Modern Roots at the First Moonamp Music Festival

Modern Roots at the First Moonamp Music Festival

Music: This Saturday at the Sunken Garden Theater, you can usher in the fall feels with a rousing round of roots rock, alt-country and Americana-leaning performances... By James Courtney 9/24/2014
Carmens Launches Kickstarter as Brooklynite Rakes in Votes

Carmens Launches Kickstarter as Brooklynite Rakes in Votes

Food & Drink: If you’ve been missing Carmens de la Calle since it closed its doors at 720 E Mistletoe early this year, then you can help speed the reopening process... By Jessica Elizarraras 9/24/2014
Sheets of Sound: Santana at the Tobin

Sheets of Sound: Santana at the Tobin

Music: A self-serving guitar solo is the near equivalent of musical masturbation, requested only by that drunk guy at the bar who also asked three times... By Alejandra Ramirez 9/24/2014
Value Vino: Giving Cru Beau some love

Value Vino: Giving Cru Beau some love

Food & Drink: First, a warning: Beware the ides of…November. No, not March. In the Roman calendar, the ides marked the approximate middle of any month, and as... By Ron Bechtol 9/24/2014
Alamo City Comic Con Elevated by Mainstream Acceptance of Geekdom

Alamo City Comic Con Elevated by Mainstream Acceptance of Geekdom

Arts & Culture: Credit the horde of Marvel blockbusters that have hit the theaters in recent years or the fostering of online communities amongst fanboys and girls to the... By Kiko Martínez 9/24/2014

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email


Just Happens to be LGBT: 9 badass lesbians in history

Photo: Courtesy Photos, License: N/A

Courtesy Photos

Barbara Jordan

Photo: , License: N/A

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon

I have a confession: As a gay man, I am severely lacking in my knowledge of important lesbian activists. It’s not that I’m the kind of gay man who only has gay (male) friends. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I’m lucky to have some very close lesbian friends whom I’ve confided in over the years.

But for some reason, I just don’t know lesbian history that well. I freely admit that’s a sad reality. Widely read LGBT history often privileges the contributions of men in the movement (particularly white men), some of which I could list exhaustively—but I won’t. Because this article isn’t about those guys. March is Women’s History Month, so it’s time to celebrate the often hard-fought and always valuable contributions of some important women. (This list is not comprehensive. I picked a few that stood out to me in my research, but I urge readers to search online to find a wealth of others.)

Ruth Ellis, an African-American woman from Springfield, Ill., lived for more than 100 years, from 1899-2000, and never shied away from acknowledging her life as a lesbian. In 1920, she met her partner of more than 30 years, Babe Franklin, and they settled in Detroit. Their house became the epicenter of the gay African-American community, affectionately known as “the gay spot.” They threw parties, but more importantly welcomed lost and homeless gay youth with open arms. At a time when fewer than 7 percent of black schoolgirls completed secondary school, Ellis had a high school diploma and started her own successful printing business, which was also run out of the couples’ house. In her later life, she toured the country as a speaker. The Ruth Ellis Center, which serves Detroit’s homeless LGBT population, is named in her honor.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin formed the first lesbian organizing group in the U.S., the Daughters of Bilitis, in San Francisco in 1955 after experiencing frustration with developing a social network of similarly oriented women. Although the group was intended to at first be secret, it eventually became more visible and even published a monthly magazine called The Ladder. In 2004, when gay marriage was offered in San Francisco, Lyon and Martin were the first couple to wed. Although that union was invalidated through an appellate court ruling, they again were the first couple to wed in 2008 after the California Supreme Court provided same-sex couples the right to marry.

Barbara Gittings, as noted by the website LGBT History Month, “is a gay pioneer who participated in the first organized annual gay civil rights demonstrations, helped convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders and helped persuade libraries to include gay content.” That’s no short order. She founded a New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis in 1958 and marched prominently and unapologetically in the first gay picket lines at the White House in 1965—four years before Stonewall.

Rita Mae Brown, Cynthia Funk and March Hoffman were noted founders of the Radicalesbians, a short-lived group that formed in New York in 1970, partly in response to the National Organization for Women decrying lesbians as a “lavender menace,” worried that they would threaten the overall feminist movement. Several members also decamped from a group called the Gay Liberation Front because it was deemed to be too focused on gay male rights. Although the group existed for only a matter of months, it published a manifesto, The Woman-Identified Woman (available online), and is credited with providing a much needed spark that shed a light on the exclusion of lesbian rights from both heterosexual female and gay male political organizations.

Recently in News
  • SAPD Didn’t Get Guns from Military Surplus Program After a white police officer shot an unarmed black man in a small St. Louis suburb, a national conversation about race rocketed into a national... | 9/24/2014
  • Panhandling Proposal Lacks Supporters, and Logic Support is dwindling for San Antonio Police Chief William McManus’ proposal to ticket those of us who want to give change or food to a homeless person... | 9/24/2014
  • Mayoral Horserace During the September 18 city council meeting, before the $2.4 billion Fiscal Year 2015 budget was approved, Mayor Ivy Taylor received thunderous applause from... | 9/24/2014
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus