Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure

March 19, 2017

This is a GUEST POST by Bev Jo.

‘When We Rise’ miniseries logo. [ABC]

Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure

By Bev Jo

We know about the trans cult appropriating our Lesbian and feminist identity, our organizations, our communities, our lives. Whatever they can’t take over and mark as their territory, they destroy. Throughout this female-hating, Lesbian-hating vendetta, there is also a steady re-writing of Lesbian history by gay men and some women collaborators.

Some rewritings are conscious and aggressive, while others are just lazy erasure, such as the “alternative facts” in the recent gay male-produced and directed television “docu-drama” mini-series on the major US network channel, ABC. “When We Rise,” is set in San Francisco, starting in 1972 and continuing over decades. They combine bad drama with actual videos of the time, and include stories of some of the people who lived then, giving an air of authenticity to their travesty. This altering of Lesbian history is so upsetting that it would be better if they just called the show, “When Gay Men Rise.” But continuing the myth of Lesbians being part of their “LGBTQIXYZ” mess increases the power of not just gay men, but also their het brothers who identify as women. (No Lesbian I know, and I know hundreds, ever agreed to join the alphabet mess. We were added against our will.) This is too close to the trans cult’s claiming all dead Lesbians from the past as “transmen.” I worry that this series will be linked to and referred to in the far future, including in university classes, as if it IS our history.

This is personal to me. Very personal. This is my life and community they are lying about for profit and propaganda. I am daily aware that when those of us who lived then are gone, no one will be able to protest the lies. So we have to keep telling the truth now. For those who came later, please be very careful about what you say about our history and our lives, to make sure it’s not altered, and help continue the truth. (I can’t believe I have to argue with Lesbians not even born by the Seventies who insist what they read about my own history is more valid than what I lived.)

So, were the producers/director of “When We Rise” being lazy, rather than deliberately re-writing Lesbian history?  It’s hard to know when it was such a sloppy, badly done show. Yes, there are tender, moving, and enraging moments, like when African-descent Ken Jones’ Euro-descent longtime lover dies and his lover’s family kicks him out of their home with only what he can carry in his arms because they had no legal protection. (This is part of what those against marriage rights forget. If marriage offends you, first remove het’s marriage rights, but please allow Lesbians and gay men to finally get the same rights for basic survival, medical control if those we love can’t communicate, immigration, etc. that hets have. No other documents are strong enough to protect us if Lesbian-hating families are powerful enough.)

So much of the show was trite and badly acted. Particularly jarring is how the later actors don’t seem remotely connected to the earlier actors playing the same characters. Ken Jones becomes a born again christian and denounces himself for a while, but the earlier version of him is strong and courageous. The Cleve Jones’ character suddenly has annoying exaggerated “faggot” mannerisms that his younger representation didn’t have. It was annoying to see so much time wasted that could have instead focused on our real history spent by showing his various contorted expressions meant to convey emotion and pathos, including the side drama about his sudden obsession with wanting to adopt a baby — perhaps to humanize him to the het audience? They do the same thing with the two main Lesbian characters whose life suddenly is all about having a baby, in spite of the young version of Roma Guy being adamantly against it. With so little time to show our community or gay men’s community histories, why place major focus on baby obsession other than that it’s about assimilating Lesbians?

Particularly infuriating is when the series just lies, appropriating well-known NYC Lesbian history by portraying it as happening in San Francisco — like when Lesbians in NOW came out with their Lavender Menace shirts to protest Betty Friedan and NOW’s Lesbian hating. Roma Guy, showcased in the series, is credited with that protest though it happened two years earlier than when the series begins and thousands of miles away. How can they just erase the real Lesbians who made that demonstration? It’s not like it’s a secret history:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_Menace

The Roma Guy character also refers to Lesbian Feminist support for Inez Garcia, who had been on trial for murder, but repeats the myth that Inez acted in self defense. Inez said that after she was raped, she got a gun and went after the men who had attacked her (one had raped her and the second man had held her down). She killed the second man. She was convicted until she got help from a feminist attorney and massive support from our Lesbian Feminist community. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inez_Garc%C3%ADa

The filmmakers also appropriate the NYC Stonewall rebellion against police brutality as if happened in San Francisco – including plagiarizing the ““God Save Us Nelly Queens” quote from documentaries about Stonewall. I wasn’t around gay men, but I do remember drag queen shows in North Beach in San Francisco in the Sixties and later that were a significant part of the tourist industry where hets paid to see drag queen performers. Were the police as violent to gay men in SF as elsewhere? Yes, Harvey Milk was killed by another city supervisor, and yes, gay men burned police cars, but it’s a different history than what happened at Stonewall.

I object to the mini-series erasing gay men in other ways also. They don’t even seem to know how Lesbians and gay men looked. How hard could it have been to get accurate photos of gay men? Most of the gay men I saw in the Seventies looked like the gay men in photographs at Stonewall and many videos of the time, which was counter-culture young hippies and political activists. Later, there was the distinct “Castro Clone” look, which Freddie Mercury emulated. (An ageist reference to Harvey Milk in the series was that he looked like a hippie, but was too old — until he changed to get elected. Old hippies still can be seen in the Bay Area.)

