Tag Archives: radical lesbians

Gay History: The Daughters of Bilitis

The scene was 1950’s America where laws prohibited the congregating of “sex perverts”, a term in which homosexuals, crossdressers and transgender folk were routinely lumped in. Any bar or club which permitted this activity would have its liquor license revoked and even face permanent closure. Raids on suspected habitats were rampant and violent as America engulfed itself in the Lavender Scare. Unbeknownst to most citizens, this was a government created fear run by the CIA and the FBI with J. Edgar Hoover at the helm. Decades later the stories would break of the illegal spying and blatant fabrications the government had formed and perpetuated on peaceful institutions. Especially targeting any institute of a minority that could threaten the White, straight, middle-class Utopia some leaders were trying to desperately cling to. Yet despite the obstacles, the fear, and the propaganda two women found each other and would fall into a 55-year romance.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon met in Seattle in 1950, two journalists who were both editors of separate Labor Journals. Lyon says that her first impression of Martin stuck in her mind because “She was the first woman I’d ever seen carrying a briefcase!.” The two struck up a friendship with Lyon maintaining that she was straight for the first two years, but eventually giving in and revealing her feelings to Del. The two shared an intimate night but made no commitments. Lyon left soon to return to San Francisco and continue her career; however, her thoughts remained on Martin. The two didn’t stay away from each other long and on Valentine’s Day in 1953 they made their commitment to one another official. The first year was hard, as it is with so many new couples, Lyon often jokes that they only stayed together because they couldn’t decide who would get the cat!

One of the biggest problems Phyllis and Del experienced was loneliness and isolation. While they had a few male gay friends, and some family close by, they were constantly frustrated at their lack of a lesbian circle. With raids and pressure mounting against queer hangouts it became even harder for the couple to meet others like them. This is when a new friend suggested the two come to a secret meeting which would discuss starting a private lesbian club. Phyllis says in her friend asked if she and Del would like to join a society of 6 lesbians and they both exclaimed “YES” because that would mean they’d each know 5 more lesbians. To their delight, the club formed with 8 lesbians, 4 couples and the group began to discuss locations as well as a name. No one is sure who suggested it but the name Bilitis came up. Bilitis was a fictional character from the poem “Songs of Bilitis” written by 19th-century poet Pierre Louys. In his poem, Bilitis falls in love with and seduces the notorious Sappho, who was a real lesbian in early Greece and an icon in lesbian history. In fact, before the term Lesbian, women attracted to other women were referred to as Sapphists. The club knew that any true Saphhist would know the name Bilitis was a subtle reference to the lesbian community. Yet it was certainly obscure enough to throw off the scent of any authorities or anti-gay hounds. For your enjoyment, here is an excerpt from the Songs of Bilitis:

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martín

Love me, not with smiles and flutes or plaited flowers, but with your heart and tears, as I adore you with my bosom and my sobs.

When your breasts alternate with mine, when I feel your very life touching my own when your knees rise up behind me, my panting mouth no longer even knows the way to yours.

Clasp me as I clasp you! See, the lamp has just gone out, we toss about in the night, but I press your moving body and I hear your ceaseless plaint. . .

Moan! moan! moan! oh, woman! Eros drags us now in heavy pain. You’ll suffer less upon this bed in bringing forth a child than you’ll agonize in bringing forth your love.

Panting, I took her hand and pressed it tightly beneath the humid skin of my left breast. My head tossed here and there and I moved my lips, but not a word escaped.

My maddened heart, sudden and hard, beat and beat upon my breast, as a captive satyr would beat about, tied in a goat-skin vessel. She said to me: “Your heart is troubling you..”

“Oh, Mnasidika!” I answered her, “a woman’s heart is not seated there. This is but a little bird, a dove which stirs its feeble wings. The heart of a woman is more terrible.

“It burns like a myrtle-berry, with a bright red flame, and beneath the abundant foam. ‘Tis there that I feel bitten by voracious Aphrodite.”

We are resting, our eyes closed; the quietude is great about our bed. Ineffable summer nights! But she, thinking that I sleep, puts her warm hand on my arm.

She murmurs: “Bilitis, are you asleep?” My heart pounds, but without answering I breathe as calmly as a sleeping woman in her dreams. Then she begins to speak:

“Since you cannot hear me,” she says, “Ah! how I love you!” And she repeats my name: “Bilitis . . . Bilitis . . . ” And she strokes me with the tips of trembling fingers:

Woodsworth quote and poster image from Liz Millward’s book “Making a Scene: Lesbians Community Across Canada 1964-84.”

“This mouth is mine! and mine alone! Is there another in the world as lovely? Ah! my happiness, my happiness! These naked arms are mine, this neck, this hair. . .

On October 19, 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis hosted their first meeting in the home of on the couples. We are going to read off the name of guests but it is important to know that many of these women went under pseudonyms even long after the LGBTQ movement took off. The list of newcomers was “Bobbie, Toni, Gwen, Elizabeth, Noni, Mary and Del, and Phyl.” In this meeting, they agreed to write their two gay affiliates the Mattachine Society and ONE Incorporated. These were of course two male groups and some mistook the DOB (Daughters of Bilitis) as being a direct branch of one of these institutions. But to the surprise of many, including the FBI who were already spying on the group, the women were perfectly capable of creating their own organization without the help of a man.

