insufficiently passive and dependent on men. That’s why we’re persecuted. Our nonconformity threatens the system which sustains the social hegemony of male heterosexuality and misogyny. Queer men don’t have to sexually subjugate women. Queer women have no need for men to fulfil their erotic and emotional needs.

GLF positively celebrated this queer deviance. We said that the right to be gay includes the right to disobey straight gender norms. In particular, we singled out hetero masculinity, with its inclination to aggression and violence, as the number one enemy of queers and women. The dissolution of straight male machismo was, we argued, the key to ending homo oppression. In other words, the essence of the GLF strategy for queer emancipation was changing society, rather than adapting to it. We understood the need for a cultural revolution to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination.”