I’m guessing the reason they altered our history was because they didn’t know and didn’t bother to try to find out. But it’s even more upsetting when they present actual famous Lesbians and caricature them, like dynamic, outspoken Phyllis Lyon, who we owe so much to and who barely speaks in the series. Her lover, Del Martin, was played by Rosie O’Donnell as a caricature, with longer hair than Del. She’s portrayed as being annoying because she was a Lesbian Feminist who cares about women, as opposed to prioritizing men. They attribute a quote to Del that I remember as being from Jackie Winnow, who wrote about the lack of support for Lesbians with cancer before she died at age 44.

http://mountainviewpeople.blogspot.com/2008/01/jackie-winnow-1947-1991-lesbian-breast.html

“Jackie Winnow was a feminist, lesbian and progressive activist who played a major role in transforming health care activism. She was the first coordinator of the Lesbian/Gay and AIDS unit of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, where her work focused on discrimination both within and without the LGBT communities. In 1985, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she founded the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Berkeley the next year with Joanne Garrett, another friend of mine.

Winnow’s involvement in the feminist health movement inspired her cancer activism. She once said, “We have to stop being nice girls and start fighting as if our lives depend on it, because they do.” She became an outspoken cancer activist and infused the movement with energy and focus.

She also was a forceful voice for people with AIDS and once stated, “Both of these diseases are life-threatening and yet I have seen my community rally around one and overlook the other…No one takes care of women or lesbians except women or lesbians, and we have a hard enough time taking care of ourselves, of finding ourselves worthy and important enough for attention.”

 

The series is full of digs and asides thrown in to discredit Lesbian Feminist activists, such as when Roma Guy is at a women only meeting, and her friend Cleve Jones rushes in to talk with her, belittling and ignoring the Lesbians objecting to his invading women only space, saying he’s a “feminist.”

Even worse was the series’ scapegoating our beloved Pat Norman, who was played by a bizarrely feminized Whoopi Goldberg. I’ve seen a lot of documentaries and reports about the history of AIDS in SF, which names various male politicians in San Francisco as being the main obstructionists in education about how AIDS is spread, but never, ever saw a reference blaming Pat Norman – until this series. Why did they do this to her?

It’s as if they had a list of a few Lesbians and toss them out to make it look like they know Lesbian history. Meanwhile, the many Lesbians who were changing the world were just ignored. One segment of the series included the actual people talking about the history, and a gay man said how much more Lesbians were doing, but no details were shown in the series. A big fuss was made about the Women’s Building in SF, which does have an exquisite mural, but I never thought of it as our space. A friend said they did have some good things in the early Eighties, but now it’s available to anyone with enough money. Even soon after it began I remember hearing from a friend who did security there that businessmen would hire rooms to have strippers at their luncheon meetings. When we had our Separatist Gathering there in 1983, no one bothered to tell us that a man had called in a bomb threat.

I think there is racism and classism also in their ignoring Oakland and Berkeley, which was not separate from San Francisco. In that era, our Lesbian communities were combined. There is also ageism, as in the scene when Cleve Jones chastises younger “gay people” for not being as activist as he was. I see the charge of age divides among Lesbians being pushed by men claiming to be Lesbians, but the reality I still see is that Lesbian Feminists, and particularly Radical Lesbian Feminists, are allied across all ages.

I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1966. As soon as I was able, I tried to find Lesbians, but it was difficult since I was underage and so not able to join the Daughters of Bilitis or go to the bars. In 1970, I found the Lesbian Feminist community, which was a dream come true. I joined Gay Women’s Liberation, which met in Berkeley at Alice Molloy and Carol Vorvolakos’ house, and also alternated in SF at Judy Grahn and Wendy Cadden’s apartment. (This was before “Lesbian” and “Dyke” became associated with proud Lesbian Feminism, while “gay woman” seemed to be used more by women afraid to say the terrifying word “Lesbian.”)

Just look around now and see how Lesbians have gone backward to where women are still terrified and so choose to name themselves “genderqueer” and “queer” or anything but “Lesbian.” Never underestimate the fear of being called a Lesbian. (Even my mother who I talked to openly about being a Lesbian since I was a teenager seemed incapable of saying the word, and so would mumble something like L..s..b..n.  I’d keep asking what the hell she was trying to say, until she’d switch to “they,” as in “they can get married now,” which wasn’t even true at the time.) Continually trying to rename us into something less clear and less explicitly Lesbian feels like yet another kind of “Lesbian and gay conversion therapy.” Too reminiscent of “I don’t care what you do, but just don’t use ‘that’ word!”

It’s overwhelming to try to tell our true history since that would take a book (which I am writing). Also there was just so much that it’s hard to remember it all. I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out, but just wanted to at least protest the series, which will be considered accurate as our/my history, unless we speak out. For instance, there are a large Bay Area Lesbian of Color communities and sub-communities based on race and nationalities, like Gente. Many Euro-descent Lesbians still don’t know about the NIA Collective, created by and for Lesbians of African descent, begun in|1987.

1970 and afterward was an incredibly dynamic and exciting time. At first, our events, were usually in the large cheap rundown houses where Lesbians rented rooms and had collectives, and also in rented or donated spaces. (Few Lesbians owned houses, though that changed when there was a massive influx of ex-wives coming out who had money and property from their het marriages.

Everything was assumed to be women only, so we no longer had to deal with men perving on us or man-splaining to us. We had concerts, poetry readings, dances, parties, and then there were women’s coffee houses, like the Full Moon café and Artemis café in SF, and bookstores, like Old Wives Tales in SF, A Woman’s Place, in Oakland, and later Mama Bears in Oakland, and Bodacia’s in Kensington.

