David Thorstad, American political activist and author, has been a prominent member of the gay rights movement since the 1970s, and was a founding member of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), a group which advocates the abolition of age of consent laws. He was also active in Trotskyist politics for some years.
From 1967 to 1973 Thorstad was a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), once the main American Trotskyist organisation. After leaving the SWP because of its attitude to homosexuality he published a collection of internal party documents relating to its discussion of the gay liberation movement, under the title Gay Liberation and Socialism : Documents from the Discussions on Gay Liberation Inside the Socialist Workers Party (1970-1973). In the early 1970s Thorstad was president of the Gay Activists Alliance, a leading gay liberation group in New York.
In 1974 Thorstad and John Lauritsen published The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935), an important work which linked the modern gay liberation movement to older movements for homosexual rights, particularly in Germany, and showed the links between those movements and the socialist movement.
In 1978 Thorstad was a founding member of NAMBLA, and has remained active in its leadership ever since. He is one of a group of NAMBLA members who are being sued for the wrongful death of a ten-year-old boy in a long-running court case in Boston (Curley v NAMBLA, described at the NAMBLA article). In 2003, in the course of this case, Judge George O'Toole found that:
- "David Thorstad has been a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota since approximately 1992. Thorstad has been a member of NAMBLA since 1978, and served as a member of the Steering Committee from some undetermined time until September 1996. He is listed as a member of the Bulletin Collective, though he claims he "had no role in producing" the publication. He did contribute letters and articles to the Bulletin, and one of his articles was also posted on NAMBLA's webpage. In 1995, he was nominated to be an official NAMBLA spokesman".
David Thorstad's involvement with NAMBLA led him to break with most of the mainstream gay rights movement, which has become increasingly hostile to NAMBLA's views and activities since about 1980. In 1998 Thorstad told an audience: "Pederasty is the main form that male homosexuality has acquired throughout Western civilization - and not only in the West! Pederasty is inseparable from the high points of Western culture - ancient Greece and the Renaissance." Thorstad describes the modern gay rights movement as "politically correct zombies," and the "radicalism of such groups as Queer Nation" as "bizarre and offensive."
Summaries of Thorstad's views appear in his articles "Man/Boy Love and the American Gay Movement" in Male Intergenerational Intimacy: Historical, Socio-Psychological and Legal Perspectives (Theo Sandfort et al, editors, Harrington Park Press, 1991), and "Homosexuality and the American Left: The Impact of Stonewall," in Gay Men and the Sexual History of the Political Left (Gert Hekma et al, editors, Harrington Park Press, 1995).