“To many young gay people, the passage of Prop 8 was shocking but not alarming,” writes Mark Harris in New York Magazine‘s “The Gay Generation Gap,” published two weeks ago in the magazine’s special Pride Week Section. Harris continues: “It has jolted them into action, but one suspects it’s out of a Milk-fed belief that identity-politics activism can be ennobling and cool.”
Ouch! One suspects that one is being unfair to us! One suspects that if we’ve managed to make activism “cool,” then that’s a BIG SCORE! — but wait. Before you get too excited (as we did), there’s no need to be offended ’cause this shit ain’t about you, woman! There are no ladies addressed in Mark Harris’s article, or actually at all in the Gay Pride section of this issue. To be fair, the issue is dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the first time gays fought back with a vengence), and Stonewall was a gay men’s “Inn” frequented by only a handful of women. But as we seem encouraged to think of Stonewall as the turning point for the whole GL(and later, BTQ) movement, the lesbian exclusion from this article is not necessarily unfair, but certainly somewhat salty and definitely worth noting.
I mean, back in 1969, few women had the economic mobility or free time (what with our socially mandated husbands & children and such) to support/frequent a place like Stonewall (like many gay bars at the time, however, Stonewall was actually owned and protected by the Mafia). Furthermore, women were then (as they are now) often financially codependent on their husbands or locked in to child caretaking and simply unable to duck out to the bar. Alternatively, perhaps the intimacy of female friendships offered more space to sneak under the radar with secret affairs moreso than men could.
So I don’t say this to diminish the plight of gay men who face, and have faced, their own incredible obstacles to freedom, I say this to make clear that yes, Stonewall was our fight too: we weren’t absent ’cause it wasn’t our fight. We were absent because we were oppressed by the motherfrackin’ patriarchy, which makes it extra depressing to be kicked out of this freakin’ article. Srsly, The Equal Rights Amendment didn’t even pass through congress until 1972. In 1976, Nebraska became the first state to make it illegal for a man to rape his wife.
“Gay power! Isn’t that great!… It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves. You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago”. (Allen Ginsberg, 1971)
But surely if we’re lumped in [read: lightly placated] with gay men by allegedly inclusive magazines, TV channels, advertisers and [much to our COO’s display] marketing reports, we could’ve gotten our standard two or three lines in this article? Where was Ariel Levy, the only lesbian journalist in the world? [Oh! Norah Vincent! I forgot!] Lesbians have felt shafted by the gay rights movement and the feminist movement since both groups began moving at all and because we at Autostraddle (perhaps naively) believe it doesn’t have to be that way, and there are at least 40 people reading this who might care, we decided to ask ourselves: Is there a Lesbian Generation Gap?
First, you should read Harris’s article, in which many things happen including his litany of the most unfair accusations hurled between the youngsters and the oldies: the young ones are “shallow,” “silly,” they “reek of entitlement,” are “sexually careless” and “haven’t had to work for anything and therefore aren’t interested in anything that takes work” and the old ones “gas on about AIDS the way our parents or grandparents couldn’t stop talking about World War II,” and are “grim, prim, strident, self-ghettoizing, doctrinaire bores who think that if you’re not gloomy, you’re not worth taking seriously.”
If young gay men are ignorant about the AIDS crisis, are young gay women ignorant about the Lavender Menace or the Lesbian Sex Wars or the Suicidal/Homicidal Lesbian Archetype or Compulsory Heterosexuality or really exactly how recently feminism opened up a number of doors? Or anything? Are we too ignorant to write this?
Within the incredibly limited age rage of Team Autostraddle (early to late 20s), our experiences growing up vary dramatically mostly due to the proliferation of the internet and the great achievements of our lord mother Ellen DeGeneres. JK. Anyhow, when it comes to this kind of stuff I think the Team is mostly in the same generation.
Anyhow, today we also bring not one, not two, but THREE SPECIAL GUEST ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS:
1. Rising Star and BFFOA (Best Friend Forev of Autostraddle) Haviland Stillwell, once quoted as describing her “type” as “whomever’s on the cover of More magazine.”
2. FOA (Friend of Autostraddle) Grace Chu who you know as lovable blogger Grace The Spot and smash hit blogger at number one lesbian website AfterEllen.com.
3. MOR (Mother of Riese), otherwise known as Riese’s Mom, who is 24 years older than Riese because that’s when she birthed Riese, and is therefore speaking from the other side of the generational divide … if there is one!!!
