Lesbianism Is Revolution by Bev Jo

Lesbianism Is Revolution

Bev Jo

When I found the Lesbian Feminist community in 1970, I felt I’d come home. I had been searching my entire life, from my earliest memories of loving other girls and fantasizing about being in a community with other girls, where we would love and protect each other. Even though I knew my feelings made me “queer,” loving my own kind felt too perfect for anything to be wrong with it. (“Queer” was a terrifying slur in the Fifties, which we reclaimed in the Seventies as a way to confront heterosexism, but decades later it has become the trendy genderqueer term that applies to anyone, including those who oppress and erase us by appropriating Lesbian and gay male culture).

I was alone in my search for years. The dictionary description pornified us and confused me since we are not about “sex,” but about loving other females enough to suffer severe punishment, including murder. When I finally found some reflection of who I was, it was traumatizing, because the only books and films supposedly about Lesbians in the Fifties and Sixties were incredibly Lesbian-hating. The message of “The Well of Loneliness” by Radclyffe Hall is that a Lesbian should leave her lover to “save” her from the terrible Lesbian life of loneliness so she could find “normal” happiness with a man. Films like The Children’s Hour, The Fox, and the Killing of Sister George similarly showed Lesbians as pathetic “inverts” and were horrific propaganda for teenaged girls. None of these stories showed the true horror of heterosexual and family life, which was stiflingly boring at best, and, at worst, the means by which most little girls are sexually assaulted by male relatives and by which all females are sexually harassed. These are questions we were not allowed to ask and subjects we were not allowed to speak about. We were deliberately isolated from the truth so any girl being sexually assaulted in her family thought she was the only one and it was her fault. (Only real Feminism showed the truth.) I still meet women who have no idea how widespread family rape is.

I was in communities of all girls in my high schools, where many were loving and kind to each other, and, in retrospect, some friends seemed to be in love with other girls too. But most slowly succumbed to the relentless pressure to be “normal” and forced themselves to be with boys, often the same boys who previously had sexually harassed and/or assaulted them when they were younger. Meanwhile, most girls devalued their female friends as they increased their male worshipping.

This was the mid to late Sixties where “free love” was spreading. We were to “love” everyone, but no one I knew questioned why it was called “free” since most of us weren’t around males other than family. It was all about what suited men and boys. “Free love,” like the con of the “liberated” woman, was used to undermine Women’s Liberation by tricking girls and women into believing that proof of their being “free” and “liberated” meant they were to sexually service as many males as possible. Unlike with prostitution or a marriage contract (which is legal prostitution where women are supposed to “be taken care of” by one man as payment for services rendered), this new “counter culture” movement was about conning girls and women into giving males sexual access whenever they demanded.

I’ll never forget a friend in high school actually saying that what her new boyfriend taught her to do with him was “dirty.” She was so ashamed and confused. After all, this is what the entire culture told her she should be doing. Meanwhile, I wondered about her old best friend of many years. They had been inseparable and the nuns even acknowledged them as a couple in the school play. (The yearbook has a magical photo of them opening the play where they looked like elves on either side of the stage, blowing on curling horns like trumpets they’d made from seaweed they had gathered and dried. What if they had not then been pushed into being heterosexual?)

What was this terrible shame of loving other girls when suddenly being sexual with boys and men the girls hardly knew was considered normal, expected, and rewarded? I have heard so many stories of how horrible it was for girls the first time they were fucked, so why do it?  Even some of the parents of girls being pressured by predatory boys were disapproving and scared for their daughters. Never underestimate the power of having peer status and fitting in.

I continued falling in love with other girls, and then fell in love with my best friend, Marg. I had first seen her wrestling on the floor of the gym with another girl. She looked like a Lesbian (as I imagined us) with very short hair. We became friends and I found out another girl had broken her heart. Marg was 16 and wise, aware, kind, and loving. We formed a close friendship group of girls, and she and I grew closer until we kissed and became lovers. I will never forget the scent of her breath or her voice in my ear or the passionate look in her eyes. We loved each other with such passion, stronger than anything we’d ever experienced. I wrote her love letters and poems, and she wrote me love letters, and beautiful songs that she sang to me.

