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Too Hot to Live
(Waves to all the new people! Hi guys!)

In other news: grrarrgh. The tragically not-kylecassidy  but very nice and fun photographer/blogger came this morning, so I had to be up extra early to shower and make with the pretty before she got here. After being up late working and cleaning so that photographs of my workspace would not be embarrassing (like, erm, taking down the Christmas tree. Don't judge me! It's not like it was alive and dropping needles since New Year.) It was in preparation for a panel at the local library showcasing island authors on Tuesday, and we talked a lot about island life and who lives here and man I need to meet people more! We also discovered we lived in the same grad student housing at UC Davis when she was a grad student and I was a wee sprig offspring of a grad student. Crazy.

So it's a million degrees today and justbeast  and I both collapses into an EPIC NAP right after she left and my brain is still rebooting. Too hot to go into town today. Possibly we will go down to the sea and swim later, it's usually bracingly cold. But right now, zombie cat is zombie.

Zombie cat is also amazed at the nearly 300 comments on the open letter post. Damn, guys. I guess we all needed to get that out. Smudge the corners of the internet and all.

And speaking of non sequiturs and the gay agenda, I was watching a documentary on the gay men's scene in NYC in the 70s, because I am secretly fascinated with NYC of about 1976-1985ish, not just the sexual patchwork, but the music, the culture, coupled with the Satanic scare in Middle America...it's one of those things. The doc did not tell me anything reading The Motion of Light on Water didn't, except to hit home that I would be a terrbut it left me wondering. What was going on with the lesbian movement/scene in that era? I know almost nothing, though much of the gay iconography of the time is common knowledge now. The lesbian presence in the film was summed up with this exact phrase, uttered by a straight woman:

And, uh...gay women, too. I guess.

Which made me frown. Because if the straights were all screwing away at Plato's Retreat and gay men were cruising the piers and trucks Fire Island and having the Stonewall riots and all the rest, where's my lavender menace in the house? It feels like a secret history, and I'm sure it's not secret, but I haven't seen any documentaries talking about how awesome it was and there are literally dozens from the gay male side of the era. Can anyone hook me up to that history, that world? It seems like such a big gap in the general fascination with the sexual universe of late 70s, pre-AIDS NYC.

Anyway, am trying to spin up to my actual personality. This is why I hate the heat. I am a Pratchett troll. I need the cold to live and breathe and think.

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I'm looking forward to you posting (I hope) what you find out about the Secret History of the Lavender Apple.

I definitely will if I find good info. So often, I think, women are convinced that we have no history, or if we do it's dowdy and boring...

I'd ask Susie Bright. If anyone is going to know/know who to talk to about that, it's her.

I rather think I'd have to know someone of her stature personally to ask...

I've been reflecting lately on the absence of lesbianism from most of the history I've read. Aside from the very recent stuff, I only ever seem to hear about gay male behavior. I think Norma Clarke's passing reference in Dr. Johnson's Women to the fact that some pairs of women in 18c England were setting up "spinster" households together, and the possibility that the Duchess of Devonshire was canoodling with her husband's mistress, are about the only pre-1970 lesbian history I've ever encountered.

It really upsets me. Along the lines of "There Was Always a Feminist Movement." Like our history is erased, made not to be, and even someone like me, searching for it, is having a hard time, while gay men's history is treated in our queer theory world as super awesome and vibrant--which it was, but surely, once or twice, we were vibrant too?

Maybe start with Lilian Faderman's ODD GIRLS AND TWILIGHT LOVERS. And also the history BOOTS OF LEATHER, SLIPPERS OF GOLD.

And Fire Island was never just the boys, at least that's the rivalry between the Pines and the Grove. (See Esther Newton's CHERRY GROVE, FIRE ISLAND.)

For fiction, read Leslie Feinberg's STONE BUTCH BLUES.

Thank you!

Ok, if Fire Island wasn't just boys? I am double upset by this doc and every other one I've seen portraying it as such, and never showing a single image of women there.

"Uh, gay women, too. I guess." Awesome, director man. Awesome.

Hi. Don't mind me, just your typical Internet lurker. Yeah, I found you through the open letter post. It's a wonderful letter that needs to be shared and read by everyone, not just authors new and/or willfully ignorant to the Internet, and/or the public in general.

A quick Google search on "New York lesbians 1960" did turn up some interesting articles, though most lead to book recommendations. There may be a reason why the gay women side is not as glamorized as the gay men--the activities of Valerie Solanas put things in a negative light. Well, that's what I think after reading this article, anyway.

Well, back to lurking.


