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Queer Solidarity and Domestic Liberation: Third World Lesbians and Activism for Central America

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Abstract:

Emily Hobson
PhD Candidate, American Studies & Ethnicity, University of Southern California
hobson@usc.edu

This paper explores the 1970s through early 1980s formation of activist networks and political critique by lesbian feminists of color in San Francisco, particularly in the Mission District. I examine how Third World lesbian activists negotiated the relationship between domestic and international sexual politics in the context of gay gentrification; the city’s growing Latin American immigrant and refugee community; and the Central American solidarity movement. The Mission District served as a crossroads for all these phenomena and became a local site that revealed the transnational stakes for feminist of color critique.

In this paper, I highlight activism through the San Francisco Women’s Building as well as other, more autonomous formations among lesbians of color, particularly among or led by Latinas. Key formations included Casa Nicaragua, founded by Rita Arauzo, a Nicaraguan immigrant and lesbian. This group, in particular, provides an important counterpoint to the common image of the Central American solidarity movement as led by white lesbians who romanticized or even fetishized Third World liberation. Many lesbian feminists of color were intensely critical of such romanticization and explicit about the ways such desire misdirected attention away from domestic U.S. inequality. Third World lesbian activists thus navigated between their critique of the dangers of “solidarity” and their strong support of international causes, particularly in the context of U.S. intervention and U.S. state-sponsored violence. As they navigated between these issues, these activists re-energized a politics important within the 1960s birth of gay liberation, in which sexual liberation and anti-imperialist alliance forged common cause.

While indebted to earlier gay liberation, the activism I examine was sharply distinct from its predecessor, in both its formation and its critique. Third World lesbians in San Francisco explicitly challenged a multiplicity of nationalisms – not only heterosexually masculinist racial nationalisms, but also the emerging “gay nationalism” that privileged white, primarily male, gentrification in the Castro (adjacent to the Mission District). In this paper, I examine how the conditions of the city of San Francisco, the legacies of gay liberation, and the tensions within solidarity efforts situated the development of women of color feminism. The shifting economic and racial geography of San Francisco; the place of gay community within that geography; and the legacies of empire sustaining racial and class tensions within the solidarity movement all produced a reformulation of the meanings of self-determination and an intersectional analysis that we now understand as central to feminist of color critique.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Hobson, Emily. "Queer Solidarity and Domestic Liberation: Third World Lesbians and Activism for Central America" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244983_index.html>

APA Citation:

Hobson, E. K. "Queer Solidarity and Domestic Liberation: Third World Lesbians and Activism for Central America" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244983_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: Emily Hobson
PhD Candidate, American Studies & Ethnicity, University of Southern California
hobson@usc.edu

This paper explores the 1970s through early 1980s formation of activist networks and political critique by lesbian feminists of color in San Francisco, particularly in the Mission District. I examine how Third World lesbian activists negotiated the relationship between domestic and international sexual politics in the context of gay gentrification; the city’s growing Latin American immigrant and refugee community; and the Central American solidarity movement. The Mission District served as a crossroads for all these phenomena and became a local site that revealed the transnational stakes for feminist of color critique.

In this paper, I highlight activism through the San Francisco Women’s Building as well as other, more autonomous formations among lesbians of color, particularly among or led by Latinas. Key formations included Casa Nicaragua, founded by Rita Arauzo, a Nicaraguan immigrant and lesbian. This group, in particular, provides an important counterpoint to the common image of the Central American solidarity movement as led by white lesbians who romanticized or even fetishized Third World liberation. Many lesbian feminists of color were intensely critical of such romanticization and explicit about the ways such desire misdirected attention away from domestic U.S. inequality. Third World lesbian activists thus navigated between their critique of the dangers of “solidarity” and their strong support of international causes, particularly in the context of U.S. intervention and U.S. state-sponsored violence. As they navigated between these issues, these activists re-energized a politics important within the 1960s birth of gay liberation, in which sexual liberation and anti-imperialist alliance forged common cause.

While indebted to earlier gay liberation, the activism I examine was sharply distinct from its predecessor, in both its formation and its critique. Third World lesbians in San Francisco explicitly challenged a multiplicity of nationalisms – not only heterosexually masculinist racial nationalisms, but also the emerging “gay nationalism” that privileged white, primarily male, gentrification in the Castro (adjacent to the Mission District). In this paper, I examine how the conditions of the city of San Francisco, the legacies of gay liberation, and the tensions within solidarity efforts situated the development of women of color feminism. The shifting economic and racial geography of San Francisco; the place of gay community within that geography; and the legacies of empire sustaining racial and class tensions within the solidarity movement all produced a reformulation of the meanings of self-determination and an intersectional analysis that we now understand as central to feminist of color critique.


Similar Titles:
Neo-liberal Development Strategies and the Revitalization of Popular Movements in Central America

Disturbing Queer Liberalism: “Corrective Rape” and Lesbian Activism in South Africa

Against Domestic Violence: The Interaction of Global Networks with Local Activism in Central Europe


 
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