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The content of this blog is unabashedly lesbian feminist in perspective. If that offends you, leave now.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014



Misogyny Comes in Many Forms

by Beth Maples-Bays

Today I went to the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Web site in search of a map of marriage equality states. I was elated yesterday when I learned of the Supreme Court’s ruling that increases the number of states that will legally-recognize same-sex marriage. When I linked to the site, one of the articles caught my attention immediately.

The article, posted two days ago, is Chad Griffin’s account of “Speaking to Southern Comfort 2014”. His remarks included the high rate of violence against transpersons, comparing it to an epidemic.  He also pointed to the numerous examples of HRC’s efforts to include transpersons in activism and projects in the fight while vowing to ramp up the fight against transphobia.

Since coming out in 1978, I have made womyn a priority in my life. Whether distributing “The Amazon Spirit” in Western Montana in the late 70s or acting as the East Tennessee Bureau Chief  to Out and About Newspaper in the 90s, my push for LGBT equality has always included Radical Lesbian Feminists front and center. Most people who have read my writings were reading news from East Tennessee’s LGBT community. The operative word here is news. Without a lesbian feminist community in the entire region, my opportunities were few. I did what I could.

My partner and I have been a monogamous couple since April 17, 1991. That’s 23 years for those who can’t do math without a calculator. My partner, Sam, has been a stalwart supporter through a devastating autoimmune disease as well as breast cancer in 2012. As a lesbian feminist couple living in an area predominated by evangelical Christians, we have struggled at times to live up to radfem values in every possible way.

We have travelled many miles, handed out many fliers, staffed tables at events, and reached out to lesbian and LGBT communities in Upper and Lower East Tennessee. It’s a slow grind to raise awareness to a population that has had a 2009 Tennessee Constitutional Amendment passed to prevent the overturning of the 1996 law against marriage equality. 

We have had some fighters in our midst who have waged successful battles against the homophobic powers that run this state. I am thinking of Abby Rubenfeld from Nashville, who along with Jackie Kittrell, saw the sodomy laws overturned in this state. Ms. Kittrell is the mother of a gay son. 

Our few lesbian-only events have given way to LGBT gatherings. What does this have to do with transphobia and Chad Griffin’s speech to the Southern Comfort 2014 event in Atlanta? The glaring omission of a lesbian advocacy community has weighed heavily on my soul in the last several years. The demise of our local lesbian-only dances and newsletter gave way to alphabet soup events that do not speak to lesbian lives. 

Please remember that I have dedicated most of my adult life to lesbian and women’s causes.

In 2001, my primary relationship was in its tenth year. Most of those years were spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals. I have never gone to a doctor’s appointment or hospital stay alone. Sam was there. Every time. As I sat on the side of the bed one day, s/he brought me some printed material from an event for those who identify as trans and their partners. With much gratitude in my heart, this radical lesbian feminist looked up and said, “I am not able to help you right now, but one day I will feel better. Then I will help you.”

Our household went online in September of 1998. I researched radical lesbian feminist, Goddess sites, butch-femme groups, and female-to-male transition in that order. In May 2001, Sam began transitioning. He was 45 years old. He came out as a lesbian at 15 years of age. He had lived as a lesbian for 30 years.This resulted in an existential crisis for me, but that is another story for another day.
 
We attended Southern Comfort 2007 (SC07).  The only thing we really enjoyed was the tour of CNN, an event unrelated to Southern Comfort. Attending a “partner’s gathering”, I discovered that I was the only lesbian there. As a matter of fact, I later learned that in all probability, I was the only lesbian at the convention. Later still, I found out why.

Having read female-to-male (FTM) mailing lists for years, participated in support groups for transfolks and their partners, holding (briefly) office in an organization for transgender veterans, I can say unequivocally that the trans community is rife with lesbophobia. We are seen as “the enemy” by transpersons as a group and by many individuals. There is much animosity toward gay men, especially those associated with LGBT organizations such as HRC and The Task Force. The pointed hatred that I saw on my PC monitor was both disheartening and a source of confirmation for stalwart radfems that have noted this hatred for years. The facts show that the folks who identify as trans-warriors actively hate lesbians. In fact, they hate all women as a general rule.

