Stories from Hartford's Grassroots
Hartford’s first gay liberation group decided that ‘coming out’ meant direct action and if necessary, confrontation with the police.
On September 3, 1971, eleven Kalos Society members were arrested while protesting at a local gay bar where lesbians were being harassed by the management. The owners of The Park West wanted women customers to dress “properly.” They ejected those who ignored the gender norm of the day.
Undeterred by the busts, Kalos members kept up their nightly pickets until the owner capitulated.
By 1968 the Kalos Society evolved from the support group known as “Project H” into a social organization, with the help of Episcopal Canon Clinton Jones. Reverend Jones wrote and spoke extensively on transgender issues throughout the 1970s.
One of Kalos’ early public events was an outing at Goodwin Park in September, 1970 in spite of neighbors’ protests. The group quickly became the local “gay liberation front” inspired by the Stonewall Rebellion, a 1969 riot in New York in response to constant police harassment and gay bar raids.
Gay advocacy, which until 1969 consisted mostly of quiet lobbying, had now taken on a public and assertive social justice quality. Kalos published a regular newsletter, The Griffin, which was available at gay bars and in the stores at Hartford’s Union Place (known for radical and counterculture activity). The group related to politics of the left: the Griffin quoted Black Panther leader Huey Newton and sponsored a bus to a Vietnam war protest in Washington, D.C.
One member of Kalos was Brother Richard Cardarelli, a Franciscan who was excommunicated for his advocacy of gay inclusion in the Catholic Church. He was a student of liberation theology (the radical grassroots Latin American Catholic movement) and developed his own concept of of “gay liberation theology.”
Less than a month after the Kalos bar protests, Connecticut became the second state in the nation to decriminalize private sexual relations between consenting adults.