As instrumental as the DOB was it is important to remember this was still the 1950’s and they were not perfect, often being brainwashed or forced to assimilate to their societal standards. While it is easy to cast judgment on some of their rules and stances, the truth is their progress in such an oppressive time is what should be remembered the most. However, we will discuss some of the issues that caused problems in the beginning. One of the first issues to arise was the dress code. Most of the members believed that masculine clothing could paint the group in a bad light. In fact, a rule was established just a month later that “If slacks are worn they must be women’s slacks”. This was in response to three butch visitors attending a weekly meeting and striking fear into the hearts of some members. Of course, this mirrored the narrative at the time. The editor of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 1957 “When ladies young and old wear sloppy slacks or tight pants on Market St. I wish I had a water pistol and could give each one of them a good squirt. Ladies, please be ladies.” We couldn’t find if the editor was a male or a female at this time, however, the stigma still applies.

Another issue the DOB faced was whether they wanted to be a social club or politically active. The women’s rights movement was taking off and the Homophile movement was starting to gain traction with more individuals coming out in public. A side note, the term Homophile was originally preferred as the root word “phile” is derived from the Greek word for love and early activists thought it would be better if people related gays with love rather than sex. But back to the DOB, the group was slowly growing and while some women wanted to further advance the fight for inclusivity, others simply wanted a place to meet where they could enjoy each other’s company without fear of being raided or targeted for violence. This issue would continue to divide members for the next 2 decades until the group would formally disband.

Barbara Gittings picketing Independence Hall as part of an Annual Reminder on July 4, 1966; photo by Kay Lahusen.

Finally, the biggest issue facing the country at this time did not escape the Daughters and its members. Despite the original 8 founders varying in their ethnicities, Racism still played a large factor as the organization expanded. While the first chapter had few issues with People of Color attending their meetings, as the DOB grew and more chapters were established around the country racial prejudice crept into the ranks and discouraged many fellow lesbians from attending the desperately sought meetings. It is sad to remember that simply because one minority group experiences oppression does not exclude them from being just as culpable in delivering that same oppression to another minority group. Throughout LGBTQ history we see exclusions in varying forms from the exclusion of POC, to the exclusion of trans individuals, to those who are too butch or too femme, or simply non-conforming to one standard or one side.

Regardless of these obstacles, the DOB was just getting started and their most influential contribution was yet to come. In 1956 the Daughters of Bilitis decided to go public with their group by officially affiliating themselves with the first and largest gay publication in America, One Incorporated. The magazine announced the Daughters of Bilitis in an issue along with the DOB’s stated purpose. While we won’t take time to read the Purpose on this podcast, you can find it posted on our social media pages. To give a quick rundown though, the organization make 4 statements which covered 1. Educating the Variant (a term used for homosexuals) 2. Educating the Public, 3. Participating in Research, and 4. Investigating the Penal Code (fighting to de-criminalize homosexuality). The plug from One brought a surge of interest to the Daughters. That summer Barbara Gittings attended her first DOB meeting in San Francisco. She says of the meeting “There were about a dozen women in the room and I thought – wow! All these lesbians together in one place! I had never seen anything like it.” This shows how isolated the gay community, and particularly the lesbian community, really were from each other. By the way, Barbara would later go on to become very influential in the party and eventual editor of The Ladder.

In October of 1956, one year after the group’s formation, the DOB published their first edition of The Ladder. The magazine was the first nationally distributed publication of its kind. However, it wasn’t the first lesbian newsletter. In 1947 Vice Versa was written and published by “Lisa Ben” with the subtitle “America’s Gayest Magazine”, distributed only in Los Angeles and often by hand rather than mail. Lisa Ben was a pseudonym of course and an acronym for Lesbian, there are varying reports on what her actual name was. What we did find is that she preferred to remain anonymous so we will keep it that way. Vice Versa was a fun little newsletter that instantly became a hit. However, the constant pressure of being outed took its toll on Ben and rumor has it she lost her job and became increasingly paranoid of certain arrest and imprisonment. After just a few short months she closed down her publication. Nevertheless, it left a lasting impression on the people L.A. and a hunger in the lesbian community for something of their own. When the Daughters of Bilitis released their magazine almost 10 years later the suffering Sapphists were relieved.

While the DOB put plenty of energy in researching a name for their organization, the name for their newsletter The Ladder actually derived from the artwork of the first issue. Simple line drawings that showed figures moving towards a ladder in the distance. Phyllis Lyon did a lot of the writing for the magazine, originally under a pseudonym, but eventually coming out in order to encourage other lesbians to do the same. Right by her side as always was Del as editor of the publication. By 1957 the newsletter had 400 subscribers across the country. Letters of support poured in and one prominent recipient, in particular, wrote to the magazine:

“I’m glad as heck that you exist. You are obviously serious people and I feel that women, without wishing to foster any strict separatist notions, homo or hetero, indeed have a need for their own publications and organizations.”

