The Lesbian Avengers

The Lesbian Avengers: How they resisted

If you want some inspiration on resistance during Trump times, all you need to look at is the Lesbian Avengers.

Formed in 1992 as “a direct action group” that concentrated on vital lesbian issues, they managed to grab the public’s attention with their media-savvy tactics.

The Lesbian Avengers: Lesbian visibility

The group was organized by six longtime lesbian activists who were involved in different LGBT groups, like the Medusa’s Revenge lesbian theater, Women for Women to ACT-UP, and ILGO (the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization).

All hailing from New York, the original six were Ana Simo, Sarah Schulman, Maxine Wolfe, Anne-Christine d’Adesky, Marie Honan, and Anne Maguire.

Ana was the one who started it all, wanting to set up a group that she described “totally focused on high-impact street activism, not on talking.” Likewise, she felt that lesbians were being sidelined in LGBT groups.

Others, like Sarah Schulman and Maxine Wolfe, were open to the idea, having already experienced failed attempts to organize lesbian groups focused on lesbian’s issues.

“We did not want women who were already committed to nine thousand other groups. We wanted to reach women who were new,” Maxine said

When they held their first meeting, around 70 responded to their call to action: “We’re wasting our lives being careful. Imagine what your life could be. Aren’t you ready to make it happen?”

The Lesbian Avengers: First actions

With the founding of the New York-based Avengers, other groups were created around the country. These groups’ goal was to focus on lesbian issues combining their experience and media knowledge with their energy.

That is, these groups skipped the traditional picket lines, sit-ins, and petitions and went with actions that would attract media coverage as well as new members.

Their first action was in a borough in Queens where they had a marching band and handed out balloons to kids in response to right-wing efforts to suppress a “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum at an elementary school.

When a lesbian and a gay man were burned to death in Salem, Oregon, the group joined a memorial to the victims by eating fire and chanting: “The fire will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.”

This caught the attention of media such that it was featured by the New York Times, and the use of fire and fire-eating became a regular action by the groups.

The Lesbian Avengers: The Dyke March

After several actions throughout the country, the group decided to set up a separate march during the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.

The evening before the LGBT march, 20,000 women headed towards the capital in the first Dyke March on April 24. Likewise, a dozen lesbians did their fire-eating act before the White House.

The next year, the New York City group organized an International Dyke March on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, pulling in 20,000 marchers from around the world.

“We’re not going to be invisible anymore,” Ann Northrop told Newsweek, “We are going to be prominent and have power and be part of all decision making.”

The Lesbian Avengers: Afterward

One member, Vikki, wrote in an article in Autostraddle that nowadays, members of the Avengers have moved on with some groups now open to any queer-identified persons rather than just lesbians.

“Many years have passed and many things have changed for me and for the world since my involvement with the Avengers,” she said.

“As I’ve gotten older and had kids, I’m a bit more conservative than I was then, but I still appreciate the efforts of radical groups– we need both ends of the spectrum and the efforts of radical groups pave the way for more conservative groups,” she added.

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