This was 1968, where we were told in school that they would make us become “young ladies.” Just one positive image of Lesbians would have made a world of difference. (As bad as things are now, with continuing male propaganda showing “Lesbians” wanting to be fucked by men and reproduce, there are Lesbians in the media and even beloved Lesbians on television.) We had no one to talk with and nothing anywhere that reflected us, yet we still knew how to love each other and how to make love. It was magical. (This is why I do not understand when women say they didn’t know how to be Lesbians because there weren’t other Lesbians as role models. We were our own role models. There was no one else. Our love for each other led the way.)

We were in ecstasy, but also constant terror because we knew our time was running out. We lived to be with each other every moment, but Marg was restricted by her family and rarely allowed to go anywhere. She managed to get permission to stay overnight at my house just once, and I remember us hearing and smelling the rain, saying that someday, when we were safe, we would make love in the rain. (She later painted a picture of us together in the rain.)

We knew what everyone would think about us if they found out. We could feel Marg’s family watching the way we looked into each other’s eyes. Marg’s mother started saying creepy sexual things to us to see our reaction. When I would stay over, she would turn on the light in Marg’s room in the middle of the night to see what we were doing (sleeping). Finally, she searched Marg’s room and found my letters, and we were forbidden to ever see each other again.

How on earth could anything that was so perfect and wonderful be considered so terrible? What was the alternative? The miserable marriages we saw all around us where the people hated each other or tolerated each other at best? Girls, like some we knew, getting pregnant and getting STDs from boyfriends? (We didn’t know then that HPV could lead to cervical cancer.) What was the purpose of that kind of life except to overpopulate the earth into oblivion? For those of us raised catholic, there was also the option of becoming a nun, but what a depressing miserable life where the women were “married” to Jesus and had none of the rights that priests were allowed. Before I was lovers with Marg, I did threaten to become a nun just to get my mother to stop harassing me about how I’d “have to get married and have kids” someday.

All I wanted to do was be with the girl I loved and be allowed to keep loving her. But we were treated like criminals. I could feel we were losing each other when we couldn’t even see each other. My next letters (sent through a dear friend) were found again. Did Marg want us discovered so she could be “cured”?  Meanwhile, the Lesbian-hating propaganda made me worry I was being bad for her. (By the way, I’ve been told to shut up about telling my story by Lesbians who brag endlessly about past husbands and boyfriends. I am not supposed to exist in much of our Lesbian community now, just as I was not supposed to exist then.)

I will never know what it would have been like if we’d been able to stay together and just explore our love and passion with no fear, judgements, harassment. Would we still be lovers?  What songs and poetry and art and books would we have created? Of course patriarchy and men and the women devoted to male rule don’t want us to find out how we can love each other – because then we would bring down patriarchy and save the earth. (“An army of lovers cannot fail” – unless they turn our love into self-hatred and con us into turning on each other.)

With no support and because of unrelenting pressure from friends and my mother, I’d tried to be friends with boys/men, even though most were so different from women and were cruel, female-hating, and predatory. Adult males were worse than the boys I knew growing up who sexually assaulted and tortured and killed animals, and harassed and attacked girls. I could not, would not be friends with them. (When I was 17, one of the repulsive men I regret feeling sorry for kept pressuring me to be his girlfriend. He refused to understand my “no” since women belonged to men, and he also had no idea what Lesbians were. But a few years later, he stalked me into the Lesbian community, saying he was a Lesbian too, and immediately was allowed into power positions in our organizations. Now, I have to abandon part of my community to avoid being subjected to his perving on us. Besides his “singing” off key about “bitches” and women crawling on the ground desperate to reach his “kitty cat” – “pussy” – his public racist rants will be assumed to be from a Lesbian.)

I don’t want another girl or woman to go through the hell I did, of loving so deeply, but being terrified our love was hurting the one we loved. I’ve never heard of boys and men going through such self-doubting, even though their demands of sexual access to girls and women harms females physically, psychically, mentally, spiritually. Almost every woman I know had been harmed by being sexually harassed as well as sexually assaulted in girlhood and later. Some have incurable STDs they got from boys and men against their will. Others say they will never get over the trauma they suffered. But never have I read or heard any male having regrets about what they have done to females.

It was such a terrifying time, but I would not stop searching and continuing trying to be a Lesbian. Just I was changed forever by fulfilling my life’s dream by becoming lovers with Marg, I was then changed again, forever, by finding the community of my dreams with other Lesbian Feminists in 1970.

