Gay Liberation and Chilean Fascism: Transnational Communication and Solidarity

Friday, January 4, 2019: 4:10 PM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago)
Scott de Groot, University of Winnipeg
On 11 September 1973, the democratically-elected, socialist government of Chile was overthrown in a coup d'état backed by the United States. The military junta that assumed power denigrated leftists and progressives as maricones (faggots), and violently targeted queer communities. Especially in major cities such as Santiago, queer people were tortured and killed by right-wing death squads. As the homophobic violence of General Pinochet’s regime escalated, Chileans reached out to contacts in Argentina for help. The Homosexual Liberation Front of Buenos Aries transmitted information about the crisis to gay liberationists in North America. Activists in Toronto responded by publishing an article titled “Chilean Fascists Terrorize Gays” in The Body Politic, an internationally influential gay liberation periodical. Similar articles soon appeared in movement periodicals such as Vector and Gay Liberation Press.

My paper explores how information regarding the plight of Chilean queers circulated within gay liberation’s transnational communication networks. It also examines the solidarity actions undertaken by gay liberationists located across the Anglo-American world. At the centre of my paper is a case-study of how activists in Toronto, Sydney, and Manchester responded to the homophobic violence of Pinochet’s regime in an interconnected and partially coordinated fashion. Communicating through periodicals and via correspondence, activists in these cities simultaneously lobbied national governments to take diplomatic action, demanded larger intakes of Chilean refugees, joined intersectional Chile solidary campaigns, and raised funds for anti-fascist movements based in South America. Ultimately, my paper challenges characterizations of gay liberation as increasingly disengaged with struggles against imperialism and state violence in the global south by the mid-1970s. It also calls on scholars to rethink the history and genealogy of what Joseph Massad and others have called "the gay international."

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