Here we go!
My first number one feeling about this article was duh. Is there a generation gap between people over the age of 50 and people under the age of 50? Um, of course there is. As I read further, I realized that my second number one feeling was, does Mark Harris actually know anyone in the 18 – 35 bracket? Because there are quite a few sweeping generalizations in this article, as well as one very notable omission, that lead me to believe he might need my input.
For the most part, younger generations will always think they knew The Answer—being naive and full of big plans and ideas and ANSWERS is how we validate this mountain of new responsibilities we’ve suddenly been handed. We must have the answers because, after all, we’re in charge of our own rent, bank account, career, debt, relationships—surely we know what we’re doing, right? Actually, I’d say we’re running on 50% naive optimism and 50% gripping fear. But, hey, whatever works.
While Harris waxes nostalgic over a secret gay language that’s dying off and a lack of staged protests, I’d like to tell him what really infuriates me about the gay community at large: the fact that practically every article about gays is an article primarily about MEN. The fact that almost every major and minor gay publication is written for and by MEN, wherein even the bulk of the advertising is aimed at MEN.
The author’s idea that young gay people aren’t shocked by the political and social injustices that we all face is ludicrous. Prop 8 was one of the most shocking things, politically speaking, that I’ve ever seen. We weren’t “jolted into action by a Milk-fed belief that identity politics activism can be ennobling and cool,” but because this is our future we’re talking about. We want exactly what you want, Mark: equal rights. Maybe we’re not screaming with homemade signs in our hands, but we are fighting.
Harris also makes the generalization that young gays are uninterested in the history of the gay rights movement. This statement is so insulting and presumptuous, I’m struggling to validate it with a response. You’re wrong, Mark.
With regard to the article’s glaring omission of every gay woman on the planet: what the hell? There wasn’t even a mention of the fact that he wasn’t going to mention us. I can understand if the author feels he doesn’t have much insight into the lesbian world, but I think he could’ve at least stated as much in his piece. Then again, maybe women don’t have as pronounced of a divide between us as men do. Speaking for myself, I’m always looking to older generations for inspiration, knowledge and friendship.
While Harris waxes nostalgic over a secret gay language that’s dying off and a lack of staged protests, I’d like to tell him what really infuriates me about the gay community at large: the gender gap. The fact that practically every article about gays is an article primarily about MEN. The fact that almost every major and minor gay publication is written for and by MEN, wherein even the bulk of the advertising is aimed at MEN. The fact that gay men act as though only they are entilted to outrage and that historical oppression is viewed strictly through a male lens. Harris and his older friends feel invisible to their younger counterparts? We feel invisible to EVERYONE.
Play him off, Whitney Houston.
After spending a few years working in various fields gay media, I do think that while a generation gap between older gays AND lesbians and their younger counterparts does exist, it is quite varied and complex. I always felt a conflict between the apologetic & careful way some of the older lesbians wanted to present gay conflict. They were afraid to offend and grateful for small changes, and I wanted more! However, I believe that there will always be some generational differences within any society and community and these definitely do not apply to everyone.
I absolutely believe there is a lesbian generation gap, and it widens through lack of understanding and respect. I think it’s in our best interest as a community to do everything we can to narrow that gap.
The first step is to recognize the extraordinary contributions of every queer person who’s been “out” for any extended period of time — just by virtue of the fact that being open about themselves was a helluva lot harder in the past than it is now.
Obvs, there are still problems, but the mere existence of the older generations has given us what freedoms we do have now. No, we don’t have full equal rights, but we do need to understand & appreciate our history and what we do hve.
“We can’t be arrogant; Ellen’s coming out was not the beginning of lesbian culture. There were always lesbians in pop culture, but the only people who knew about it were other lesbians. It was discussed in hushed tones. What we have to do as younger women is to fully respect and appreciate what our “elders” have gone through.”
Thanking those who fought and loved before us does not mean we’re acquiescing to the struggles we still have before us. I encourage everyone to really learn about LGBTQ history. Ignorance on any level is where generations create gaps. If you think about it this way, older women are basically forced to get hip to what we’re doing, because “young” culture is where the energy is focused in mainstream media. It’s inescapable. We can’t be arrogant; Ellen’s coming out was not the beginning of lesbian culture. There were always lesbians in pop culture, but the only people who knew about it were other lesbians. It was discussed in hushed tones. What we have to do as younger women is to fully respect and appreciate what our “elders” have gone through (feminism? finances? the butch/femme requirement? AIDS crisis, anyone? etc…), how their existence has helped us, and really thank them and act reverently towards them.