There had always been Lesbian bars in the Bay Area, but there were more after Lesbian Feminism (like Ollie’s and the Bacchanal) that had Lesbian Feminist concerts, dances and plays. Where now Lesbians go to a gym, Lesbians then often went to women’s martial arts dojos and self defense schools. (I taught self defense for ten years.)  All we accomplished is gone now. Even the bars that existed before Lesbian Feminism are gone. And no, it’s not because we don’t still need a community, as some say. We need community spaces more than ever. I’ve heard Lesbians talk about how important “inclusivity” is, yet don’t see rich gay men expected to share their resources.

It was incredible to be in predominately Lesbian women only spaces. It is just not the same when men are present, even when they aren’t leering and groping as they do now. (For years, men claiming to be Lesbians have in particular targeted anything defined as “women only” or “Lesbian.”)

In 1972, some of us organized one of the first Lesbian Feminist conferences in the world in Berkeley. We had several Feminist newspapers in the Bay Area, and in 1973, I co-wrote and published Dykes and Gorgons, a Dyke Separatist newspaper. I also drew the cover. (The reference to “East Bay Queers” was about a Lesbian Feminist t-shirt that had Lesbian symbols and said “East Bay Queers,” and was not a reference to the way “queer” is used now as a trendy term meaning anyone.)

We also had publications that were appearing all over the US, including the books printed by the Women’s Press Collective, like “Lesbians Speak Out,” published in 1974, which had photos by and of our local Lesbians and friends.

In 1980, the first Black Lesbian Conference began in San Francisco with nearly 200 Lesbians. (The Black Lesbian Caucus was created as an offshoot of the Gay Liberation Front in 1971, and later took the name of the Salsa Soul Sisters, Third World Wimmin Inc. Collective, which was the first “out” organization for Lesbians and Women of Color in New York. The Sisters are now known as African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change, and is the oldest black lesbian organization in the United States.)

One of the only ongoing Lesbian only organizations that ever existed in the Bay Area was the NIA Collective, which was created by and for Lesbians of African descent in 1987, “HELPING TO EMPOWER LESBIANS OF AFRICAN DESCENT.”

And the music!  We had strong political Lesbian Feminist and even Lesbian Separatist music, albums and concerts. If you ask most Lesbians about what they think of as “Women’s Music,” they will name the later bland music with lyrics that could mean anything or nothing, that many of us remember as being what was the beginning of the loss of our Lesbian-identified culture. This diluted “women’s music” was career-focused and drew more privileged Lesbians who were closeted, so they could bring their families and het friends and not have to worry they would be offended by our culture or even have to hear the word “Lesbian.”  Similarly, collectives morphed into organization with Boards of Directors and hierarchies, with the goal being to get money and status rather than build community.

We had had wonderful music that proudly said “Lesbian” and talked about our real lives. The Berkeley Women’s Music Collective (Susann P Shanbaum; Debbie Lempke; Nancy Henderson; Nancy Vogl; Janet Lampert; Bonnie Lockhart) might sound dated because they didn’t have money to make more professional recordings, but in retrospect, the lyrics and politics are amazing. “Thorazine,” by Suzanne Shanbaum, described a Lesbian girl incarcerated and drugged in mental hospitals by her parents (as many in our community had experienced). “Janet’s Song” was about being discovered with her lover by her parents and disowned. “The Fury” was about being oppressed as a woman and Lesbian, and how her she uses her anger to fight back. I still haven’t heard another feminist song like Bonnie’s “Class Mobility.” (Bonnie joined for their second album.)

Mary Watkins made Something Moving, an album of her instrumental music. (The cover is from the Lesbian-owned Brick Hut Café.)

There was also the fantastic dance band, BeBe K’Roche, formed in Berkeley by Jake Lampert, Pamela “Tiik” Pollet, Peggy Mitchell, and Virginia Rubino in 1973. There were Lesbians and bands who never were able to record, which is a terrible loss. Some who did record, like S’irani Avedis, left out their most powerful and threatening Radical Lesbian Feminist songs.

Later, there were public organizations supposedly for Lesbians, like the National Center for Lesbian Rights in SF, which actually betrays Lesbians on behalf of men pretending to be Lesbians. The Lyon-Martin clinic for Lesbians in SF is now advertising as being for “HIV, Transgender Health Services, Gynecologic Care, Mental Health,” in that order. The Berkeley Women’s Health Collective became the Berkeley Women’s Health Center (for profit) and now is the Berkeley Women and Men’s Health Center.

Though our community was very separate from gay men, I do know some of their history, such as that gay men have many things Lesbians never did, like an entire neighborhood (the Castro), countless businesses, clubs, bars, cafés, restaurants, etc. around the Bay Area. As surviving here became too expensive for many Lesbians, gay men seemed to be doing fine.

I just wanted to be with Lesbians but did read the free Bay Times newspaper, which was one of the only ways to find out about upcoming Lesbian events. That meant wading through pages of gay male porn, male sado-masochism, and male prostitution ads. I also remember one gay male pool party where they advertised that Lesbians were not welcome because they said we were too “dirty.” Never once, in spite of all their privilege and resources, did I see any outreach from gay men to Lesbians – until they asked for our blood (literally) and other help, even as dying Lesbians were kicked out of the Shanti Project (previously for dying Lesbians and gay men.)