The writer was Lorraine Hansberry, who would later become the first African- American woman and one of the youngest playwrights in history to have a produced on Broadway. She would go on to produce the award-winning “A Raisin in the Sun”.

As the magazine grew so did the DOB and the lesbian movement as a whole. In 1960 the first National Lesbian Convention was held in San Francisco with 200 female attendees. Another visitor was the San Francisco police always putting the taxpayers’ money hard at work as they looked for women in men’s clothing. And of course, public outcry increased as politicians and pastors warned of the “new evil” of lesbians. “You parents of daughters” one politician screamed into a mic “— do not sit back complacently feeling that because you have no boys in your family everything is all right…To enlighten you as to the existence of a Lesbian organization composed of homosexual women, make yourself acquainted with the name Daughters of Bilitis.” However the more the agitators spoke out against the DOB the more attention they drew to the group and the more their numbers swelled. In cities all around the country, in even the most unlikely places, chapters were springing up.

Unfortunately, the old arguments of how much the group should get politically involved sprang up, again and again, causing deeper rifts. By the 1960’s the civil rights and feminist movements were in full swing and the younger lesbians weren’t interested in outdated dress codes, and racial exclusion, or lack of political involvement. In 1963 Barbara Gittings took over The Ladder and brought a new political charge to the magazine. For the first time the cover was replaced with pictures of real lesbian models and eventually, the models even gave consent to be named. Queer women were no longer willing to sit silently to the side and assimilated to societies outdated and sexist requirements. It was also during this time that the DOB would begin to receive an anonymous $3,000 monthly donation from a contributor known only as “Pennsylvania” who would write a check to a different daughter each time. The total sum donated was estimated at $100,000.

Despite their best efforts, the members of the DOB could not come to an agreement on whether to be involved in politics or even which organizations to endorse. As tension in the organization continued to intensify the Daughters of Bilitis finally disbanded in 1970. The president at the time, Rita LaPorte took The Ladder’s mailing list without knowledge or approval and continued to publish the magazine for another 2 years. However, without the monthly donation from “Pennsylvania” Rita and her co-conspirator Barbara Grier soon ran out of money and the magazine officially folded.

Regardless of its flaws and dramatic demise, the Daughters of Bilitis and their infamous publication The Ladder were game changers for the Lesbian Movement and set a precedent for many LGBTQ organizations to follow. And back to that love story about Phyllis and Del, on June 16, 2008, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in San Francisco. They had been together 55 years. A few months later, Del passed away at age 87 with Phyllis right by her side as always.

Marcia M. Gallo, the historian and author of Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement, the resource for most of this podcast, wrote about The Ladder:

“For women who came across a copy in the early days, The Ladder was a lifeline. It was a means of expressing and sharing otherwise private thoughts and feelings, of connecting across miles and disparate daily lives, of breaking through isolation and fear.”

Reference

Gay History: The G.O.D. (Girls/Guys Of Disgrace) Gang.

There appears to be nothing on the internet about the G.O.D Girlgang, not even within the profiles and written accounts of its founders. This makes this article about the gang, solely from my own archived resources, an essential inclusion into the gay history of Sydney. That any groups can come and go, and be undocumented in any way concerns me, as gangs such as G.O.D were integral in the relationships between gay men and lesbians in the late 1980s, early 1990s period, as well as highlighting a movement within the lesbian community, a move away from PC dogmatic women, to a more open, diverse and inclusionist community. Despite its brief existence, it was a watershed moment in mixed relations between the two distinct sectors of the community.

“GANG

noun

a group of people who associate together or act as an organized body, esp for criminal or illegal purposes”

From left: Jade-snow Kemety, Unknown, Francine Laybutt, Lisa Salmon

“Girls of Disgrace, Girls of Dishonour, Girls of Desire; G.O.D. Is limited only to your steamy imagination.

G.O.D. is on a mission to spread the concept of Girlgangs, and its subsequent feelings of power through identification/unification. G.O.D. is not meant to be taken too seriously.

IN SEVEN DAYS following the creation of a name, a patch design is produced depicting  a sword with a snake wound about its length. Living on the cutting edge? (Now, don’t take us too seriously).

A group of army green jackets adorned with a variety of badges, bolts, skins, and other sundry odds and ends.

G.O.D. patches grab each shoulder in splashes of red and grey. Underneath, the optional shirt harbours similar coloured emblems.

COMPRISES OF Desert Rangers, the Kiss and Make-up contingent, SM girlies, Vanilla Sluts, hard-core uniform-ists and lingerie fetishists. (But don’t take us too seriously).

ATTITUDE while in walk thirteen G.O.D. members. Watch the heads turn. Will we stop at the number fit for a witches coven?

G.O.D. is not separatist,. Guys of Disgrace have recently gained admittance complete with blue patches and leather.

AND FUN with future G.O.D. sex/bondsge/SM/porn/initiation/dance/parties a possibility? Why not!”

Such was the blurb from “Wicked Women” magazine for the first outing of G.O.D. in the media. Girls/Guys of Disgrace was founded by Francine (Jasper) Laybutt, Lisa Salmon & Jade-snow Kemety around 1989/90. Francine was a radical lesbian in every sense of the word. She walked the outer limits of the lesbian world, promoting the more butch forms of sexuality, the darker world of BD/SM. She was the founder of “Wicked Women” magazine, and used it as a platform to promote her more radical attitudes to lesbiansm. Often shunned by her own community, and  with her partner, Lisa Salmon, often derided and humiliated for holding beliefs and practises contrary to what was considered the norm in that world.