I have to say that the most mind-boggling aspect of SC07 came to our awareness gradually. The overwhelming majority of the folks we met were heterosexual couples in which the man liked to cross-dress. I have to say that was truly unexpected. We thought we were attending a trans-convention.

In 2011, I attended the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MichFest), riding with friends from my community. I entered a world centered on womyn – singing, drumming, dancing, guitar-strumming, artist, supportive womyn. They respectfully ask that only womyn-born womyn attend the Festival. This is not a policy. It is the intention of MichFest organizers. Year after year, their intention is ignored as male-to-female transsexuals (MTF) show their disrespect by attending MichFest anyway, ignoring the mutual respect of the intention. Camp Trans gathers outside the perimeter of the Festival, proclaiming their opposition to the intention. By placing themselves outside The Land, they have at least enough respect not to enter.

Sam respects the intention, regardless of overwhelming support from those in the LGBT community who do not adhere to the values behind the Intention. Despite this, I was silenced by those who would not listen to my perspective. The minute they heard the word “trans”, they would shut down. Most assumed I was partnered with an MTF. They simply would not listen. My arguments were that my work in the community over the years, my love of the Goddess, and my entire life actively loving womyn point to the fact that I am the genuine article radfem. My reasoning was dismissed. I was very sad the whole week, despite enjoying the workshops, including the two I offered. Wonderful festival. Womyn should be allowed to attend a private event on private Land, without the stress of worrying about some pervert who thinks exposing himself is funny, without feeling violated once again.

I must say this has been a wild ride. As those who know me well can attest, I have been a hyperactivist with strong emphasis on womyn for many years, organizing, participating, and just generally showing up. I have been relatively quiet these last four years. I still feel sad about MichFest, but not so immobilized as in the beginning of this quiet period. I will always love my sisters, honest disagreements notwithstanding.

Amazon womyn rise!




Thursday, December 20, 2012



Re/membering Knoxville Butch-Femme Herstory


Attending Ann Brummitt’s receiving of friends sent me hurtling back in time, remembering my late 20’s here in the Knoxville lesbian community. The good times, friends and loves sprang from having our own space at The Point After. 
“Womonspace” it was called in other, more progressive communities. Here in the state that boasts the corporate offices of the Southern Baptist Convention, the lesbian feminist movement just never seemed to make it. 

While there were memorable, if sporadic, womyn-oriented events such as those handled by various womyn including Randy Hoffman for many years and various other activists who impacted the community on a short-term basis such as University of Tennessee students, mostly graduate students back in the early to mid-eighties. As an undergraduate representative to the UT Commission for Women, I became aware of the disconnect between the community and UT that persists to this day. While the LGBT community is coming alive and more active than ever on campus, it is all, well, in house. 

That brought me to memories of “The Point” as it was frequently called, located just off "The Strip", the heart of UT's night life. Memories of good times and bad, the rich textures of a lesbian community that was  predominantly butch-femme lesbians who didn’t know they had even missed anything called the lesbian feminist movement. I remember the bar's whole layout: the dance floor, the booths and tables, the bar, the pool tables, and “the line.” The line, of course, lead to the ladies room, but which gave one an excellent view of the entire bar. So, if you wanted to check somebody out or keep tabs on your partner, you went to the bathroom a lot just so you could get that view. This was a well known fact.

My experiences there made Joan Nestles’ writings (Restricted Country and many other titles) resonate with me. So what if I was in the mid-80’s in East Tennessee and she spent her time in a lesbian community in the 1950's Northeast? Her descriptions of the wimmin in her life seemed very familiar to me. She helped me feel validated as a femme. She gave me vision to know that I can define myself. No one else can.

But it was the butches who stole my heart. Such wonderful, glorious female masculinity, that strength that emanates from each and every one of you is the stuff that kept me strong when I became weak, the rock solid encouragement, the supportive partner – these traits are exquisitely beautiful to me. 

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that the love of my life has been by my side for the last twenty-one years, and we’re hoping for twenty more. Thank you, Sam, for being my rock.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Local judge "loses it" on bench

Unprofessional demeanor?