For years, there was just one Lesbian and Gay Parade, and it was possible for Lesbians to just start marching with signs, without having to pay, unlike now, where the “LBGTQI” parade is corporate and expensive. (Meanwhile, the “North American Man-Boy Love Association” marched for years with a huge banner, which is another reason we were not in a community with gay men.)

And there was no “T” anywhere on banners, signs, etc.

Every Lesbian portrayed in the series who I know or knew personally is portrayed insultingly, including Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, Pat Norman, Sally Gearhart, etc. And so many Lesbians who helped create our community aren’t mentioned at all. One way to see what they really are or were like is, and is an essential antidote to the lies about our community, is to watch the video “No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon” by JEB (Joan E. Biren.)  Phyllis and Del did so much to create our Bay Area Lesbian community. The video includes Del’s famous public letter published now in 1970, and almost impossible to find online, “Farewell to the Gay Men,” explaining why she can’t work with them any more due to their sexism and Lesbian-hating — and Lesbian-erasure, like the mini-series, almost fifty years later.

Below is the video and other links and photos and some of the work of Bay Area Lesbians who transformed our lives and helped create our community. They must never be forgotten. It’s a travesty that such a heavily-funded, mainstream “history” just erases or lies about them. Keep spreading the word. Know that there are so many more Lesbians and stories I didn’t include. We need more books that tell the truth.

We have lost our women only and rare Lesbian-only spaces, but continue to meet as Lesbians always have, gathering in public places, but as a community still. They cannot stop us.

Our Lesbian Feminist movement and culture in the Bay Area was influenced by and still influences Lesbian Feminists and communities across the world. We continue, with far less resources than before, but with far greater numbers, in so many countries, and in spite of other lies, all ages.

More of my personal and local RLF history is at my blog: https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/

 

Some of Del’s history:

— 1921 – Born on May 5 in San Francisco

— 1950 – Met the love of her life, Phyllis Lyon

— 1955 – Co-founded groundbreaking lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daughters_of_Bilitis

— 1960 – Took over as editor of the Ladder, a monthly lesbian magazine

— 1964 – Helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, formed to overturn laws that criminalized homosexual behavior

— 1972 – Co-wrote with Lyon the book “Lesbian/Woman”

— 1972 – Co-founded with Lyon the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the first gay political club in the United States

— 1976 – Published the book “Battered Wives,” which focused on domestic violence

— 1976 – Appointed chairwoman of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women

— 1995 – Served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging

— 2004 – Wed Lyon in the first of about 4,000 same-sex weddings sanctioned by San Francisco but later ruled invalid by the California Supreme Court

— 2008 – On June 16, married Lyon again, this time with the blessing of the state Supreme Court, which found the state ban on same-sex marriage illegal.

For further information about Lesbian history, there is Myriam Fougère’s film,   LESBIANA—A PARALLEL REVOLUTION/LESBIANA—UNE RÉVOLUTION PARALLÈLLE, which shows many Lesbian Separatists, including at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. (Though it doesn’t include our West Coast communities, it’s still a wonderful history and conveys the spirit of what we had, which is even more important, now that after forty years, MichFest is gone.)

There also are books that are autobiographies about our community, like Judy Grahn’s “A Simple Revolution.” http://judygrahn.org/book/a-simple-revolution/

And Patricia Lee Jackson’s “It Takes an Uprising.” http://takesanuprising.com/

The video of Pat Parker and Judy Grahn’s record of their poetry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Parker

THREE POEMS BY PAT PARKER

WORK BY A RENOWNED AND REVERED LESBIAN-FEMINIST POET

In her writing, Pat Parker developed a fully authentic and revolutionary voice grounded in her experiences growing up Black and female in south Texas of the 1940s, and coming out as a lesbian in California of the late 1960s. The power of her poetry was profoundly fueled by three murders that directly impacted her life. Of course, all the usual harassments, injuries, insults, deprivations, exotifications and objectifications—heaped on Black women especially—came her way. The terror of being publicly gay, of losing community support as a person of color, of being misunderstood by her parents, also came her way. But I would say the murders pushed her over some edge of motivation to either withdraw completely or go to the front of the line with a big bad sword in hand and lead a revolution. This latter is what she did.

–Judy Grahn

Pat Parker:

In English Lit., they told me

Kafka was good because he created

the best nightmares ever –

I think I should go find that professor

& ask why we didn’t study the S.F. Police Dept.

 

For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend

The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.

Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.

You should be able to dig Aretha,

but don’t play her every time i come over.

And if you decide to play Beethoven – don’t tell me

his life story. They made us take music appreciation too.

Eat soul food if you like it,

but don’t expect me to locate your restaurants

or cook it for you.

And if some Black person insults you,

mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you,

rips your house, or is just being an ass –

please, do not apologize to me

for wanting to do them bodily harm.

It makes me wonder if you’re foolish.

And even if you really believe Blacks are better lovers than

whites – don’t tell me. I start thinking of charging stud fees.

In other words – if you really want to be my friend – don’t

make a labor of it. I’m lazy. Remember.

