In the years before Stonewall, when women went to a march, they had to wear skirts, and men were in suits and ties. I hated it. I was not wearing skirts normally. It was so phony: “Please, we’re just like anybody else.” Well, we weren’t. Or at least I didn’t think of myself like that. When Gay Liberation came up, we were saying: “We’re gonna be out on the streets and in your face.” We would go as a group to anti-war marches, or picket at the women’s detention center when Angela Davis was there. We had demonstrations demanding our rights as who we are, not a slight variation on Mr. and Mrs. Suburbia.
Before gay liberation, if a movie had a gay character, especially a woman, she had to be killed at the end. There was a film based on a D.H. Lawrence novella, The Fox, with two women in it—one blonde and one brunette. The brunette is the “butch,” though they both look very feminine. She gets killed in the end, and the guy walks out with the blonde. That’s the kind of imagery we got.
After Stonewall, there was an explosion of art that, for the first time, represented us in a positive way. My poems and essays became less romanticized and more realistic. I didn’t have to disguise or make things flowery. Over the years, I’ve written three historical novels, a trilogy. There are lesbians in it. They just live their lives and their struggles. For me, being a lesbian has become the way it is as opposed to something that has to be hidden. And I think my art has gotten better for it.