Note: the below is an abbreviated tale of a magical place and time, where for over two decades, women did everything imaginable and produced concrete change, some of it lasting.
Before the waves of dykes crawled in, Little Five Points (LFP) had fallen on hard times. By the late 1960s, the shopping areas were going to seed, an expressway was threatening to run through its heart, and long-term residents were leaving. Cue the opportunities for counter-cultural types seeking cheap lodging and a sense of alternative community.
One “counter” type was a strong sort of woman, often wearing short hair and sensible shoes. Many of us had fought against the Vietnam War and for civil rights. We’d helped create the radical edge of feminism, and were shaping the movements for both lesbian and gay liberation.
For Southerners, native and otherwise, Atlanta’s LFP beckoned. By 1971, there was a women’s press. By 1972, Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) was formed. We procured a house for the library, pool table, meetings and a mimeo machine. We wanted to grind the patriarchy into the dust and grind our hips, too.
LFP crawlers could live on relatively little money, as we sorted ourselves into lesbian communes. Without needing much remunerative work, there was more time for creating, consciousness raising, politicking, potlucking and playing.
A community norm evolved. Ill-served by the dominant culture, we built alternatives: self-helping, DIY, nonhierarchical, nonexploitive alternatives.
To get the social-change-lesbian-anti-sexist-children’s-radical books we wanted, we opened a store called Charis Books and More (1974) in the heart of LFP.
For representation on the airwaves, WRFG, helpfully located in LFP, hosted shows ranging from “Lesbian Woman” (1973) and “Still Ain’t Satisfied” (1977) to “Lesbian Lip Service” (1980) and “Les Chanteuse Africaines” (1989).
To provide women-specific health care, offices above Findley’s Hardware store on Moreland were home to an out lesbian chiropractor and psychotherapists, and a multiracial collective established the Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC) in 1976: pap smears, choice, and more! In 1988, FWHC crafted a donor insemination program for women — lesbians particularly — who wanted to have babies, but not with some male partner.
For “Women’s Music” (i.e., lesbian) concerts, 1977 saw the launch of Lucina’s Music, a women’s music production company, where we all ran the sound boards, created flyers, and booked acts.
Feminist Wicca was available from the Amelia Earhart Memorial Coven.
Weariness of seeing men onstage, with wooden women’s parts and no lesbian material or decent politics, led to the creation of the Red Dyke Theater in 1974, followed a little later by the work of Rebecca Ransom and Southeastern Arts, Media and Education Project (SAME), a multi-arts organization for the Queer community, plus the Sisters of No Mercy.
The First Existentialist Congregation welcomed us to use their space as a venue for dances, art shows, poetry, and political readings.
A self-help group, “Women in Non-Traditional Jobs,” allowed us to work in the trades and escape harassment on the job.
The band Moral Hazard (1981) provided lesbian drama, politics and the musical excitement of the early Beatles.
Seeking to assert our unique identity, separate from “Gay Pride” marches, we organized the Dyke March, from LFP to Candler Park.
To play softball with our sisters, we founded ALFA Omegas, the Meshugganahs, the Tower Hot Shots, and the Amazons. With real uniforms!
Less than a mile from LFP, the Tower Lounge was an old-school, working-class bar. The new LFP dykes were a slightly different breed, more middle class, but we all drank and danced and watched shows and fell in love at the same place.
We made art, built organizations, held endless meetings, formed coalitions and loved loved loved. Shoulder to shoulder also meant breast to breast …
It wasn’t all fun and games and political work and tangible arts. We dedicated ourselves to relationships not based on a model of possession (i.e., monogamous marriage), which meant a community norm of nonmonogamy.
This also meant that, without roadmaps, women got hurt. And organizations were torn apart when people broke up. Living with new lovers, ex-lovers and political opponents isn’t always pretty. It’s damn hard work, keeping our eyes on the prize. Time passes, people have fewer housemates, get demanding jobs, buy houses, go back to school, and maybe even go monogamous … which signifies less time for visible crawling.