Transphobic Radical Hate Didn’t Start With Brennan: The Sandy Stone-Olivia Records Controversy
August 24, 2011
Latin America Is Leading The Way On Trans Issues
August 26, 2011

Radical Lesbian Separatism in LGBT Activism: Hyding in Plain Sight?

I recently posted “Transphobic Radical Hate Didn’t Start With Brennan: The Sandy Stone-Olivia Records Controversy” to point to the past of anti-trans radical feminist bigotry. Pointing out the past is important in building a unified future.

You can’t simply ignore people inside the “LGBT” community who foster hatred and fear against you. There are lesbian radical feminists in the community that wish to “challenge the practice of transgenderism“. I don’t wish to silence dialogue, but there’s a certain line of what is acceptable to discuss in public. Gay rights icon, Bayard Rustin said:

“Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate.”

You won’t hear anyone with any shred of credibility inside the community talk about reparative therapy as a debate topic. In fact you’ll hear the community shout practically in unison that such talk is an attack on the community. But there are folks within the lesbian community that have a history of supporting lesbian separatism.

According to Mass Equality and NGLTF’s website, Sue Hyde is:

“She is a seasoned community organizer and advocate whose issue portfolio at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has included repeal of sodomy laws, rescission of the military’s ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, passage of local and state civil rights laws, training leaders to effectively oppose right-wing incursions in their communities, directing the annual Creating Change Conference, and securing marriage equality for same-sex couples.”

But before she was the “seasoned community organizer” she is now, she was a lesbian separatist. In an interview with Smith College in 2008 she said of her separatist past:

“…my lover and I, uh, launched a production company called Red Tomato. Uh, that from 1974 to 1982 produced cultural events, uh, for women and lesbians in St. Louis, um, most of it was musical. Um, there were- at the time there was- there was a very lively, um, circuit of small-relatively small production companies, producing relatively small events for, um, women musicians, all of whom were lesbians. Um, and we became a part of the women’s music circuit that thrived through the 70s and, you know, up to the mid-80s I would say. Um, so Red Tomato produced forty-two different cultural events in St. Louis, 74 to 82, um the largest- the largest event we produced garnered an audience of about a thousand people, ”most of them were much smaller, somewhere between, um, 75 and a couple of hundred- couple of hundred people in the audience.”


“These cultural events were really- were created by us, um, for a couple of different reasons. One is that we ourselves wanted to hear the music. There was, um, a small and uh, you know, important recording company at the time, Olivia Records, they produced vinyl record albums of these artists, and, um, and we were able to get the records, but we really also wanted to experience- um, experience the performers live and in person. So we ourselves had a very great hunger to bring these women to our community. But we also recognized that, by organizing these cultural events, that we were building community among women, and among particularly lesbians.”

So before Hyde was a community activist, she was a essentially a promoter of women’s music events and a self avowed lesbian separatist.  It would also appear that Hyde was one of the signers of the “Letter to Olivia” piece:


In the same Smith College article Hyde states:

“Well, um, I very much appreciated and valued women’s- women-only social space, and felt that, for many reasons, women and lesbian women needed to be able to, um, relate to each other in a space un- unaffected by men, and what men tend to bring into, um, an environment that is primarily defined by women. Politically, I, um, when it came to political action, for example when it came to fighting for the continued access of women to abortion and reproductive choice, um, I did not find separatism to be particularly useful or productive. I wanted men to be involved in that, and then as a gay and lesbian, bi and trans community and movement, um, began to take shape in St. Louis I encountered many gay men in particular with whom I worked and wanted to be working, um and- and really when I started to become involved in queer politics in about 1979, 1980 that’s when I pretty much let go of- of lesbian separatism as a as a political principle.”

In a time when the transgender community is being attacked and their human rights being called into question, our community leaders need to provide leadership. While Hyde may have given up lesbian separatism as a “political principle“, having a history of advocating for the firing/not hiring a trans woman is something that needs addressed. We need to know that the leaders stand with us in our fight for equality. Either that or they need to stop calling themselves “LGBT” activists/leaders/organizations. Being out front is what leadership is all about. This isn’t about theory, it effects trans people’s lives and how trans people are to be viewed and protected. If Sue Hyde has given up lesbian separatism as a vehicle to deny trans people rights, she needs to say so. Loudly. There isn’t a better time than now.

