IN 1967, a number of us with same-sex feelings moved from the East Coast to the San Francisco Bay area. We were young and the sky wasn’t big enough to measure our dreams. Some of us went West because we were disillusioned and some of us were just searching. It’s important to remember this migration because the history of the modern gay movement did not begin with the Stonewall Riots. When Martin Duberman writes in his book Stonewall that “the 1969 riots are now generally taken to mark the birth of the modern gay and lesbian political movement,” he is only reflecting how the coastal cultural establishment has come to monopolize the writing of gay history. That view of history needs to be broadened.
In fact, the modern gay movement began with many people spread across the country before finding its iconic moment in Stonewall. One of the most memorable of them was Carl Wittman (1943–1986), whose life has been all but forgotten by gay historians. Wittman was one of the most charismatic voices and tragic casualties of Gay Liberation.