LA underground lesbian newspaper The Lesbian Tide reprinted a transcript of Robin Morgan’s keynote speech at the West Coast Lesbian Conference, wherein she took time out of her speech to decry and slander Beth Elliott, for daring to be a trans woman invited to perform at a lesbian conference.
Morgan’s speech absolutely slanders and decries the idea of any association with men–including gay men’s movements–and she incorrectly lumps trans women firmly under that umbrella. Her dismissal of all oppression trans women faced (indeed, transgender women were and still are often murdered, at much higher rates than cisgender women) includes stating that trans women (and the gay, crossdressing men she lumps them in with) enjoy street harassment, and compares trans women to people wearing blackface. (Robin Morgan is white.)
In addition to insistently referring to Beth Elliott as a “man,” Morgan also blames her for almost singlehandedly destroying the San Francisco chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. Although the chapter did have a period of internal conflict after Beth Elliott’s forcible removal, other sources suggest this is a significant exaggeration (such as The Lesbian Tide’s report on the DOB vote), not to mention an example of victim blaming. Robin Morgan is also the only one who seems to mention the idea of Beth Elliott suing the conference for discrimination.
Morgan’s rhetoric is so condemnatory, in fact, that it leaves one wondering whether she implied that cisgender lesbians from the conference should physically attack Beth Elliott. She concludes the section on Beth Elliott by saying, “I charge him as an opportunist, an infiltrator, and a destroyer–with the mentality of a rapist. And you know who he is. Now. You can let him into your workshops–or you can deal with him.” So, according to Morgan, transgender women are rapists just for existing, an argument that pulls from a long line of incredibly violent and transphobic myths depicting trans women as predatory. These are serious charges. Morgan seems to be saying that Beth Elliott has no redeeming features, and have reduced her to an enormous threat to women. The end of this section, “And you know who he is. Now. You can let him into your workshops–or you can deal with him,” is vague, but “deal with him” certainly sounds like a threat.
And it may seem like a stretch to conclude this conference was being urged toward, or might resort to, violence. But in fact, during Robin Morgan’s speech, a male “Jesus Freak” holding a sign that said “Dykes Repent” showed up to protest the conference. Fist fights broke out as some of the conference attendees tried to prevent others from attacking him, and the conference organizer whose account The Lesbian Tide publishes after this comment that she is grateful he got out of there alive. Although Beth Elliott thankfully escaped the conference unharmed (physically, though probably not emotionally), there clearly was the potential for violence to have been stirred up–which begs the question of whether that was exactly what Morgan was trying to do.