It was amazing to not only find other Lesbians, but to find Lesbian Feminists who were proud of being Lesbians. At that time, in 1970, a lot of our community seemed to be like Marg and I: girls and women who had found each other as girls and who loved each other enough to risk all the hatred aimed at us. Some had been incarcerated in mental hospitals by their families or just kicked out of their homes to live on the streets. Some didn’t survive. But the others created our international Lesbian Feminist community.

These Lesbians with their strong Lesbian-loving politics countered all the hate thrown at us and answered all the lies, so never again would I have doubts or feel guilty for being a Lesbian. Never again would I question if something was wrong with me for not wanting to be around males and finding most of them predatory and dangerous.

In spite of all the heartache and betrayal that followed, I still had come home. What I found and what we continue to create, across the earth, is better than I ever could have dared imagine. We continue and always will. Even if they erase our memories and all signs of our culture ever existing (as some are trying very hard to do with their well-funded agenda, and as they have done to us many times before over the millennia), we will still create ourselves as Lesbians out of nothing because this is the natural state of all females. (On a recent documentary about China, there was a reference to a Twelfth Century Lesbian bar/meeting place.)

The excitement of the Lesbian Feminist community we were building and the het women coming out in droves made it feel like it was just a matter of time before all women learned about feminism and chose to become Lesbians. In the Seventies, we called ourselves Lesbians and openly and proudly said that we are choosing to love our own kind. That awareness is revolutionary. Remember, this was the era when we were pathologized as mentally ill by most psychiatrists and doctors, and many Lesbian girls and women were incarcerated by their families in mental hospitals to be tortured and “cured of their perversion.”

We created Lesbian Feminist and then Lesbian Separatist gatherings and conferences, where we could share ideas and learn from each other. Our politics were not just about what we could get for ourselves with individual goals, but what we could do for ourselves as a community. No leaders and no followers. Radical Lesbian Feminism is about equality.

Even concerts and dances were political and ecstatic experiences. We taught each other skills like self defense. Before gyms were popular, many Lesbians went to women’s dojos. I joined a jujitsu school and then taught self defense to girls and women for ten years. I wrote for and published Dykes and Gorgons, a Dyke Separatist newspaper in 1973, and continued writing for anthologies and finally our book, Dykes-Loving-Dykes, and later my blogs. I also moderate several Radical Feminist and Radical Lesbian Feminists groups on Facebook.

We made a home and community, and we knew we were choosing the best possible life that girls and women could have. (I was still technically a girl in 1970.) I remember a button/badge that said “Lesbianism Is Revolution,” and, even though some of the class-privileged socialists didn’t agree, I believe it is because we challenge patriarchy at its core. Although Lesbianism by itself is not as revolutionary as Lesbian Feminism (now known as Radical Lesbian Feminism), it certainly is the major threat to patriarchy — if all women became Lesbians and therefore became less invested in males and their life-hating, necrophilic male and het values, everything would change, the earth would not continue to be destroyed, and patriarchy would soon end.

Radical Lesbian Feminism is even stronger and more conscious, and is about protecting the earth, fighting all oppression and inequality (and knowing the difference between who is oppressor and who is oppressed), and opposing every way that patriarchy is destroying us. That means of course we fight racism, classism, Lesbian-hating, female-hating, ableism, ageism, looksism, fat oppression, etc. Real Lesbian Feminism encompasses the best of male movements (like socialism) and goes further.

For the first time, we allowed ourselves to think and talk about male violence, with our friends, in our “consciousness-raising small groups,” and in our wonderful Lesbian Feminist newspapers. It was a shock to find out how many of the women in our community had been sexually assaulted as girls by male family, including fathers, step-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, etc. (I later found out that being raped/assaulted as girls was not unique to Lesbians, but is true for almost all women. Lesbian Feminists were among the first to dare talk and write about it.) Males seem to try to mark every girl and woman as their territory. (Certainly mass rape in wartime is one example, but so many more horror stories are now being discovered through personal media.)

Without the framework of Radical Feminism, women discuss and write about every aspect of war, atrocities, genocide, governments and companies irreparably polluting the water and earth with radiation and toxins, and even babies and girls being raped to death, and yet they avoid saying that 99% of the horror is committed by men and boys. (When girls and women participate, it’s usually because of following males.) Meanwhile, those in the forefront of fighting for justice are females, yet it’s males who most take the credit and are in the prestigious jobs. Knowing this is basic feminism.

