1974: TERFs & Trans Folk

The following article was published in 1974, one year after TERFs politicized the use of restrooms, advocated for the public exclusion of trans people in the queer rights movement and participated in beating trans hero Sylvia Rivera and forming a mob to physically hunt and ostracized trans pioneer, Beth Elliott . Keep in mind that all of this was happening just a few years after the trans community payed for the post-Stonewall legal battle.


Note the way the overall public holds anti-trans views in contempt. Also, note the dismissive way the author of this article reports on TERF bigotry. I think this article serves as an important cautionary tale.

I can’t help but note that today, like in this 1974 article, most feminists and trans folk like to think that anti-trans TERF dogma is ridiculously irrelevant.  Please never forget the damage TERFs have caused. They are as hubris as they are cruel; TERFs have repeatedly shown that they take perverse pleasure in increasing the level of suffering within the trans population.  The harm TERFs went on to inflict upon the trans community after this article was published is arguably without parallel.


1974: “Drag Power!”

At a recent feminist conference, drag queen Bebe J. Scarpie successfully was able to infiltrate the question line, from which men were excluded, in order to challenge Jill Johnston, the radicalesbian columnist. Miss Johnston, is primarily noted for a recent letter to the National Organization of Women, in which she proposed that mothers neglect to care for male babies. She also attacked drag actress Holly Woodlawn, when the latter was making a public appearance. At this conference she wanted to allow only those males necessary for artificial insemination to exist. Bebe accused Jill of being a a Neo fascist and dictating to women as well as men. At this point however, a radicalesbian recognized her from previous encounters, and screamed out, “Jill don’t answer it’s a male Question.” The audience, composed 50% of college students and 50% of Jill’s entourage, was left In total amazement. It was interesting since with their close cropped hair and full denim outfits, the radical women were more transvestites than Bebe!

Finally one of the straight women present. picked up Behe’s line of questioning. Jill again demonstrated an inability to build any logic sequence of thoughts and she succeeded in boring half the college students into leaving while she was trying to explain that sleeping with a male made a woman a male, to which this straight sister replied then it made her boyfriend a woman.

It was overheard by one of Babe’s friends that the radical panel had muttered that they couldn’t believe this was happening to them. Drag Power!


A note on Bebe Scarpie and early trans political advocacy:

TVs Excluded From Gay Civil Rights Bill

After a three-and-a-half-year battle, a bill to ban discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations was voted out of New York’s City Council’s General Welfare Committee.

The measure won approval of seven of the eight committee members on hand after an amendment was approved relating to transvestites. This was the fifth attempt to get the bill out of committee. The amendment stated that nothing in the definition of sexual orientation “shall be construed to bear upon the standards of attire or dress code.” The amendment was key to committee passage and the wording had been worked out carefully by Theodor S. Weiss and Carter Burden.

Bebe Scarpie, Director of Queens Liberation Front, met at City Hall with the sponsors and QLF’s attorney, Richard Levidow, a week prior to the voting on the bill. Ms. Scarpie and attorney Levidow submitted to the above wording as an alternative to getting the bill passed. The clause, according to Mr. Levidow is unconstitutional and won’t hold up in court because of the “equal rights” protection of the US Constitution. “QLF gave in on being included in this piece of legislation because politicians were using the transvestite as a ‘scapegoat’ for not passing the bill,” says Lee Brewster, former director and founder of QLF.

Queens Liberation Front won’t issue a formal statement on the bill until it is either passed or defeated, which looks possible as we go to press.

– Drag Magazine, 1973

Lee Brewster was trans and was behind a great deal of the early queer civil rights movement. Brewster funded the first American conference of “homophile organizations” in 1968, funded the QLF and provided most of the funding for the Mattachine Society.




Article written by

Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of the transgender community. She started the first trans homeless shelter in the South and co-founded the first federally funded trans-only homeless program, pioneered affordable healthcare for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. Cristan is the editor at TransAdvocate.com, chairs the City of Houston HIV Prevention Planning Group, is the jurisdictional representative to the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS), serves on the national steering body for UCHAPS and is the Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation of America.