This is an archival document from the 1976 Wolf Creek "Faggots and Class Struggle" conference. Read Ben Miller's introduction to it here.
First and foremost—faggots are a basic threat to the sexual division of labor. It’s no accident that our culture has been made invisible—our language, our history, our home life, our heroes, our humor, our sanity invaded, distorted and suppressed.
I believe that open faggotry basically serves the interests of the working class against the ruling class because we are men who to some degree resisted the bourgeois social conditioning to be competitive, tough, anti-sensual, other-centered workers.
On the job, we can risk more rebellion than the worker who has family to support. Open faggotry really shakes the homophobia and fag-baiting which not only keeps queers and straight men divided, but keeps straight men rigid and separated from each other, as well as keeping queers divided (better believe it). Open faggotry works to unify the working class because we offer heteros a model for men supporting each other in emotional and physical ways—ways to resist the mindless drudgery of capitalist workplaces. An army of lovers…right? If I’m correctly reading Join Hands, the gay prisoner support newspaper, the process of faggot leadership seems to have started in prison organizing.
Open faggotry threatens the sexual division of labor by contradicting the traditional male role on the job. In the family sphere, we contradict the notion that fucking has to be for making new workers and the notion that men have to be father/protectors and breadwinners to feel good about themselves.
In not depending on women to be emotional/sexual service stations, we are undermining the sexual division of labor and taking some of the unpaid load off women. We are spreading the responsibility for this work beyond the class of women and demanding mothering from men. It’s no accident that the phrase “what you do in bed is your own business” has become a stock response to gay liberation by those attempting to hold onto the private/public split, the personal/political split in the sexual division of labor. What we do in bed is work, it is socially useful work. Those folks who were in the tipi last nite [sic] can tell you about that.
And we do other “women’s work” as well. Of the unpaid labor, we certainly are involved in clothing, feeding, cleaning, healing of ourselves and other men, and if we are sissies, we did/do this work with women in the nuclear family. Of the paid labor, we find ourselves shoved into the same shit-paying social service jobs as women—waiting tables, cooking, cleaning, nursing, typing—because we can be more “out” with women co-workers and because we learned these skills in the unpaid sphere. We are also often turned on to the “social conditioning" jobs, especially jobs working with children because our life-styles generally excludes [sic] us from the nuclear family type childrearing situation.
In the present historical period, the American family is going through traumatic changes which have uncorked the conditions for a gay liberation movement and the breaking down of the sexual division of labor. The divorce rate is climbing rapidly, lotsa folks just never get married, and partly due to the availability of birth control and party due to a growing plastic, machine-driven and fragmented world, people are looking for new lifestyles. The counter-culture, communes, open-marriage, etc. all point toward the beginnings of “socialized” families.
With the strains on the family and the pressure to accommodate the growing reserve labor pool of family workers into the paid workforce, the monopoly capital in the last 30 years has opened up tons of new areas of the economy which employ primarily women, the human services, to shore up the crumbling social services and conditioning functions of the family. About half the women in this country now work for wages. There are more people doing paid service work than industrial production work. While this process is socializing some family functions (day care, food service, counseling, nursing, etc.) and brings women out of their isolation into group situations, they have less power about who to serve and how. Their relationship to the boss is right there and they gotta toe the line.
At this time, the socialist feminist goal to integrate the two spheres of public and private work is happening in the fight for wage-worker & community control of the services which are already socialized, and the struggle to socialize those services, under home-workers and community control, which now only exists in isolated family units. As I have pointed out, as faggots we have already begun the process of getting men into women’s work, but that process should really be secondary to following women’s leadership and struggling to gain the support to come out wherever we can. As I’ve said, to come out in itself can be a revolutionary act, an attack on the sexual division of labor.
In more specific terms, within the family-community sphere, we should especially become involved in consumer struggles for childcare, food co-ops, communal kitchens, and laundries, schools, the environment, healthcare, housing. And the struggles against the family being used for reserve labor—welfare rights struggles and wages for housework struggles. In all these struggles, our survival depends on our coming out, defending our right to be a part of the larger “socialized family,” whatever community has come together in the struggle. We gotta defend our right to work as open faggots with children, to be part of their social conditioning, as well as their feeding, clothing, cleaning, nursing, emotional nurturing and defend their right to understand our sexual nurturing on our terms. We gotta defend our rights to child custody and recognition of our gay families as part of the larger socialization process. These are our only guarantees to cut through the sexual repression and authoritarian conditioning which is at the source of gay oppression.
