GAY AND LESBIAN READERS in the 1970s devoured After You’re Out (1975) and, years later, Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation (1992), books that Karla Jay co-edited with her close friend Allen Young. Younger generations have encountered Jay in She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Mary Dore’s 2014 documentary about mid 20th-century feminism.
A Brooklyn native with a ribald sense of humor, Jay was originally labeled “slow” because she had trouble reading and writing. Once she got glasses, she soared intellectually and earned a bachelor’s degree in French from Barnard (Columbia) and a doctorate in comparative literature from NYU. After nearly forty years of teaching at Pace University, she is now Professor Emerita of English and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her other publications include the anthologies Lavender Culture, Lesbian Erotics (1978) and Dyke Life: A Celebration of the Lesbian Experience (1995), along with the thoroughly entertaining Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation (1999).
Jay lives the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her spouse, Karen F. Kerner, a retired physician, and her vigilant guide dog, a standard poodle named Duchess. With the living room shaded against the bright sunshine that bothers her eyes, she spoke about her formative influences and offered some wisdom to young LGBT activists.