(NGLTF, Mass Equality, and Sue Hyde were contacted for comment, but as of yet have not responded to that request.)
Marti Abernathey
Marti Abernathey
Marti Abernathey is the founder of the Transadvocate and the previous managing editor. Abernathey has worn many different hats, including that of podcaster, activist, and radiologic technologist. She's been a part of various internet radio ventures such as TSR Live!, The T-Party, and The Radical Trannies, TransFM, and Sodium Pentathol Sunday. As an advocate she's previously been involved with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance, Rock Indiana Campaign for Equality, and the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. She's taken vital roles as a grass roots community organizer in The Indianapolis Tax Day Protest (2003), The Indy Pride HRC Protest (2004), Transgender Day of Remembrance (2004), Indiana's Witch Hunt (2005), and the Rally At The Statehouse (the largest ever GLBT protest in Indiana - 3/2005). In 2008 she was a delegate from Indiana to the Democratic National Convention and a member of Barack Obama's LGBT Steering and Policy Committee.
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  • Tobi Hill-Meyer

    The Olivia letter aside, I get the sense here that you equating lesbian separatism with anti-trans feminism.  I would say this is a square-and-rectangle situation.  Many anti-trans feminists hide within separatism, but plenty of feminists practice a  separatism that is trans inclusive as well.  And indeed there is a blurry line between the potluck that the 5-10 invitees are all lesbians and a space that is explicitly lesbian only.  At what point does it officially become separatism?  Nonetheless, back in the day my parents spent a lot of time creating and participating in lesbian spaces, and those space included Sandy, her partner, and their kid.

    Today, as a trans woman, I spend a lot of time in separatist spaces (whether they are separatist by intent or not).  Sometimes it’s just a gathering of friends who all happen to be queer women, or all queer trans women, or spaces that are intended as trans only spaces, or PoC only spaces, and yes, I still spend a lot of time in lesbian separatist spaces – mostly those that are trans inclusive.

    So when a leader says they support lesbian separatism or see value in lesbian separatism, I don’t assume that they are thinking about a lesbian separatism that excludes trans women.  (The Olivia letter, is a different matter, which has already been responded to.)

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  • Shyde

    Sorry it took me a day to respond.  I am away from my office and computer and using my daughter’s laptop to post this.  I understand and appreciate the anger that is generated by the outrageous letter to the women of Olivia Records.  It’s a personal humiliation to me that I signed such a letter, driven by ignorance and the identity politics of the time.  I am deeply regretful and sorry for my participation in the 1977 defaming of Sandy Stone and all trans people.  Nothing can make up for that kind of discrimination. But I hope that the work I have done since that time expresses my commitment to social justice and legal equality for trans sisters and brothers. I work to transform the world so that no one’s life will be diminished by gender-based and/or sexual orientation discrimination.
    In dialogue,
    Sue Hyde

    • Anonymous
    • Sue, while we do not know each other, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you at the initial Creating Change planning meeting in Baltimore this year. By your response here, and from our brief interaction I can wholeheartedly embrace your reply. You are now in an enviable position. You have an opportunity to Create Real Change. As a respected leader in our community, you can use the lessons you’ve learned from the past and channel it toward healing , towards unity, towards progress. 

      Leadership and leadership opportunities only happen every so often. You have found yourself at such a juncture. Time will judge all of us on whether we capture such moments or we choose inaction. You have the wisdom gained from your experience, the respect garnered from your years of dedication since and a capture audience of supporters in the community willing to embrace your vision for moving forward and leaving such harmful transphobic notions in the waste bin of our movement, where they belong.

      In solidarity,
      Jenna Fischetti

  • Monica Roberts

    the bigger question is how much of those anti trans radical feminist attitudes have infected the GL movement, and is it one of the reasons we haven’t had the progress we should have had on trans human rights issues?

  • Poitbrain

    Yes – this is a long time ago. But if say – Mara Keisling was found to have tried to get a lesbian fired 20 years ago; she would rightly be expected to address the issue and denounce her past actions.. Hyde should have no lower expectation.

    RE: anon – Hyde was the Pres of the Board of Mass Equality  – no? And one of the architects of the marriage first crowd in MA – pushing that issue was her job for NGLTF as well. 

    Cruel is getting a trans person fired, not questioning that action and the attitudes that prompted it which persist to this day. Hyde was given a chance to respond to this – she could respond with a statement akin to Olivia’s 35 years ago. She could speak of what she’s learned in the intervening years. She still can make a powerful statement on the issue and the history. It would be welcome. No one has to be limited or defined by an action they took 35 years ago -thank god. But – it’s her choice to address the issue or assent by silence. At the very least – Stone is due an apology. Imagine a less talented trans person being fired given the employment challenges faced by trans women and played out over a lifetime.

    • Anonymous

      good point — i hadn’t realized she was so involved with massequality.  that organization has treated the whole trans issue in MA irresponsibly, and the little they’re doing now after the hiring of kara suffredini is in my opinion too little, too late.  i was under the impression that sue hyde’s main focus over several years was the creating change conference, which i’ve found inspiring & very trans affirming.

      thanks for educating me on that.  and you’re right that she should make a powerful statement denouncing her prior actions.  i hope she will do that.  it is sad to me to see her name on that letter, and it makes me so mad when i think of where we could be in MA on trans rights if half the money and energy and time that everyone spent on the marriage issue could have been applied to the advancement of trans rights.

