What Was Happening Before ‘Just Be Nice Feminism’? Part II: Beth Elliot, 1972

Dr Em charts the history of the development of ‘just be nice’ feminism and the inclusion of trans-identified males in the women’s movement. Part 2.

Part I

Like today, the inclusion of males claiming to be female based on sexist stereotypes split the Women’s Movement from within. This large split really began in 1972 when two lesbian feminists decided to prioritise the feelings and desires of males over females. The co-founders of Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), a lesbian civil rights group, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons, argued for a compromise position and the inclusion of transsexuals as allies to women. This was ultimately rejected by the members, however, an exception was made for the transsexual Beth Elliott in light of his long-standing involvement. Beth was deemed a special ally to women. Jeanne Cordova reported in The Lesbian Tide in December 1972 how ‘on Tuesday, Nov. 17th, the membership of San Francisco’s Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis voted against admitting transsexual persons into their organization. Ending a several month long “very heavy issue”.1 This description indicates the length and strength of feeling surrounding the issue of whether males with penises could be lesbians and should be permitted into lesbian activism. ‘Del Martin, co-founder of D.O.B. and member of the San Francisco Chapter said, “D.O.B. has always been set up as a woman’s organization. A person before having the operation (to become a woman) is not legally a woman. Phyllis (her lover and co-founder of D.O.B.) and I understand both sides of the issue. . .it’s regrettable that it had to come up this way.”2 They argued that there were two sides to whether males could be lesbians. Why must women and feminist always consider what men want? Why can’t feminists and the Women’s Movement prioritise female needs? Cordova recounted how ‘in recent months the subject and matter of transsexuality has become once again a controversial issue among gay groups and organizations. In the San Francisco chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, the issue has threatened to split that organization in half’.3 There was broad feminist and lesbian opposition within the grass roots movement.

Cordova related how women insisted ‘that transsexuals are “only synthetic women”, who “should start trying to relate to each other and get out of our space”, a number of S. F. D.O.B. members recently went on a campaign to oust two transsexual members of that organization’.4 In the campaign, they stated “We don’t like them voicing their opinions as lesbians. They are not lesbians. Even after surgery it would be hard to accept these people as lesbian women. There is no excuse for this ‘passing’. These people should accept themselves for what they are. Their oppression is different than the lesbians’ oppression.”5 One group of women argued that males cannot change sex or be lesbians, the other argued sexist ideas of male and female brains, so feminist. Cordova recorded that some DOB members ‘in an article written from the standpoint that male-to-female transsexuals are women, and should therefore be allowed in DOB, have stated: “A transsexual is a woman who is born in a man’s body or a man who is born in a woman’s body, and who goes through reconstructive surgery to bring his or her body into harmony with her mind’.6 Cordova pinpointed that ‘the entire issue regarding transsexuals in DOB really boils down to whether or not one accepts science’s definition of a male-to-female transsexual as a woman; whether or not one accepts that any such woman who feels love for only women, who relates to only women, who identifies herself as a lesbian, is a lesbian”.7 The lesbian feminists who opposed males in their spaces, definition and sexuality were then chastised with the concept of ‘true trans’. The ‘just be nice’ women argued that “the true transsexual wants not just to be a woman (or man) inside, but also to have the physical body of their true sex. Despite all the disadvantages involved with being a woman and a lesbian, the transsexual woman, with the alignment of her body with her psyche, gains her self-identity and her self-esteem. And that is everything”.8 It looks like ‘And that is everything’ was an early form of the modern slogan ‘no debate’. It is interesting to note that these women posited male self-esteem and male mental health as the everything, the point, of lesbians and feminists.

It was the infiltration and inclusion of the male Beth Elliott in a lesbian feminist group which arguably birthed liberal ‘feminism’. It was reported in The Gay Liberator that ‘Commenting on the vote, Del Martin, co-founder of DOB and member of the San Francisco group, said, “DOB has always been set up as a woman’s organization. A person before having the (transsexual) operation is not legally a woman.” But a sizeable minority disagreed. “En masse and in something akin to cold fury,” the entire staff of Sisters magazine, the monthly publication of SF DOB, resigned their positions and their membership in DOB’.9 Women, supposedly lesbian feminists, sided with a man over women and women’s interests. ‘In an open letter from the former staff of Sisters, they described the lone transsexual member (who was also part of the Sisters staff) as “a devoted worker who has poured hundreds of hours of time and energy into DOB. Unfortunately for her, she was born into a man’s body and is now voted out of DOB and forbidden to write for Sisters“.10 Because he is a man. The staff of Sisters highlight the concept of women as vending machines which men put kindness tokens into and get a reward. This is the idea of ‘honorary woman’ because he had spent time writing articles. That this man got women’s rights as a reward for speaking for women and taking a woman’s place. These staff members of Sisters had been ideologically captured, they had swallowed the lie that a white heterosexual male is oppressed as a woman, if not more oppressed. They blindly stated “We will have no part in the oppression of our sisters [men in dresses],” and “We voted to keep DOB open to all women, we lost, and we will now seek an alternative to DOB”.11 This fracture occurred, the ideological capture, the putting men before women, because of the inclusion of one ‘transsexual ally’, Beth Elliot.

