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Queering the borders: Lorraine Hansberrys 1957 Letters to The Ladder
Unformatted Document Text:  Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 9 in “a deviant relationship,” lesbians and fear, psychotherapy versus public opinion, job hunting, criticism of mainstream media depictions of homosexuality, and the psychological dimensions of self-acceptance. As part of its public advocacy and education role, the DOB and the Ladder also organized and promoted impromptu actions in response to oppressive public actions against lesbians. For instance, the second issue included an article on a San Francisco police raid of the Alamo club, a lesbian bar, which resulted in the arrest of 36 women. The article focused on the question of civil rights and advocated public education for lesbian civil rights: “At the hearing the following Monday we understand that only four of those arrested pleaded not guilty. We feel that this was not due to actual guilt on the part of those so pleading but to an appalling lack of knowledge of the rights of a citizen in such a case.” 29 The article concluded with an announcement of a DOB sponsored public meeting with a San Francisco attorney who would discuss “The Lesbian and the Law”. Thus many of the public discussions and some of the writing featured the opinions of “expert” authorities, reflecting the values, aims, and perspectives of the largely middle-class constituency of the organization – particularly the value of what Faderman identifies as the “aspiration for integration.” Further, in addition to the organization’s conservative stance on assimilation and the politics of accommodation, the DOB took several perplexing positions during late fifties. For example, an article based on the “expertise” of psychologists in the March 1957 issue claims that “the only thing a homosexual has to fear when looking for a job is whether his or her ability matches the job applied for – the problem of homosexuality per se does not enter the employment picture.” 30 This is a fairly bewildering claim given the anti-gay persecutions occurring in plain sight in the fields of government and education. Even more mystifying, in the same issue, the DOB commends the “ACLU for its fine work in the defense of civil rights for all citizens.” The article then quotes from the newly published ACLU’s stand on homosexuality, which tacitly condones laws against homosexuality: “It is not within the 29 “San Francisco Police Raid Reveals Lack of Knowledge of Citizen’s Rights,” The Ladder, November 1956, 5. 30 “Job Hunting Doesn’t Need to be a Problem,” The Ladder, March 1957, 5.

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Queering the Borders: Hansberry’s Letters to The Ladder, 9
in “a deviant relationship,” lesbians and fear, psychotherapy versus public opinion, job hunting, criticism
of mainstream media depictions of homosexuality, and the psychological dimensions of self-acceptance.
As part of its public advocacy and education role, the DOB and the Ladder also organized and
promoted impromptu actions in response to oppressive public actions against lesbians. For instance, the
second issue included an article on a San Francisco police raid of the Alamo club, a lesbian bar, which
resulted in the arrest of 36 women. The article focused on the question of civil rights and advocated
public education for lesbian civil rights: “At the hearing the following Monday we understand that only
four of those arrested pleaded not guilty. We feel that this was not due to actual guilt on the part of those
so pleading but to an appalling lack of knowledge of the rights of a citizen in such a case.”
29
The article
concluded with an announcement of a DOB sponsored public meeting with a San Francisco attorney who
would discuss “The Lesbian and the Law”.
Thus many of the public discussions and some of the writing featured the opinions of “expert”
authorities, reflecting the values, aims, and perspectives of the largely middle-class constituency of the
organization – particularly the value of what Faderman identifies as the “aspiration for integration.”
Further, in addition to the organization’s conservative stance on assimilation and the politics of
accommodation, the DOB took several perplexing positions during late fifties. For example, an article
based on the “expertise” of psychologists in the March 1957 issue claims that “the only thing a
homosexual has to fear when looking for a job is whether his or her ability matches the job applied for –
the problem of homosexuality per se does not enter the employment picture.”
30
This is a fairly
bewildering claim given the anti-gay persecutions occurring in plain sight in the fields of government and
education. Even more mystifying, in the same issue, the DOB commends the “ACLU for its fine work in
the defense of civil rights for all citizens.” The article then quotes from the newly published ACLU’s
stand on homosexuality, which tacitly condones laws against homosexuality: “It is not within the
29
“San Francisco Police Raid Reveals Lack of Knowledge of Citizen’s Rights,” The Ladder, November 1956, 5.
30
“Job Hunting Doesn’t Need to be a Problem,” The Ladder, March 1957, 5.


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