They, of course, must do the same, but like every therapist will tell you, “you can’t change someone else’s behavior; only your own.” (Yes, I just wrote that.) We still have a long way to go, of course, but the bottom line? We have to support each other, first and foremost, and recognize how truly extraordinary we all are, as individuals, yes, and as a community. Narrow the gap and we’re tremendously stronger.
I felt that this article was hard to follow, my poor brain wasn’t able to fully absorb the author’s point and it’s quite possible that I’ve missed it completely. The idea of the ‘gay’ generation gap confuses me and I’ve made a hundred edits to this paragraph to try to articulate why, but it’s tough. There is definitely a generation gap, but I’m not sure about a lesbian generation gap. I’ve been called a narcissist on occassion, been accused of not understanding or respecting what the older generation has done for me – but never by a lesbian. It’s possible that I just don’t know enough of them. But the ones I do know or have run into have never accused me of not understanding their struggle, or resented me for appearing optimistic at a gay rights rally. If they have then it’s possible that I’ve been too self-involved to have noticed. Kids these days…
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This was incredible. Really. Kudos to you all. I just finished up a little thing on the Lesbian Avengers last night (so this is all fresh in my mind) but the gender gap was the primary impetus in the group’s founding. These smart, powerful, lesbo activists were tired of playing second fiddle to the men who were leading the radical parts of the movement (i.e. ACT UP). Also, this age thing came up in my chat with the current (younger) Avengers. Interesting stuff. I guess I am an “older lesbian” having just turned 40 but I have no judgement directed at those younger than me or older. Every queer person has a different experience and every experience is worthwhile. Every act pushes us forward. Judging and patronizing are traps. We are so much stronger when we have each others’ backs. Now…join hands and sing kumbaya.
This is awesome: “Every queer person has a different experience and every experience is worthwhile. Every act pushes us forward. Judging and patronizing are traps.”
Yeah the one thing i learned in college about lesbians was via the women’s studies classes where we learned how the lesbians tried to ruin everything by trying to make everyone else a lesbian in order to REALLY fight the patriarchy, which was strange to me, and didn’t do much for my little closet. Also, Andrea Dworkin. Blergh to her.
I want Tinkerbell to be a guest on the Chelsea Lately roundtable too. That dog makes some VERY good points.
I’ve also noticed a divide between my gay male vs. lesbian 20-something friends. Generally speaking, it does appear as though my lesbian friends are much more politically inclined (prop 8 rallys, seeking out blogs) where as my gay male friends really don’t take everything to heart as much and are just looking to have a good time.
You will find more republican gay men than lesbians due to stances on taxes, etc. I found that more gay men voted for McCain solely for this reason where as he was not an option for nearly all lesbians I know.
There are exceptions of course, but it seems to be the trend…. I wonder why this is?
I’m loving this site; particularly the balance between high-quality content and unapologetic witty writing.
Also, it’s refreshing to see your (LGBTQ) site constantly link/reference other sites with similar causes.
thanks! we’re totally all about being a community with everyone online with everyone, since ultimately if we have the same goals, we’re absolutely all in it together. so thank you for noticing! and for the kind words. we truly love discussing these issues, as we are all total nerds.
This was really incredible. I’m glad Autostraddle is around, run by frickin’ intelligent women giving us a voice. #swineflu
me too. #swineflu #alternativelifestylehaircut #ichoochoochooseemilychoo
yes yes yes! more like this.
I can’t say that I’ve really felt a generation gap between my queer/feminist friends and myself. Granted, my real life friends are mostly all my age (27) but also mostly straight, but my online friends run the gamut of ages and orientations and I feel like we are pretty much on the same page. But I also fee like in this day and age it’s easier to surround yourself (in any sphere) by like-minded people regardless of age, gender, location, etc. So now I’m talking in circles. What I mean to say is Yes. #alternativelifestylehaircut
Grace- nice BSG reference :)
Definitely a great roundtable. I don’t have much authority on this topic as I don’t yet know very many other gay people in general, but I really thought the idea that the gap was a result of a lack of education was true. I consider myself to be knowledgeable about the history of feminism and women’s lib, but I know very little about lesbian history.
