Beth Elliott

Beth Elliott (born 1950) is an American trans lesbian folk singer, activist, and writer.[1] In the early 1970s Elliot was involved with the Daughters of Bilitis and the West Coast Lesbian Conference in California. She became a controversial figure when members of these groups felt she did not qualify as a woman and rejected her inclusion.[2]

Daughters of BilitisEdit

Elliott served as vice-president of the San Francisco chapter of the lesbian political group Daughters of Bilitis from 1971 to 1972, during which she served as editor of the chapter's newsletter, Sisters.[2] When she first joined in 1971, her right to join was heatedly debated because of her sex.[3] Yet she was accepted and served until late 1972 when accusations of sexual harassment from former friend, lesbian separatist, and feminist activist, Bev Jo Von Dohre, led to a decisive vote.[1][4][5] The result was 35 to 28 against the inclusion of Elliott, or any trans women, in the San Francisco chapter of the DOB.[6] When Del Martin announced the 35–28 vote, the editorial staff of Sisters walked out, leaving the group over the decision.[6]

West Coast Lesbian ConferenceEdit

Beth Elliott continued her involvement in the women's movement and helped to create the West Coast Lesbian Conference which took place in April 1973.[4] She was on the organization committee and was asked to perform as a singer in the conference's entertainment program.[1] However, on the first night when she took the stage she met considerable opposition. Lesbian separatist group, The Gutter Dykes, had leafleted in protest of Elliott's presence, claiming she was a man, and approached the stage with hostility.[1][6][7] Other performers, Jeanne Cordova,[6] Robin Tyler, and Patty Harrison,[7] have stated that they responded by defending Elliott and established the need for a vote on whether Elliott's performance should continue.[2][7] It took over an hour to count the roughly 1,300 attendees and resulted in a reported two-thirds in favor of Elliott's performance.[1][8] Some accounts state 3:1 in Elliott’s favor while others state it as a bare majority.[6][9] Elliott gave a brief performance and went on to leave the conference.[1] The following day, keynote speaker Robin Morgan gave her address, which she had altered after the events of the previous night.[6] In the speech, titled "Lesbianism and Feminism: Synonyms or Contradictions?" Morgan referred to Elliott as a "gatecrashing...male transvestite"[1] and, using male pronouns, charged her as "an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer-with the mentality of a rapist."[1][10]

Post-conferenceEdit

The incident at the West Coast Lesbian Conference, the largest lesbian gathering precedented,[1] left a lasting impression. Not only was Elliott emotionally and socially scarred, but the words defaming her circulated among grassroots lesbian networks and began the 'transsexual rapist' trope."[1] The event was the first time many feminists encountered the question of trans women's inclusion in the movement.[1] Elliott was left ostracized from much of the women's and lesbian community due to the controversial division emerging among feminists.[5][8][11][12]

Life and careerEdit

Beth Elliott has been publishing since the mid 1970s on bisexuality, feminism, the AIDS movement, sex positivity, and transgenderism.[11][13] Additionally, Elliott is the author of several books published by ENC Press. Her 1996 memoir, Mirrors: Portrait of a Lesbian Transsexual, was described as a “classic in lesbian feminist and transgender/transsexual literary history” by the Bay Area Reporter.[14] She reprised the book in 2011, adding a new introduction and afterword as well as a chapter recounting of her experience at the West Coast Lesbian Conference.[14] She is also the author of the science fiction novel, Don’t Call it “Virtual” published in 2003.[15]

She has been involved in political work in support of gay rights and co-founded the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Club.[13] She was elected as a board member for the California Committee for Sexual Law Reform which, in 1975, supported Willie Brown to pass legislation repealing anti-gay sodomy laws in California.[11][13]

She has been a folk musician since the late 1960s and was active in the Haight-Ashbury hippie music scene in the 1970s.[11][13] Her latest work is the album entitled "Buried Treasure," released independently in 2005.[16]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Stryker, Susan (2008). Transgender History. Seal Press. pp. 102–104. ISBN 9781580052245.
  2. ^ a b c Meyerowitz, Joanne J. (2009). How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0-674-04096-0.
  3. ^ Gallo, Marcia (September 28, 2007). Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement. Seal Press, 2006. pp. 190–191. ISBN 9781580052528.
  4. ^ a b "1973: West Coast TERFs". The Terfs. October 12, 2013.; provides context on the accusations
  5. ^ a b Elliott, Beth; Nettick, Geri (2011). Mirrors: Portrait of a Lesbian Transsexual. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781463605209.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Clendinen, Dudley; Nagourney, Adam (2013). Out For Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. Simon and Schuster. pp. 164–167. ISBN 9781476740713.
  7. ^ a b c Williams, Cristan (2014). "That time TERFs beat RadFems for protecting a trans woman from their assault". The Transadvocate.
  8. ^ a b Erickson-Schroth, Laura (2014). Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. Oxford University Press. p. 518. ISBN 9780199325375.
  9. ^ Pomerleau, Carlos (2013). Califia Women: Feminist Education against Sexism, Classism, and Racism. University of Texas. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9780292752962.
  10. ^ Robin Morgan, “Keynote Address” Lesbian Tide. May/Jun73, Vol. 2 Issue 10/11, p30-34 (quote p 32); additional coverage in Pichulina Hampi, Advocate, May 9, 1973, issue 11, p. 4
  11. ^ a b c d Sides, Josh (2009). Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco. Oxford University Press. pp. 120–122. ISBN 978-0-19-537781-1. EROTIC CITY beth elliott.
  12. ^ Elliott, Beth (June 1973). "Of Infidels and Inquisitions". Lesbian Tide. 2 (11): 15–26.
  13. ^ a b c d Love, Barbara J; Cott, Nancy, eds. (April 17, 2015). Feminists Who Changed America, 1963–1975. University of Illinois Press. p. 133. ISBN 9780252097478.
  14. ^ a b Cassell, Heather (August 25, 2011). "Telling tales of lesbian trans history". The Bay Area Reporter.
  15. ^ Elliott, Beth (2003). Don't Call It "Virtual". World Cat. ENC Emperor's New Clothes Press. OCLC 56873715. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  16. ^ "Buried Treasure". CD Baby. Archived from the original on February 22, 2008.