Intergenerational Dialogue

Writing this memoir (A Simple Revolution) puts me back into a time that was very far in the past, when segregation, sexism, homophobia, and silence ruled everywhere. My generation, spurred by brave souls who had gone before us, broke through some walls, made some changes, and triggered off one hell of a backlash that has come to dominate the national scene—in the last decade especially.

Thinking about those times makes me want to ask questions of younger people—especially LBGT younger people—who are engaged in today’s problems:

What do you see as your most pressing issues?

What in society do you think needs to change? Is it jobs and housing? Is it how to keep a lover? Is it social justice? Is it not wanting to be defined or boxed in?

What do you hope for your future? 

Do you feel a need for community around you or is it enough to have Facebook and Twitter? To have a virtual community?

Are cross-generational friendships important to you?

I am genuinely interested in your responses and promise to check back here often. I’m excited to participate in a real dialogue around your concerns.

Scroll down to read more.

Community Forum

  1. Tattiana says:

    What do you see as your most pressing issues? Gender, sexual, and racial identities are my most pressing issues. So many ideas were suggested to me before I could understand what I was choosing to believe. The first certainly was gender. I remember trying assert my other gender nature (male) at the age of 9. I often saw myself as both, but there was/is no place for “both” to belong in any self-identifying questionnaire. I say “female” now as the short and easy answer that I know won’t cause any confusing responses. But I would really like to see our society take a leap into the androgynous nature of humankind and include more gender neutral language and etiquette in our everyday lives. The second identity I had to face was that of being Black and what it meant to be Black and then confronting the confusing messages of being interracial trying to fit into one community. I never could fit in with what I thought I had to be, to be Black, and it drove me to find a deeper self love. But I still confront my own race issues daily as the ideas of Black suffering and racism were repeated lessons in my childhood rearing. The most recent issue I’ve had to face with identity is where to put myself on the sexuality spectrum. Its comfortable to call myself lesbian and its always true that I’m attracted to women. But sometimes I’m attracted to men too and that attraction brings up fearful thoughts about what my lesbian friends might say about it. When I first found the LGBT community, I flourished in creativity. It was as if clouds had moved out from under the sun and I could see a clear pathway again. I threw myself in, adopting all the lingo and signs and symbols that I learned along the way. After being “out” for about ten years(I’m now 23), I realize that so much of that fervor to label myself was still an effort to find my place in community. And now that I’m not totally identifying with one end of the spectrum, all I’ve got is “queer.” Queer is cool but I wish there wasn’t this stigma about being lesbian and relating to masculine sexuality too.

    What in society do you think needs to change? Is it jobs and housing? Is it how to keep a lover? Is it social justice? Is it not wanting to be defined or boxed in? It is social justice in the form or relating to others. I want to see people integrating our great ideas about equality and sustainability. More heart. Less hunger.

    What do you hope for your future? I hope that I will have enough courage and enough strength to be honest with myself while the majority of people tell me to be something else.

    Do you feel a need for community around you or is it enough to have Facebook and Twitter? To have a virtual community? I absolutely need community. Facebook is only good for video and event shares. Roundtables sustain the life of me. Live sharing makes me vibrate.

    Are cross-generational friendships important to you? They are of the most important. I adore gaining access to viewpoints from decades before mine, especially into the 60′s and 70′s, and especially from lesbian identified women over 50.

  2. Judy Grahn says:

    To go one with the word “dyke”—which I also love and which to me always implies “warrior lesbian”—by the end of the 1970s, a lot of people assumed that all seven of my “Common Woman Poems” were meant to depict lesbians, but I intended only one of them—and it’s not “Detroit Annie, hitchhiking”. Gay Women’s Liberation was “for everyone” despite our using separatism as a method of acquiring focus and support from each other. Now I am seeing a broader vocabulary: boi, and transman, and “trannie dyke” as Animal Prufrock might say. Is the fight still about women’s rights? Or has it moved on?

  3. mariKo says:

    “Anybody using it any more?”

    I heard the word “dyke” today several times at a party for single lesbians over age 50. I came out in 1970 to a subculture that had that word for a few of its female members, the lesbians who were strongly masculine. “Diesel dykes” were few and far between but tough women who seemed to be able to or have to pass as men. I considered these admirable identities, but realized I’m sure that wasn’t regular society’s view. Somebody expanded it (watered it down I might think) in the last few decades to include “bisexual dykes” and “lipstick dykes” and massive “dyke marches.”

