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When Gays Wanted to Liberate Children

IN 1972 MEMBERS OF BOSTON’S Gay Men’s Liberation, one of the most significant Gay Liberation groups formed after the 1969 Stonewall riots, drove to Miami to hand out a ten-point list of demands at the Democratic National Convention. Emerging from a crucible of new queer political consciousness, feminism, and rage, the manifesto articulated a utopian political vision that was broad—today, we might say intersectional—extending far beyond what we would now conceptualize as LGBT politics. Its first demand, for example, was for “an end to any discrimination based on biology. Neither skin color, age nor gender should be recorded by any government agency. Biology should never be the basis for any special legal handicap or privilege.”

If many of Gay Men’s Liberation’s demands remain controversial forty-five years later, most are also still legible in today’s political discourse: the group sought to end U.S. imperialism, prevent discrimination based on sexual identity, and abolish the police. These all remain live demands of many radicals on the left. Demand six, however, is likely to strike even many of today’s activists as irresponsible, bizarre, and dangerous:

Rearing children should be the common responsibility of the whole community. Any legal rights parents have over ‘their’ children should be dissolved and each child should be free to choose its own destiny. Free twenty-four hour child care centers should be established where faggots and lesbians can share the responsibility of child rearing.

Collective child-rearing? Legally emancipated children? Queers helping to raise other people’s children and, by extension, serving as role models and moral exemplars? Isn’t this exactly what conservatives fear when they warn of the red flag of liberal “social engineering,” a queer version of Soviet indoctrination daycares?

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About Boston Review

From the breast pump to egg freezing, new technologies have long promised to “liberate” mothers, but the results are often uneven, freeing some women while worsening the oppression of others. Once and Future Feminist considers how technology offers women both advances and setbacks in the realms of sex, career, and politics. In the age of Silicon Valley, these issues are more pressing than ever, and this collection pushes readers to consider not only whether emancipatory feminism is possible today, but what it might look like.