I cannot believe VS is the reason for all this--plenty of actions by plenty of people from plenty of groups cast those groups as negative in the 1970s without causing those groups to be erased from popular history.

While I don't know much about lesbian history in NY or anywhere else, my theory is that lesbian sex and culture are even more taboo than the male variety (or possibly, as another poster suggests, more under the radar) so are more likely to be closeted for longer and less in the public eye. I mean, a lot of hetero guys claim they think two women together is "hot," but present them with real women in a loving relationship that don't look like oversexed Barbies who really want a man but don't have one handy at the moment, and they aren't so interested.

When I watched the movie "Milk," I was a little jolted by the lack of women and only one important lesbian character. But I did a little bit of poking around to web pages of people who were actually there at the time, and it pretty much confirmed that the community was quite segregated.

We've made progress, but there's still a long way to go. Here's a link to an article about a movie I really want to see by a filmmaker who was in a writing class with me. It deals with lesbians and sci fi! I was at some gender issues panels at Worldcon and this would have fit right in.


Heh. How funny, another comment to this post says that lesbians are far less threatening.

You might want to start with some of the classic 70s feminist writings and go from there--signposts exist. Vivian Gornick had an anthology, also see if you can find early editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Marge Piercy. Kate Millett. Especially Kate Millett. Marilyn French. Rita Mae Brown.

Start there and follow where they lead.

You just made me realize that to the extent that I know lesbian history, I know it as lesbian intellectual history -- it's the writings, the theories and rhetoric, rather than the bars and the parades and the lived behavior. Whereas in contrast, I know much less about the intellectual underpinnings of male homosexuality, and much more about what they were doing.

I don't know if I've caught an unrepresentative angle, or if that really is a trend in how the two histories (female and male) are presented. Huh.

Kate Millett would be good to read--Flying and Sita. Also Judy Grahn, and Audre Lorde's Zami (this last one especially, though it deals with a slightly earlier time period).

IIRC, Dykes To Watch Out For started in 83, and has flashbacks to earlier years.

There were some other feminist/lesbian comics from earlier in the era, but I sure can't recall them. Maybe it's time to delve back into the vault of underground comics.

This is a subject which has been dear to my heart for years, and I spent quite a lot of time in my teens and twenties fulminating at the erasure of lesbian history from gay history texts. There are few things as infuriating as opening a book that purports to be A Gay History of Wherever and turns out to be A Gay MALE History. Grrr.

Lillian Faderman's a good place to start, as well as Joan Nestle (who has a blog!). I sometimes find myself arguing at Faderman's conclusions, but she's excellent at laying out lesbian/feminist history: try Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers for an overview of twentieth century lesbian history, especially. I also really recommend Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold by Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Kennedy. It's the story of the Buffalo NY lesbian communities (more than one, definitely) from about 1930 to 1960, told through interviews. What's really good is that it has material from women of color as well as white women, and talks about the intersectionality of race, gender, and class. It's a lively, fascinating read.

I tend to think of 70s lesbian history (maybe not accurately?) as a move away from the cities and focusing a lot on the women's land communes. You might want to look up information on Oregon Women's Land (OWL), and Jeb's photographs. http://userpages.umbc.edu/~korenman/wmst/womencom.html might be a place to start.

This is my first time commenting, but I just couldn't pass up giving you a few recommendations. I had a queer theory course in college and I wish I could make it mandatory, along with the free toaster, you know? Lesbian invisibility is a result of a lot of things; but class is a big part of it. Working class lesbians had (and still have) a vibrant bar culture (I'll second the Zami recommendation)---but we almost never have our own exclusive regular spaces, like gay men do. And working class history tends to disappear pretty quick.

Anyway, definitely check out Dorothy Alison. Before Stonewall and After Stonewall are two good documentaries that are more balanced wrt lesbian history. Ann Bannon's 50's pulp novels are well-worth reading. I highly recommend Emma Donoghue's Passion's Between Women: British Lesbian Culture 1668-1801, We Are Michael Field, and her novel Life Mask. Joan Nestle's A Restricted Country is also excellent. Cheryl Dunye's film The Watermelon Woman, if you can hunt it down, is one of my favorite lesbian films and has a lot of black lesbian history in it. And of course, there's always the Lesbian Herstory Archives: http://www.lesbianherstoryarchives.org/

Hope that helps. I've only recently discovered your work and I'm a huge fan.

Anyway, definitely check out Dorothy Alison

Hear hear.

(Ann Bannon's work is awesome too. Long Live Beebo Brinker!)

Rubyfruit Jungle. The Coming-Out Stories. The Wanderground. Tales of the City.