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood's recent on-camera behavior in the courtroom leaves one wondering how he ever go there in the first place. Screaming threats of contempt of court to long-time Attorney General Randy Nichols, Blackwood appears to be having problems maintaining judicial decorum.

All the screaming was over the potential retrial of three of the defendants charged in the Christian-Newsom murders originally presided over by Judge Richard Baumgartner.  Baumgartner's departure from the bench occurred when his addiction to pain pills came to light. Adding to the mix, his drug dealer was a previous defendant in his courtroom and another had ties with Baumgartner both for drugs and romantic liaisons. Not exactly a great image for the judges here in Knoxville. Now comes his replacement, Blackwood, who not only screams at our AG, but also defies a Tennessee Supreme Court decision that he should recuse himself if new trials are granted in the case. He also refused to let the prosecutors argue for recusal in court last Friday.

Blackwood also made remarks regarding John Gill, Special Counsel to the AG's  office, referencing an email in which Gill notes Blackwood's hatred for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. He further stated that Blackwood was engaged in private communications with the defense attorneys. Am I making this clear? Blackwood has set himself up for recusal for an entirely different reason from the arguments made to the Tennessee State Supreme Court. This kind of communications between a judge and the defense attorneys is prohibited.

Two judges. Two very ugly pictures. One disbarred. One having temper tantrums in the courtroom. Come this way with me, and I'll show you another judge who could stand a good dose of the light of day. His name is Bill Swann. He has held the Fourth Circuit Court bench since 1982. His resume is astounding. This private school Fulbright Scholar taught German at Yale and Brown before coming to the University of Tennessee's College of Law.

So what.

I sat in the courtroom of Judge Swan on six separate occasions. I heard him state that women who ask for Orders of Protection are just doing so "for entertainment." He was inattentive, condescending and arrogant. His lovely background at Ivy League colleges and European intellectual forays have *nothing* to do with how this man treats women. His seat on this bench is a slap in the face to any victim of domestic violence. Period.

So now we have three judges that just don't quite smell right. What's wrong with a justice system that allows for this unbridled unprofessional behavior by men that are making judgments that change people's lives. I think it's time for some good old-fashioned sunshine.




Friday, June 17, 2011


JOY, SHEER JOY!


To thine own self be true = HAPPINESS

I am now and have always been a lesbian feminist activist since I came out in 1978. I am just now getting to do some of the things I have fervently desired since Day One. I am going to be representing Lesbian Connection at Knox PrideFest 2011. I cannot think of an organization I would rather represent. This publication has changed the lives of many lesbians by providing a concrete matrix for a national (and international) lesbian community.

I have worked at many LGBT-related gatherings. I have volunteered for many facets of the LGBT struggle for equality. I promise this little job will bring me more sheer joy than anything I have ever done. I owe these wimmin (sic) *something* for all the encouragement, validation, and vital information that they have made available free worldwide to lesbians since they first began publishing in 1975.

MORE JOY


I received my ticket to the 2011 Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I shook as I carefully cut the envelope open so that I can scan it for a possible scrapbook. I am just in absolute awe at the accommodations available to disabled persons at this event. I am really going to get to go see my Sisters and The Land. I am dumbstruck with joy.

I have been making clothing and bags to use at MichFest. I also have turned out a ceremonial belt, Croning dress for the ceremony on August 7th - some good Leo energy going on then. When I think about getting to go I lose all grounding whatsoever and just float around propelled with anticipation, wonderful anticipatory fantasy, and (you guessed it) JOY!

My heart is feelin' good today.

Monday, May 09, 2011



Starting to prepare for MichFest


I got up this morning, filled out the forms that I need to send to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festive (hereafter referred to as MichFest. I cannot remember ever being more joyous as when I called Walhalla and spoke with a womon named Terril. She was very patient with me. I told her that I had waited 33 years to come to MichFest, that when I checked their Web site to see if they could accommodate a visually impaired, hearing impaired, mobility impaired lesbian. I broke down when I saw all the wonderful supports that were in place to enable those of us who need them to attend. I felt a wave of memory wash over me. I was instantly back in 1979 in Montana helping distribute "The Amazon Spirit," a statewide monthly newsletter published by local lesbian feminists. I was down in Stone Mountain, Georgia, watching Melissa Etheridge perform onstage at RhythmFest in 1989, feeling tearful gratitude for Holly Near who works so hard to make the venues where she performs accessible. It's like a cocoon. The lesbian womonenergy is addictive. It is a place apart where my sisters care about each other and actively advocate for each other.