Still, feminist pushback to males in female spaces and the Women’s Movement and Lesbian Movement and the ‘just-be-nice’ women who enabled this was on the increase. They lost the vote and male transsexuals were not to be included in the lesbian activist group, apart from one special transsexual ally – Beth Elliot. Only a few months later in 1972 Beth Elliott was expelled from the lesbian feminist group DOB over allegations that he had sexually harassed and assaulted the lesbian Bev Jo Von Dohre.12 Similar to the current sexual assault allegations against the trans rights activists Eli Erlik, allegations against Lilly Madigan, allegations of indecent exposure in the workplace against Jess Bradley, the rape allegations against Kami Sid, the sexual assault allegations against Andi Dier who heckled Rose McGowan, and the paedophilia allegations against trans activist Jessica Yaniv, to name just a few, the allegations against Elliott were dismissed as transphobia.[13]13 One of the clearest signs that people don’t really believe that these transsexuals/transgenderists have changed sex is that their behaviour will be excused and a woman disbelieved and slandered if she speaks up. Indeed, some women on the editorial board of supposedly feminist Sisters magazine with Elliott walked out over the decision to remove him because of sexual assault allegations. Some women will always support males over females. The vote of ‘No’ to include males was not taken as a complete sentence and ‘It was decided to have a National Lesbian Conference in L.A. in the spring of ’73’ because ‘D.O.B. in San Francisco [was] split over the trans-sexual issue’, part organised by the transsexual accused of sexual assault – Beth Elliot.14

  1. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  2. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  3. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  4. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  5. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  6. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  7. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  8. J. Cordova, ‘D.O.B. SAYS NO’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 2, issue 5, December, 1972, p.21
  9. ‘DOB EXCLUDES TRANSSEXUALS San Francisco, The Gay Liberator, issue 24, February 1, 1973, p. 3.
  10. ‘DOB EXCLUDES TRANSSEXUALS San Francisco, The Gay Liberator, issue 24, February 1, 1973, p. 3.
  11. ‘DOB EXCLUDES TRANSSEXUALS San Francisco, The Gay Liberator, issue 24, February 1, 1973, p. 3.
  12. S. Stryker, Transgender History (Seal Press, 2008). pp. 102–104.
  13. https://simplereceipts.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/eli-erlicks-coverup-attempts/ https://theothermccain.com/2017/12/27/ex-partner-accuses-nonbinary-transfemme-elierlick-of-sexual-abuse/ https://twitter.com/ripx4nutmeg/status/1174204957689618434?lang=en https://thetab.com/uk/2018/07/30/nus-trans-officer-suspended-over-claims-she-posted-explicit-photographs-of-a-person-flashing-75122 https://dailytimes.com.pk/401245/kami-sid-breaks-silence-over-rape-and-intimidation-allegations/ https://www.dailydot.com/irl/andi-dier-rose-mcgowan-metoo/ https://thepostmillennial.com/exclusive-jessica-yaniv-accused-of-trying-to-share-child-porn-sexual-harassment-of-minors/
  14. ‘From Us’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 3, issue 1, August, 1973, p.4

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Article Discussion

  • Posted by Dr Em

    15 October, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Dear Bev Jo, I cannot tell you how excited I am that you have got in touch! Thank you so much for your clarifications and history. Have you written about this anywhere, you have such a story to tell. I'm not sure how we will do it but please can we get in touch with each other? It is amazing the different pictures which have emerged over time. What has been recorded and how that aligns with what you experienced. I'm astonished, but also saying 'of course', to hear that he is still stalking you and the continuation of the problems from all those years ago. I will remove the assault allegation as you have clarified that. It is noteworthy that a fabricated history - 'long-standing involvement' - was constructed by women to justify Elliot's presence. Best, Dr Em.

    • Sorry, I only just saw your response. I am so glad to meet you and would love to share all the history I know. There is a lot in our book, updated and online now at my first blog. These men so much do not want our history known. And it's horrifying to see that this man might be again convincing women on fb that he is a Lesbian. (I am so limited about how much I can say there without being banned.) Yes, let's talk or write.... xoxox

