photo
Helen Lang at the First NYC Dyke March, June 26, 1993. Carolina Kroon
blank gif
New York, NY
The Lesbian Avengers began here in New York City in '92 when the East Village was still a hotbed of queer art and queer activism, and lesbians nationwide were reeling from the antigay Culture War declared by the religious right. Making good use of their journalist and artist members, they developed and shared the media-savvy techniques that would characterize classic Avenger actions in service of lesbian visibility and survival. With LACROP, the New York Avengers became pioneers of "out" grassroots organizing.

In 1994, other Avengers started to think internationally. The International Action Committee (INTERACT) invaded a UNIFEM fundraiser at the United Nations, grabbing the microphone and passing out pamphlets demanding UNIFEM address lesbian issues. "You can't raise chickens in jail," they scoffed, reminding UNIFEM, that development wasn't enough for lesbians faced with violence and state discrimination. The Dyke March that year, coinciding with the anniversary of Stonewall, was an International Dyke March.

Another committee, after holding one solo action against the hate radio of La Mega, collaborated intensively for several months with the African American and Latina Lesbians of Las Buenas Amigas and African Ancestral Lesbians United for Social Change. Together, they flyered intensively in Latino and black neighborhoods, and held a large march and demo that actually got positive photo and print coverage in El Diaro/La Prensa, a rare occurence at the time. This Avenger committee discussed evolving into Cityaxe, a group committed to working in New York City and addressing issues of class and race, but it didn't take off.

While there was a rich potential in all of these projects, burn-out combined with external and internal pressures weakened the group, and New York City held its last action in 1995, though former members continued to organize the New York City Dyke March which continues today.
blank gif

Actions

1992

Sept. 9. Rainbow Curriculum. Marched on first day of school in a working class, multi-ethnic neighborhood in Queens to protest School Board 24's refusal to implement the Rainbow Curriculum. The event featured a marching band. Avengers handed out balloons reading "Ask About Lesbian Lives," along with flyers offering an alternative alphabet lesson.

Oct. 6. Rainbow Curriculum. Marched at the Board of Education in Brooklyn in response to a counter-protest staged by Mary Cummins, School Board 24 President.

Oct. 24. Fundraiser

Oct. 29. Oregon Murders and Measure 9. Held a press conference at City Hall in Manhattan to protest the fire-bombing murders of Hattie Mae Cohens and Brian Mock in Oregon, as well as the state's Measure 9, the "Abnormal Behaviors Initiative."

Oct. 30. Take Back the Night. Shrine to Cohens and Mock created in the West Village. Avengers eat fire for the first time, chanting, "The fire will not consume us, we'll take it and make it our own."

Oct. 30- Nov. 3. Shrine Vigil & March. Held a 24-hour a day vigil encampment at Cohens and Mock shrine. Flyering & anti-violence education. They also held a march down Fifth Avenue with torches.

Nov. 22. Lesbians Speak Out Against Violence. Speakout held at the LGBT Community Center.

Dec. 7, 8. Zaps against Denver Mayor Webb. The mayor came to NYC to promote Colorado tourism, but Avengers forced attention on the passage of the anti-gay Amendment 2 by following him everywhere.

Dec. 31. Fabulous New Year's Eve Fundraising Party

1993

Jan. 6. United Federation of Teachers. Action at a UFT (teachers' union) meeting to protest President Sandra Feldman's lukewarm support of the Rainbow Curriculum.

Jan. 25. Self Magazine. After unsuccessful attempts to meet with Self direction, Avengers invaded Self offices to protest a sales conference planned for Colorado.

Jan. Freddy Garcia. When lesbian-basher Freddy Garcia was let off with a slap on his hand, Avengers stormed the City Hall office of Marjorie Hill, the NY Mayor's community liason. Hill later denied supporting community service instead of jail time for Garcia.

Feb. 12. Homophobia Stinks. Avengers kicked off this campaign by setting off stink bombs at the office of Jack Hale (lawyer for the Ancient Order of Hibernians), the 42nd Street Military Recruitment Center, the main office of the NY Archdiocese, and at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The stinkbombs were accompanied with stickers that read "homophobia stinks." And so it did.

Feb. 13. Book donation. Avengers sent books to women at Riker's Island prison.

Feb. 13. Rockefeller Center Skate-in. Avengers held hands, kissed, skated at Rockefeller Center rink.

Feb. 13. Mary Cummins Serenade. Stood in front of Cummins' house and sang lesbian love songs.

Feb. 14. Alice B Toklas action. Avengers installed a statue of Toklas next to the statue of Gertrude Stein in Manhattan's Bryant Park. Action included readings and a Lesbian Waltz in the park, at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

March 17. St. Patrick's Day. Helped organize a protest against the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue for its refusal to allow lesbians and gay men to march openly.