Our history is being erased when people scream at us, saying we don’t have a choice and are “born this way,” ignoring that most Lesbians first chose to be het. The myth of “sexual orientation” is gay male and genderqueer propaganda, devised as a political strategy to counter being told we can change/be cured if we wanted to. Lesbians were never asked if we agreed to join this erasure of our culture and history, just as we were added with our oppressors to the “LGBTQI” mess against our will. Our pride and existence are erased, and too many Lesbians who come out late in life meekly obey, repeating the propaganda line, “I was always a Lesbian, but just didn’t know it.” No, you were not a Lesbian when you were married to your husbands for all those decades. If het women are Lesbians, then what are Lesbians?

RLF also means recognizing which enemies of women are using our politics against us, such as when men insist they are us, more oppressed than us, and demand sexual access to us and our last besieged spaces. That invasion has been around since at least 1970, but only much later became such a destructive force after our Lesbian community weakened because of the numbers of women who joined and outnumbered us who didn’t bother to learn basic Lesbian Feminist politics, and who value men more than Lesbians. Considering male crimes, how on earth can women suddenly accept men as Lesbians? Don’t they know that men’s most popular porn is “Lesbian”? Don’t they know about these men claiming they are more Lesbians than we are and that part of the trans cult is the “trans-paraplegic” able-bodied man also claiming to be a Lesbian?  https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/please-if-you-love-lesbians-and-other-women-think-about-this/

If even one woman objects to men in “women’s” spaces, why are the men given priority over women? They have the entire world to support them. (And no, men claiming to be women are not more vulnerable to attack. Why is it the job of females, most of who have already suffered from male violence, to try to protect men from male on male violence?) If men can be Lesbians, then Lesbians no longer exist. (The African-American community dealt with European-descent Rachel Dolezal pretending she was Black and holding an NAACP job. She was banned. It’s no wonder that African-descent women and Lesbians are more courageous as a group in saying no to men posing as women and Lesbians.)

We have not only lost almost every space we have, but also the Lesbian bars that existed before feminism. Instead of women only, and even some Lesbian only spaces, we still try to gather to go to concerts and dances, but we have only public places where the men prey on us, groping and leering, while their women often look horrified at the sight of us. (This is the San Francisco Bay Area.)  And even worse, every event has at least one man who claims to be a Lesbian, often in charge of the event. If we want to go, we are forbidden to talk about it.

I think the real reason we lost our spaces is simply money. In the Seventies, we could rent a house for a hundred dollars, which provided places to meet and dance and party, and just be Lesbians together. Then there were our coffeehouses and bookstores, etc. I think the economy partly changed as a way to stop anyone who was trying to change the patriarchal power structure. Instead of organizing, we struggle to survive at a poverty level unlike anything we’d previously experienced. The class segregation is throughout the US where even parks and museums are too expensive for the poor to go to. But also the divide in our Lesbian communities is extreme, which means we are segregated in other ways, with many Lesbians having no idea that things were once very different. Some Lesbians easily hire servants to clean their houses, do their yards, walk their dogs, etc. and assume most have the money to spend a hundred dollars on an evening out, while other Lesbians are homeless or close to it, no matter how hard they work.

We should never accept a segregated community, but should make sure that events have affordable sliding scales that do not keep out the most oppressed women. Class segregation means other kinds of segregation.

We also need to not lose heart when women betray us. We are being constantly trolled and undermined online and elsewhere by people who target Radical Feminists activists to destroy us. Some of this is from women who do not have the courage to be truly Radical Feminists and so they are jealous of what we have done and even our existence. But others must be paid agents, which have always existed among radical movements. Some of the slander is astounding in how outrageous and obvious it is, yet women feed it by repeating it and by not confronting the liar. I see Radical Feminist activists who helped create our community and culture, and who have a history of decades of work and activism being targeted and subjected to lies and harassment. Instead of the liars being challenged to prove what they are saying, or even to prove they are women, they are allowed continue to undermine and harm. Their victims waste time and energy fighting trolls whose names and aliases keep changing. The slander is spread in troll groups where the victims are blocked from being able to defend ourselves. Now many of us are continually blocked from our Radical Feminist groups online by being reported with false charges.

