In the aftermath of the West Coast Lesbian Conference, a lot of different people had a lot of different things to say, mostly in service of their own agenda with regards to the goals of feminism and the places of trans women within it. Often, these statements afforded trans women absolutely no place within the movement, as shown perhaps most clearly when Robin Morgan, a star and the keynote speaker of the conference, lambasted and misgendered Beth Elliott from the same stage she had just performed on, going so far as to call Beth Elliott “an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer–with the mentality of a rapist.”
Here, Beth Elliott responds to these charges in an article published by The Lesbian Tide, which published four or five pieces discussing Beth Elliot’s appearance at the West Coast Lesbian Conference in the same issue. Overall, The Lesbian Tide seems to be on Elliott’s side–although some of the articles they printed, including the transcript of Robin Morgan’s speech, were very much not. Beth Elliott had served as the SF correspondent for The Lesbian Tide, and they had published a statement in support of her after she was banned from the Daughters of Bilitis for being trans.
Here, Beth Elliott defends herself against these charges, primarily in the form of a hypothetical argument with a feminist strawman. It allowed her to get her arguments across concisely, although the format may have failed to persuade those already against her. Although they probably would not have been persuaded anyway.
Using an understanding of gender common in transgender communities in the early 1970s, Beth Elliott defends herself as a woman. Interestingly, she relies on arguments around the medicalization of trans women to validate herself, which is striking given that “your biology is your destiny” is precisely the argument she was fighting against. Rather than rejecting the notion of biological determinism entirely, as many modern trans groups do, she replaces one argument about her biology with another: that her biology is naturally transsexual. Her argument, across its various parts, serves the apparent request from The Lesbian Tide: “I was also asked to write an argument on the issue of transsexuals in the women’s movement.” And indeed, this is what she has done.