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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The “lesbian and gay vs. gay and lesbian” debate

(Editor's note: Wendy Sue Biegeleisen is a well-known activist in San Diego. As our community is getting ready to celebrate Pride, she looks back at the history of LGBT rights from the lesbian and feminist points of view.)

Once upon a time, gay men respected lesbians and we fought together for equal rights.

This discussion of “lesbian and gay vs. gay and lesbian” has been happening since the Stonewall era. After I came out in 1976 and joined the fight for equality, I was involved in many, many of these discussions.

Back then when folk used/heard the term gay, one thought of just gay men. With the birth of the Feminist Movement, lesbians began saying what about us! We are invisible in the work that we are all do for gay rights and we aren't seen or acknowledged.

We are also feminists fighting for the equal rights of women too. Equal pay for equal work, women's health care, keeping our children, pro-choice, dress codes in the workplace (having to wear make-up, dresses, heels, etc. or be fired), violence against women -- just to name a few of our lesbian feminist issues.

Some gay men in that time “got it” and agreed that lesbian and gay was the correct term to refer to our community. By listing lesbian first, this drew attention to the additional issues lesbians/women were fighting for. The feminist gay men also joined in the fight for women's rights. Unfortunately, we have lost many of our feminist gay brothers to AIDs and their feminist views are in the minority now.

In support of the idea to list lesbian first, The San Diego Gay Center changed its name to The San Diego Lesbian and Gay Men's Community Center, as did many other organizations at that time. This was before the idea of “all inclusive” community and the addition of bi, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and others.