Lesbians have always been the ugly stepchild of the LGBT movement funded mainly by rich pale males. It didn’t take long for me to figure this out as I became active in the Phoenix community. Lesbians – women after all – were discriminated against in the gay world just as in the straight. In fact gay men seemed to have a particular aversion to women. I heard many abusive and disgusting names used for women before they learned not to do it in my presence.

One example was the Lesbian Resource Project. We wanted one of the rooms in the community center into which males could not enter. The men threw a hissy fit insisting that they had a right to enter every space that ever existed on the earth. We fought. We prevailed but it was ugly.

Another example is the LGBT PAC. I was chair of it before I left in 1998 to go to Russia for two years. In 2000 when I returned, I went back to the PAC where the leadership did everything to discourage me from re-engaging including refusing to tell me where and when the meetings occurred. As they pushed, I pulled, they prevaricated – I wondered why.

I found out. In my absence they had started funding anti-choice legislators so long as they supported gay men. The proverbial feces hit the whirling fan. A statewide battle ensued, and many women quit the board and the membership over it.

Because of the discrimination against lesbians, attorney Donna Hitchens formed the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 1977. But today that center has been so captured, they barely represent lesbians. On Feb. 19, 2024, I counted 36 cases on the first two pages of the NCLR litigation list. Of those 36 cases, 18 were representing transgender people and 13 were representing gay men. Only 5 were identifiable as representing actual lesbians. Thus the entire reason for the Center, that lesbians are ignored in the “gay” human rights struggle and therefore need a dedicated space to focus on our issues has been undercut and destroyed – yet again.

It is certainly not the only example. Around the world, lesbians have been kicked out of Pride Parades because they believed that lesbians had their own rights and issues separate from men. Lesbian music festivals have been destroyed nationwide by men who insist on entry into women’s space. Three lesbian breakfast clubs that I used to participate in have been destroyed the same way.

Around the world, gay centers have gay men only groups, trans only groups, and women’s groups that include transwomen. But a lesbian only group was prohibited as discriminatory. Thus lesbians are denied the right to associate and organize that is guaranteed to every other group under international human rights documents and our own Constitution.

Because lesbians categorically deny sexual access to all men, because lesbians do not center men in their worldview, because lesbians want a room of their own without men, lesbians are erased and shoved out of the movement by prohibiting lesbians from meeting in public spaces to socialize or organize. Rather, lesbians are threatened with and victims of violence precisely for being what lesbians are, i.e., female.

Because lesbians are no longer allowed to organize in public spaces, we have been forced back into the closet. I recall when I lived in Moscow and was trying to find the lesbians, someone told me oh a bunch of them live over on this street near that metro stop. I said and what do you propose I do, make a casserole and walk up and down that street asking who is having a potluck?

When I was in my twenties and dating men, two guys broke up with me because they said they wanted girlfriends who “needed” them and were not so independent. I broke up with two other guys when they said oh but when we get married, you’ll stop all this political activity and career talk. That’s the point and precisely what galls men the most – we don’t “need” them, and we do intend to continue all that political activity and career talk!
That is why lesbians remain the ugly stepchild. And that is why we need to return to our own lesbian focused, woman focused, human rights movement.