Emily K. Hobson

Lavender and Red

Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left

University of California Press 2016

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 16, 2017 Isabell Moore

In Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left (University of California Press, 2016), Emily K. Hobson challenges conceptions of...

In Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left (University of California Press, 2016), Emily K. Hobson challenges conceptions of LGBTQ activism as single-issue analogous to but separate from other activist initiatives. Instead, Hobson uncovers the gay and lesbian left, whose activists saw sexual liberation as intertwined with challenging racism, militarism, and imperialism. She focuses on the gay and lesbian left in the San Francisco Bay Area, tracing the movement from 1968 through 1991. This community of struggle was separate from both separatist and liberal LGBTQ organizing. It grew out of late-1960s and early-1970s gay liberation, but solidified in the mid to late 1970s, usually seen as a period when gay activism turned to more reformist and single-issue frameworks. Geography, space and place are important to Hobson’s analysis. The Bay Area generated a lesbian and gay left partly because of newly politicized white queers proximity to Black liberationists, women of color feminists, socialist feminists, and Central American anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist refugees. These activists encountered each other in neighborhoods, activist offices, and at marches and rallies, where they learned form and sharpened each others politics as well as changed the trajectory of each others actions. As the New Right gained ascendancy, lesbian and gay activists found common cause with others under attack within and outside the Unites States. Over the decades, gay and lesbian leftists supported the Black Panther Party and political prisoners, challenged U.S. intervention in Central America, built links with lesbian and gay Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and brought their direct action skills to bear on the AIDS epidemic. Their coalitions were not without tensions, particularly ones of race; many gay and lesbian left groups were primarily white, and gay and lesbians of color challenged these gaps to create their own left-leaning formations and solidarities with other oppressed groups.

Hobson analyzes these tensions and recovers varying forms of political critique, strategy, and community. Through drawing on oral histories and archival documents, including striking photographs, flyers, and political artwork, Lavender and Red lifts up a strain of gay and lesbian activism that had been all but lost to memory for most activists and scholars of today.

Emily Hobson serves as Assistant Professor of History and Gender, Race and Identity at University of Nevada, Reno.


Isabell Moore is a PhD Student in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on social movements in the 20th century and she is involved in activism for racial, gender, economic and queer justice.

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