The documentary, Last Call at Maud’s, shows one of our favorite bars. The owner, Ricky Streicher, had another very popular bar called Amelia’s. Every year, during the time of the Dyke March, the current bar owners, though it’s now called Finnegan’s Wake, commemorate Maud’s, and the owners of the bar where Amelia’s was, put up a the “Amelia’s” sign so Lesbians marching past can see it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107366/

B.J. Maillette, who was the Butch who created our women-only self defense and JuJitsu Dojo:

http://www.ajjf.org/remembering-betty-jane-maillette/

38 Responses to “Defending Our Lesbian Lives and History from Male Erasure”

  1. silverside Says:

    Excellent post. Can’t wait to see that book! Years ago, I had a lover who was a early member of DOB in NY. She must be in her late 70s by now. Even in the 80s, when we were together, she was pointing out the errors, obfuscations, and distortions appearing in the first “gay” history books. I encouraged her, as I have encouraged many friends who played pivotal roles, to write, write, write. Otherwise your memories and knowledge die with you!

  2. Mortadella Says:

    This is really great and should be mainstream knowledge. Gallus, you’re an invaluable resource.

  3. Bob Doublin Says:

    Thank you Bev Jo for this great essay. What you have written is so true and very important. We really need to keep it from being erased or buried in the “official” narrative.


  4. Wow, I learned a lot of history in this one post. My sister is in middle school and she told me that one of her classmates- who comes from a moderately religious family- explained to my sister that she’s cool with gay men but not lesbians. That’s not by accident. I wouldn’t be surprised if she represents the mindset of most of the general public. L is the first letter in the LGBT yet the least acknowledged and represented.

    • Bev Jo Says:

      I agree. We so need to extricate for so many reasons. The media makes gay men appear lovable too while ignores Lesbians, presents us as all really bisexual, or as grotesque caricatures.

  5. hearthrising Says:

    Thanks Bev for telling your story. It was once axiomatic in the feminist movement that women tell their stories, and somehow it got diverted into deferring to other (male) stories and narratives. For lesbians (and gay men) the need to speak of experience is imperative due to the 21st century rewrite that centers trans women and vilifies radical lesbian feminists.

    One thing that I notice about lesbian history as it is usually portrayed, even when it’s accurate, is that it’s so urban. There’s a nod to MichFest and that’s all. Anyone here used to read Jean Mountaingrove and her rag? Why is there no mention of all the cuntry dykes and witches?

    • Bev Jo Says:

      This is urban because it’s about the SF Bay Area specifically since it’s a response to and review of that mini-series about the Bay Area.

      I didn’t even begin to list what else is or was in this one urban area because there is so much.

      The country Dykes were not here. Witches always were and are, but again, there is only so much space to tell the stories. MichFest is part of all of us, and Lisa is here also, continuing community.

      And for me, a Dyke Separatist since 1972, I want to dispel the myth that we are privileged and live in the country. I never have and never will unless something very unusual happens.

  6. Margie Says:

    I have it on my “to do” list to watch it but I haven’t felt any eagerness to start. Tbh, I really don’t care if they change a few details here and there for dramatic purposes, for example if they take a slogan that was uttered at Stonewall and transplant it to San Francisco. What put me off was the trailer, which came off as dreary propaganda, with the characters all looking so very noble, uttering political sermons and speaking in cliches. It reminded me of those really awful movies that Christian production companies put out. They tend to be terrible because the characters and plot are subordinated to the religious message. In those films, characters and compelling drama are less important than using the movie to preach to the audience about the Gospel. I picked up the same vibe from the When We Rise trailer. Hopefully, the full 8 hours will be better than that.

    I didn’t hear of any protest from trans activists about this production, so I assume that it shows trans activists in a 100% positive light and depicts “LGBT” as a legitimate concept. I’m still floored by last year’s protest of “Stonewall” on the grounds that it didn’t depict a Stonewall as a riot of “transwomen” (when in fact there were only a tiny number of trans people present, perhaps as few as 2 people).

    • Bev Jo Says:

      The trans will not complain because they have a main character and are showcased. It’s ONLY about “LGBT” with a disparaging reference to “separatists,” ignoring that though most Lesbian Feminists at the time weren’t Separatists, our entire community was built on Separatist principles of women only space.

      I’d thought there were drag queens but not trans at Stonewall.

      Just to be clear, I do not believe in “trans” any more than I believe Rachel Dolezal is Black or should claim to be, let alone have gotten into a paid position of power as a “Black” woman. Women and Lesbians count for so little so of course men can say they are us. More people balk at the “trans-paraplegic” or the “trans-dragon,” but none of it is real.

      Women who refuse male-identified femininity are still solidly women. Some are Butch, but most are not. The trans cult’s hatred and erasure of Butches is clear proof of how much they do not care about any woman who refuses to be “feminine” by male rules.

      I DO care about that series changing our history. The Lavender Menace protest was important, planned and public, and I’m sure some of the Lesbians involved paid for that courage. We even know some of them. So how does it not matter to say they didn’t exist or they were in a different part of the country two years after their protest? Not to mention the two years between 1970 to 1972 was significant then.

      The filmmakers took and distorted that history of Lesbians, individuals and the NYC community simply to use it to add credence to Roma Guy supposedly being such a strong Lesbian Feminist political activist, which then legitimizes her later betrayals of our community. But she was not that leader at all. I’d never even heard of her or had my friends who were here then and still are here.

      Yes, it is very much like a long sermon or xtian film. I hadn’t thought of that with the trite propaganda, but it’s true.