That she founded G.O.D should not be  surprising in the face of her views on confrontation, public outrageousness, yet inclusiveness. She advocated non-penetrative sex with gay men (slanted more towards the gay leather, BD/SM community), and after her sex reassignment surgery and becoming Jasper Laybutt, she referred to herself not just as a female-to-male transgender, but as a male lesbian…language that would have sent most mainstream lesbians into a tail spin!

From left: Lisa Salmon, Tim Alderman, Francine Laybutt at the opening party for “Expectations” fetish store, 2nd floor, 159 Oxford St, Darlinghurst in 1989. Tim was the store manager.

In William Calder’s book “Gay Print Media’s Golden Era: Australian Magazines and Newspapers 1970-2000” he notes:

Inspired by the American lesbian sex fetish magazine On Our Backs – its title a deliberate riposte to the feminist magazine Off Our Backs – Francine Laybutt and Lisa Salmon published Wicked Women in Sydney at the start of 1988 to fill, as they put it, the “gaping hole” in women’s erotica, and promised “a forum for erotic ideas and … hot, one-handed reading”.(138) They aimed to bring into the open lesbian sexual practices such as sadomasochism for those who silently fantasised about such activities and let their readers see there were other similarly minded women they might meet. From the start, the magazine triggered debate within the lesbian community, and Laybutt says they were “surprised and unprepared for the degree of hostility” directed against them.(139) Sadomasochism, bondage, and even dildos were seen at the time “by the lesbian feminist paradigm … as violent patriarchal constructs”.(140) The pair would get thrown out of dyke clubs for wearing fetish gear and Salmon “who didn’t usually wear much at all would have drinks thrown on her … cigarettes surreptitiously put out on her [and] spat on sometimes”.(141)

Born at the start of the 1960s,(142) Laybutt grew up in the city of Newcastle and watched drag shows at the town’s one gay pub, but soon moved to Sydney where the gay scene was bigger.(143) She worked as an art teacher but “didn’t like teaching unruly teenagers”, and switched to computer design work with a North Shore communications company. Laybutt found her “true vocation” as Dominatrix Natasha in the sex industry,(144) and shared a flat with fellow former Catholic school girl Lisa Salmon,(145) who in her early 20s worked as a performance artist and stripper.(146) The pair started a relationship and decided it would be as a “fetish couple”.(147)

The first issue of Wicked Women was a 28 page A4 black and white with a pictorial cover selling for $4. It included poetry, personal classifieds and features exploring lesbian sexual fetish in an attempt to broaden individual lesbians’ definition of their lifestyle. To produce Wicked Women they bought an old electric typewriter that ironically would not print the letter ‘w’, so they “had to manually push the letter against the page” and the pair wrote most of the articles “under a variety of pseudonyms to make it appear as though they had lots of contributors”.(148) Laybutt’s “very open-minded” boss let them use the work photocopier on the weekend to print 90 copies of the first issue. Subsequent issues grew in size and cover price, peaking at 60 pages for $8, with up to 1000 copies printed.(149) The aim was six issues a year, though usually fewer were published. The magazine that Laybutt and Salmon created “reflected” the sadomasochistic sexual activity they were doing,(150) and they hoped it would let them meet other women “sharing the same experience”.(151) Salmon says “the seventies feminist thing just ended up being girls telling each other what to do. It became really dogmatic and it took the fun out of sexuality and being a dyke”.(152) Commentator Julie Catt says Wicked Women triggered a “lesbian sexual revolution”,(153) and others say it added “many new words to the lesbian sexual vocabulary – sadomasochism, fetishism, gender fuck – to name but a few”.(154) Wicked Women ran stories about a woman who was “horny for weeks, and masturbated ferociously”,(155) one from a woman who described how she was “blindfolded and placed in standing bondage [while f]ingers pinch my skin, pull at my hairs, slap my behind, teasing”,(156) and the dominatrix who wrote how her submissive “moaned, groaned, pleaded, yelled, screamed [and] begged me to stop but the juice was flowing freely down her inner thighs. Her cunt was writhing in frustration [wanting] me to fuck her to the point of exhaustion”.(157)

The first cover had the words: “Erotica Poetry Graphics SM Classifieds Decadence” above a graphic of a naked woman with a dog collar around her neck. Photographs of usually one or two women models soon replaced graphics on the cover. The magazine though was not simply pornography for lesbians. It explored sexual themes and often used playful images. There was a blurred photo of a naked cropped hair woman wearing a dog collar and seated cross-legged on bed,(158) a photo of a sultry woman in full leather jacket and cap looking piercingly into the camera,(159) and a party girl staring at the camera while pulling open her jacket to expose her breasts.(160) Inside were photo-spreads of women in leather or at sexual fetish events, and in one issue a photo-essay of open vaginas being fist-fucked.(161)