  4. Kate Moran says:


    I will be 50 this Spring and came out @ 19 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The word dyke has always been really special to me, and I was comfortable saying it long before I came to like lesbian. Lesbian used to seem like labia or something, clinical and fancy, although in the early 80s, the Lincoln Legion of Lesbians was going strong in Nebraska. Dyke was comfortable for me, and uncomfortable for everyone else, and that made me love it. It was strong, in your face. If you called yourself a dyke, then there was almost nothing left they could say about you that was worse.

    Back then, using the word Dyke separated us from the closeted lesbians. Those of us who would use it were the ones who were willing to stand and fight, sometimes literally. And I spent a lot of time as a young dyke and an Aries, thinking about fighting. The word dyke had no place in the phrase lesbian and gay. So the word dyke also separated us from the gay men who called us fishes and had no use for us at all. In those days, gay men were not kind to us. They were even more condemning of us than the straight world for being fat and hairy and loud.

    It’s hard sometimes to hear the younger ones snear when they say the words lesbian or dyke, the same way I used to snear at “gay woman”. So I just keep myself in mind. The young ones who piss me off now, are just like me and the way I spoke to many of the middle-aged ones when I was young. As we all keep pushing the boundaries, we move past where the ones before us were.

    Intergenerational solidarity seems like a vitally important thing and I believe is the responsiblity of those of us in the middle years to try and get started. The one’s coming behind us are younger, probably poorer and more QPOC. The challenge will be to see if the boomer generation will help them along or not. When the boomers leave this earth, will their wealth go to their straight families or to fund the survival of the next queer generation?

  5. AJ Rosina says:

    Hello Judy!

    What a great question. Now in my early twenties, I was taught (as a child) that “dyke” is a really derogatory thing to say; granted, I was taught this by mostly straight-identified family and teachers. As a result, I haven’t had a really positive association with the word (though this is changing somewhat as I have become more active in the queer community). I notice this negative feeling with the word seems to be a general trend with a lot of people my age, queer and allied.

    I do see how different the word “dyke” can be for other women, often of older generations. I would love to learn a little bit more about this. What does the word mean for you? What do you think about the trend in education and amongst younger people to forbid/villify the word? Do you identify as a “dyke”? If so, then when did you start, and what was that experience like for you?

  6. Judy Grahn says:

    ok, i’m back. anybody out there?
    And what about the word “dyke”—i see it is on
    a “do not say” list for colleges.
    Anybody using it anymore?

  7. Judy Grahn says:

    Hi posters,
    i will be offline for a handful of days,
    then will read everything and comment some more,
    i promise. Hoping to see your feelings and ideas here.

  8. Judy Grahn says:

    I don’t like the term “breeder” either–it is an insult and as you say, not at all accurate. In fact, what i see in
    lesbian couples i know now, is a concern with conception and pregnancy–and this is a big change from my day, though plenty of “old dykes” are grandmothers by now.
    I’m also loving what you say about who your allies and friends are, how straight they are, as the same thing
    has happend to me–i am surrounded by loving friends who support me and i support them in every way possible; and i would say they cherish my lesbianism.
    So these are major changes–ever since PFLAG surfaced i knew we were going to get to live lives. At the same time, and knowing so well how harsh the lines of separatism can be, those folks also hold something in place that continues to be valuable. it’s a mixed bag.
    About that tea idea–what a lovely invitation. Maybe there could be “relationship scoop” as an exchange– Let’s ask Aunt Lute if that can be part of a panel i think they are planning….