  7. Medi Says:

    This is an excellent article, and lesbian history, from the women who were actually there is essential. Most of the stuff out there is pretty much a lie about lesbian communities in America. The When We Rise docudrama just didn’t ring true, nor did it even talk about lesbian communities in the Bay Area, which in the 70s and a good part of the 80s had nothing to do with gay men. We were too busy running bookstores, rap groups, bars, cafes, and doing women’s music. Lesbian authors and poets had loads of events, and it was a vibrant powerful world. When We Rise made the entire movement for lesbian feminism look boring and hetero normative. So thanks for telling the story and putting to rest the stereotypes that separatists only lived in the country and ate granola–separatism sprang up in many places all over the world, it was very urban.

    • Bev Jo Says:

      Thank you so much. It’s been an ongoing battle for over 40 years to counter the lies and myths about Lesbian Separatism, but the worst is that we are privileged and live in the country. No, we are not privileged and we are everywhere.

      The food issue is crucial too because we are also assumed, along with Lesbian Feminists in general, to be vegan or vegetarianism. I have been insulted, yelled at, and threatened for refusing to be vegetarian or vegan. (And that does not mean I don’t care about animals, as anyone who knows me knows. We all need to eat, plants think and feel too, and we should pick the least harmful and toxic ways of eating, but we are omnivore animals.) Now over 40 years later the result of this being believed to be healthier has meant making smaller and weaker women, so much so that some of us can identify a vegan woman by sight. It’s like a male plot since it’s primarily women who starve themselves for many reasons.

      Besides the health effects, there also has been then mental health effects of inadequate nutrition, including and especially healthy saturated fat. I know so many women seriously disabled as a result.

      • Leo Says:

        I’m not going to yell at you or insult you and don’t agree with them doing that, but would like to ask that you be realistic – plants do not have a brain and central nervous system, and in any case most crops grown are fed to farmed animals, so a vegan diet uses less plants. All the other vegan women I saw at the festival last week looked perfectly healthy (I don’t, because I’m not, but I wasn’t before I went vegan or vegetarian – being vegan isn’t a miracle cure), including those at the feminist bookstore. There are bodybuilder vegan women, and athletes, here’s one and the site shows more:
        http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=bio_klotz

        There’s very few vegans still (about 1%), even if it’s increasing now, it’s just not widespread enough to have any noticeable impact on the size of women, even if there was any reason to think it would. I’d guess it’s more that women are now under even more pressure to be very slim.

        Thank you very much for your detailed recollections, the history can best be described by those who were there. I enjoyed the photographs also, recalls what the atmosphere might have been like, and will take a look at the videos in a bit.

  8. Medi Says:

    I agree that no lesbians I knew ever consented to be lumped into the LGBT, and also, gay men hated lesbians, really really hated lesbians and were always making fun of us. They were a waste of time. But all of this gets swept under the carpet, and very few historians have the courage to get the story right. Bev was there, Dykes and Gorgons was way ahead of its time, and is often erased by lesbian academics today. Dell Martin was a caricature in the TV series, hardly had a speaking role at all. Cleve Jones is not a saint, he is a very aggressive entitled male supremacist who is totally full of himself. I wouldn’t trust him to report on anything lesbian at all.

  9. raksha38 Says:

    Fantastic post! This history is so painful and beautiful at the same time and it’s shameful how it gets obfuscated or completely buried.

    At least there’s a small silver lining in that ‘When We Rise’ was a spectacular flop in the ratings, even with an extremely popular lead-in show the network put in front of it in a desperate attempt to salvage viewership. We should really start a lesbian write-in campaign to tell the network why we refused to tune in.

    • Bev Jo Says:

      A write-in campaign is a great idea. The series really was a disaster after a good start, and the real death-knell was how incredibly boring and pompous it was.

  10. Medi Says:

    I never heard of Roma Guy the whole time I lived in the Bay Area from the 80s to the 90s. No lesbians I hung out with ever mentioned her name. I heard at lot about Pat Norman, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, Sally Gearhart, to name a few powerful women activists. So I was surprised that they created such a central role for her. We were very much a part of the cafe and bookstore culture, read the lesbian magazines, read Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel— the musical based on Bechdel’s life is very powerful, and won a Tony for best musical, the first time ever for lesbian characters. Judy Grahn, Gloria Anzaldua, Z. Budapest to name lesbian activists back in the day…. To completely leave out the entire powerful lesbian communities of Valencia Street, and the East Bay was telling. But again, you do not want gay men ever in charge of creating our history, we need loads of lesbian films to do that. I highly recommend “Lesbiana A Parallel Revolution as one of THE BEST films about lesbian separatist and feminist communities of the 70s. Oh and Pat Bond and so many other powerful women.

    • GallusMag Says:

      Barbara Gittings. How can they discuss the gay rights movement without Barbara fucking Gittings?!

      • Bev Jo Says:

        You are so right, Gallus Mag. I knew we had to rush to post here so didn’t begin to locate what other videos and info there were. In particular, I didn’t know much about DOB and the Ladder because when I was 19 and found our Lesbian Feminist community, DOB was being invaded by Elliott Mattiuzzi (“Beth Elliott”) who had stalked me into our community. He split them and it ended. That was the first trans crime of erasing us that I know of. I think he knew the newer Lesbian Feminist community would not tolerate a man posing as a Lesbian, but Lesbians in DOB were of course feeling supportive of anyone claiming to be oppressed. And, like so much else, it was changing.