I’ve seen this in my life, in a similar way as the two generations of feminism. I don’t *need* to blend in with mainstream hetero females, but dammit, I love the color pink and eyeshadow, ad nauseam. I want babies and a picket fence, too. The older ladies (both gay and straight) sometimes (but not always) want to crucify me for this.
yeah i feel like anyone who wants freedom should really want freedom. I mean i think that’s all there is to it.
I think people are scared that passing undermines the movement because it doesn’t implicitly enable visibility. But that’s assuming that eyeshadow & a picket fence is chosen in order to pass. I think in the past it often was chosen for that reason. But that’s changing … which ultimately makes the biggest impact of all. Like Grace said, the DOB originally formed with the intent of showing that we’re not all that different underneath it all …
I wish my mom knew Riese’s mom. Then maybe there would be one less gap.
‘Also who killed Dana Fairbanks & Jenny Schecter? Ilene Chaiken, also a lesbian. My point exactly. Don’t kill your own people.’
Ha haaaa, Tinkerbell, you crack me up you do
hello my scottish friend, this is tinkerbell. thank you for the complimentarys, i would never kill or even bite you. fight the power hear littlefoot roar! xoxo-tinkerbell
I hate myself for not knowing more about these subjects. I try and educate myself about LGBTQ history but when I begin I just feel so overwhelmed I give up. However, I could probably draw you an accurate timeline of the Lohan/Ronson relationship (ouch riese, bang on)
I often feel ungrateful at the privilege that was fought for for me and my comparative ignorance about history that that so directly concerns me. My question is, where do I start?
That’s a good question, I guess that’s one of the things we’re trying to uncover the answer to — if there is one — and it can be overwhelming!
some easy places to start, IMHO: The Celluloid Closet (movie) and I actually really enjoyed this book called The Girls Next Door — I haven’t seen it written up anywhere and I think I found it at a used bookstore somewhere. It was written by two editors at Allure who are a couple, and they sort of travel around investigating all areas of lesbian life, like the Lesbian Avengers, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a Unitarian Universalist wedding, hung out with fancy golf pros at Dinah Shore, trailed the first out Seattle city councilwoman. They also interview a ton of people, and have really interesting things to say about gender, and lesbian life and lesbian sex (highlight: Susie Bright interview! She’s a good place to start too, w/r/t the pro-sex feminist camp).
Sidenote I tried to read “Gender Trouble” and my head hurt real bad.
Speaking of LiLo and SamRo, I actually think they’re a legitimately important piece of our history. Changing the world for sure!
ha ha i’m going to read “gender trouble” in the near future and i’m afraid my head will explode, not because it is dense but because i have already read the summaries of said work and its criticisms, and i’m afraid i’m going to be even more annoyed at this stuff than i already am.
(full disclosure: i’m trained in the hard sciences and the law, and i’m a skeptical person in general.)
ok it’s 10:45pm and i have to write my article for tomorrow. gah! poop.
Yo! I’m a little nit-picky about these things, but that’s life. In the intro you mention that the ERA was passed in ’72 and then Riese’s mom points out that in fact it wasn’t…just a heads up! Oh, ERA, wherefore art thou??
This was great, however. I wish schools taught lesbian history just as they teach women’s history. Actually, I wish they taught both as they teach white male history. Maybe, MAYBE in time.
Y’all are awesome.
technically they’re both right. the ERA passed both houses of congress, but it was not ratified by enough states to be added to the constitution. so it passed but was ultimately defeated.
see and now i feel very educated. although now i am reading wikipedia and i am really confused about when, if ever, it actually was added to the constitution. if it never was/is, that would explain a lot.
In order for a constitutional amendment to be added (or removed) the act needs to pass with a 2/3 majority in each house of Congress and then ratified by 3/5 of the state legislatures (38 states). The ERA was passed in both houses of Congress, but only ratified by 35 of the required 38 states. It’s a complicated process, this is why in our 200+ history only 27 amendments have been made to the Constitution (and the first 10 are the bill of rights, and two are the Prohibition and its repeal.
Fun fact–one of the major sticking points that caused ERA to ultimately fail was the refusal of proponents to weaken or remove language regarding women on the front lines of combat. A Vietnam weary nation just didn’t think that was any place for a woman. Kind of interesting since today so many women are on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
haha I suppose this is true. I was taking it very literally.