  • Thank you again for this history, which is so important since the men are erasing all they can about our lives. I want to try to clarify some of the information printed. I'm a Lifelong Lesbian and became lovers with my first lover when I was 17 in 1968, but didn't find the Bay Area Lesbian Feminist community until 1970. (I did try to go to DOB and the bars, but was underage.) Elliott Basil Mattiuzzi is the actual name of the man who stalked me into the Lesbian community and continues to stalk me. He picked a name as close to mine as he could ("Beth") and last year showed up at a "Lesbian" event (we don't have even women only space left), with my name on his name tag. He has also doxxed me, knowing I've been sent rape, mutilation and death threats. First, I want everyone to know that Elliott never had a "long-standing involvement" in our community since he had not even known what a Lesbian was in late 1968. He lies to get Lesbians feeling guilty and indebted to him. Second, he never sexually assaulted me and was not kicked out of DOB for any reason having to do with me. However he harassed me and then stalked me into the Lesbian community, and continues to stalk me now. He certainly never takes no for an answer. He also targets friends of mine to be his friends. (Fake "nice" means never saying no.) Third, Jeanne Cordova's conference was not a response to what happened with DOB, and was not called a "National Lesbian Conference" but was called "West Coast Lesbian Conference." There was a Lesbian Feminist conference the year earlier, in 1972 in Berkeley, that was possibly the first Lesbian Feminist conference in the world. I was part of that collective. Fourth, our Bay Area Lesbian community was quickly radicalizing, but, though DOB was probably the first Lesbian organization in the world, by 1970 it seemed more conservative compared to Lesbian Feminist organizations. I think that is why Elliott targeted them, because he would never have been allowed into the more radical groups. I was the first Lesbian that Elliott me, at USF in 1968, where he pressured me to be his girlfriend and I said no, and that I was in love with my best friend, Marg. He had never heard of Lesbians before (so his later stories of feeling like a girl growing up are complete lies. He certainly would have pulled that on me at the time if he'd thought of it.) And this is important for all to know since he now lies that he asked his parents for "sex reassignment surgery" when he was 12. Not remotely true. He is a particularly repulsive het man. He was in a seminary Catholic high school before USF and assumed I would be his girlfriend since "he man and I woman." I made the classic mistake of feeling sorry for him and so became friends with him and he hung out with the group of girls I met at USF. No, he never sexually assaulted me, but he did continuing pressuring me, crying at me, following me around, etc. I had no Lesbian or Feminist support then or I would have dealt with him very differently. He gave me the creeps, and it wasn't until years later that I realized he likely told some of my women friends to think we were together. When I did find a Lesbian Feminist community in 1970, I soon radicalized, and became a Separatist in 1972, and wrote and published Dykes and Gorgons with Aida and Anne in 1973, the first Lesbian Separatist newspaper we heard of. And when I found out that that man was claiming to be a Lesbian, in my community, I tried to stop him and warn everyone about him. (I still do, but these men have more support now from Lesbians than we ever will.) Elliott was never an ally and it a glaring example of how almost 50 years of hormones and pretending to be a woman doesn't begin to change such men from being female-hating. (He also identifies as "bisexual" when it suits him, like to get printed in a bisexual women's anthology.) It's odd seeing Jeanne Cordova's comments because when I finally talked with her at the 2014 Old Lesbians Organizing for Change Conference and asked her why on earth she so showcased this man at her 1973 West Coast Lesbian Conference as a "Lesbian" singer/musician (by the way, he still can't sing, but bellows off key, scrunching his face and bangs on his guitar to approximate emotion), she rambled about how she thought "transsexuals" were all Black sex workers, which makes no sense, but I'm guessing is how she deals with being questioned about what she did to us. I believe she had no idea how unpopular Elliott would be but thought having him at her conference would make it more trendy. (I remember almost everyone there protesting him, including Robin Morgan. (I have to add that there is a dangerous lie being spread in the "transadvocate" by Robin Tyler that I threatened Elliott on stage. Not true any more than the lie she wrote in another article slandering Lisa Vogl. I don't remember seeing Robin Tyler there at all.) Anyway, I never heard of Elliott being considered a "special ally" to women. It's also important to know that he is openly racist in print (so much so that a friend who was horrified by his racism changed her phone number in fear). He also targets and grooms young women, and started a Meetup group called "Cubs and Cougars" for older "women" (like him presumably) to get access to young women. (From what I saw online, it soon ended.) Although the con that gets Lesbian and women's sympathy is that these poor men feel born in the wrong body, I have never met or read any that this is true of. It's all about fetish, autogynephilia, and wanting sexual access to Lesbians. Never have any remotely seemed like Lesbians. (Sandy Stone, who was the Trans-identified Male with Olivia records is another example. When I commented in a friend's facebook thread, he recognized me and went after me, insulting me with the classic "you must have had a bad experience in the past to make you not like us." That is usually said about Lesbians who want no contact with men, but in this case he meant a man posing as a Lesbian.) Elliott's presence has prevented me from going back to the last supposedly "women only" open mic where I used to read poetry because he is always there. I refuse to ever again be an audience for him, even if that means not hearing Lesbians there. The last time, he bellowed a "song" about a woman who was crawling on the floor, desperate to reach his "kitty cat" ("pussy.") But now on facebook, he is trying to be convincing to those who don't know him, that he is a woman.

    • Posted by Dr Em

      15 October, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Also, would you be o.k. with me screen grabbing and sharing your comments here so that more women can read it please?

      • Absolutely! I don't get notices for replies, so please contact me by email if you can and please share whatever you like. I so appreciate your saving our history.

  • Is this Part I or Part 2? We would like permission to adapt it (both?) to French for the TRADFEM portal..

    • Posted by Dr Em

      15 October, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      Hi, it is part 2 of 7. You of course have permission to translate, thank you. Could you wait until after I have asked Uncommon Ground to edit it to remove the assault allegation please?

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