        There must be so much more than can be found, but yes, we all owe Barbara Gittings so much!!!

      • GallusMag Says:

        I know you know, Bev. I’m talking about this stupid miniseries. The first thing I did when I heard about it was look to see who was playing Gittings. Answer: No one! She’s not even in it.

        I’ve never even heard of Roma Guy.

        I will probably not be watching this.

        I remember sitting in a theatre watching Harvey Milk surrounded by virtue signaling lefty straight people, many of whom I knew. It was a very strange feeling. The film was so preachy and boring and fake. Of course Harvey Milk was made out to be a saint, not a guy who specialized in having sex with teenage runaways. Ha!

        I really like John Scagliotti’s ‘After Stonewall’ documentary. It has all real footage and is unbelievably moving. Lots of Gittings in that one!

    • Bev Jo Says:

      I did recommend Lesbiana in my post, but otherwise tried to just talk about local Lesbian history of the SF Bay Area.

      I do not recommend Alison Bechdel ever, because, though she’s got quite the career now, she has been so harmful to Lesbians with her Dykes to Watch Out for cartoons and books. She would NOT ever draw a Butch character but did draw semen dripping from a condom (the story line was that “Sparrow,” a Lesbian in her group household got a boyfriend and moved him in. When her Lesbian housemates complained about the dripping condoms in the wastebasket, they were reprimanded over their tampons being in the wastebaskets. Not to mention why make such a horrible character be Asian?) Bechedel pushed and normalized, under pain of ridicule to those objecting, Lesbians going het and bringing their men into Lesbian households.

      She also created “Lois,” her genderqueer character who really promoted trans, dildos, and sado-masochism. (This is the character many thought was Butch. No, very feminine with the classic buzz cut.) Bechdel’s work was syndicated in most Lesbian publications which really spread the propaganda.

      And Bechdel also promoted “Lesbians” getting pregnant in ongoing story lines, which included showing us a boy pissing on a Lesbian, but again she would not draw a Butch. Again, not fair she made this couple be one African-descent and one Latina, making it more risky for any Lesbian to protest the propaganda, though Bechdel made them up.

      Recently, a friend sent an earlier cartoon she did with a Butch, so she does know what Butches look like, but made sure none appeared in her work supposedly representing all kinds of Lesbians over decades. What irony when she is the famous “Bechdel test” of women portrayed in films.

      Our history is not just about erasure, but who has harmed us with Lesbian-hating propaganda.

      • GallusMag Says:

        My take on Bechdel is that we’re all a product of our times, and a lot of what she did was cover trends in the lesbian subculture over a decade of work. Her column was always considered a bit “soccer dyke” in my circle, but I know women (soccer dykes, haha!) who adored it and looked for it every week.

        She’s done some pro-butch stuff since. Love ‘Ring of Keys’.

        (Full disclosure- I’ve met her and she is super sweet.)

      • Bev Jo Says:

        That’s good to know, Gallus Mag. Before she got even worse, I did try to talk to her at Michigan in about 1989, very tentatively, and she glared at me and asked if I had an “agenda.” It’s good if she’s changed.

        I know what you mean about the times, but I hadn’t seen it that bad yet and thought she had major influence on our communities.

        Great about the “soccer dykes!”


  11. This made me tear up. Thank you for writing this. I am not a lesbian, but I am a woman. I didn’t know this history. I wish *all* women could know this history, of all the things we can do without men needing to be any part of it at all.

  12. Medi Says:

    yes cultruallyboundgender– lesbians created vibrant powerful communities all over the world. We created the music festivals across the country, whole industries owned and operated by lesbians, and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival went on for 40 years, the inspiration of lesbians, and all women were welcome. At its height 10,000 women gathered in the woods of Michigan, built and entire music stage, managed all the food and logistics, 70-75% of these women were lesbians. 10,000 women setting up a festival and there were NO MEN involved at all, no men playing on stage, no men backstage. The entire event lasted a week, and was totally cleaned up with not one bit of litter left on the land when it was all done. Lesbian power and innovation fueled a huge women’s liberation movement, publishing houses, political ideology, theology, conferences, communities, all of it powerful and separatist or woman centered. We did this.

  13. Mark F. Says:

    There is not one lesbian bar left in the Bay Area, as far as I know. Not a one. Anti-discrimination laws would preclude them from barring men anyway, unless they were set up as a private membership club.

    • Bev Jo Says:

      I don’t know of any either. I know of two now that are Lesbian-owned and they occasionally have Lesbian or women’s bands play.. One is mostly genderqueer, but the other is newer and was literally painful the last time I went — with being bashed into by the het men and their girlfriends (when did dancing with heavy purses become so popular, so anyone near them gets hit hard?) At one point, the women pushed us out of the way to bring their men close to the stage. I’m guessing they are trying to stay alive as a bar, but we also were subjected to one of the white men working there forcing the audience to have to hear him do a rap “song.” I still am mystified about what that was about.

      None of the old bars I knew of kept men out except for the Jubilee in Hayward, where you would knock on the door and they would check you out through a peephole before allowing you in. I’d heard that a man had shot one of the Lesbians who was an owner or worked there, so maybe that meant legally they were allowed to restrict who could come inside. It was in the late Seventies. I loved that bar. It seemed to be Black Lesbian owned, but I’m not sure.

