Beth Elliott (born 1950) is an American trans lesbian folk singer, activist, and writer. 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.
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. When she first joined in 1971, her right to join was heatedly debated because of her sex. 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. The result was 35 to 28 against the inclusion of Elliott, or any trans women, in the San Francisco chapter of the DOB. When Del Martin announced the 35–28 vote, the editorial staff of Sisters walked out, leaving the group over the decision.
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. She was on the organization committee and was asked to perform as a singer in the conference's entertainment program. 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. Other performers, Jeanne Cordova, Robin Tyler, and Patty Harrison, have stated that they responded by defending Elliott and established the need for a vote on whether Elliott's performance should continue. 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. Some accounts state 3:1 in Elliott’s favor while others state it as a bare majority. Elliott gave a brief performance and went on to leave the conference. The following day, keynote speaker Robin Morgan gave her address, which she had altered after the events of the previous night. In the speech, titled "Lesbianism and Feminism: Synonyms or Contradictions?" Morgan referred to Elliott as a "gatecrashing...male transvestite" and, using male pronouns, charged her as "an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer-with the mentality of a rapist."
The incident at the West Coast Lesbian Conference, the largest lesbian gathering precedented, 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." The event was the first time many feminists encountered the question of trans women's inclusion in the movement. Elliott was left ostracized from much of the women's and lesbian community due to the controversial division emerging among feminists.
Life and careerEdit
Beth Elliott has been publishing since the mid 1970s on bisexuality, feminism, the AIDS movement, sex positivity, and transgenderism. 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. 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. She is also the author of the science fiction novel, Don’t Call it “Virtual” published in 2003.
She has been involved in political work in support of gay rights and co-founded the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Club. 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.
She has been a folk musician since the late 1960s and was active in the Haight-Ashbury hippie music scene in the 1970s. Her latest work is the album entitled "Buried Treasure," released independently in 2005.
- Stryker, Susan (2008). Transgender History. Seal Press. pp. 102–104. ISBN 9781580052245.
- 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.
- 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.
- "1973: West Coast TERFs". The Terfs. October 12, 2013.; provides context on the accusations
- Elliott, Beth; Nettick, Geri (2011). Mirrors: Portrait of a Lesbian Transsexual. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781463605209.
- 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.
- Williams, Cristan (2014). "That time TERFs beat RadFems for protecting a trans woman from their assault". The Transadvocate.
- Erickson-Schroth, Laura (2014). Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. Oxford University Press. p. 518. ISBN 9780199325375.
- Pomerleau, Carlos (2013). Califia Women: Feminist Education against Sexism, Classism, and Racism. University of Texas. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9780292752962.
- 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
- 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.
- Elliott, Beth (June 1973). "Of Infidels and Inquisitions". Lesbian Tide. 2 (11): 15–26.
- Love, Barbara J; Cott, Nancy, eds. (April 17, 2015). Feminists Who Changed America, 1963–1975. University of Illinois Press. p. 133. ISBN 9780252097478.
- Cassell, Heather (August 25, 2011). "Telling tales of lesbian trans history". The Bay Area Reporter.
- Elliott, Beth (2003). Don't Call It "Virtual". World Cat. ENC Emperor's New Clothes Press. OCLC 56873715. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
- "Buried Treasure". CD Baby. Archived from the original on February 22, 2008.