Quite apart from the publisher’s open promotion of sadomasochism there were a series of publishing events that triggered condemnation. In an early edition Linda Dement’s photograph of a woman holding a skinned rabbit against her vagina caused an uproar,(162) and the magazine was subsequently banned from at least one Melbourne feminist bookstore. Laybutt defends the photograph as “art … a strong image, but not an anti-woman one. It was widely misunderstood”.(163) A year later the inclusion of a gay male pedophile group press release,(164) led to “a ‘girlcott’ … sold very badly and lost some readership”,(165) followed the next issue when “all hell broke loose”,(166) after publishing an article written by a self-confessed “misogynist” gay leather man.(167) The final major controversy to confront the publishers of Wicked Women was Laybutt undergoing medical procedures to become a transman. “I was a tomboy” growing up, he says,(168) and in 1991 adopted the name Jasper, instead of Francine.(169)

Supporters of Wicked Women wrote letters to say “it’s wonderful to know there are other dykes out there into ‘unsound’ sex and games”.(170) Another said it was “important that women have a space where they can be upfront and honest about who they are and what they like”,(171) and one declared “I now, most times when going out to nightclubs and such, dress in leather”.(172) Some feminists engaged directly with the sexual desire implicit in Wicked Women’s content. One supported “expressions of lesbian sexuality which are exciting, dangerous and diverse” yet maintained the utopian goals of lesbian feminism “to rethink the relationship already in play between the phallus/cock/gun and power” concluding: “we wait with quivering clits for the day a woman submits her fiction in a non-male constructed language”.(173) With time this occurred as Laybutt and Salmon invited contributions from readers who submitted articles other than ones with sadomasochistic themes but “often vanilla or romantic sex flavoured and relatively sexually ‘safe’” articles.(174)

Less obvious than its challenge to existing ideas around lesbian sexual practices, was the role Wicked Women played in building lesbian community. Its classified personals included the expected: “23 Year Old into leather, looking for experienced S/M dyke to worship”,(175) but were also used by a range of lesbians to seek partners, such as “slim 22 yr old, strawberry blonde, desperately searching for my dark earth mother”. The magazine ran contact details for local lesbian social groups, and advertisements for Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Wicked Women organised what became a popular annual event, the Ms Wicked competition “in which lesbians stripped and performed sexual acts for enthusiastic all-female audiences”.(176) More than 500 attended a Melbourne heat in 1991.(177) Wicked Women organised a Mardi Gras dance party Be Wicked that was raided in the early hours by police with the patrons “herded out”,(178) and Girl Beat at the gay male sex-on-site venue The Den.(179)

The magazine’s editor from 1994, Kimberly O’Sullivan said the “events proved to be enormously popular and [mainstream lesbians] saw we had a role in the lesbian community. It demystified us for them”.(180) The activities of Wicked Women’s publishers also helped draw together the lesbian and gay male communities that in the 1980s lived largely separately from each other. Laybutt had always found the gay male scene “infinitely more interesting” to explore.(181) She was a member of two gay male motorcycle clubs, and even attended male only fetish events, passing as a young guy. Early support for the magazine came largely from the gay male community and the emergence of Wicked Women provided a vehicle to “bridge the gap” at least between the gay male and lesbian fetish communities.(182) In 1993 Wicked Women organised a Mr Wicked competition.

The controversial nature of Wicked Women attracted attention but its generally uncompromising stance on content alienated both potential buyers and advertisers and caused significant problems for the venture as a business. While the primary aim was to present sex radical ideas, the bills still needed to be paid and its 1993 editor, Kimberly O’Sullivan said they started “to think more seriously about the risks [of accepting] an article which will alienate half of your readership”.(183) There were difficulties from their first Catholic owned commercial printer who dumped them after they ran a photograph of a women stroking her vagina with a statue of the Virgin Mary.(184) Lesbian hotels initially refused to stock the magazine,(185) and the women’s bookshops that did stock it “kept the magazine hidden under Lesbian Network so no- one ever saw it”.(186) At first only gay male leather, and sex shops stocked Wicked Women and it was distributed by subscription to mainly Sydney women, though also to other areas around the country and overseas, and some men.(187) The only advertising support the magazine attracted initially was from leather fetish and sex product shops run by gay men as “lesbian businesses … would not touch them”.(188) Each ‘girlcott’ and refusal to display the magazine reduced sales and increased reliance on organising fund-raising events.(189)

Apart from publishing Wicked Women, Laybutt in 1990 was involved in editing the mixed gay and lesbian alternative journal of arts, culture and sexuality, Hell Bent, and in 1991 Pink Ink: An anthology of Australian lesbian and gay writers. By 1994, both Laybutt and Salmon had stepped back from the front line of editing, handing responsibility to O’Sullivan, who later described her job as “administrator, book- keeper, accountant, publicity officer, advertising manager and delivery driver – in short, doing every single thing on the magazine from beginning to end”. Two years later she resigned due to the work pressure that came on top of the need to work a second full-time paid job, bemoaning that she “had almost no social life (and felt) burnt out”.(190) When Salmon stopped organising fund-raising events the magazine became financially unsustainable. O’Sullivan was not replaced as editor with Laybutt declaring “I feel that having become a man, I’ve moved on to different things” and Wicked Women ceased publication in 1996 after 28 issues.(191)  Laybutt returned to live in Newcastle and became involved in publishing New Age ideas.(192)

The publishers of Wicked Women successfully appealed to the sexually libertarian section of the lesbian community, and in doing so challenged established feminist attitudes towards sexuality. They found a market niche and expanded, creating new social infrastructure and profoundly changed broader lesbian community attitudes towards sexuality. Ultimately though the publishing venture failed to become financially self-sustaining and closed when individual publisher energies waned.” 

