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A. An in-depth look at the world of women today with help. Good evening and welcome to women. Our topic this evening is lesbianism. My guest is Barbara Love. Barbara coauthored with Sidney Abbott a book titled Sappho was a right on woman a liberated view of lesbianism. Barber is on the board of directors of the National Gay
task force. She's also on the faculty of the Psychology Department at the New School for Social Research. She's a member of the advisory board of The New York now. Welcome Barbara. Thank you. What does it mean to you to say you are a lesbian. What is your personal definition. Well it means a loving a woman being committed to a woman. And actually all women being committed to the struggle I think to me it has a relationship to feminism in that way and also being an independent woman in society. In your book you say that guilt is at the core of lesbianism. Would you elaborate on that a little bit. Well I'm sorry I had to say that but it's true I wish I could say that self acceptance was at the core of the lesbian experience and maybe someday that can be written. It's something at this point something we have to overcome. I think we start with that because of the training that we had to the last few years and
attitudes towards homosexuality in the in the church and in psychology and education in our families all around us. I think we're taught that this is wrong. And that brings on guilt that we are what societies consider grow. And I think it's very self-destructive and that's why we have to overcome it. It happens to affect your whole outlook on life. If you have guilt and if you have self acceptance then I think that you can be productive and happy and really live a meaningful life I don't think you can live a meaningful life if you're riddled with guilt at all. All day long which you are if you are hiding your homosexuality and don't accept it. Let's talk about your every day life. What is it like to be a homosexual and heterosexual society. While some ways it appears just like everybody else's life I guess I get up and I walk my Alaskan Malamute dog and have orange juice and go to work and I
now as I said in the book to that city you know I really our goal is to be most ordinary people which seems very simple but in a society where we are not treated as ordinary We're either treated as extraordinary or sick or something we're not treated like anybody else. But that's the way we're trying to live too I have a establishment job you might say I work in as a managing editor in a publishing company and everybody knows I'm a lesbian there and I'm perfectly relaxed and open about it there. The way I talk on the phone the friends I have in mind what I'm doing if I if I say I'm going there. Speak somewhere or tell them what we're going to speak about I'm very open about it with my boss and the people that work for me as managing editor I have several social system editors and associate editors that work with me and even put in the newsletter what I'm doing so and the present the company about 250 people there. He even assigns his teenage daughter to work for me to learn the magazine business so apparently you know the company's extremely go to bed and I haven't gotten fired I got
promoted by all things because as a lesbian I hope it's because I was a good editor. I haven't had any problems in that. Neither has Sidney. The woman I coauthored a book with who works for the government. But you see the fear that you will have problems I think prevents. Again this goes back to guilt prevents people from seeking jobs that because they fear they may get fired or can't be themselves which is just as destructive. But it's not unheard of that people do that. It's not unheard of and that's where one of the problems is we have to. Change this so people don't in the mean time I think people just. Have to get together enough and feel strong enough to get support through. Friends in the movement to go in and try for jobs anyway if necessary if they lose their jobs then fight to get that job back again but not to deny any opportunity just because you feel you won't be accepted. I mean if that's true there would be nothing for lesbians but. You know welfare and driving
a cab because you must pursue any career. I think even if it be a congresswoman or a psychiatrist a school principal or anything anything that anybody else will strive for in this country. And you know I don't think you should for fear that you cannot do it because you're a lesbian. You know let it curtail your whole future which you can do. I think that's the worst part. You just have to go on as if that doesn't matter at all. Can you do that really though and what are some of this I think you have to because otherwise we'll never know when changes take place I mean we. It goes back to something I learned in psychology and I'm not interested particularly in experimental ecology. I'm not interested in the experimental part of psychology I'm interested. But one thing I did learn I thought was very interesting an experiment where shocks with with dogs if they were shocked in this one part of this cage they always jumped over. And even though the shock never happened again. For example we never get
fired again from jobs those dogs would never go back there ever. And I think he would learn that tuners if somebody gets fired and we hear about it or we get fired. You cannot never go back and try again and we'll never know when liberation happens. If that's true we'll never know when we are accepted because we'll be afraid to try. And so I do think we have to keep trying and some people are going to keep getting hurt. But you just can't sit there and do nothing. And I wanted to ask you about your family and what sort of acceptance. Well it's interesting because my family I didn't know what the reactions would be although I was pretty close to my family and still am to some memories of it I had no idea how they would react and they kind of divided my mother is very good. She's terrific we're closer than we ever were because I'm I'm really myself now I'm right honest you know as my friends even came to my birthday party two years ago. The words I'm not trying to lead a double life around my mother and
she accepts me she likes my friends and she even marched with me in the gay pride march and met in New York last you know down Sixth Avenue and she talked to reporters. I was afraid that would. Freak her out you know I said Mother you're going to be in the press is going to ask you questions carrying a science mother support your lesbian daughter's cause there are only four parents marching. She said Oh I hope they do hope it. She's very good and tells people and gives the book and it's unbelievable. So she's been. Really terrific It took her a while to come around though for about a year she didn't want to talk about it all she had to think about it herself. If we talked about it for more than a couple minutes she got very uncomfortable. So I think she did it by herself just thinking about it. And. My father he's from. Didn't Denmark and so he doesn't have an orientation like a lot of people around here he's. His attitude is.