March 20. Benefit. Raising money for Washington.

March. Rainbow Curriculum Zaps. Zap actions at a School Board forum and at a Brooklyn Conservative Party Benefit attended by Mary Cummins.

March. Aileen Wuornos committee. Group forms to calling attention to the inadequate trial of a lesbian accused of several murders in Florida.

April 23. ACT-UP. Joined the ACT-UP Lesbian Caucus at a Health and Human Services picket in D.C. to raise awareness of lesbians and AIDS.

April 24. Dyke March in Washington. Organized the first ever Dyke March on the eve of the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights and Liberation. Ate fire in front of the White House. (After handing out 8000 palm cards and thousands of Dyke Manifestos)

April 25. March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights and Liberation. A large Avenger contingent participated carrying capes and shields, and line dancing along the route.

April 26. Stink Bombs. Set off stink bombs in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. as part of the National Health Care Action. Outside, Avengers were among the 2 busloads of activists arrested demanding equitable health care.

June 5. Queens Gay Pride. A Participated in the Queens Gay Pride March.

June 12-16. Tampa Actions. A group of about 35 Avengers went to Tampa, FL at the request of local lesbians to protest the arson at the house of lesbian & AIDS activist Dee DeBerry. Actions included a candle-light vigil, outreach to local bars, and a slow drive over the bridge into Tampa.

June 26. New York Dyke March. Avengers organize the first annual New York Dyke March on the eve of the New York Lesbian and Gay Pride March.

June Handbook. Publication

July 8. U.S.S. Intrepid. Went on board the ship and handed out an open letter to the Campaign for Military Service fundraising committee.

Aug. 8. Central Park picnic. Held a lesbian picnic in Central Park.

Aug. 12. Cruise. Organized a sunset cruise and visibility action on the Staten Island Ferry.

Aug. 13. President Clinton. Organized a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" march and rally in protest of President Clinton's meeting with Pope John Paul in Colorado, which was still being boycotted for its anti-gay Amendment 2.

Sept. 1 - Nov. 6. Lewiston, Maine. At the request of some local queers, three Avengers moved to Lewiston to help organize against an anti-lesbian and gay ballot initiative.

Oct. 8 - 17. Freedom Ride. A Freedom Ride from New York to Lewiston included action stops in Boston, Northampton, Albany, Syracuse and Burlington. Ten Avengers ride from New York to Lewiston, while many others came and went along the way.

Oct. 13. Sam Nunn. Targeted Senator Nunn (D-Ga.) for his support of the Pentagon's ban on lesbians and gay men in the military. Avengers interrupted his speech at the 92nd St. Y.

Oct. 23. L Train Ride. Throughout the evening, Avengers rode the L train from Manhattan to Brooklyn handing out literature to protest the anti-gay and lesbian violence on that line.

Oct. 30. Halloween March / Encampment. Set up camp for one night at Bleecker and 6th Avenue to leaflet and display a map indicating the location of anti-gay ballot initiatives.

Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving. A turkey wearing a Lesbian Avenger tee shirt was hand delivered to Board of Ed Chancellor Ramon Cortinez to criticize his lack of support for the Rainbow Curriculum.

Dec. 18. Queens Police Violence. Joined a protest in Queens for a woman who was physically abused by police officers.

Dec. 19. Caroling. Went Christmas & Hannukah caroling down 5th Avenue, treating shoppers to alternative dyke lyrics.

Dec. Camp Sister Spirit. Sent financial support and one Avenger activist to support the besieged lesbian camp in Ovette, Mississippi.

1994

Jan. 2. Inauguration. Avengers stormed the inauguration of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Feb. 13. Midnight Serenade. Avengers serenade new target, lesbophobic Deputy Mayor Ninfa Segarra.

Feb. 14. Grand Central Station. Avengers hand out chocolate kisses with the message "you've just been kissed by a lesbian." Succeeded in hanging huge banner exclaiming "Dyke Love."

March 14. St. Patrick's Day. Avengers arrested with ILGO to protest their exclusion from the parade.

March Employment Protest. After a dyke was fired for being an out lesbian, Avengers stormed offices saying "Bigotry is Bad Business."

April 3. Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue. Avengers wearing Easter hats gave out hand-painted Easter Eggs bearing the Avenger logo and cards reading "You've just been laid by a lesbian."

April. Anti-Violence March. Avengers joined Anti-violence march in Park Slope, Brooklyn to protest violence against dykes after the April 24 rape of an African American lesbian.

April. Daily News. Avengers descend on NY Daily News offices to protest their coverage asserting, despite police evidence, that the Brooklyn rape was made up to get attention.