The Sex Wars. Michigan Women's Music Festival. NEWMR. Womynspace. Herstory. Cris Williamson, Alive!, Holly Near, Meg Christian. Feminist bookstores. Macrobiotic food. Elizabeth Lynn. Political lesbianism. Andrea Dworkin.

Or ask me, next Wednesday. I grew up in the lesbian separatist movement of the 1980s, and I can tell you all about it.

It has rendered me utterly unsuitable for mainstream society. And very suspicious of political correctness and indoctrination in all its forms. *g*

Wednesday will be good fun. Lobsters and lesbian history.

that part of the housework I'm avoiding was to rearrange my lesbian/feminist/gay bookshelves! For contemporary voices, I'd start with Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love's Sappho was a Right-on Woman (1972) isbn 0812824067; two essays from Sisterhood is Powerful (1970) LC 70-117694, "The Least of These: The Minority Whose Screams Have Not Yet Been Heard" p 297, (a recounting of the founding of early lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis, and "Notes of a Radical Lesbian" p 306 by Martha Shelly.
I highly recommend Neil Miller's Out of the Past - Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present (1995) isbn 0679749888. I don't agree with all of his premises, but he does an EXCELLENT job of including lesbians.
Hope this helps. If you need the legacy books and can't find them, let me know and I'll ship them to you on your oath to return them (you know the traditional price, otherwise).

I'll see what I can find. I know that when AIDS hit the lesbians were the ones who really stepped up to the plate to help take care of the infected but I haven't looked into the pre-AIDS history.

In my youth when I did nothing but read anything in the detective genre whatsoever, I came across a writer called Eve Zaremba who wrote thrillers set in the early-80d to late-90s Canadian lesbian milieu, which may be of interest.

Plato's Retreat, despite being ostensibly heterosexual and strictly forbidding male/male gay sex, welcomed lesbianism. I'm not sure if that was truly part of the lesbian scene though- likely not.

Yeah, it really strikes me more as part of the het male appropriation of lesbian sexual activity.

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And since sometimes we can be silly

You can also say it's "Too hot to hoot." (Palindromes for the win!)

I not so secretly want to be a gay man of approximately that era.

I do and don't. My...hygiene alarm pings. I want sex to be constantly available, but I don't want it to be in dirty train cars where I might get shanked.

It's threads like these that remind me why we *also* have a Gender Studies / GLBT Studies collection, and how I need to keep building it.

Susie Bright's work, the anthology "Bi Any Other Name," and about a bajillion coming-out stories were central for me in the early 90's.

There are way more books with the subject Lesbians--Identity than Lesbians--History in our library's catalog.

I need to fix that, clearly.

But here are a couple under "Lesbians--United States":

Different daughters : the Daughters of Bilitis and the roots of lesbian and women's liberation, 1955-1970 / by Marcia M. Gallo.

Admission accomplished : the Lesbian nation years, 1970-75 / by Jill Johnston

Wolf girls at Vassar : lesbian and gay experiences, 1930-1990 / compiled and edited by Anne MacKay.

...your friendly librarian

When the Open Book was still there in Sacramento, I went to Lesbian Reading group with some women who were a part of that new york scene... one of 'em was in the Stonewall Riots and all. From what I gathered, it was very much like what was going on everywhere else... lesbians had been very polarized Butch and Femme, very dark and stark and angsty, and the young generation was trying vehemently to move away from that and into the androgynous wymyn dyke thing that we tend to think of as butch now, but really, it's not. Butch, the way it used to be was... well, Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg.

But I find it interesting that they totally left the lesbians out of this... because while sure, they weren't as flashy, and CHRIST were they dour in a lot of ways, they and the DQs of the day were the ones really out there pushing the limits of the movement and being hardcore activists, keeping up the shouting and the like. so it were from the stories I was told, belike.

Edited at 2009-08-16 02:15 pm (UTC)

No ideas on the lesbian scene of the time but...for future reference, you don't have to take your tree down (provided it isn't a live one dropping needles) if you just change the decorations to fit the seasons. ;)

It's a Winter-holiday-of-your-choice tree....it's a Valentine's day tree...it's an Easter or whatever tree....it's a beach party tree...it's a Halloween tree...it's a harvest tree...hey, time for a winter-holiday tree again!

Just sayin' :P

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On the Christmas tree issue? My grandmother has had hers up for the past ten years. It makes her happy to have it so she does. I think it's awesome.

On the lesbian-history issue, I have no really good recommendations other than to note that Chrystos' poetry, or some of it at least, comes out of that period.

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