Chronicler of New York’s gay liberation movement dies aged 76

PinkNews Staff Writer February 4, 2009
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One of the founders of one of the first gay rights groups in America who later chronicled the movement has died.

G Donn Teal was 76 years old.

In December 1969 he co-founded the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), months after the Stonewall riots in New York, regarded as the spark for the modern gay rights movement.

In February 1969, four months before the riot, his article “Why Can’t ‘We’ Love Happily Ever After, Too?” was published in the New York Times.

It was a protest against the “doomed misfit/sinner” stereotype of American gay men and lesbians in film, on stage, and in literature.

Mr Teal wrote the first history of America’s gay liberation movement, The Gay Militants: How Gay Liberation Began in America, 1969-1971, in 1971. It was republished by St. Martin’s Press in 1995.

Renowned Stonewall historian David Carter said:

“I regard The Gay Militants as one of the most important works of LGBT history, and I did not want Donn’s passing to be noted by a mere handful of people.

“As the author of a history of the Stonewall riots, I have always said that the riots are important only because they gave birth to the gay liberation movement, just as the fall of the Bastille is only important because it led to the French Revolution.

“If the book I wrote was about the spark that set off the revolution, Donn’s book was about something immeasurably more important: the revolution itself.

“Let us remember therefore that this year is not only the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but that it is, more importantly, also the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Gay Liberation Front and of the Gay Activists Alliance, and hence of the gay liberation movement, that critical phase of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement that put us on the political map finally and for all time.”

Born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 26, 1932, Mr Teal was an only child.

After his mother’s death in 1944 he went to live with his maternal grandparents and later moved with them to Bradenton, Florida.

He graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the Florida State University, Tallahassee, and received a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

After a few years of teaching high school French in Philadelphia and New York State, he settled in New York City, where he pursued a career in publishing, most notably at Ovation magazine, where he wrote interviews and reviews.

Starting in the early 1960s, he made several trips to France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, where he reported on music festivals, and Italy.

He eventually became a freelance editor.

Mr. Teal will be buried in Columbus, Ohio. A memorial service will be held in New York at a time to be determined.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made in his memory to Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s oldest HIV/AIDS service organisation.

Related topics: Americas

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