LGBT activism is often imagined as a self-contained struggle, inspired by but set apart from other social movements. Lavender and Red recounts a far different story: a history of queer radicals who understood their sexual liberation as intertwined with solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. This politics was born in the late 1960s but survived well past Stonewall, propelling a gay and lesbian left that flourished through the end of the Cold War. The gay and lesbian left found its center in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place where sexual self-determination and revolutionary internationalism converged. Across the 1970s, its activists embraced socialist and women of color feminism and crafted queer opposition to militarism and the New Right. In the Reagan years, they challenged U.S. intervention in Central America, collaborated with their peers in Nicaragua, and mentored the first direct action against AIDS. Bringing together archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson rediscovers the radical queer past for a generation of activists today.
List of Illustrations
1. Beyond the Gay Ghetto: Founding Debates in Gay Liberation
2. A More Powerful Weapon: Lesbian Feminism and Collective Defense
3. Limp Wrists and Clenched Fists: Defining a Politics and Hitting the Streets
4. 24th and Mission: Building Lesbian and Gay Solidarity with Nicaragua
5. Talk About Loving in the War Years: Nicaragua, Transnational Feminism, and AIDS
6. Money for AIDS, Not War: Anti-militarism, Direct Action against the Epidemic, and Movement History
Emily K. Hobson is Assistant Professor of History and of Gender, Race, and Identity at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"Emily Hobson's illuminating book, Lavender and Red, transforms our understanding of queer history. Focusing on gay and lesbian internationalism and left solidarity politics in late Cold War San Francisco, she provides a deeply researched, surprising and compelling account of the ways a politics of affiliation can expand forms of organization, practices, vision and impact. The stories she tells offer us new historical narratives as resources for imagining new possible futures."—Lisa Duggan, author of The Twilight of Equality?: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy
"Lavender and Red deftly tells the story of the other 'L' word: Liberation. LGBTQ activists erupted in the 1960s committed to ending U.S. imperialism, militarism, racism, and all forms of oppression and exploitation. They fought not to win acceptance by the mainstream heteropatriarchal society, but to overturn it. By recovering the forgotten story of Gay Liberation, Emily Hobson revises the history of the U.S. Left and reveals a political and intellectual history of how queer radicals understood and re-fashioned anti-imperialist, nationalist, feminist, and Third World thought to imagine new meanings for sexuality, community, and emancipatory politics. After reading this astonishing book, the standard Stonewall to marriage equality narrative suddenly rings hollow."—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
"Lavender and Red shines illuminating light on two of the most important queer colors, reminding us that somewhere over the rainbow lie visionary dreams of radical sexual politics and transformational social justice. An inspiring account of the 1970s and 1980s, when a strong gay and lesbian left fought against racism, sexism, colonialism, and war."—Marc Stein, author ofRethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement
"In this superb book, Hobson writes the political and intellectual history of the gay liberation and lesbian feminist movements that linked sexual liberation to radical solidarity—the mobilizations against imperialism, capitalism, and racism, demanding universal health care and 'money for AIDS, not for war.' For too long, gay and lesbian activism in the 70s and 80s has been remembered as single-issue and racially white-washed. Lavender and Red is the antidote we’ve been waiting for."—Laura Briggs, author of Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico
“Over the past decade, we have witnessed the emergence of revisionist work on the Black Power, antiwar, women of color feminist and gay liberation movements. Emily Hobson’s Lavender and Red is a brilliant addition to this vital body of scholarship. She rewrites the history of political struggles of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and, most impressively, intertwines them.”—Sherie M. Randolph, author of Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical
"Lavender and Red is a page turner, not the case for most well-researched academic works; this story of liberation and solidarity in the gay and lesbian left, focused on the San Francisco Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s, is inspiring as well as cautionary, a primer for social justice activists today as well as a solid history in the field of social movement history and theory."—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States