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“Your Young Lesbian Sisters”

Queer Girls’ Voices in the Liberation Era

Amanda H. Littauer

Drawing on letters and essays written by teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s, and building on my historical research on same-sex desiring girls and girlhoods in the postwar United States, I ask how teenage girls in the 1970s and early 1980s pursued answers to questions about their feelings, practices, and identities and expressed their subjectivities as young lesbian feminists. These young writers, I argue, recognized that they benefitted from more resources and role models than did earlier generations, but they objected to what they saw as adult lesbians’ ageism, caution, and neglect. In reaching out to sympathetic straight and lesbian public figures and publications, girls found new ways to combat the persistent isolation and oppression faced by youth whose autonomy remained severely restricted by familial, educational, and legal structures.

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Amanda H. Littauer

Abstract

Drawing on letters and writings by teenage girls and oral history interviews, this article aims to open a scholarly conversation about the existence and significance of intergenerational sexual relationships between minor girls and adult women in the years leading up to and encompassing the lesbian feminist movement of the 1970s. Lesbian history and culture say very little about sexual connections between youth and adults, sweeping them under the rug in gender-inflected ways that differ from the suppression of speech in gay male history and culture about intergenerational sex between boys and men. Nonetheless, my research suggests that, despite lesbian feminists’ caution and even negativity toward teen girls, erotic and sexual relationships with adult women provided girls access to support, pleasure, mentorship, and community.