Tuesday, 21 July 2009
BLACK PANTHER FOUNDER HUEY NEWTON's STATEMENT ON GAY PEOPLE AND THE STRUGGLE
The Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements
Speech given by Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panthers,
August 15, 1970
History is a Weapon
During the past few years strong movements have developed
among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation.
There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to
these movements. Whatever your personal opinions and your
insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation
movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the
homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try
to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say
"whatever your insecurities are" because as we very well
know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a
homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We
want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid
that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women
or shut her up because we are afraid that she might
castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to
We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have
respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not
use the racist attitude that the White racists use against
our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the
poorest White person is the most racist because he is
afraid that he might lose something, or discover something
that he does not have. So you're some kind of a threat to
him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view
oppressed people and we are angry with them because of
their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind
of deviation from the established norm.
Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value
system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do
not remember our ever constituting any value that said that
a revolutionary must say offensive things towards
homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that
women do not speak out about their own particular kind of
oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite:
we say that we recognize the women's right to be free. We
have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must
relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real
thing. And I know through reading, and through my life
experience and observations that homosexuals are not given
freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be
the most oppresed people in the society.
And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it's a phenomenon
that I don't understand entirely. Some people say that it
is the decadence of capitalism. I don't know if that is the
case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know
that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must
understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should
have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.
That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we
wouldn't view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say
that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe
I'm now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that "even
a homosexual can be a revolutionary." Quite the contrary,
maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.
When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and
demonstrations, there should be full participation of the
gay liberation movement and the women's liberation
movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than
others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that
they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary, because
they are not.
We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any
other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We
should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in
a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed
situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they
are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are
unrevolutionary or counterrevolutionary, then criticize
that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to
be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in
interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do
not understand the dialectics of the social forces in
operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them
because they are women trying to be free. And the same is
true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement
is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest.
They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed
to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes
because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer
from it. But the women's liberation front and gay
liberation front are our friends, they are our potential
allies, and we need as many allies as possible.
We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many
people have about homosexuality. When I say "insecurities,"
I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our
manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long
conditioning process which builds insecurity in the
American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups
in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But
on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female
homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think
it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me
and female homosexuality is not.
We should be careful about using those terms that might
turn our friends off. The terms "faggot" and "punk" should
be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should
not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men
who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell.
Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.
We should try to form a working coalition with the gay
liberation and women's liberation groups. We must always
handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.