Former Gay Activists Alliance president David Thorstad dies at 79

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David Thorstad, who co-founded or ran some early LGBTQ groups following the Stonewall riots in 1969 that are seen as marking the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, died on August 1 from complications during heart surgery in a North Dakota hospital. "A giant has fallen," wrote Steve Ault, who made significant contributions to the community organizing following the riots, in an email to Gay City News. "This is a great loss."

Thorstad, who was 79 at his death, was the president of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) from July 1975 to July 1976. [...] In 1977, Thorstad was among the founders of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights (CLGR), a group that eventually had over 50 member organizations that fought for the passage of legislation to add sexual orientation to New York City's human rights law, among other issues. [...]

Thorstad's fall from politics came in 1978 when he co-founded the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) with roughly 30 other men. NAMBLA advocated for an end to age of consent laws. It argued that consent was possible in the relationships it argued for. [...]

While Thorstad never had an interest in having sex with children - some NAMBLA members did have that interest - he saw sex between older and younger men as something that had been part of gay culture for millennia and was inherently good. "I can say categorically that David was not a pedophile," said Phil Willkie, the former publisher of The James White Review, a gay men's literary quarterly, who was friends with Thorstad for 40 years. "He was a what I would call a pederast." NAMBLA was described by the mainstream press and law enforcement as a group of child molesters, a representation it could never change in the minds of most of the public, including many in the LGBTQ community. [...]

Thorstad also grew increasingly bitter about the state of the LGBTQ and left movements. He opposed the pursuit of same-sex marriage and objected to the inclusion of transgender people in the movement. But he remained true to his original principles. "David possessed a towering intellect and was totally principled, uncompromising, charismatic and fearless," Ault wrote. "He was also highly controversial and could be cantankerous."

source: Article 'Former Gay Activists Alliance President David Thorstad Dies at 79' by Duncan Osborne;; gcn (; 6 August 2021