  9. Judy Grahn says:

    What a pressing need you have brought up, Animal. I have heard so many stories of lgbtqi youth who were taken in by older lovers, even school-teachers (oh scandal) who gave them a roof and food during the impossibly vulnerable years of adolescence. I even heard of a well-known butch dyke who crept into a women’s center at night to sleep on the floor as a survival tactic as a teen. What are the churches and social service centers that give runaway youth a chance in the Bay Area? I know that Patricia Jackson has been an activist for Queer youth in SF for years. With funding being cut, what can fill in, and how can compassion be activated—in women of means as well as men?

    i want to think more about what you said about marriage…

  10. AJ says:

    As a young lesbian/queer woman, I don’t feel a strong sense of queer community. I am the first to admit this probably has everything to do with the time and area that I grew up in and came of age. I have lived in San Francisco area my whole life, and with its faults (believe me, I am under no illusions that this is gay heaven, I got gay-bashed as a kid, too, going to school about 20 minutes drive from the Castro), this is still a pretty nice place to grow up queer. I allow that because I live and have always lived in a (comparatively) safe place maybe don’t feel the strong pull of a protecting community, the need to join a group. I am also (in the interest of full disclosure here) a notorious introvert; I might join the group if I felt like we didn’t have to talk that much to each other.

    I consider myself pretty lucky in my group of friends, many, probably most, of whom identity as heterosexual. I resist, and in fact often resent (though I really get where you’re coming from, believe me), the insularity of many queer theme-groups and activities; it’s just not me. I appreciate the time and place for queer-center, or women-centered space, but I think with my generation I am seeing a need for something different. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a queer, community-building event, panel, class, etc. and someone comments on “Wow, you certainly have a lot of breeder* friends.” I wish I could show others the “queerness” I see in so many of my straight-identified friends, in their envisioning of their own racial/cultural/national/sexual identities, in their willingness to ally, in their love an support, in how often they put themselves on the line for me to make sure I feel safe, loved, and appreciated, and in their total comfort openly talking about their occasional same-sex attraction or our sex lives. It really makes me uncomfortable to have to explain to some of these friends exactly why I can’t take them with me to event X or event Y, when they make a lot of space in their lives to make me feel included. Where would I be without the sibling, classmate, parent, friend who has stood up for me when I didn’t have the resources to do it for myself? And why would I really want to show up places that they aren’t welcome?

    This has all been a long way to say that maybe I do have a queer community, but it’s definitely got a lot of straight people in it.

    And yes, Judy, I wish I had more intergenerational friendships. In my family and chosen family, there are some awesome elders I can turn to for guidance, but there are few people who are openly queer or LGBT. I would like to know how you, and others, formed your communities in the past, how you see that changing, and what you might say to someone with my experience of community now. It would also be really nice to sit down for tea once in a while with a cool aunt/uncle/grandparent type person who would give me some solid relationship advice without having them preface it, “Well, honey, here’s my idea, but it might be different for you because, well, you know (awkward pause) I’m not gay and you are.”**

    *Breeder. I could write another post on how much I dislike that word, and not just because of its derogatory intention. It also falls back on that old queerness and sterility myth. It’s just inaccurate; queer folks have kids and they’ve been having kids and making all kinds of families as long as heterosexual people.

    **This has actually happened to me, and more than once.

  11. animal prufrock says:

    first of all – i am so excited about this project – what a great forum facilitated by one of the great feminist revolutionaries of our time. this is truly a gift that i plan to engage deeply with. thank you, judy grahn –

    ill start with what is a hot topic for me – from your list of questions –

    “is it jobs and housing?”

    id like to shine a light on the problem of lgbt homeless youth – and the sad irony that the very place many of them from all over the country have come and looked for refuge, the castro – is a place where there has been community resistance (this is what i understand as a community of economically privileged white gay men) to providing housing and safe space for these young queers (many of them queers of color) to find themselves, heal themselves and grow into the next generation of artists, activists, teachers, therapists, etc…

    it is troubling to me that the national lgbt agenda has been usurped by a similar demographic of socio-economically privileged white men – to claim that gay marriage is the value that will free us all – when in fact – marriage (as a federal institution) for those of us who are low-income actually can be severely negatively impacted financially and medically by marrying our partners. this is a fact that many low-income heterosexual seniors find out – and some actually get divorced so that they qualify for the kind of medical insurance they need…

    i think it is vital that we understand the intricacies of these political movements – and look to see whose needs aren’t being met in the community and strategize accordingly. just because someone is a homosexual doesnt necessarily situate them in queerness – queer can be a transitory state – and for some of us it is of value to remain on the margins – but that doesn’t me those of us in the margins don’t deserve housing and healthcare in the community we feel most allied to…

    what do you think?

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