‘Lavender menace became a magical term.’

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KARLA JAY is a lesbian organizer, writer, and educator whose activism goes back to the period immediately following the Stonewall Riots. A professor of English at Pace University in New York City for many years, her political involvement dates back to her years at Barnard College in the late 1960s.

Karla Jay at HOLLA::Revolution conference in 2014

Indeed it was her involvement in the antiwar movement—and the male-supremacist attitudes that she observed—that first awakened her feminist anger and radicalism. In 1969 she joined the group Redstockings, which is where she came out as a lesbian. Later that same year, the Stonewall Riots blew up and Jay joined the newly forming Gay Liberation Front. Still active in feminist organizations, which were trying to exclude lesbians at this time, she participated in the formation of a group called the Lavender Menace as a protest, and would later publish a book titled Tales of the Lavender Menace (1999).

Other published works by Jay include 1972’s Out of the Closets, co-edited with Allen Young, an anthology of essays by writers and activists; two books about the lives and careers of writers Natalie Clifford Barney and Renée Vivien; and several anthologies giving voice to living gay and lesbian writers. In addition to her teaching career, she has continued to speak out for LGBT equality over the years. Her role in the Stonewall era was recognized by Martin Duberman in his 1993 book Stonewall, in which Jay is featured as one of four exemplars of the movement’s early organizers.

         This interview was conducted via “e-mail rally” between Ms. Jay and The G&LR.

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