We can all educate each other! I love the internets for this reason.
I think people used to call me Nicole-e-olee
Since it won’t nest anymore…did they call you Nicoleeolee Guacamole?
Because I get that all the time too.
ha no can’t say I have ever heard that one…
milk would cream tequila … good one tink
i fall into the poorly-educated category and i don’t know any lesbians over the age of 28, apparently. i’m going to go read a book.
wowowow thank you so much for this post.
i feel like this is a huge topic that that all too often gets pushed to the side (kind of like queer women in general, hm) because everyone’s so focused on what’s going on nownownow. i’m not sure if i could possibly gush over you guys any more without it starting to get embarrassing, so i won’t (until i’m drunk). anyway.
i feel like the (lesbian) generation gap is largely due to two things: the second/third wave feminism gap and the newer scene-ification of “queer.”
the sense that i’ve from among older lesbians is that they’ll identify as “woman” before “lesbian” because that’s the political climate that they grew up in. just being a woman was enough of a fight (not that this isn’t necessarily true now, hot riese, when can we talk feminism?), and with the second wave’s push toward a universal female identity and therefore also a push away from non-gender-conforming women, fighting for lesbian visibility wasn’t really possible.
that being said, those women accomplished a total mindblowing amount that’s allowing us to be the out, proud, autostraddling women we are today, and we should never ever forget that.
we are only what our past has allowed us to become, and to show our gratitude, we shouldn’t allow queerness or lesbianism to become an elitist scene. entirely too often i’ve seen my “radical” peers immediately blow a potential ally off because they didn’t understand some sort of obscure terminology known only by the “most progressive” of queers. this is a fight for all of us, and i think that we need to build a growing respect not only for our predecessors, but for each other, as no two experiences are really the same.
ps – whoa katrina, shut the fuck up!
No, don’t shut the fuck up. You make excellent points. Respect needs to go both ways.
i second vikki. *don’t* stfu! anyway, i’d like to highlight something you said:
“we shouldn’t allow queerness or lesbianism to become an elitist scene. entirely too often i’ve seen my ‘radical’ peers immediately blow a potential ally off because they didn’t understand some sort of obscure terminology known only by the ‘most progressive’ of queers.”
bingo. bingo. and oh yeah BINGO!
this is the exact type of elitism and smugness that initially spawned “stuff lesbians like” list on my site. (the list has taken on a different path, but i’d like to bring it back to the original goal at some point, i.e. to lampoon the pretension and obvious classism in the trendy pomo radical bla bla bla set.)
i feel like a small segment of lesbians have commandeered what is considered cool and trendy and acceptable, when “jane six pack” (ha ha i’m un-clever i know) – the majority of lesbians who didn’t have the money to study feminism/queer studies in small liberal arts colleges – just wants practical things… like her civil rights. i’m like, hey it’s cool that you had the privilege of taking unpaid internships in your feminist organizations and study subjects that aren’t seen as useful by those who hold the keys to the labor force (which is why the rest of us had to study other things, duh!), but it would be incredibly helpful if you could stop *yelling* at me to stop “aping the patriarchy” and other shit.
oh and by the way, to other folks who are with me on this – you can read the same stuff these folks read in college by getting them off of amazon.com. i’ve slogged through some of it in my spare time – and trust me, you’re not missing much. i think postmodernism and its spawn, like queer and gender theory, is highly overrated (and in fact downplays or even dismisses things like… well… science), but that’s another post for another time. :)
anyway, before i lose my train of thought. yes, if everyone could simply take a less dismissive tone towards others, people will be more willing to engage in dialogue.
yay for this roundtable! yay for spirited and respectful dialogue. yay for riese. yay for the interns. yay for my boss not yelling at me for taking over the one internet kiosk in the caseroom. yay all around!
and yay for Grace the Spot commenting/discussing on our roundtable – I love it!
omg i just got the t-shirts. THANKS!
Agreed with intern kc dangertina, vikki and grace (and obvs alex too!) The best way to assure we never close any gaps ever is for anyone to be scoffing at anyone for not knowing things they only had time to study ’cause they could afford it.