It is against this background, and in the midst of, that the G.O.D Gang was formed. Amongst my recollections are attending a patty in the vicinity of Zetland, held in a warehouse, and consisting primaily of G.O.D & Dolphin Motor Club members. I was one of the DJ’s (who had to deal with a DJ rig suspended from the ceiling on chains, and would often swing out from the mezzanine area it was set up in – and you had to make sure you didn’t follow it). During one of my sets, I watched as Francine (she had not undergone sex reassignment surgery at this stage) opened a door in the floor of the warehouse that obviously led down to a basement area. She went down the stairs, and was followed by half-a-dozen of the male members. I have no accounts of what went on down there, but considering Francine’s stand on gender-fuck issues, and the liberality of many males in the leather scene, I dare say it would have been quite eye-ooening. In the above excerpt from the book, there is a nod to me as the manager of “Numvers” Bookstore, being one of the gay managers and businesses that advertised in, sold, and supported Wicked Women, and their events. This also indicates the divisions not just within the gay community at that time – the separist nature of gay men & lesbians, but also the divisions within the lesbian community, the strict dogmatic approach they had to women who marched “outside the square”. The same cliques existed within the gay male community – leathermen, bears, twinks, vanilla, BD/SM, clones etc – but this did not prevent guys crossing over into several cliques, and when required, they all socialised together. This possibly explains Francine’s attraction to the gay male community, along with the support it offered her, and her ventures. In many respects, G.O.D became a catalyst for a change in relationships between gay men & lesbians – well, at least those that wrre liberal minded, and not pushing agenda’s.

The two following accounts are important for several reasons – there is – sermingly –  no information on the G.O.D Gang on the internet; the “So Help Me G.O.D” piece has a run-down of resolutions reached in the first group event, giving an indication of how and why the gang was created, its structure, purposes and intentions. It also shows how the gang started to get its name out there through its involvement in some of the more “out there” events that were happening, and through integration with groups like the Dolphin Motor Club, The Griffins Motorcyle Club, and Dykes On Bikes.

Entry criteria for the Ms Wicked Competition circa 1989/90

 From the Dolphin Motor Clubs newsletter “Quid Nunc”, Volume 1, Issue IV. 1990. Both articles are from the same issue.

“So Help Me G.O.D.”

“In the beginning there were Three. And behold, the Three looked down on us and said ‘We need a Girlgang.’ And so it was done, and a Girlfang was formed. And GOD gave unto its members a symbol of their unity: a red patch, thereon emblazoned a serpent encircling a sword. Then GOD looked down on us once again, and said ‘There is disunity in our community,’ and they took a thread from the red patch, colour changed it, and came forth with a blue patch. Thus were guys brought into the unity of GOD. And the Three looked down, and said ‘This is good,’ and behold, it was very good.”

G.O.D. (Guys/Girls of Disgrace/Dishonour/Degradation/Discipline/Denigration…interpret it as you will) is  a group of girls and guys who fall into the classification of a gang. Despite the connotation of the word ‘gang’ meaning a group of louts, storm-trooping all over town , fighting, maiming, and causing general discord, the word ‘gang’ actually refers to a group of people, loosely based with no constitution or club rules to bind them. There is no official hierarchy, and no regular meetings as such. Members basically have a common interest (most GOD members are into leather sex in all or sundry of its variations) and basically get together just for a good time. A meeting could be said to be happening when two or more get together for a drink and a chat.

The Dolphin’s three Special Members: Francine, Jade & Lisa, are not only GOD girls, but founders of the group. Paul Costello, Geoff Arnold, and Tim Alderman are also members of GOD, and Les Heathfield is an Honorary Member. GOD girls are all invited to Dolphin events, and in return all Dolphin members are invited to all GOD, and Wicked Women events, apart from those deemed girls only. It is hoped that in the future, GOD and the Dolphins can get together to hold functions, or jointly sponsor functions. Membership currently stands at 22 girls, and 8 guys. The patches are red for the girls, and blue for the guys, and feature a snake entwined on an upward pointing sword. Thus with the initials of our name, the symbolism can be interpreted any way you want.

Francine – front right – with Oxford St royalty. From back left – Ray Hopkins (Jayar Leather); Kevin Jackson (former Mr Drummer); Mark Adams (President Southern Pacific Motorcycle Club); and Jeff England.

The recently GOD sponsored event for the Ms Wicked Competition was a tremendous night, with Tim Alderman from DMC one of the 5 judges for the event. The more recent Slave/Master/Mistress celebrity auction (see write-up this issue) just goes to show what girls and guys working together can really do. Our first official gang meeting was held in our Clubroom in Ultimo on Wednesday 30th May. About 25 members were present, plus about 5 visitors, including 2 women connected to the Mardi Gras committee, and a number of resolutions were passed by gang members.