  • Anonymous

    first of all, i’m so glad to read olivia records’ response to that letter.  i wish that everyone had that viewpoint — it really represents the world that i am working to help create around me as a family member of a transgender person & passionate believer in social justice & equality.

    i totally agree that the leadership of the lgb(t) community needs to step up and take on strong supportive stances on trans inclusion & advocacy.  the neglect the trans community has suffered at the hands of the leading lgb(t) orgs is shocking.  the list starts with hrc and goes on down to the state-level orgs like massequality, which focused so much time & resources on same-sex marriage that it only recently rediscovered what transgender means, it seems to me.

    at the same time, i know sue hyde through activist circles, and this article feels a bit cruel to me.  she was cruel in the sending of that letter, but it was a long time ago, in a very different time and place.  also, she doesn’t work for massequality, she works for the ngltf, and has spent quite a bit of her career organizing the creating change conference.  creating change is a conference where many trans people come together from all over the country & strategize & share information that’s hugely valuable to the cause of advancing visibility, access to resources & services, and civil and human rights for trans people. 

    i deplore her participation in the sending of that letter, and i’m sorry to see her name there.  but just as her action then causes me to judge her harshly, her actions over the interceding decades should reflect well upon her. 

    lastly, i apologize if i am stepping wrongly here in a trans focused space as a non-trans person.

    • Ethan St. Pierre

       I think that creating change conference is a good resource for LGB people but not so much for transgender folks. Trans people have been organizing and attending conferences since the late 70s, so Creating change has not provided anything new for transgender activists.
      I posted a comment on my Facebook page that I would like to share here as well.  What bothers me the MOST about this post is that it happened a long time ago and the younger generation 
      who followed in Sue’s and other lesbian separatists footsteps are now the people who are sending letters to the United Nations telling them how harmful transsexual women are to cisgender women. They certainly have created change and just as the younger generation of separatists picked up the torch and followed in the footsteps of those who tried to have Sandy Stone fired from her job, so suffers the next generation of our transgender youth. I only pray that they survive to tell their stories.

    • Non Trans people are welcome. You’re courteous, respectful, and agreement on issues isn’t required. A willingness to listen and not arrogantly assign other people their opinions is.

      So we’ll keep your apology in reserve to use the first time you need apologise for something, OK?

      Ms Hyde screwed up back then. Her apology is graceful and accepted of course. To make complete amends, it might be good for her to do something about the groups making the same mistakes now as she made then, but that’s up to her and her conscience.

  • Kat

    Remind me again…

    How many trans employees does NGLTF have?  If any, how many have spent a decade+ employed by the organization as a trans expert? 

    • Veronica

      If they have 1, it would be too many.   As JoAnne Herman recently admitted, the trans community doesn’t contribute.  Herman noted that the combined budgets of the largest 3 trans-only organizations is small, and that when she tried to form a giving circle to engage trans people in philanthropy for “trans causes” the only people who showed up were “allies”.

      The proper response to a selfish person is not to give him more money and more entitlements.  There is no reason for NGLTF to waste money on a trans “expert” when trans activists contribute nothing to the group and instead direct what donations they do make to trans-only organizations.

      • Anonymous

        So essentially it’s pay to play, right?

        • Veronica

          It’s contribute something of value to the group in order to expect representation in the group.  Whether that’s money or time or relevant special expertise (legal, accounting, fundraising), trans people need to contribute something other than attacks and accusations. 

          BTW, if it is OK to have trans-only organizations, why is it not OK for LGBs to have LGB-only orgs?

          • Anonymous

            Sure, if you call yourself an LGB organization. From NGLTF’s website:

            “Mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation
            The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all.”

      • Then how about NGLTF adjust their mission statement to be a bit more honest?

        At best, it’s false advertising.

        At worst, it’s misappropriation.

        Since the NGLTF doesn’t represent us, it should not pretend to.

    • Veronica

      If they have 1, it would be too many.   As JoAnne Herman recently admitted, the trans community doesn’t contribute.  Herman noted that the combined budgets of the largest 3 trans-only organizations is small, and that when she tried to form a giving circle to engage trans people in philanthropy for “trans causes” the only people who showed up were “allies”.

      The proper response to a selfish person is not to give him more money and more entitlements.  There is no reason for NGLTF to waste money on a trans “expert” when trans activists contribute nothing to the group and instead direct what donations they do make to trans-only organizations.