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In the United States, LGBTQ rights have only just recently gotten mainstream support. Before 2015 it is common to hear the national conversation surrounding gay rights as one of tolerance, not acceptance. Therefore it is vital to not forget the people who fought to have that narrative change. Unfortunately, the U.S. school system tends to erase queer history by ignoring it altogether and treating the fight for acceptance as one that ended with the Supreme Court’s ruling. One group, in particular, that should be taught about in schools is the Lesbian Avengers. Founded in 1992, the first Lesbian Avengers chapter started in NYC, here are some of the actions the group took to push for the rights of Lesbians and Gay women.

Rainbow Curriculum

As their first action, the Lesbian Avengers decided to fight against right-wing efforts to suppress the “Rainbow Curriculum” in NYC. This curriculum taught elementary schoolers about the importance of multiculturalism and diversity, including the LGBTQ community. To protest this opposition, the Lesbian Avengers organized and held a parade through a neighborhood in Queens with an all lesbian marching band. They also wore matching shirts with designs stating “I was once a lesbian child” and “Ask about lesbian lives” while handing out lavender-colored balloons to children and parents at the local elementary school. This parade exemplifies their approach to activism, which was asking zero permission to take up space and to be unapologetic in their identity. 

Media coverage

Integral to their activism, the Lesbian Avengers were tactical in how they got media coverage. When organizing for a cause it is vital that your voice gets amplified and one of the best ways to do that is through the news. The Lesbian Avengers mastered this by not just working with the media, but also attacking them when appropriate. For instance, they invaded the offices of Self Magazine when the publication planned a trip to Colorado as the LGBTQ community was boycotting the state for pushing hateful legislation. 

Fire eating

Part of their effort to attract media coverage was to bring as much attention as possible to themselves by any means necessary. This included fire-eating. The Lesbian Avengers became synonymous with fire-eating, however, the act did come from a place of tragedy. When a lesbian and gay man was burned to death by a Molotov cocktail in Salem Oregon, the Avengers decided to respond to their murder by eating fire at their memorial in NYC while chanting, “ The fire will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.” They would go on to do this at virtually every protest and event they attended. 

The Dyke March

In 1993 the Lesbian Avengers and the ACT-UP Women’s Network led a march on Washington attracting more than 20,000 women to march without a permit. This tradition still continues around the world, empowering queer women to be unapologetic in their identities. 

The Lesbian Avengers are heroes within the feminist and LGBTQ movements and should be given the credit they deserve. Without their work in the 90s, the acceptance and representation we see today would not have been possible. Therefore, I would like to say thank you to the Lesbian Avengers for giving me the opportunity to love unapologetically. 

Nicole Kragness

Virginia Tech '24

Nicole is a freshman majoring in International Affairs at Virginia Tech. She loves talking about politics, watching movies, and listening to Taylor Swift.
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