*We are now closing ranks. Whereas before this night it was possible to become a gang member by the purchase of patches, membership is now only possible by a written submission, the applicant then having to come before a panel of selectors to have their suitability as a gang member judged.

* The panel of selectors was set ip, consisting of two founding members (one founding member must always be on the panel), one male nember, and two other girl members. Membership of the panel will be rotated over a three-month period. As the guys membership increases, we will be granted a second position on the panel.

* We recognise that there would, in all probability, be two distinct sectors within the membership: a social sector of people who support the group and wear the regalia, but who for reasons of jobs, profile etc. would not in all probability be involved in any “disgraceful” activities: and a “hard-core” sector who would bege involved in street thestre, demonstrations, marches, and other disgraceful activities . Neither group would be condemned by other members of the gang because of their stand.

* We wish to involve ourselves in the activities of other groups, such as Act-Up, to help them achieve changes as well as having our own group identified. We would also be planning parties, competitions, auctions etc  for members, friends, and the community in general.

* Any monies accrued would be used for the benefit of the group in arranging parties, promotions, events, and special meetings.

* We would maintain our loose knit structure with no formalised committee or such, to maintain our independence as a gang. However, the founding members would have the final say as regards all decisions in the gang. The panel of selectors would mert on a regular basis.

* We would, at all time, support community causes, especially in areas such as AIDS, and AIDS treatment.

* We must become noticeable, and identifiable , the patch must become identifiable as a symbol,of people who are involved at nany levels of communal help, as well as a certain degree of outrageousness.

We all left the meeting knowing something monumental was happening. Barriers between poofs and dykes were down, and together we were going to make an impact of positiveness in this city, and hopefully further afield.

G.O.D. for sale, The Midnight Shift, 9 September 1990, Papers of Fabian LoSchiavo, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA)

Tim Allderman

__________________________________________________________________________

I Was A Slave Master for G.O.D

Total darkness reigns. Through the darkness comes the opening spaceship sounds of Isao Tomita’s 2001 Theme: Thus Spake Zarathustra. The theme reaches a crashing crescendo, and fades with the same rumbling space ship sounds. Before the haunting opening bars of “Camina Burana” mixes into it, the sound of whips, much weeping, wailing and cries for mercy are heard approaching from out of the darkness. The Orff Chorus booms all around, and suddenly dazzling light fills the empty space, refracted through the incense smoke from an ancient thurible swung by a nun, as she attempts to placate and enlighten the chained throng of slaves that are being whipped into submission behind her. Struggles ensure, but the whip mistresses, Centurian guards, and the executioner keep everybody in line! Chains clank, cries get louder, and the incense smoke thickens as they encircle the herculean pillars, and the block from which they will shortly be despatched to heaven…or hell on earth. As the strains of “Carmina Burana” fade, the Centurians lead the slaves off the floor to the enmeshed holding pen. Their fatalistic cries die as the whip mistress finally subdues them into total submission.

No, not a scene from “Ben Hur” or “Quo Vardis”, but the entry procession for the G.O.D Slave/Master/Mistress Celebrity Auction, held at the Midnight Shift on Sunday 9th September (1990). We stated in the advertising that all manner of celebrities, and sleaze buckets, would be going under the hammer for charity…and we meant it!

Paul and Francine from G.O.D introduced the event, then handed the evening over to the very capable and outrageous whims of Monkey., from Tantrum Tits Lingerie, who was the evenings MC and auctioneer. Despite some early hassles with a faulty microphone, she handled the night as only Monkey can – totally over-the-top!

First to the block was Tim Vincent, Mr South Sydney Drummer who, despite a sign written on his back claiming “You can’t afford me” started the bidding off well and – sorty Tim…but someone could, and did, afford you: Matthew Cox, of the Dolphins, actually.

Monkey wasted no time in pushing the bids through, and that auctionees, and their potential owners were equally in agreement with the purchase. In rapid succession, Mr East Sydney Drummer, Bondage Boy, Toy Girl, and Slave Boy were put on the block…and dispensed with!

Many of those to be auctioned went to great lengths to add some theatre to the event, with costuming and dramatic performances. Toy Girl, and Cleopatra, were of special note, using dramatic music and great costumes. Cleopatra seduced the crowd beautifully, as only the Queen of the Nile could, though the gentleman who purchased her was quite obviously totally confused and befuddled by the whole event. The San Francisco motorcycle cop looked hot, and went for a good price. Bossy Boots was determined not to leave the block until she went for what she was worth. The two Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were given lessons in humility from the pathetically low bids they attracted. Reverend Mother Abyss is destined for a long stay in Purgatory for her little white lies – 19years old, and still a virgin! Mea Culpa, Reverend Mother!

Jade bought her cartoon Cowgirl character to life, and despite the lack of a horse still fetched a reasonable price. Footy Girl, and School Boy, both dressed for the part, came and went. The Safe Sex Sluts decided to go as a group lot, and despire much wig pulling and stiletto throwing were eventually dispensed of. The unlikely named Captain Falafel and his sidekick Kid Sprout,  looking like two flared and flowered hippies still recovering from a Sixties bad acid trip, brought some hilarity to the night, and were last seen being bullied and raped (playfully) under the DJs box.