April 30. UNIFEM. Avengers infiltrated and took over a UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund For Women) black-tie fundraiser held at the UN to protest the lack of inclusion of lesbian issues. UN security drug them out of the room into holding cells in the basement, photographed them, then banned them from the premises. Other Avengers held a demo outside.

May Tucson. Four members of LACROP travel to Tucson to work with local activists in developing strategies against the right trying to put an anti-gay initiative on the Arizona ballot.

June Queens Pride March. Avengers hit the street.

June 15-24. Pride Rides. Originating in Minnesota and Texas, two caravans of Avengers converge on NYC, doing visibility actions along the way.

June 25. International Dyke March. Twenty thousand dykes from all over the world make themselves at home on Fifth Avenue.

June 26. LGBT Pride Parade. Launched a massive outreach campaign distributing thousands of broadsheets including the Lesbian Avenger Manifesto and the LACROP "Out Against the Right" Manifesto.

June 26. Dyke Ball

Aug. Alice Austin House, Staten Island. Avengers descended upon the museum reception dressed up as lifeguards to rescue this photographer's lesbian history.

Aug. LACROP. Eight Avengers move to Moscow, Idaho for four months to provide full-time activist help to local activists working against anti-gay initiatives. Huge financial and logistical support from NYC Avengers.

Aug. 17. Radio Mega Invasion. Avengers take over homophobic, racist Spanish language radio station and briefly broadcast their own message against hate. Other Avengers held a walking picket outside.

Sept. 4. Fundraiser. Back to school party.

Nov. 17. Radio Mega Demo. Held with Las Buenas Amigas & African Ancestral Lesbians United for Social Change, about 100 dykes march and demonstrate. Was accompanied by intensive flyering campaigns in Latino and black neighborhoods.

1995

May 21. Avengers protest New York State Republican and majority-leader Joseph Bruno who at the time called gay people "abnormal" and strenuously resisted legal equality.

date?. Avengers protest Christian Coalition training workshop.

JUST THE FACTS

New York City Avengers

Date formed: May 1992

Founders: Ana Simo, Maxine Wolfe, Sarah Schulman, Anne-christine d'Adesky, Marie Honan, Anne Maguire

First action: Sept. 9, 1992

Avg. at meetings: 100

Newsletter: Communiqués

Manifestos: Lesbian Avenger Manifesto (April 1993); Out Against the Right: The Dyke Manifesto (June 1994)

Handbooks: The Lesbian Avenger Handbook: A Handy Guide to Homemade Revolution(1993); LACROP: Out Against the Right Handbook (1995)

Video: Lesbian Avengers Eat Fire, Too

know more share graphic
blank gif
SCRAPBOOK


Photos 1992-1993

Include shrine, Dyke March in D.C..


Photos 1994-1995

Include dancing in Grand Central, 2nd NYC Dyke March, Hate Radio demo.

washington or bust
Design Highlights

Featuring Carrie Moyer's logo, flyers, and other designs annotated by the artist herself.


Handbooks

Newsletters

Video

Lesbian Avengers Eat Fire, Too. Editors, Janet Baus, Su Friedrich. (1993). Distributed by Outcast Films.

More Press

Salholz, Eloise. The Power and the Pride, Newsweek, 1993-06-21.

Pursley, Sara. "Gay Politics in the Heartland: With the Lesbian Avengers in Idaho." The Nation 260 (January 23, 1995) pp 90-94. Download pdf.

Myers, Steven Lee. IDEAS & TRENDS; How a 'Rainbow Curriculum' Turned Into Fighting Words. New York Times, 1992-12-13.

McKinley, Jr., James C., "Organizing a City: A Celebration From A to Z" New York Times, 1994-06-19.

Branner, Amy C. There was a dyke march? Off Our Backs, Aug. 1994

Brozan, Nadine. Chronicle, New York Times, 1993-01-27.

SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 1994; Fire-Eating Lesbians New York Times Magazine, 1994-04-24.

Schulman, Sarah. What Became of Freedom Summer? The Gay and Lesbian Review, January-February, 2004. Volume 11, Number 1

Schulman, Sarah. My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years Routledge, 1994.

"This Is about People Dying: The Tactics of Early ACT UP and Lesbian Avengers in New York City" interview with Maxine Wolfe by Laraine Sommella. Queers in Space: Communities, Public Places, Sites of Resistance. eds: Gordon Brent Ingram, Anne-Marie Bouthillette, and Yolanda Retter. Bay Press, Seattle Washington, 1997

blank gif

© 2010 - 17 | Contact | Rights & Reproduction
About the Lesbian Avenger Documentary Project
Share