And I mean that was also one of the early conflicts within second-wave feminism, that many African-American women wanted it taken out of academia and the ivory tower and get past theory to actually address the serious realities of their lives — and similarly, poor women of all races didn’t feel the movement was about them either as they saw it as theoretical rather than practical. I guess I always felt like the reason some people study theory is because they will then be better equipped to apply it on the ground to mobilize change, so being superior & snobby about knowing the theory conflicts with it having any place or purpose whatsoever. It’s useless out of context, so we can’t afford to reject the context.
And yeah, it can all be learned in the library, I did. Well, actually you can buy most of these books on amazon used for like five cents. But when it comes to public high school, it’s unfortunate that we don’t get our three minutes aside from learning that lesbians tried to divide the feminist movement (I lived in a liberal school district where at least some basic ideas of feminism were discussed), just w/r/t the effects of symbolic anihilation in the classroom, which I can’t spell, which is why I’ll never write any theory ever.
Yay for the roundtable, spirited and respectful dialogue, interns, and your boss, and all our special guests!
i like these comments. i wanna keep you all. yes.
ALSO: RIESE’S MOM ?! so so much autowinning there.
Riese, thanks for posing this question. LOVED Maureen’s words. Love them all, actually!
It’d be cool if the possible generation gap that may or may not exist is large enough to keep me from ever wanting to wear tube socks + velcro sandals.
This is my first time commenting, but I really enjoyed this article. Since you guys are revamping the site I suggest you have a new article dedicated to lesbian history (as most of the other things are about what is going on in the now). I honestly feel that my L history is very limited at this time, and I even took a Gay and Lesbian history course in my undergrad(haha)! I also really enjoyed this article because it brought in some different women to voice their opinion (loved MOR)!!
On a side note I just wanted to talk about Wasilla, AK as my girlfriend is currently living there (I am all the way on the southern hemisphere in NZ for a couple years) :) As a prior disclaimer I want to say I do not love S. Palin, and am really out of touch with her recent political actions. I do want to say that Wasilla does seem have a lesbian community and there are gay bars in Anchorage. Actually I went to college in Reno NV and it seems as if the L community in Wasilla has a larger variety. An example is a group that my girlfriend joined that was geared towards femmes of ages 21-35, they get together weekly to do various activities, this group also had other age ranges and there were other groups for other people. As my GF was new to the lesbian world at the age of 30 and a “femme” she found this group comforting. I again want to say that I am not talking about politics just giving props to the very very small town of Wasilla for having quite a large L community :)
AGREED. I think an L history section would be incredible, even just as a reminder that we have always been here. This site is already a fantastic resource, and that would make it even more so.
“Say you realize you’re gay at age 24… in a simplified situation all the sudden it’s like “Hey! I’m gay! What’s that mean? How do I tell people? Where the women at?” “Prop 8?? That’s me! WTF??” and you’re likely more focused on figuring out your sexuality and “the now” rather than the past.”
Ha! Change 24 to 35 and this is me entirely. I’ll catch up on the history… I admit that I had to wiki Lavender Menace … but I’ll get there. So much else to be thinking about, too, though!
Hello, is this thing on? I just stumbled onto this story, but I see that it’s a year old. I would love to see the conversation between the generations continue. At 51, count me among the elders!
The younger generation seems to focus on the stories and images provided by the mass media to a much greater extent than we did 30 yrs ago. Is that perception true, I wonder? When I rummage about this website, I am more entertained by the personalities, insights, outbursts and humor of the readers and writers than I am by the celebrities who seem to take up a lot of space around here.
Just keep being your sweet selves. You’re fabulous, you know.
There’s a gap, but I don’t know if it’s generational or informational. And sometimes I think it’s a gender gap. What? A gender gap among lesbians? Yeah. Butch and femme. Some lesbians are extremely dismissive of gender identity, butch identity and trans women.
Even though I agree that in some cases genderqueer lesbians subcategorize things to death, and yes it can be annoying, but that is no reason to throw the whole thing out like the Daughters of Bilitis did. (History repeating right here.) Yes, I understand there were dangers in the beginning and they had to be all secretive. As a rule you had to wear a skirt if you wanted to go to a DOB meeting. And when the Mattachine and the DOB got together to picket, the men wore suits and the ladies wore skirts so as to not appear too freakish. Trans women and butch dykes were not allowed…they were considered a problem. On top of that, feminists often felt drag queens to be an insulting caricature of womanhood.
