Queer Nation



On March 20, 1990, sixty LGBT people gathered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center in New York's Greenwich Village to create a direct action organization. The goal of the unnamed organization was the elimination of homophobia, and the increase of gay, lesbian and bisexual visibility through a variety of tactics.

The direct-action group's inaugural action took place at Flutie's Bar; a straight hangout at the South Street Sea Port on April 13, 1990. The goals included a desire to make it clear to (straight) patrons that queers would not be restricted to gay bars for socializing and for public displays of affection, and to call attention to the fact that most "public" space was in fact heterosexual space. Through parodying straight behavior (such as "spin the bottle") at these events, queers refused to be invisible while publicly questioning the naturalized status of heterosexual coupling activity. Visibility actions like this one became known as "Queer Nights Out." Although the name Queer Nation had been used casually since the group’s inception, it was officially approved at the group's general meeting on May 17, 1990.

The militant protest style of the group contrasted with more assimilationist gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign or the Log Cabin Republicans. Queer Nation was most effective and powerful in the early 1990s in the USA, and used direct action to fight for gay rights. They also worked with AIDS organization ACT UP as well as WHAM! Even though never officially disbanded, many of the local groups did so in the mid-to-late 1990s. The group's use of the word "queer" in its name and slogan was at first considered shocking, though the reclamation has been called a success, used in relatively mainstream television programs such as Queer Eye and Queer as Folk.

Other slogans used by Queer Nation include "Two, Four, Six, Eight! How Do You Know Your Kids Are Straight?" and "Out of the Closets and Into the Streets," and the widely imitated "We're Here! We're Queer! Get used to it!" Here are some of Queer Nation's first actions:

April 20, 1990:
Queer Nation members show up en masse at Macy's department store where Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis is promoting a new swimsuit line. Queers arrive with WHEATIES cereal boxes with swimmer’s picture pasted on front, to recall the time the cereal maker rejected Louganis as a spokesperson, ostensibly because he is gay.

April 26, 1990:
Responding to the 120% increase in violence against queers, Queer Nationals climb the billboard on the roof of Badlands, a Greenwich Village bar and hangs a 40-foot banner that reads: "Dykes and Fags Bash Back!"

April 28, 1990:
A pipe bomb explodes in Uncle Charlie’s, a Greenwich Village gay bar, injuring three. In protest, Queer Nation mobilizes 1000 queers in a matter of hours. Angry marchers fill the streets, carrying the banner “Dykes and Fags Bash Back.”

May 12, 1990:
Inauguration of the Queer Shopping Network which consisted of members of Queer Nation travel from New York City to the Newport Mall in Jersey City with leaflets offering information about queers, safe sex tips, and a list of famous queers throughout history. The leaflets are titled "We're here, we're queer and we'd like to say hello!"

By 1991, Queer Nation groups across the country dissolved. A revival was attempted in 1992 but was unsuccessful.