  14. lilith1022 Says:

    Thank-you so much for this important post, this slice of a powerful time in women’s history, Bev Jo, and to Gallus Mag making it available here.

    I am not a lesbian, but all my best mentors in college and grad school were (back when it was WOMEN’S studies, not “Gender” studies.) To a woman, they went out of their way to nurture female talent and educate us on our history. Through them I learned just how crucial a role lesbians have played in improving the lot of women. Every woman owes lesbians, who have always been at the forefront of women’s liberation movements, a debt of gratitude.

    Bev Jo, I hope you are taking steps to preserve your valuable archive and training some younger women so this history survives the current dark age of transmania.

  15. Bev Jo Says:

    Thank you so much. I don’t have an archive. I live with two others in a tiny one bedroom house where we don’t have enough room for basics. What you’re talking about takes money, which I don’t have. It would be nice to do it, but how?

    How about others help with this? But not to come in as some have done and spread more of the misinformation, but to actually record the true histories?

  16. Hmm Says:

    This is so interesting.
    I live in the 2nd most gay friendly city in the US, and
    I’ve ALWAYS thought quietly to myself that the “gay” neighborhoods are really just gay male (often white) neighborhoods. I almost never see any gay women in this city, ever, at least not doing anything that would identify them as gay, as I do with gay men, whom I see and recognize as gay on a daily basis.
    It’s very isolating. Esp. if you work in a male dominated profession and dont meet a lot of women–the amount of energy I’d have to expend to find other gay women is just monumental, I usually don’t bother. I can’t imagine ever having the kind of community you are describing here. And I’m a person who was born and raised in a city most people would describe as “Oz” for gay people–it’s not. It’s just for gay men.
    Same with “gay” publications, the advocate, etc. I remember looking at an issue once (and only once, never looked at it again) and every single article was about gay (mostly white) men, with one article about lesbians that was something like, why do they start living together a week after meeting each other? Why are they so full of drama and PMS? It’s so obviously from a male perspective–that’s not what I’ve observed, and I certainly have never moved in with some chick after dating her for a week.
    I don’t seek out “lesbian” community and thus the most exposure I have to any kind of female gay visibility, on a daily basis, is all the crap and misinformation in the media, like some idiot actress who needs attention and makes a proclamation about how she’s “bisexual” and it’s really important for her to tell everyone that she loves fucking women, although she’s married to a guy now. (no offense to actual bi people out there, but there are so many “bisexual for the attention” people/women that I am just sick to death of hearing from them, and REALLY sick to death of them getting lumped together with lesbians.) I want a distinct culture separate from bi, separate from Riotgrrrl genderqueer whatever, all that crap. It doesn’t seem to exist, anywhere.
    It’s interesting to read that it used to exist–I didn’t realize.

    • Bev Jo Says:

      We’ve never had Lesbian neighborhoods. That takes money that most Lesbians never have. But we still did and do make community.

      The best way to find each other is to be out and visible as Lesbians — and not gay or queer or genderqueer, etc. Calling women “chicks” is likely to put off even non-feminist Lesbians though.

      I’m guessing there are a lot of Lesbians in your area, but you probably need to figure out where to find them. Here, there are email lists and meetup groups and other ways, but first you have to know about them. Once you do, it should be easy, though there are probably different sub-communities like here.

      You’re right that it’s trendy to be publicly bisexual, but don’t worry about offending women who make that choice. They clearly don’t need to do that. If they want to be with men, leave Lesbians alone. If they want to have access to Lesbians, then leave the men or they are endangering us. And yes, it’s insulting to include Lesbians with women who are also choosing men.

      We do still have a distinct Lesbian culture. And we are everywhere. It’s not what it once was, but still vibrant. In this area, if I want to go to Lesbian-organized events, I can do it every day, though it often is in public spaces like parks, cafes, restaurants, bars, etc.

      For some of us, Lesbians are our lives….

  17. k.jane Says:

    Thank you for this! I did not know about all of this. This expression that “history is written by the winners” is very relevant in this case. Plus, the program just seems lazy, like the people who wrote it couldn’t be bothered to do proper research despite having the means to do so. Not surprised that they tried to portray lesbian feminists and separate lesbian feminists as “annoying” to discredit them.

    I would say be especially cautious of anything that claims to be about lesbian history, especially if it portrays lesbians and gay men as BFFs during the 1970s and especially if it using post-modernist double-speak!

    • Bev Jo Says:

      Thank you too! You are so right to warn everyone to be wary.

      It’s ironical that most gay men in the Bay Area wanted nothing to do with Lesbians and would say so publicly. But now it suits them to pretend the opposite is true. And then in this series, the men claiming to be Lesbians are promoted too. Even more so when they ridicule Lesbians who object to men coming to our meetings as if we weren’t still were dealing with men coming to our bars and events to threaten and attack us. What’s also ignored with the blurring of lines is that some of those very men who stalked us soon claimed to be Lesbians.

      The gay men who did this series undermine us on so many levels. Didn’t they get enough with so much support including Lesbian blood? Why not tell the truth or say that they aren’t including Lesbian history at all? But that would put an end to the “LBGTQ” myth.

  18. Bev Jo Says:

    Reblogged this on Bev Jo — Radical Lesbian Feminist writing and commented:
    Thanks to Gallus Mag, our champion in defending Lesbian and female identity and history


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