Lesbians in the 1970s

The 1970s was a period of intense excitement, change, activism, and activity for lesbians. As lesbian feminism redefined what qualified as a “political issue” and challenged every assumption about gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, and any number oother social categories, lesbians of all kinds created cultural, social, political, economic, and regional organizations and networks. Lesbians created businesses; lesbians made and marketed music; lesbians played on softball teams; lesbians engaged in struggles for racial, social, and economic justice; lesbians made films; lesbians created womyn’s land. Inspired by the massive social changes that were taking place, lesbians made new worlds for themselves and others. In recognition of this momentous decade, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) will be holding a weekend-long event that will include a conference and festival of lesbian history, culture, arts, scholarship, discussion, and performance from Friday, October 8 to Sunday, October 10, 2010, to be held at the The Graduate Center, CUNY, with a closing event at the LGBT Community Services Center. The event will call upon experience, memory, and scholarship to represent as fully as possible the broad and wide experience of lesbians during the 1970s. The conference will comprise a dazzling variety of events, presentations, performances, and exhibitions. The backbone of the conference will be dozens of panels, workshops, and roundtables covering a wide array of topics: lesbian politics, lesbian communities, lesbian cultural production, the emergence of lesbian studies in academia, lesbian publishing, lesbian communities of color, and the debates over lesbian sexuality, to name just a few. A twoday performance festival will run alongside these panels. Given how crucial cultural expression was to lesbian identities during the 1970s, this festival will feature poetry reading, documentary film, theatre, and musical performances. Moreover, we see this conference as a way not just to chronicle lesbian lives in the 1970s, but also to gather narratives from women who lived through that era: to that end, we will be collaborating with several oral historians and filmmakers to record oral histories with conferencegoers over the course of the weekend.

Finally, the conference will be punctuated with plenary events that will grapple with the central issues the weekend will raise: What did we think we were doing? How did lesbians in the 1970s invent, alter, and sometimes police boundaries of identity? What lessons can we bring from that decade into the present and even the future?