Instead of the agents/trolls being confronted and stopped, other women passively complain about how upsetting the “horizontal hostility” and “infighting” is among feminists, terrified they will be next. If the trolls are agents and deliberately lying, they are not feminists and their lying is not “infighting.” This is deliberate sabotage. They are not part of our movement. And they could be stopped easily, if witnesses bothered to do what a few courageous and caring Radical Feminists have done, which is to explore and reveal that their avatars and photos and posted information are false, their aliases change though the language remains the same, and what looks like a group is likely one individual who may not even be a woman.

Some of the trolls are also women trying to get into power positions who do not want their betrayals of us on behalf of their female-hating men friends to be identified and caught — so they project what they are doing onto those who are saying no to them. (Notice how often their false accusations sound like exactly like what they themselves are doing.) Some are mentally ill, but other women who are mentally ill are not abusive and are safely in our community. Either way, it’s not hard to deal with anyone harming us: Simply ask them for specific proof of their accusations beyond insults and name-calling. What has their victim actually done? If they continue harming any woman in our movement, give them another chance to explain publicly in whatever groups they are in and to make reparations. If they still continue, ban them. We have to stop protecting abusers and abandoning and betraying their victims. (And then watch closely to make sure that “women” asking to join your groups are not the same trolls with yet another fake identity.)

Certain safety rules are easy to apply, so that anyone who continues making insults and using classism and racism and Lesbian-hating (including Butch-hating) comments, then for the protection of our entire community, they must be banned. (In the blogs I moderate, most abusive comments stopped immediately when new members had to read and agree to our safety rules before joining.)  If they are clearly agents and caught lying, everyone needs to be notified. But unfortunately, most women are too afraid to get targeted themselves, and ignore or excuse what is not directly harming them, no matter how other women are being abused. This is where working only for yourself and not your community is so destructive. So they keep helping the trolls, agents, abusers. It is in our power to make a safe, secure, and welcoming Radical Feminist community. But as always, it takes courage.

We, as Radical Feminists are truly all over the world and we continue to find each other and build community. The online connections are wonderful for so many who are isolated in their countries but can write and Skype with dear friends across the earth. We will never be alone, prevented from the knowledge that protects us, again. Also, Radical Feminist awareness is not about age, no matter how the men lie to divide us. Again, it’s a choice. Our groups’ age ranges from early twenties to eighties. I have friends half my age or less who I trust, heart and soul, who share my politics exactly. We find each other online and through our political work. I love our international Radical Lesbian Feminist community dearly. It’s another kind of falling in love, including that power of first love. Surviving my girlhood and keeping my dream of my community of other girls and then women alive, keeps my warrior spirit alive. I continue as a warrior. We all do.

 

About Bev Jo

I’ve been a Lesbian from my earliest memories and am proud to be a Lesbian. Lesbians are my people and my blood. My life’s work has defending Lesbians and our culture and existence against those who oppress us. Working-class, ex-catholic, mostly European-descent (with some First Nations, probably Shawnee, ancestry), from poverty class culture. I’m a Lifelong Lesbian, born near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1950. I became lovers with my first lover in 1968, became part of a Lesbian community in 1970, and became a Dyke Separatist in 1972. I helped create Radical Lesbian Feminist and Separatist community and worked on some of the earliest Lesbian Feminist projects, such as the Lesbian Feminist Conference in Berkeley in 1972, the newspaper “Dykes and Gorgons” in 1973, the women’s bookstore, Lesbian coffeehouse, and taught self defense to women and girls for ten years. I’ve been published in journals and anthologies, including “For Lesbians Only,” “Finding the Lesbians,” “Lesbian Friendships,” “Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes Aujourd’hui,” “Mehr als das Herz Gebrochen,” the Journal for Lesbian Studies, Lesbian Ethics, Sinister Wisdom, Trivia, and Rain and Thunder. With Linda Strega and Ruston, I co-wrote our book, “Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only” in 1990. Our book and my more recent articles have been updated at my blog https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ I’ve been disabled since 1981 with ME/CFIDS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) I love nature and plants and animals — and especially the animals who are feared and hated and killed by people who don’t even know them, just as Lesbians are. I’ve learned to love rats especially, who I do not consider inferior to humans. I’m a spiritual atheist, but I’ve found out that there is definitely life after death because a little rat returned from the dead for three days to comfort us. These hated little animals are so kind and loving, and willing to die for someone they love. I say, in our fight to protect the earth — distrust all “truths” we are taught by patriarchy. The true truth is often the opposite.
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