When I was in my 40’s, I couldn’t wait to turn 60 so I could
join OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change).
I came out in 1979 into a vibrant, loving, strong, visible,
active lesbian womyn’s community that embraced me, challenged me, empowered me,
loved me and helped uncover and shape my consciousness, my awareness, my very
self, and certainly my womon-loving wisdom.
OLOC represented those amazingly brave womyn, who stood so
valiantly against misogyny and anti-lesbianism when the risk to their lives and
loves were so much more dangerous then today. Those womyn warriors and
change-makers shaped and built our
I finally was able to go to my first OLOC meeting about a
year ago and was both deeply disappointed and greatly relieved: disappointed to
be in the midst of such a predominantly blindingly white group, and therefore relieved
that my friend couldn’t make it at the last minute, sparing her from being the
token spot of color.
Deciding to temporarily put aside my disappointment while
internally debating whether I had the desire let alone the energy to commit to
challenging and helping eradicate the racism in OLOC, I spoke briefly about
Jeju Island, invited activists to join me, and left my flyers along with my
desire to join OLOC.
Then last week I heard about the mediation, that OLOC was
dealing with ‘issues’, and received an invitation to join.
Now at 62 ½, and I
have some life experience especially with ‘issues’ within our community, am a
mediator, problem-solver, conflict-resolution, change-making kinda womon, so I
decided what the hell, I’ll go and hope
these white womyn have decided to take those courageous liberating steps to deal
Imagine my disappointment when I walk in and find OLOC
debating the same ridiculous, internally-misogynist ‘issue’ that we debated in
1979: when we have ‘womyn’s’ events, do we have to ‘include’ men who wear
dresses; i.e. men who identify as ‘women’? Except today it’s men who identify
Of course, back then, those men were called transsexuals or
transvestites: today they are called ‘trans-gendered’.
When I came out, lesbians alerted me to the fact that
society constructed two boxes, one for women and girls, one for men and boys, the
same boxes as it does today: boxes filled with appropriate roles, attitudes,
dress, jobs, language, behavior, life styles and so on, that define what a
woman or girl is and what a man or boy is including who we should love; and further
that allocate value – or disvalue – to each role or shoe and even soul not to
mention punishment for those that refuse to be in their boxes.
We risked everything – including those things society said
we should want, we should have to make us whole – to smash those boxes, to
declare WE will decide what it means to be a womon, WE will decide what jobs we
want, clothes we wear, who we will love, what we value and are committed to.
We refused to change ourselves to fit into society’s
pre-formed boxes, in order to survive and be valued in our families, communities,
country. Instead we focused on the myriad of ways we internalized those boxes
and dedicated our time to ‘consciousness-raising’: dredging up those roles and
attitudes, that language and behavior, to critically examine the ways in which
we’ve internalized our oppression.
We proceeded to yank, cajole, rid ourselves of those things
deeply forced and rooted inside of us from what society told us it meant to be
And we spent hours, eons of our time, our energy, our love
debating and deciding what it really means to be a woman, until we decided
women can be ANYTHING we want to be: that womyn who want to wear pants,
swagger, and work construction, womyn who stand up, speak out, are assertive
and BOLD, are as much ‘womon’ as those who want to paint their faces, stay at
home and have babies, and wash dishes.
In other words, we can pick and choose from either box,
embrace and wear those things, and still be “womon”, not to mention all the
things we created that either never existed in the boxes or all the things we
reclaimed as wonderful that were negatives in the boxes.
And we swiftly rejected society’s box full of shame,
confusion, uncleanliness, male ownership for our bodies, instead determinedly
proudly & lovingly embracing our bodies – our breasts, our cunts, our
monthly bleeding, and our ability to choose to create and give life or not as
what, of course, defines us as ‘women’.
We also defined, or redefined, in our aware
womon-loving-womyn’s terms, what power means, love means, what womyn value, how
we want to be on this earth, how we are connected to the mother earth and to
those womyn who came before us, who are here now, and who are to come:
connected not just because we share the same bodily form, we suffer misogyny
and sexism, but because we are those special, unique, astounding beings called
At that time, some men wanted to join us: men who identified
with and embraced, many times much greater then most of us did, what society
says it means to be a woman. Men who thought they could deny the first 20, 30,
40 years of living their lives as men. Men who thought they could ignore the privileges
of the box handed to them with the act of their birth.