I’m 33, and I came out in 1993 when I was 17. So I guess I’m sort of straddling the gap so to speak. I’m also genderqueer. When I was a teen, they just called that butch. But then there were arguments about how butch, soft butch, hard butch, stone butch, stud etc. But I’m perfectly comfortable just lumping it all together as genderqueer and beyond that gender becomes individual.
In the mid 90s the World Wide Web was just a baby. There wasn’t a lot of information on the web. There were message boards and chat rooms, but sometimes you needed a special code to get into them because they were so worried about men pretending to be lesbians in search of cybersex.
I didn’t live in a big city, so I didn’t know where to find my community. I just wanted to know where I came from, so I had to resort to books. And even I am sometimes surprised at how many queer books I have from the 90s.
Reading over them now, those books are very much like the blogs of today in book form. There’s lots of storytelling, narratives and reflections on the current state of things. It seems as though there were trying to preserve what they were doing and going through because previous generations had not been able to.
Today, thanks to the Internet, some of this has been corrected as I’ve found several archives of queer newsletters and ‘zines of the 70s online. You can also read the original firsthand reports of the Stonewall riots that appeared in the Village Voice. And those articles written the day after include dykes.
One of the benefits of publishing books instead of blogs, is that with the permanent nature of books there’s a greater emphasis on research and getting information right the first time. With blogs it seems like an online version of telephone where no one seems interested in going back and checking the original source.
So let me set the record straight. The Stonewall was a dump and the patrons were the most marginalized of the gay community. It wasn’t homofabulous. It was the queerist of the queer, drag queens, butch dykes and homeless queers. They were the ones excluded from the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis with no where else to go. It was an illegal establishment not because it was owned by the Mafia, but because gay bars were illegal. They didn’t have a liquor license because they couldn’t get one. So the reliance on the Mafia was out of necessity.
Almost every firsthand account I have read mentions the dyke that started it all, a nameless stone butch that decided to resist arrest. The queens were on the side mocking the police as if there was nothing else they could do while their friends were getting arrested. Perhaps they were scared of the repercussions if they resisted. But this dyke kept slipping out of the patrol car. She wasn’t having it and the cops got more aggressive with her. That was the spark.
The Daughters of Bilitis and Mattachine Society started the Gay Rights Movement. Stonewall started the Queer Rights Movement. And this gap is what persists across generations.
I only discovered Autostraddle yday in my pursuit of anything Tegan and Sara [rock on girls!] related and I have to say, I’m hooked. The dedication to get your message out there, to be heard, to share your insights and to quote Crystal, get “totally geeked out” about things that are you important to you in an intelligent and witty manner; I’m not only going to continue coming back, I’ll also refer everyone I know, gay, straight, closeted, male, female, young and old, because this is one of the most informative and entertaining sites I’ve ever stumbled upon.
Now, having been introduced to the world of homosexuality late in high school [early 2000s] and emmersed in it ever since, more so in the last five yrs, I’ve only known members of the younger lesbian generation with the exception of an undergrad psychology teacher. And, in the time I’ve known these women, not once did any of them ever intimate that they took for granted the women that preceded us and they have accomplished.
I agree with many of these women who’ve spoken before me on different points. Generationally, there are always going to be gaps. Sure, sometimes educating yourself can help bridge some of these gaps but with age comes experience, with experience comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes the ability to teach those around you. I believe the gap lies in gender. Being a Chicana and an asexual one at that, I’ve had to deal with all sorts of discrimination. However, being a woman has always been the toughest, discrimination wise. People can only guess at my ethnicity but, can tell I’m a woman at first glance. Being a feminist has felt as normal as breathing. Like it or not, feminism, has long since the days of it’s inception, been associated with lesbianism. Because of this, so many women, young and old are afraid to be associated with feminism [even if they are hardcore feminists] because that will also associated them to homosexuality. Okay, so, I don’t want to step on my own words, I do think the gender gap is what is most prevelent but educating yourself and those around just the teensist bit will go a long way like, when you’re in you’re Psychology of sexuality class and the first thing your professor asks is “who here considers themself a feminst” and you’re the only person raising your hand, let the rest of the class [which, by the way, is made up of 20 or so females and the only progressive, straight, male in the school] that feminsm does not mean you’re a lesbian but, that you are pro women’s rights and you’ll have them all raising their hands when the prof asks the question again, once you’ve finished your rant. [true stroy]
Thanks Autostraddle, you rock socks!