What’s real exciting is that we can take heart in the example of Third World women who are in the leadership of “socializing” the family and demanding control over already socialized services in the USA. Due to the high unemployment in their communities, these women find themselves daily nurturing many people, an extended family, and that mothering is in increasing conflict with bourgeois ideology. It feeds rebellion against the rising capitalist need for more ambitious, passive-submissive workers. This work of Third World women is motivated most clearly out of defending their cultural integrity, their national unity from the ravages of the racial division of labor. Their struggle is one of survival, their labor is largely unpaid, so their only way to get the necessary social services is to draw together and create them or fight for them. For example, the struggle for community control of schools or rent control. Not surprisingly, faggots seem to be more accepted as part of this Third World community liberation process, where all hands are needed to stay afloat, than in white communities.
Because of the particular form that racism takes, Third World women often have to work for wages while unemployed men take on the social production in the family. As stated earlier these female wage earners more and more end up in the human services where they feel really sharply the need to have more direct control over their working conditions as well as the services provided their Third World sisters and brothers. Again because of racism. Because of imperialism these women are forging worker-community alliances because they need national liberation.
We would do well to follow their lead. We gay people too have our own culture, which has been imperialized/ripped off. We have a community liberation process, our job security, our housing, our legal rights, our health, our education, and our children to defend.
In particular, lesbians have had their women’s culture and their gay culture ripped off. It is no accident that some hot healthcare worker-patient coalitions and childcare worker-parent struggles (like the Daycare Workers Alliance of Portland) have been led by lesbians. Dykes’ defense of their sexuality depends directly on women’s healthcare and control of their own bodies. Dykes defense of their children and our next generation of dykes and faggots depends directly on grabbing control of childrearing and schooling from the agents of the bourgeoisie. As faggots we would do well to follow their lead. In particular, in the so-called private sphere, our liberation is tied to taking responsibility for “socializing” childcare by caring for gay people’s children and becoming the foster-parents of gay children.
A great example of how dykes and Third World women are leading worker-community struggles and opening doors to gay liberation, is a story I just heard about as school district in the Bronx. The Catholic Church, one of the largest landowners in NYC, has been attempting to gain power in the public schools by influencing local school boards. Their representatives urged the board of a largely Black and Puerto Rican district, to send a resolution to the state legislature to exclude school teachers from gay rights legislation. In the process of fag- and dyke-baiting that divided the board, progressive gay and non-gay women pointed out how the powerful bourgeois Catholic Church was using homophobia to divide poor people and move into power in the school district. The resolution was defeated. Yea for working class solidarity.
It is no accident that gay workplace struggles have been focused in the human services, e.g. the Gay Schoolworkers and the Gay Healthworkers in the Bay Area, the Action Childcare Coalition in Seattle. It is no accident that the first union in the Bay Area to adopt a non-discrimination clause around sexual orientation for contract negotiations was a hospital workers union. Campaigns are now being waged in restaurant and clerical worker’s unions for gay rights. The pattern is the same in Canada and Britain, where the gay movement is more connected to union struggles. All these human services unions are predominantly women and have a concentration of gay men. Our liberation as faggots depends on following the leadership of these women in fighting sexism in existing unions and advancing the class position of women and faggots by organizing the masses of unorganized human service workers.
Beyond these struggles for basic economic, union rights and for the right to be “out” in non-sensitive jobs, our next steps will be to defend our right to services which represent the needs of gay people both as workers and consumers. Our most crucial and difficult steps will be demanding work for wages in the socialization of children as gay teachers, gay childcare workers, gay counselors, gay recreation directors, even in scouts and little league. Of course, what I mean, since we’re already socializing children for wages, is demanding the right to our culture, humor, history, and lifestyle on the job.
We gotta realize too that the struggle of children, which happens particularly in school rebellions and runaways, is part of the class struggle, part of the attack on the authoritarian conditioning and sexual repression of the family and its extension, the schools. Since the socialization of children is the core of our liberation struggle, we must ally with this uprising.
So, to summarize: our gay oppression and the oppression of women comes from the rise of the father-dominated family and in the current historical period, out of the sexual division of labor under capitalism. Our primary strategy as gay men to undermine the sexual division of labor is to follow the lead of working class women, especially Third World women and lesbians in forging worker-community alliances for socialism. Waged workers in particular have the power to withhold our labor power and pressure the capitalist, who depends on us directly for profit.
Working class women are finding it in their self-interest to gain control over the social means of production and the means of reproduction, their own bodies. This struggle against ruling class control of reproduction—against forced sterilization, for free access to birth control and abortion, the struggle to separate sexuality from reproduction—all adds up for us, lays the guts of the struggle toward open sexuality.
These women are realizing that by repressing sexuality and teaching heterosexual, authoritarian relationships, they are setting up their children and themselves to be raped. These women are demanding community childrearing and self-reliant children. All this stuff is basic to gay liberation, and women wage earners have got the power to whip up these struggles, to pull together the working class and further the conditions for gay liberation and socialist revolution. ⊱