Of course, 40 years ago not many men had the funds to
surgically alter their bodies nor was the medical society so willing to help
After 40 years, transgendered people are choosing to accept
– more than any other group of people – the stereotypes/roles/definitions/etc
of the two boxes and instead of daring to defy and smash those boxes and saying
“the way I am IS what it means to be woman” or “the way I am IS what it means
to be man”, they are smashing their bodies to fit into society’s boxes.
Today, at OLOC, I could not believe that womyn who lived
their lives, most for several decades, as lesbians, were unwilling to define
what it means to be a lesbian. I was shocked that these smart, passionate fore-warriors
who influenced me and helped build our whole movement, were unwilling to stand
up and say of course we know what the hell a lesbian is: WE are lesbians, WE
are womyn who love womyn – simple truths.
And because these womyn were willing to ‘give up’ the
responsibility and power to determine who we are, they decided to open OLOC to
any person who self-defines what ‘lesbian’ is.
When I first came out, “inclusion” was a huge ‘issue’ in our
lesbian womyn’s community: do we include transsexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals
The pressure for womyn to be “inclusive” is so very great in
our society. I so understand it. We must include all because we must take care
of everyone; we must focus on others cause we should not focus on ourselves,
And we know what it is like to be ‘excluded’ because of
race, sex, life-style, etc. so we want more than anything to not be labeled
The pressure was so great in the 70’s and early 80’s to
embrace everything society said was ‘perversion’ as we were the number one
‘perverts’ and wanted to compensate for society’s judgments , when I came out
pedophiles were ‘included’ in the gay day parade under the cloak of man-boy
As I stood against pedophiles and for protecting our youth,
I was accused of not being ‘inclusive’ – to which I said, yes, right on, we do
NOT have to be ‘inclusive’ but we have to be empowered and define for ourselves
When determining to gather together as womyn, as lesbians, defining
ourselves has nothing to do with exclusion but rather with self-determination. By
setting up or allowing others to set up the argument as an issue of ‘inclusion’
or ‘exclusion’ is in itself internalized misogyny.
I’m sure there are people who have written about this
extensively and much more eloquently then I am.
I believe anyone has the right to do whatever they want to
their bodies. And I believe we, womyn-born-womyn, have the right to gather
together without apology or explanation.
Transgendered people have the right to gather together also
without apology or explanation.
And womyn-born-womyn and transgendered folks also have the
right to choose to gather together – but surely not at the expense of
What if men were taught to respect womyn-only space? What if
we didn’t have to explain, with such kindness, gentleness, pleading for
understanding & acceptance, that this is womyn-only space every time a man
encroaches? What if transgendered people believed in respecting and supporting womyn-only
space instead of insisting on invading womyn-only space, demanding with all the
power and privilege ingrained in them from early on, that THEY have the right
to force their way into our sacred spaces?
Please remember, we gather together to empower each other,
to enable ourselves to be the strongest, most self-determined womyn we want to
be. Including ‘others’ into our womyn-only spaces diminishes our strengths,
dilutes our foothold we have made with our sweat, blood, tears over the past
I am all for working in coalitions but surely we can protect
our precious, empowering womyn-only spaces for ourselves at the same time.
I ask OLOC members one last question: why the hell aren’t
you focusing on and grappling with why our sisters, old lesbian womyn of color,
are so absent from OLOC? You would rather focus on including men who have
transitioned then on what OLOC is doing to exclude lesbians of color?
I would think after all these decades, after all the bold,
courageous womyn of color who spoke out and challenged white – especially
lesbian – womyn activists to demolish the racism they brought into and formed
into the womyn’s movement, OLOC would have racism first on the agenda, first on
the list of priorities, first before any other issue, discussion, mediation,
And certainly before
putting energy, once again, into men.