Even if you're a murderer I'll still love you you know words doesn't matter it's sort of a very liberal but it's not doesn't it's not really acceptance of homosexuality it's an acceptance of me and he'll support me no matter what I do. You know I think he even said even if I love the gorilla or something you can see that out very positive about it but on his terms he's all right and he's still we're still close. My stepmother his new wife he got married again and it is. Does not want me in the state of New Jersey without a passport or something. Shia does not accept that at all. So if it runs the whole gamut my brothers are very good about it. My older brother who it's interesting when I was feeling guilty about it and hiding it. I did not tell him he used to make jokes you know about homosexuals which were rather nasty You heard me a lot. But then when he found I was a homosexual and thought about it again now it's fine now that I'm above board I think he. Appreciates me as a I'm much more interesting and intelligent human being I'm not so cowardly and so mysterious
and that he didn't exactly did you come out when I came out to my family in the New York Times in print. They didn't know about until they read about it in the times their eye. I didn't know that was going to happen. I was really supporting Kate Millett I was enraged at what Time magazine had said about her bisexuality it would discredit her the women's movement and of course she's very important to the women's movement and she was also a dear friend of mine and we we were very upset about that so we had a press conference and at that press conference and I talked for a few minutes. And one thing I said was I'm a lesbian and that they seem to like that the best you know it and I'm a lesbian became the only thing that they had on about me but from then people felt they could use my name since very few people say they're lesbians and to the press it's been used an awful lot in magazine articles and newspaper articles because now it's all they know they can say Barbara Lowe's a
lesbian it's all right I'll tell you I know you Barbara love it you know it is going to take that on and magically there into that you're going to be quoted practically. Some people think that that's the pseudonym because it's so appropriate for women's liberation gay liberation and so on but it's a real mess and that's what really. I'd like to talk about some of the ways in which you feel discriminated against what you are and some of the other gay people. While often it's not so obvious people don't say even the people that we refer to they get fired from jobs they don't. They don't say it's because they're homosexual it's because they came in five minutes late or because a there's always another reason it's still not. Considered acceptable to fire someone because they're homosexual. We all know you can find reasons if you're looking for them. I personally have been thrown out of one apartment. I think that's the only real discrimination that I've had as living with this other woman who was very open about this was back in 1967 and
the landlord didn't like homosexuals I knew that when I took the parchment. But he said the homosexuals that were there and you know I was of a sexual you again people talk about it is if you're not of course you know and he was saying they were very rowdy and very dirty people. And I figured well I'm not ready and I'm not dirty so I mean maybe I wouldn't like that at homosexuals or heterosexuals and if I were a landlord so I figured. That was the reason. Well interestingly enough when he wanted to get rid of me and my lover because he found out we were homosexual haste he said that we were rowdy and dirty and even accused us of writing things on the walls of the apartment building which is really quite interesting because a. We're not a commercial network right I was a censor for television at the time. I think that was very interesting. Some people think that was an interesting beginning to being a censor on television but you see he wouldn't have gotten rid of me for saying that I was a homosexual.
