(1975) An assessment of the CWLU Lesbian Group's work.
(Editors Note: This is a 1975 conference report from the CWLU Lesbian Group explaining their organization and their work.)
These are answers from the Lesbian Group to some of the "Prison Project" questions, for Conference Planning Committee. We have not yet answered some of the questions since they require a fuller discussion than we’ve already been able to have.
1. Because the Lesbian Group has been small and fairly informal, the work that we’ve done in the six months of our existence is a little hard to summarize. Mostly we’ve talked about various aspects of lesbianism, both from the point of view of personal experience, and that of the institutionalized oppression of gay people. Specifically. we’re planning to write a series of articles on these subjects, for use in Liberation School classes and other introductory and outreach situations. We also do speaking engagements when requests come through Speakers Bureau for such topics as lesbianism, or the relation between the gay movement and the women’s movement.
We were also originally planning to sponsor a city-wide meeting on some aspect of lesbianism, but then decided not to do that just yet, since we felt we needed more education and preparation among ourselves. We also weren’t too sure what purpose a city-wide meeting would serve at this time.
As for why we do this work, we believe that it is important for lesbians to get together as a political force, both in separate organizations, and as caucuses or groups within other organizations, especially women’s liberation groups. In CWLU, we can function to make sure that the Union implements those aspects of our Political Principles which relate to the right of sexual self-determination and support for the rights of gay people.
4. We have both lesbian and bi-sexual members. Aside from that, there isn’t much need to answer this question, since what it deals with is the whole point of our group, except to say something about our relations with other groups.
Most of us as individuals have had some contact with women in such groups as the Lesbian-Feminist Center, Chicago Lesbian Liberation, and the LAVENDER WOMAN collective, but our group as a whole has not.* However we have to remember that other groups will probably see us as the inheritor of CWLU’s prior conflicts with them. On the other hand, many of the individuals who are now active in these groups were not necessarily around at the time of previous conflicts, so hopefully they can relate to us without prejudice. We haven’t really made any approaches to these groups, nor they to us, but casual conversations between various individuals would seem to indicate an interest in furthering good relations.
5. We are white and mostly lower—middle class . Presumably we have the potential of reaching out to lesbians beyond this, including Third—World and working-class lesbians, but we haven’t really done so yet, in part because our group is almost entirely composed of active CWLU members, and thus reflects the class and race make-up of the Union. We’ve had no relations with other groups yet, Third-World or otherwise,
6. As a group we haven’t really talked much about imperialism, etc. Most of us have an implicit understanding that imperialism affects us all, and some of us have quite a bit of familiarity with certain anti—imperialist struggles (e.g., China, Vietnam). Probably the main reason why we haven’t really discussed this is that most of us have had the opportunity to deal with this in other groups (particularly the Liberation School Work Group, to which a majority of us belong and therefore there hasn’t seemed to be a pressing need to discuss it.
We will probably discuss this further, and we might do some writing on this subject. We might try to revise “Lesbianism and Socialist Feminism” to include more. anti-imperialist material.
7. Information-sharing and decision-making are pretty informal, due to the small number and close-knit nature of the group. What problems there are seem to be resolved by talking things out til a consensus is reached. However, we seem to have an unresolved problem in getting and keeping new members.
There are no formal positions of leadership (with the possible exception of SC rep.): chairing the meetings has been more or less rotated, although there’s one person who’s done more than her share of this, by default.
We see the responsibility of our Steering Committee rep. not only to represent our group in a minimal way (i.e., to bring information back and forth between our group and SC) , but also to raise issues of importance to lesbians, to raise the consciousness of SC about lesbianism, and to raise the consciousness of CWLU through SC.
8. We’ve tried to get new members by putting notices in the Newsletter and by word of mouth without too much success (we know there are more lesbian and bisexual women in CWLU than just the six or eight of us). There’s no decisions to be made on new members—we’ll accept anyone who expresses interest. We integrate new members by giving them a run-down of our previous work, and by answering any questions they might have.
*That is, not the Lesbian Group that’s been in existence since this spring. In our previous reincarnation, the Gay Group of 1972—73 had some contact with CLL and to a lesser extent LAVENDER WOMAN.