Ms Wicked was the final official entrant to the block, and with much teasing, taunting and sexual persuasion eventually went for $800,000 ($200 in real money) after a group of girls pooled their resources.

Monkey, unbeknown to her at the time, was then grabbed by the Centurians, and led to the block. Having insulted just about everyone in the surrounds on the floor by this stage, bidding was bound to be high, and she was going for actual cash! Monkey took it all with good grace, got into the mood of the bidding by hurling out a few more insults to  remind people of how much she was actually disliked, declared that she was sick of girls, and wanted a guy for a change, and eventually went for $70.

This brought the evening to a close. As the 2001 Theme again faded away, the dual DJs Gemma & Tim got the crowd onto the dance floor, and held them there until the midnight closing.

$810 was raised for the Maitraya Day Centre, and Victoria’s “Lesbian News”. The entire night was an unprecedented success.

Slave/Master/Mistress Celebrity Auction, a G.O.D event held at the Midnight Shift circa 1989/90
Kerry Bashford’s write-up of the Slave/Master/Mistress Auction circa 1989/90, published in the Sydney Star Observer
My thank you letter as a G.O.D member, to all those attending the Slave/Master/Mistress Auction circa 1989/90, published in the Sydney Star Observer
The original piece in Wicked Women about the formation of the G.O.D Gang. Circa 1989
My original patches for the G.O.D gang. The boys were blue, the girls were red.

Tim Alderman (2017)

References

  • “Gay Print Media’s Golden Era: Australuan Magazines and Newspapers 1070-2000” https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/54653/%252520%252520%252520%252520%252520%252520Gay%252520Media’s%252520Golden%252520Era%252520THESIS%252520PASSED.pdf?sequence=1
  • 138 – Editorial,” Wicked Women Vol 1, No 1, 1988
  • 139 Kimberly O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy,” Wicked Women January 1993.
  • 140 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 141 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 142 “Jasper Laybutt,” in Kink, ed., Kerry Bashford (Wicked Women Publications, 1993).
  • 143 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 144 “Jasper Laybutt.”
  • 145 Julie Catt, “What Wicked Did for Women,” Sydney Star Observer 1 August, 1996.
  • 146 Lumby, Bad Girls, p. 88, quoting Lisa Salmon.
  • 147 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 148 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.” Also Graeme Hindmarch, “Ever More Wicked,” Capital Q 1 October 1993.
  • 149 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 150 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy,” quoting Laybutt.
  • 151 Catt, “What Wicked Did for Women.”
  • 152 Lumby, Bad Girls, p. 88, quoting Lisa Salmon.
  • 153 Catt, “What Wicked Did for Women.”
  • 154 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 155 Elena, “True Confessions of a Lying Romantic,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 3, 1988. 156 “Fantasy,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 1, January 1988.
  • 157 Jamie, “Raw Cunt,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 1, 1988.
  • 158 Wicked Women Vol 1, No 3, 1988.
    159 Wicked Women Vol 1, No 5, 1988.
  • 160 Wicked Women Vol 1, No 11, 1990.
    161 Linda Dement, “Fistfuck II – 1987,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 3, 1988.
  • 162 “Woman with a Rabbit 1 – 1987,” Wicked Women Vol 1, No 3, 1988.
  • 163 Kimberly O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy,” Wicked Women January 1993.
  • 164 “Blaze,” Wicked Women Vol 1, No 7, 1989.
  • 165 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 166 Ibid.
  • 167 “True Confessions,” Wicked Women Vol 1, No 8, 1989.
  • 168 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 169 Mikey Halliday, “Jasper,” Campaign August 1991. Also Leigh Raymond, “New Queers on the Block,” Capital Q 9 October 1992.
  • 170 Zenith, “Letters,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 3, 1988.
  • 171 Michelle, “Femail,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 9, 1990.
  • 172 Angel, “Editoria,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 8, 1989.
  • 173 Vicki/Shan, “Femail,” Wicked Women Vol 1, No 10, 1990.
  • 174 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 175 Wicked Women Vol 1, No. 10, 1990.
  • 176 Lumby, Bad Girl, p. 88, quoting Lisa Salmon.
  • 177 “Ms Wicked,” Campaign August 1991.
  • 178 O’Sullivan, “Dangerous Desire,” p. 122.
  • 179 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 180 Ibid.
  • 181 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 182 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 183 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 184 Linda Dement, “Untitled,” Wicked Women Vol 1, No 5, 1988.
  • 185 Sandy Merton, “Letters,” Wicked Women Vol 1, Issue 3, 1988.
  • 186 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 187 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.
  • 188 O’Sullivan, “Five Years of Infamy.”
  • 189 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013. Also “Editoria,” Wicked Women Vol 2, Issue 2, 1991.
  • 190 Wicked Women No 28 1996.
  • 191 Julie Catt, “Dyke Mag Future in Doubt,” Sydney Star Observer 21 March 1996.
  • 192 Author interview with Jasper Laybutt 2013.