On Sunday, I bought the tallest air mattress that would fit my budget, a battery-powered inflation pump, and a bunch of D batteries. I also got an 8 X 10 tarp.

I was a bit anxious about how much energy it would take to do my two proposed workshops. To my delight, when I opened my MichFest folder I found detailed outlines for both of them. I did them a month or two ago, but formot all about doing them. The first one will be about sharing my experiences as a native Appalachian lesbian. How I try to keep the best parts of my culture while struggling mightily against the oppression of patriarchy that is the very matrix of Appalachian culture. I quilt. I crochet. I can. I make apple butter. I can. I can pass some good Appalachian culture down to my grandchildren without buying into the old boy Christian shoulder-patting submissive female role that engulfs many Appalachian straight women and lesbians as well.

The second one will be about the emotional roller coaster that occurs in many of our lives when our mothers die. I am an old hand at this one. My mother died in 1971. I was 19. The ogre to whom she was married called her into his private office, threw a red jacket over her head, and shot her six times. The pain is indescribable, but I have learned to live without her. I'm hoping that a group of wimmin will provide an opportunity to give and get support around this issue.

I'm ready tor some good womon energy, bonfires, rock and roll. sweet acoustic guitars, intensive intensives, sharing and meeting my sisters from all over the world. I cannot wait to get to The Land. I will put down my walking stick, kneel down on my one good knee and will lay a big one on the Holy Terra. This has been a long time coming.


_________________________________________________________________

Photo credit - Sam Bays
False Solomon's Seal in my front garden

Monday, February 14, 2011


Local mainstream news sources watch a different Madison


Focus on the Dems flight, not protests


After watching the live events in Madison, Wisconsin, on MSNBC with Ed Shultz I turned on my local news. When the Wisconsin story aired I was absolutely dumbfounded. The entire story focused on the Democratic legislators who have fled the state to prevent a quorum necessary for a vote on the bill that could end collective bargaining rights for state government employees.
I kept waiting for the fact that this workers' uprising is like none other in the history of the United States. These workers have stayed the course and will be joined in ever greater numbers by locals with a day off and others coming in one by one and by busloads.

Not one remark told of the tens of thousands who have stood fast in the cold Wisconsin weather to assert their right to health care, fair working conditions, a living wage and the collective bargaining process.

Looking at the 4-5,000 people assembled inside the capitol building was nothing short of jaw-dropping awe. The energy is infectious. Tomorrow they expect 40,000. No mention of
any of this was made in the four local news sources I checked after being clued in by the newscast.

I intend to watch any live broadcast I can manage because I am now aware that I have some major perception differences when compared to our local mainstream news sources.

Surprise, surprise.

Friday, February 04, 2011


Moving forward with MichFest plans

I've been in dreamland these days, thinking about MichFest and the pilgrimage I have w
anted my entire life. These thoughts are interwoven with the crocheted cotton stitches of my evening wrap, the bead work on my "Pisces" shirt. I am allowing myself to breathe and know that I am dis/covering wisdom as I plod toward my Croning with great thought and reverence.

Knowing that I am embracing a journey that will entail many challenges only makes me want it more. I have fantasies of offering up one of my Max/ine Feldman purses for auction to help pay my expenses. More fantasies break through my consciousness, leading me to take gifts to randomly or not-so-randomly distribute to those who seem to need them along the way. I'm obsessing with having as many things as possible homemade - adding an amalgam of healer and weaver literally imbued to the very threads. I have been an healer, a weaver and grower-of-herbs for many years. Some say many lifetimes.

I have finished the Pisces shirt and am on to making my Africa skirt/caftan/not sure yet. The wrap is still ongoing, but it won' take long. It will soon be time to make m
y Croning dress.