Lesbianism & Feminism: Synonyms or Contradictions?
Np: Sisterhood Books, nd. (1973). 5 tall foolscap sheets, duplicated, printed recto and verso (9pp.).
A British publication printing Robin Morgan’s keynote speech from the West Coast Lesbian Conference held in Los Angeles in April 1973.
Though intended to promote harmony, the conference was quite divisive. Morgan believed that the event had been infiltrated by the Socialist Workers’ Party in an attempt to align gay and lesbian organisations with them, and the fact that Morgan herself was not a lesbian was another source of conflict. In it, she mentions the controversy surrounding Beth Elliott, previously vice-president of the San Francisco chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis and a trans lesbian folk singer who helped create the conference and was asked to perform as a singer in its entertainment programme. When she took to the stage she was opposed by The Gutter Dykes, a lesbian separatist group, and defended by performers Jeanne Cordova, Robin Tyler and Patty Harrison. A vote was taken, and when it came out in her favour she performed, briefly, before leaving.
In Morgan’s speech, amended immediately after the performance, she refers to Elliott as a “gatecrashing... male transvestite” and, using male pronouns, describes her as “an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer - with the mentality of a rapist”. Her views pre-date the gender-critical debate (long before the term was coined) and seem at odds with her calls for a unified feminist movement free from splits and division.
An important text, highlighting the complex and controversial relationships between lesbians, heterosexual women, trans women, the male left and gay men fifty years ago, a terrain as tricky to navigate then as it is now.