He gave the same negative traits to me that he gave to the other homosexuals he wanted to get rid of and now I don't think they were rowdy or dirty at all it was just his way of doing it you know. And isn't it easier not to tell sometimes. I mean well when to be a lot simpler for you. If you're speaking from a practical viewpoint there are a lot of ways you have to look at this from a practical viewpoint if you want to please your parents and you think you're going to lose your job and. You don't like hearing what people are going to say to you from from those points of view. I can't argue with people that it's suicide possibly to come out and say you're homosexual. But I don't think those are the most important things that we live with today. First of all I think liking yourself. And being yourself are the most important things. And to me that's worth everything it's worth losing your job over anything if you can say you know I'm a lesbian and I feel good about it if you don't like it then I'll go somewhere else that I
think you must go somewhere else if that's the case because you cannot go on lying and even be productive certainly not be happy and. I. Could not go on the way I was living with the woman I was with and hiding her every time my family came over denying her any affection and or even human conversation on the phone or not allowing her to come in my office for paranoid reasons that they you know I didn't want to treat her like anybody else because she wasn't. And yet if I did I would lose my job and the fear of living day by day on it the discovery will ruin your life and bring everything you built up down like you know that a house built of cards or something is is terribly destructive. And it takes a lot of energy to. You don't have any energy left if you're monitoring all of your conversation all of your actions the way you look at somebody the way you talk to them. You know
you really it takes a lot of energy just pure and simple. And also I think your life is terribly vulnerable you be paranoid for good reasons if you know that you wouldn't be acceptable anywhere you associated if they found out you were home except the homosexuals and you are homosexual. That's a very scary existence. I think it's terrifying existence so unfortunately a lot of people live that way today. You know people in the higher up you get see that's another thing that stops people from pursuing successful careers or even promotions I know some people. Who would never even pursue a promotion because they would feel that then their personal lives would get more involved as. Happens. And you get large or higher up in the corporation they expect your family or your wife or to be involved they check you more carefully they will not pursue eat you know the lowest I guess. Area in the society is to just use your first name in certain things like if you're a waitress or something no one cares about your identity your family because you're just
in your day or something. But as you get up to be a vice president or a politician or. Your personal life is looked at more closely. People. Want to know about it and then it becomes a problem if your personal life isn't acceptable. So I have known people that have not pursued advancement because of fear of this but you'll never do that. No I would never do that. I don't know how much it'll hurt my advancement I mean I never will know. Thank heavens I don't know where I would go I'm doing alright. The way I am but I know I'm a little leery of. Certain radical was B and C who do not want to go in the establishment and say well that's. What we don't want to be associated with oppressive people and institutions and businesses and so they want to be can drivers or house painters I could never do that because I. Can't stand up to be a house painter I have varicose veins and I have bad eyesight so I couldn't
drive a cab and I couldn't figure anything radical to do anyway that would keep me alive. So I sort of had to go back to establishment but I recognize that with me it was fear that I wouldn't be accepted in. Could I handle that fear. And it took me it took me a long time to. Say to myself Look it's not that you are. You don't want to associate with oppressive stouter and you're just afraid to go back there. And I wouldn't. You know I go above 14th Street in Manhattan for a long time and I went up it was very nervous that as a matter of fact I didn't even seek a job in my same industry where I knew presidents and chairs of the board and so on of advertising in broadcasting which was my first career. I went into another I'm in the food business now and I think that I did that too because I really was afraid to face the people that had known me was not they didn't know I was a homosexual. So I most everybody did after I'd been a lot of TV shows in the newspaper lot I knew that everybody did
and I didn't want to face and I think meet new people. And even though they know I'm a homosexual. I it's a different kind of association it's new and they know a little bit sexual from the beginning. So they like me as a who I am. They don't have to then make a choice of whether they're still going to be my friend. You know but there are male homosexuals discriminated against differently do you think than female homosexuals. Well they. They so they have to ask for it I think. Yeah I don't know I was more discriminating then who we all are so much that it's it's not it's not a competition. Well I accept that they may Are they may be differently. Perhaps they say they can't be as free with affectionately in public. You know because women can hold hands and kiss and they can't do this they can't dance together where women can dance together. I mean I can go I went with women and I thought we were going to crash this last bar up in the New York State round here too
and we thought that we'd shake everybody up and force them to. You know except the women they were just having a good time anyway they thought that women were dancing together. Already there was no surprise to them. But to mend it is to go like that all is still not accepted in the same place. So I think that there is something true there publicly. And from another viewpoint though. Because because. Women have not really. Been taught. To. Learn to take care of themselves in the society and still in our generations I hope it's changing but we were brought up to believe well daddy will take care of you and then your husband so you don't really need a college education you need a career it's you know. What a lesbian who is alone. Really has to think about all these things about a career about education and as early as possible so she's not caught up in the same thing that a lot of
women are they will never get married who maybe are heterosexual and think well I'll be secretary now because it won't matter and I'm 50 I'll be married. But they may not be married when if they do a lesbian No she front they're probably never going to be married so she has to think about a career sooner she knows that she is. So but there were still discriminate against us women because people think that we're to be taken care of by some men in a family. So we're just we are independent taking care of ourselves but getting paid like somebody who's been taken care up of a woman. That's the way they think about it. Whereas a man who is a homosexual has an awful lot of excess income because he's getting paid like any other man who they assume is supporting a family and he has it all the spend to really have a ball. And so there's quite a bit of economic difference there. Between a you know a lesbians life and the. Male homosexuals. There's something I'd like to get your reaction to the American psych Psychiatric Society recently declared that homosexuality is no longer a
mental illness. And I want to know what you feel about that. Well. People I'm very excited that for it or not it can mean unfortunately the new definition isn't it doesn't sound much better that it's now defined as a sexual orientation disturbance which doesn't sound much better than sexual deviation. But in what they need it to be is there's a great deal of difference. The idea is you're not ill unless you are in conflict with the stirred by or want to change your homosexuality. So that would make all people who feel good about it. And presumably all activists and so on. Are open about helping. People who are NOT do not feel good about and want to change would be unhealthy. But you see this really shouldn't be put down and in writing just for homosexuals because it should be true with heterosexuals too should be true of anybody. If you are in conflict with Mr. Barr want to change your heterosexuality.
