Lesbians, Second-Wave Feminism and Gay Liberation

Authored by: Julie Podmore , Manon Tremblay

The Ashgate Research Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409457091
eBook ISBN: 9781315613147
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042914


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The acronym LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) is commonly used to represent a coalition of political interests that have been formed in opposition to the repressive gender and sexual norms created by the institutionalization of heterosexism. Although a common stand against heteronormativity provides the LGBTQ movement with a certain ontological unity, differences within the movement have created perennial conflicts over representation. One of the most foundational tensions within this coalition has been the ways in which gender intersects with sexuality. Our goal in this chapter is to examine the gender tensions in the movement by returning to the early 1970s when conflicted relationships between lesbians, feminists and gay liberationists took shape. Confronting invisibility within the gay liberation movement and heterosexism within the second-wave feminist movement, lesbian activists in regions of the urban West began to develop their own autonomous organizations, building what is broadly defined as the lesbian liberation movement (LLM). According to Myers (2003: 167), this movement was unified around “a radical and revolutionary social-political goal that would allow free expression of lesbian love without social stigmas or political oppression.” Despite this common goal, there have historically been important geographical differences in the formation, alliances and ideology of this movement. While globally it became a social movement that promoted a separate politicized lesbian feminist identity, it was constructed through locally specific interactions that had long-term impacts on where lesbians saw themselves in relation to feminism and gay liberation.

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