GLF in Richmond

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) formed in 1970 or early 1971, inspired in part by a group of the same name that formed in New York City following the riots at the Stonewall Inn. The GLF in Richmond was an informal organization, with no by-laws and no regularly scheduled meetings. The informal meetings were held in the home of the unofficial leader of the group and VCU alumni, Kenneth Pederson (1948 – 1991). The group formed based primarily on the San Francisco “Gay Manifesto.” The group sponsored at least 2 dances in 1971 held at the String Factory, a counter-culture hang out on the SE corner of Laurel and Broad, blocks from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). An article in the VCU newspaper was the last mention of the organization, noting their last meeting in the summer of 1971. Even after GLF ceased to exist, Pederson continued passing out gay positive literature/leaflets on the VCU campus,at local gay bars and along the downtown “block."[1]

Bob Swisher wrote about Pederson and GLF in an article “Shameless in Public” in Our Own Community Press, May 1988. “The actions of the Gay Liberation Front, however, were no mere college-age antics." The small group of men and women, the seminal gay "activists" here in Richmond, broke the silence about gays and lesbians, bringing to light the existence of gays and lesbians here. The Richmond GLF also gained media coverage. There was a two page spread in the March 12, 1971 issue of VCU’s The Commonwealth Times; and an article in the May 30 issue (page B-1) of The Richmond Times Dispatch

Member of the Gay Liberation Front handed out gay positive literature in the VCU area, at the downtown cruising block, in gay bars and in straight bars and restaurants in the "Fan," the area of town close to and surrounding VCU. The leaflets (aimed at straights, said) “hey, we're here, we exist. There are gay people. If you’re not gay yourself, you probably know someone who’s gay, whether you know it or not.” Pederson, who was a graduate student in rehabilitative counseling, was expelled in 1972 for being a guest lecturer in the school of Social Work, talking about gay issues.[2]

The GLF was instrumental in providing a local opportunity for an early national gay rights activist, Dr. Frank Kameny. Dr. Kameny founded the DC chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961. Kameny cemented his place in history as the first gay man to appear on TV without concealing his identity. He spoke out against the closing of Rathskellers and Renee’s Restaurants in a letter to the Richmond Times Dispatch. He then spoke at a GLF event “Homosexuality: What Every Heterosexual Should Know” at a Unitarian Universalist coffee house near VCU.[3]


  1. Beth Marschak and Alex Lorch, Lesbian and Gay Richmond, Charleston SC: Arcadia Press, 2008. p.37
  2. Bob Swisher "Shameless in Public" Our Own Community Press, May 1988
  3. Swisher