Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lesbian utopia tries to appeal to a new generation  


In northeast Alabama, hidden amongst the Bible Belt and unbeknown to the neighbors, is a "lesbian paradise." These woman-only communities began in the 1970s, when feminists longed for a utopia where they could live comfortably amongst friends, without the pressure of a male presence.

Since then, many of those communities have been shut down or attacked, but some still exist. Alapine, the community that is spotlighted by the New York Times, is one of the largest. The community allows elderly lesbian women, all of them former feminist activists of the Second Wave, to live in peace and nature in the final years of their lives. Many of the women have been drawn to such a community as a result of experiencing discrimination and hated:

The women agreed to be interviewed on the condition that the exact location of their homes not be revealed because they fear harassment from outsiders. Many in the network of womyn’s lands have avoided publicity, living a sheltered existence for decades, advertising available homes and properties through word of mouth or in small newsletters and lesbian magazines.

But the women at Alapine were willing to be interviewed because of their concern that their female-centered community would disappear if they did not reach out to younger women.

Winnie Adams, 66, who describes herself as a “radical feminist separatist lesbian,” sold her house in Florida in 1999 to move to Alapine. Earlier in her life, she had been married and had two daughters (neither of whom would be permitted to live with her now because they are not lesbians). She worked as a management information systems consultant for government agencies, she said, but when she came out as a lesbian was driven from her job by stress and discrimination.

Ms. Adams’s partner, Barbara Moore, 63, was in the Army in the 1960s, when what she described as a “witch hunt” for gay men and lesbians in the military forced her out.

Only lesbians are allowed in the community; no bisexuals, heterosexual allies, or transgendered women, and men are only allowed to visit. Even when one woman's 6-month old grandson visited, a letter had to be sent out to all residents, warning, "There is a man on the land."

I completely understand the appeal of such a place. It is much easier to live amongst people who share their ideals, and it must be an enormous relief to, for once, not have to worry about being victims of hatred, discrimination, or violence. These women clearly worked hard for decades to push the feminist agenda, and it's completely understandable that they want to spend the last years of their lives settled down in a comfortable and peaceful community.

On the other hand, this separatist attitude worries me - and the Times article even mentioned that modern feminists are less inclined to agree with separatism. I don't see much of a problem with women spending their final years in a matriarchal community - I just hope that this doesn't trickle down to younger feminists, until, in the most extreme case, the world turns into isolated communities of different demographics, and integration is a thing of the past. Of course, I don't think these women aspire to such a world, but that's why separatism can be dangerous. To be isolated in a community with your peers, never to worry about discrimination or hatred, is extremely tempting. Integration and diversity are what require work. But it's what we need to aspire to - not separatism. Our goal is to spread feminist ideas, not confine them.


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5 comments: to “ Lesbian utopia tries to appeal to a new generation

  • February 4, 2009 at 9:34 AM  

    I completely agree with your worry about lesbian separatism. When it came out recently that gay students wanted their own separate high school, I shook my head. Integration! Spreading tolerance! Diversity! These don't come easy, and plenty of people dedicate their lives to spreading these values.

    People naturally cluster in their in-groups, but sending out a warning letter about a 6-month-old boy is ridiculous. I really hope young women don't perpetuate this "utopia."

    Another thing--don't many same-sex couples want to raise children? Imagine the complications of that in this stupid separatist community. "Heterosexual allies." Give me a break. Render so many non-GLBT's peoples' work for your rights valueless.

  • February 6, 2009 at 1:17 AM  

    Some should live separatist if they wish as like me being gay, it is not going to spread and if it does then the heterosexist mainstream may lose the good ones they have their claws in, their loss and the good ones gain...truly, is the heterosexist mainstream worth it as they are tooo stubborn and I have got a horrible feeling they will die that way??? Along with followers/fence sitters who are really not helpful and I was told if we fence sit, we support the bad with ease, all be it accidental. And a warning 'a male is on land' is quite relevant as even as a five year old, I was heterosexist in my agenda, unfortunately, but to be truly honest :( Men need to dob themselves in before we can get anywhere. Nobody can do it for us. Until then run and duck for cover.,,or I have heard that bisexuality (not in a sexual but sensual manner) may be the natural and we are fighting the wrong war.
    Here is me a gay male with no real respectful peers of the same sex, gay or straight, so have to talk to myself and be happy with u all still talking about it, definitely with open hope. Well no peers matching up to my sister's girlfriend’s committed passion when I was a teenager, with her tough, strong and life loving words. Thanks for trying and actually leaving me with more than I thought was possible for an ignorant, limited male, Lynlee...major respect big time for those who try and succeed in change.

  • May 24, 2012 at 11:10 PM  

    I think you giving great advice for playwrights staring out.Very nicely described your thoughts here.I like to read more about this.

  • July 14, 2012 at 11:32 PM  

    I only see men complaining as usual.
    I hope more women want this utopia, because living with men is hell.

  • September 16, 2012 at 3:17 PM  

    "Only lesbians are allowed in the community; no bisexuals, heterosexual allies, or transgendered women,"

    Trans women ARE lesbians, at least 29% of them are. I get really tired of this kind of misogyny within the cissupremacist left.