The world is full of celebrations of straight love, while queer love is too often overlooked or shunned. 27 years ago today, the Lesbian Avengers pushed back against that trend, erecting a monument “celebrating lesbian love,” to quote member Gail Dottin. And it was glorious.
On February 14, 1993, the activist group, born in New York City and later expanded to chapters across the country and even internationally, wheeled a 6-foot, plaster statue of Alice B. Toklas over to the Gertrude Stein statute in Manhattan’s Bryant Park (below). The two writers and lifelong partners were a key part of the ex-pat literary and art scene in Paris during the first half of the 20th century.
“We’re celebrating the glorious herstory of conventional romantic love, politically incorrect domestic bliss…and especially the union of Gertrude and Alice,” Lesbian Avengers member Jean Carlomusto told UPI at the time.
“We decided to use Valentine’s Day, a day when heterosexual love reigns supreme in the United States, to make visible the fact of lesbian existence and lesbian love in all of its forms and expressions,” said Maxine Wolfe, as the Toklas statue was being unveiled behind her.
Wolfe added that the statue was also intended to make Toklas “visible.”
The statue was removed after the event due to fears it would be vandalized, but not after they had made their point, engaging in a celebration of the lesbian power couple’s unending bond.
In addition to the dedication, members of the group read from the works of Stein and Toklas. Some also read from their own work, including Eileen Myles, Melanie Hope, and Sarah Schulman. Those in attendance then broke out into dancing, bringing further joy and unity to the proceedings.
The event can be seen in the film Lesbian Avengers Eat Fire Too, embedded below, which is set to begin playing at the portion documenting the statue unveiling ceremony. That said, the entire movie, which was a collaborative effort made by the group itself, is well worth watching.