I think you or your ilk have a problem because you're not. Endorsing who you are. You know and I think that's one definition of mental illness you are ill to the extent that you do not endorse your behavior. And I agree with that definition of mental health. So that should be the same with intersection the same way anybody does it by the way this hasn't passed yet. The board of trustees voted unanimously to accept this new nomenclature and definition. But a couple of. I don't want to call the problem people certainly to gay liberation. Irving Bieber and Charles Socrates have a work at getting a referendum among all 22000 members of the American Psychiatric Association to change this vote. It's interesting I didn't know you could vote on whether something was an illness or not but apparently you can. It's a democratic society very democratic whether something's ill. It's not very scientific It just shows you where it's at that they really didn't know all along it's just a matter of how many people agree with it.
But what we and the National Gay task force have done something which I don't think it would have been possible before because there haven't been that much organization until the last couple of years we've sent letters ourselves to all 22000 members giving our point of view which cost a lot of money but we had some psychiatrists who are gay and not willing to say publicly who they are give money. I mean that's fine if you can't come out and help give money to the movement. But I think that that's been very important. I don't know how the vote has come out because it could be reversed but I can't imagine a board of trustees changing their mind on something like this. It just seems inconceivable. There's something else that I wanted to talk to you about that's the point of some confusion I think. The relationship between lesbian ism and feminism. I don't know whether it is confusion. Or it's a misunderstanding in some way. About what feminine government ism is. I think family ism does mean.
Striving for independence in this culture. Independents. Are socially and economically politically in most ways except not necessarily in any way sexually. I mean that's. I'm leaving that outside in terms of socially. As US economically feminists are striving for an independence from men. What this means though is that. They are getting into areas which are considered male areas in other words being independent that's been a male thing. The pendant has been female right. As soon as you get in something considered masculine which is anything that's not femininity which is a disaster as far as I'm concerned femininity is means helplessness it means dependence it means lack of self-esteem it it to me it means as close to being an inanimate object as you can possibly be. So once you get out of this idea and it's feminine into something that's considered masculine that is
associated with lesbianism. And I think it's because lesbians are in this area considered masculinity it isn't masculine it's just human. I mean we all are sort of we're all can be independent. It's really just human. But since it's been associated with masculine lesbian ism it scares feminists. But it isn't it isn't lesbians just being about full human being I really mean and I mean if you can take care of yourself and be assertive that's not it. It's not less a Sara Lee lesbian is being a full person by yourself. And I think that the association which has some logic behind it. Scares some women. And that's why. I contend that we have to achieve gay liberation before women's liberation can be successful. I really mean it because if women can be scared. By the fact that. This is being an equal with a man. In other words not being. Subservient to him or or looking up to him. I don't think you know we want to be equals with men if they use that word to say oh no.
You know she's a lesbian isn't in that frightens women. Then I think they'll be afraid to be assertive and strong and independent. I think that that will frighten them and we have to. That's why I said same thing when we almost got Heidi is a president. Nationalization for women to say it and then saying men have to take care of babies and children and even when they're little get dolls. I mean you know why not. They should be interested in children and learn to love them the way girls do. But when a president or a personnel director of a major corporation was asked what would you think of a man put on his resume two years taking care of children he said directly to somebody a fag. Well it's very interesting because that's just taking care of children and loving children which all men should be able to do so. These are men. Then back into this super masculine thing to where oh no you know that's standard and that's for male homosexuals so I think we'll look. For this. So you don't see lesbian isn't this just a
sexual preferences here as a political it's very political in terms of people being free to be themselves. I really think that's what we're struggling for in that week if we can't be ourselves because we're afraid of being called lesbians as women or fags as men then. We have to free people from that fear so they can be themselves. Fear that that's wrong even if you are. I mean you know they say you are and your response has to be in the women's movement particularly where where we're leading and men will benefit by this and I think the sexual liberation all people benefit by to because it's all a common struggle is permitting people to be themselves and being accepted for it. I mean that's a very strong comment because it touches all people. Barbara we're out of time. Thank you very much for being here. You're welcome. Good night for a moment and see you next week.
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Female Homosexuality
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WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Barbara Love, co-author with Sydney Abbott of "Sappho was a Right on Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism." She is on the Board of Directors of the National Gay Task Force. She is on the faculty of the Psychology Department of The New School for Social Research and is a member of the Advisory Board of New York N.O.W.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Social Issues
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Director: George, Will
Guest: Love, Barbara
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: WNED 04299 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “Woman; 122; Female Homosexuality,” 1974-03-28, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 8, 2023,
MLA: “Woman; 122; Female Homosexuality.” 1974-03-28. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Woman; 122; Female Homosexuality. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from