Summer of Love and Gay Liberation

In the narratives of the Summer of Love, sex plays a big part. Hippies were supposed to be having lots and lots of sex. The unstated assumption was that it was “straight” sex—women and men getting it on. But even in that progenitor of unabashed heterosexual consciousness—Lenore Kandel’s Love Book—there are hints of other modes of sexuality (“the lust of hermaphroditic deities doing inconceivable things to each other”).

The following are four images from underground street sheets that represent gay liberation imaging from 1967 to 1969. Out of the Summer of Love and the counterculture that resulted came the gay hippies, a phenomenon that has not been well documented. This is the subculture that gave birth to the Kaliflower Commune, the Angels of Light Free Theater troupe, and the Cockettes. This is the subculture that fused with gay street youth to form groups such as the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (pre-Stonewall) and Gay Liberation Front (post-Stonewall).

The following are two of the Communication Company sheets distributed on Haight Street in the spring and summer of 1967. They are variants of the same image. I don’t have any information on their derivation but they are striking in their unabashed embrace of same-gender sexuality in the way Lenore Kandel had done for opposite-gender relations.



The following is one of the posters printed by the Free Print Shop in 1968. This was the commune that would begin publishing Kaliflower the following year in 1969. The Free Print Shop collection of publications located at the California Historical Society is full of gay-friendly images.


The final image here is from the spring of 1969, before the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. This poster was published by the Free Print Shop for the Committee for Homosexual Freedom to publicize a daily picket they were conducting of the United States Lines steamship company in San Francisco for the firing of a gay employee.



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