In defence of lesbian rights: a veteran US activist speaks

by Ann Menasche

The current phenomenon that “you are what you say you are,” that sex doesn’t exist, only “gender identity”, and that “transwomen” are composed of men who’ve mostly lived heterosexual lives, but are deemed and insist on being seen as “women ” and ” lesbians” upon their say so, is all very recent. It has taken less than a decade to reach the level of a kind of mass insanity on the left.

Along with it is the “transitioning” of children, mostly girls for being born in the “wrong” body, and the “T” being attached like a cancer onto the Lesbian and Gay movement and taking most of the attention and resources.

However, its roots do go back into the 1970s. Transsexualism was almost exclusively a male phenomenon, mostly among men who were gay and “feminine” but couldn’t accept it or living that way openly. Drag queens were exclusively gay men. But there were transsexual men at the height of radical feminism and lesbian feminism, which I was personally involved in, that called themselves women and lesbians and claimed the right to openly or surreptitiously (or so they thought) enter women-only and lesbian spaces and even had relationships with women in the lesbian community.

There weren’t a lot of them so they seemed fairly harmless to some feminists, including me at the time – though I changed my mind soon afterward. Others reacted vehemently against this male intrusion into women-only and lesbian spaces.

One such man, who goes by the name of Beth Elliott, stalked a lesbian I know for decades, adopting a name similar to hers and imitating her dress and presentation, claimed to be a “lesbian” and attended a national lesbian conference in Los Angeles in 1973 until the conference kicked him out. I wasn’t at the conference but I did meet “Beth” at a lesbian social gathering in San Francisco in 1975. Why would basically straight men (some are bisexual or may be closeted gay men) want to dress “as women” and/or claim to be lesbians (which is challenging given that many lesbians eschew “feminine” attire)?

A section of heterosexual men commonly have fantasies of “conquering” lesbians – it’s a subject of porn and a big turn-on. The gender boxes are stifling to both sexes so there may be underlying gender nonconformity and/or suppressed homosexuality involved. I have the subjective impression that a lot of trans-identified males, old time transsexual or not, come from fundamentalist families that were homophobic and imposed rigid gender roles. And some men clearly have a sexual fetish about dressing in women’s clothes. They fall in love with their own idea of what a woman is and with themselves in that role. We used to call these (mostly) straight guys cross dressers, most of whom had wives and kids.

Now, however, it is impossible to attend a women’s event such as the lesbian group at the LGBT Center in San Diego without one or two or three of these males being present. They organized to eliminate the separate sex restrooms at the Center and pushed to make both “gender neutral.” The only women’s dance in San Diego is open to these men. (The lesbian bars have all closed.) Lesbians have been the canaries in the mine of this ideology.

The Dyke March that lesbians formed is now dominated by these male “lesbians”. In San Francisco last year lesbians who attempted to attend the Dyke March were assaulted by transactivists who didn’t like their signs and are in a thuggish group call the “degenderettes” and consider themselves lesbians of course.

Young lesbians have come under huge pressure to date straight biological males who identify as “lesbians”  – if they aren’t prepared to do so, they are called bigots.

Despite legal progress, right up to gay marriage, it’s never been harder to be a lesbian in my whole lifetime than it is now.  This is thanks largely to the activities of these men and the widespread new acceptability on the left for anti-lesbian bigotry.


  1. Backward sections of the left attacked the early gay liberation movement and pathologised homosexuality. Most leftists came to support gay liberation over time.

    Two generations on, however, we now have a layer of leftists who think it is OK for heterosexual males to physically threaten, even assault, lesbian activists and also to denounce and use bullying tactics against lesbians who don’t wish to have sex with them (or any other males).

    These folks are the successors to the backward elements of the 1960s left.

    Who knows, maybe such sections of the left will be the last place to protect and enable anti-gay, especially anti-lesbian, prejudice and violence.

  2. It’s not just physical threats, it’s death threats. I’m sick of it. Lesbians have been the back bone and the life blood of queer liberation. They deserve respect and the ability to define their own space without violence, ridicule, or attack.

    • It’s disgusting that a heap of straight males on the left are acting as enablers to this behaviour. Unfortunately, however, it’s not surprising that sexism and homophobia – in particular, anti-lesbian attitudes – have turned out to be rife. It’s (straight) blokes identifying with (straight) blokes against women in general and lesbians in particular. Male solidarity at its very worst. Yuk!

    • Given the ways in which lesbians contributed to the campaign to decriminalise male homosexuality and also supported gay men through the worst of the HIV/Aids crisis, it is time for more gay men to step up and support lesbians from the whole range of attacks by these super-entitled heterosexual men pretending to be women – and gay women at that!

Comments are closed.