LESBIANS AND THE LEFT
by Judy MacLean
continued front page . 9
Yet the reason marriages (and heterosexual relationships generally) continue to be troubled is not just that
one half has been trained to oppress the other. Our most
intimate relationships are forced to carry so many burdens—economic and emotional security in an increasingly
hostile environment, adventure, fun, a place of rest and
fulfillment, personal growth—no wonder the fragile craft
of life founders and sinks. Because we have no other way
to fulfill these needs, we try to fulfill them in our
'When I am talking to someone outside the movement,
trying to link socialism and lesbianism means
combining the unpopular with the taboo."
personal lives. But we never quite make it; under capitalism our intimate lives are like a bed without enough
covers; an arm, a leg, or even a whole person is always
out in the cold. And this can be as true for lesbian
relationships as heterosexual ones.
The difficulty in creating good personal relationships
is a social one. It comes about because our need for a
loving community—a community that works together to provide basic things like food, shelter, safety, health care,
security in old age, and less tangibly, good vibes and
support around us all—is systematically denied.
You can glimpse a shadow of what the fulfillment of
this need would feel like. At demonstrations, when thousands come together with shared goals and commitment,
the exhilaration we feel is a ghost of the feeling we
would get if our society, with its its millions of people
and vast wealth, were organized around the goal of caring
for each other. In crises, like power failures, people
often report feelings of happiness and exhilaration in
spite of the inconvenience. People see the interrelated-
ness of their lives and pull together. It is the belief
in something like community love that has inspired
revolutionaries the world over to brave all kinds of
hardships, and even death.
Building a "women's community" or a "lesbian community" is an attempt to come to terms with these needs, and
to provide a support system around personal love relationships. But such a community, outside the society, doesn't
have the material resources to really meet its members'
needs, and much bitterness results. To really create a
loving community of the kind I am talking about requires
political power. We can only create it by transforming
the whole society; such a transformation is what a struggle for socialism must be about. When a socialist movement becomes stronger in the U.S., it will involve our
coming to terms with our long-suppressed need for loving
social relationships. I don't mean to dismiss attempts
to build a lesbian community. They are not substitutes
for struggling to change society as a whole. But such
attempts at community can be very nourishing, supportive
places, where many of us gain strength to keep doing
what we're ..doing.
I want to conclude by talking about the importance of
winning reforms for lesbian rights for lesbians, for
all women, and for the revolutionary movement.
CONNECTIONS December 1979/January 19?
First, gay rights is a matter of human rights, of
basic freedom. The fear of discovery most lesbians live
with, the lack of rights to jobs, to custody of children
to any kind of legitimacy, can corrode our lives. For
lesbians and gay men, civil rights are urgently necessary.
Reprinted from MNS
Winning rights for lesbians can also help all women.
Being a lesbian is tied up in complex ways with personal
autonomy for women, with making choices instead of being
chosen, with living a life, however precarious, independent of men in one fundamental, intimate way. By returning control of a very intimate aspect of our lives to
women, the struggle for lesbian rights can make us
stronger. Any reform that gives us more control can
strengthen us, but especially one in a personal area
about which we all, at one time or another, feel anxiety
A reform like lesbian rights, which gives us a measure
of control over an area of personal, painful, and often
unacknowledged oppression, can give us strength to meet
other challenges. Those whose daily experience tells
them they have no control do not set out to change the
world. Much as male leftists have accused us of conservatism, I'm not sure they are happy about the prospect
of women within their ranks (and outside of them) becoming sure of what they want, becoming uppity. But it is
necessary, if we want a socialist revolution that really
reorganizes society to meet human needs, that one half
of humanity feels strong and vocal enough to define
goals. It's the only way for a socialist revolution to
really make the meaningful changes we all need