One of the virtues of the Frameline 37 film festival is the showcase of LGBT history and new developments as the festival nears its close on June 30 and the San Francisco Dyke March on June 29. Two films stand out that exemplify lesbians and lifestyle changes in culture over a 30-year period.
Lesbiana—A Parallel Revolution, by Canadian filmmaker Myriam Fougère is a document on the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970’s. It was not connected to the white women’s liberation movement. Lesbian feminism’s platform addressed racism, classism, homophobia and sexism from the beginning. The key philosophy was that lesbians owned themselves and their bodies. There was an understanding that society had not been good to women and that it damaged them. To remedy this, efforts were made to“live free from the male gaze”. For some that meant to be separate and live on”Lesbian Land”. This was a political movement of radical feminists.
At that time it was important to take into consideration the voiced needs of women. This was later extrapolated to what became know as politically correct”, a vigilance of special interests. The 1970’s was a time of sexual freedom. Lesbians at the time did not want to be male but to honor being “women identified women” in a woman hating culture. The archival footage and interviews with women who were active lesbian feminist separatists is skillfully assembled and provide insights to how women lived in the 1970’s. White women and women of color were interviewed. Filmmaker Myriam Fougère was part of this movement.
The contrasts in lesbian activist culture in 2013 are notable as exemplified in a rough cut of Camp Beaverton: Meet the Beavers directed by Beth Nelsen and Ana Grillo. Camp Beaverton is a queer enclave of lesbians within the yearly Burning Man festival, the largest queer lesbian playground, according to one of the women interviewed, on the planet. Compare this with living on an ongoing generous piece of lesbian land in the 1970’s. The word lesbian is not exclusively used as much as different designations of polymorphous and fluid gendered beings – lesbian, bisexual, trans, boi, genderqueer.
Since Burning Man is overwhelmingly male, a ci-gendered male – man born a male – helped to create this space for lesbians. All women are welcome. Those interviewed for the documentary are young and of European descent. Camp Beaverton, as Burning Man, is against hierarchy. The women don’t believe in property, in ownership, in monogamous relationships or even of their own bodies, which they feel belong to the other women at the camp. Polymorphous sexual freedom is important for most women but there are monogamous couples. Women reveal that they shed their complex structured sexual identity to become who they really are. They unite with Burning Man’s principles: communal effort, responsibility for public welfare, no exchange of money, and de-commodification – i.e. no advertising or sponsorship. This is a place were bodies can be bodies, says one camper.
The Beaverton camp in the Burning Man desert is a transient sub culture. One of the final events is the burning of a temple that the campers have built for a week. What is significant is that all remnants of having been there are thrown away, symbolic of a fluid and ecologically harmonious existence. Campers leave no trace at Burning Man and the environment is restored to its original space.