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The Origin and Development of The Daughters of Bilitis Organization

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Women Acting in the World

Daughters of Bilitis

The Daughters of Bilitis was the first organization centered on lesbians in the U.S. Founded in 1955 in San Francisco, the Daughters of Bilitis started as a secretive social club for lesbians at a time when the LGBT community was discriminated against and subjected to hostility. Two of the most well-known founding members were Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. They moved to San Francisco as a couple to find that there was no LGBT community there. When they had the chance to join a small lesbian social club, they were quick to accept the opportunity. Soon, this small club developed into the DOB. Throughout the late 50’s more chapters of DOB were founded throughout America. During its early development, the DOB switched gears from its original social intent to become a political organization for lesbian rights.

The Daughters of Bilitis paralleled another gay rights group at the time called the Mattachine Society. This organization, founded in Los Angeles in 1951 by gay men, aimed to spread awareness on matters pertaining to homosexuality. Like the DOB, the Mattachine Society began as a social group and later morphed into a political activist organization. They had several similarities in their efforts in the gay community. The DOB and the Mattachine Society urged its members to participate in studies and to properly educate the public that homosexuality is not a “sickness” to be cured. They battled against the fear that the queer community felt throughout the 50s and 60s, when bigotry and police raids on gay and lesbian bars were prevalent. They both also strived for the concept of fitting into the overall community rather than holding a separate identity based on gender and sexuality. However, there were tensions when the two groups were thought to be collaborating, as each of the groups’ efforts focused on their respective advocacy for lesbians and gay men.

Despite the termination of the national organization in the 1970s, the Daughters of Bilitis is credited with many accomplishments in the gay rights movement. In the social aspect, the DOB offered opportunities for lesbians to meet and share their individual experiences. This enabled them to establish a gay community at a time when heteronormativity thrived. They had their first national convention in 1960. Publicized as “Ten Days in August,” it was successful at the Wickham Hotel in San Francisco. In 1956, the DOB began publishing its monthly newsletter, The Ladder. In it readers would find articles, interviews, events calendars, and pieces of writing (especially poetry and short fiction) related to lesbian issues and accomplishments. After the organization disbanded, Martin and Lyon stayed active in the women’s and gay rights movements. In 2004, they were the first gay couple to be given a marriage certificate in San Francisco. It seems only right that the two that started it all should be given that opportunity first, even though all gay and lesbian couples should have had that legal right a long time ago.

LGBT Foundation

The LGBT Foundation, formally created in April 2015, is a national charity organization for services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in Manchester, England. Formerly known as The Lesbian and Gay Foundation (or, The LGF), the charity changed its name and aim to be more inclusive to the LGBT community. Since the change in 2015, they have worked hard to provide services to bisexual and trans people. As stated on the organization’s website, “[they] believe in a fair and equal society where all LGBT people can achieve their full potential.”

The LGBT Foundation has provided a large range of services and sources of support for the LGBT community, including the following: a national helpline, sexual health testing and support, mental health resources, wellbeing services, support groups, and advice for fighting hate crime and discrimination. The foundation’s Women’s Programme helps to support all lesbian and bisexual women to improve their health, skills, knowledge, and their confidence. The women they give services to include those who identify as female and are also lesbian, bisexual, or questioning their preferences.

The LGBT Foundation provides help to more than 40,000 people each year; that’s more than any other charity in the UK. It is also the largest LGBT community service and health aid organization in the UK. The foundation works to help other groups as well, in and out of Manchester. It worked with Manchester Pride to assist in organizing the yearly Pride event in Manchester. Since its development in 2000, the LGF and the LGBT Foundation have contributed a significant amount of resources and aid for the LGBT community in not only Manchester, but also internationally.

Conclusion

Both the Daughters of Bilitis and the LGBT Foundation have contributed many resources to the cause of the LGBT community. The DOB, despite only being operable for about 20 years, opened the public to an LGBT, particularly lesbian, community. After creating a social club for lesbians to meet and talk about their struggles together, the DOB published The Ladder, a monthly newsletter that informed the community of lesbian topics in articles and writings by members. Comparably, The LGBT Foundation has helped the lesbian community as well as gay men, bisexuals, trans people, and people who identify as gender fluid or nonbinary. This foundation is still functional and provides services to LGBT people daily. From this assignment, I have learned much about the history of the LGBT community’s rise into the general community and the DOB’s and the LGBT Foundation’s efforts to help lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and trans people.

Both inside and outside the U.S., the growth of a LGBT community has been a slow and uphill process. Since the 50’s, the discrimination and hostility directed towards LGBT individuals has lessened considerably due to the help given by organizations like the Daughters of Bilitis and the LGBT Foundation. However, it still prevails. The negative stigma around homosexuality and trans people is a plague throughout the world that needs to end. Imagine a world where heterosexuality was taboo; how would those against the LGBT community respond to that?

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