Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In Amerika They Call Us Dykes: Lesbian Lives in the 70s

by Amanda Ream
published in Sinister Wisdom, Spring 2011

Here we are now.

I, like so many of my friends in our 20’s and early 30’s, am hungry to be with my elders, my heroines, in a time of political uncertainty, when endless war and economic hardship are the daily grind.  I have a lot of nostalgia for a time I never knew--the 70’s with women’s self-determination, collective life, political engagement, journals, art, music and spirituality.  A new culture born of the sweat and heart and soul of lesbians. A culture I never read about in books or even saw much of the legacy of, by the time I came out and around the bookstores were gone, the covens underground. As Urvashi Vaid has said, the common view is that 70’s lesbians had been replaced by a wittier, smarter more sex positive group of queers.   It feels like the 70s lesbians had been kept from me.

I was born the year of the very first Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, 1976.

One of my mentors as a community organizer, Miriam, was at the first Michigan.  To hear her tell it, her life was transformed by lesbian feminism. She left her husband, left the “left” as she had known it, and started the long process of healing from patriarchy, the kind she faced growing up in the 50s, and in the radical movement of the 60s. Miriam is the bridge generation. She grew up in a time where gay people were considered mentally ill, an impossibility even, found herself in wimmins community, shirtless and with an axe in her hand.