5 lesbian activist groups who fought for us
Lesbians have always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT rights, but sometimes lesbian activist groups were needed to fight for space on lesbian rights and issues.
This is because, as Canadian journalist and activist Judy Rebick had noted, that while lesbians were part of the women’s movement, their issues were invisible in the movement.
Lesbian activist groups: Radicalesbians/Lavender Menace
Formed in New York in 1970, the Radicalesbians– earlier known as the Lavender Menace– was a short-lived lesbian activist group that focused on lesbian and feminist issues.
The group was founded in reaction to a comment by feminist icon Betty Friedan, then-president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), who described lesbians as a “lavender menace” to the women’s rights movement.
A number of its members– Rita Mae Brown, Barbara Love, Lois Hart, and Ellen Shumsky– were previous members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). However, they left because they felt the GLF was focusing too much on gay men.
Because of this, these activists joined the feminist movement to ask for support of lesbian rights through a manifesto, The Woman-Identified Woman.
Lesbian activist groups: Furies Collective
The Furies Collective was more of a communal living group in the 1970s. An example of lesbian feminism, the collective set up a place at 219 11th St SE in Washington, DC in 1971.
There were 12 women from ages 18 to 28 in the group: all white, lesbian feminists. They also published a newspaper, The Furies, that was distributed nationally from 1972 til the middle of 1973.
Lesbian activist groups: Gay Women’s Alliance
In Seattle, the office of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) was the setting of the founding for the Gay Women’s Alliance (GWA) in 1970.
With the YWCA becoming the center of feminist politics, 45 women met to discuss the issue of the GLF and decided to come up with a separate lesbian group, the GWA, to create “lesbian spaces” within the larger feminist community.
By the next year, the GWA set up a Gay Women’s Resource Center within the YWCA’s offices that was staffed by volunteers, housing a speakers’ bureau and providing references to lesbian-friendly businesses.
Lesbian activist groups: Combahee River Collective
Like the Radicalesbians, the Combahee River Collective (CRC) was a black feminist group set up in Boston in 1974 in response to the feminist movement not responsive to their needs.
In this case, black lesbians like Barbara Smith trying to set up the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO) in Boston wanted an organization like the CRC to focus on the needs of black lesbians while helping organize black feminists.
The group named themselves after the Combahee River, where Harriet Tubman led a military campaign to free of more than 750 slaves in the Port Royal region of South Carolina on June 2, 1863.
Lesbian activist groups: Salsa Soul Sisters
Formed after the Black Lesbian Caucus of the New York City Gay Activists Alliance (GAA)– which had originally come from the Gay Liberation Front (GLF)– this group was first called the Third World Gay Women’s Association.
However, the group had an informal name of “Salsa Soul Sisters,” because the group was composed of black and Latina lesbians.
Founded by Harriet Alston, Sonia Bailey, Luvenia Pinson, Candice Boyce and Maua Flowers, its membership reached up to 200 women in ages ranging from 17 to 55.