These early feminists, enthused by the little success they had in defining their identity, read sexology books as they were published in unprecedented numbers. Their era is also marked by the vibrant interactions and communications the members of the lesbian community had. While their group discussions and debates were not collectively planned as a tactical maneuver, they nevertheless proved to be one. For instance,
“the feminist readers of the pre-World War I journal The Freewoman exchanged texts and extracts among themselves, and held discussion groups on sexuality related topics. Reading and talking about sex challenged taboos placed on it by society and positioned women as autonomous agents of their own knowledge, both empirically and experientially acquired. As women learned more about their bodies, their desires, and their needs, many realized that a woman’s identity was ultimately a gender question that revitalized, divided, and confined women in assigning them their sphere”. (LeGates, 2001)
Later day feminists, equipped with a more nuanced understanding of gender, even went so far as to say that the concept of gender is an artificial one and therefore “unnatural”. For these modern feminists, Androgyny represented their ultimate ideal as they continued to redefine and expand the scope and meaning of gender. Empowered by this radical new perspective on gender, the lesbians of the time discovered “the sexually neutral concepts of ‘need’ and ‘desire’ which seemed to promise more negotiating space for women, particularly for women who wished to move between sexual identities” (Fischer, 1992). It is the legacy of these modern feminists that lesbians, at the turn of the millennium, see self-sufficiency, autonomy and self-restraint as amounting to an erotic state of existence, while at the same time questioning the conventional gender constructions.
Lesbians in America are constantly pushing the envelope for more concessions on the legal front. Strangely though, while the gay and lesbian rights movement’s epicenter was the United States, a few other countries have progressed further as of date. There is now a need for lesbian rights to be made part of the universal human rights as mandated by the United Nations. The legal disparities across national borders have already given the governing authorities a handful of headaches. Recently, a retired Coventry University academician made legal history when she and her lesbian partner raised a lawsuit against the government for not giving their marriage due recognition. The couple in question is Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, aged 51 and 49 respectively, who have lived together for close to two decades got married in Vancouver, Canada, where homosexual marriages are legally valid. When the married couple returned home to Britain, they learnt that their nuptial knot does not hold here. This issue had raised a fair bit of controversy across the nation, with support from human rights organizations such as Outrage and Liberty, who are also sponsoring the legal recourse (LeGates, 2001). At a time when travel and tourism across the world is at a peak and when economic globalization has opened new avenues of cross-cultural interactions, a globally recognized legitimacy is needed for same-sex marriages. And the United States, as the self-proclaimed leader of the free world has to see its implementation as its responsibility to humanity at large.
Homosexuality in general and lesbians in particular have now achieved general acceptance in the United States. This progress has to be complemented with advancements in legislative recognitions and protections of homosexual couple. The following passage, which succinctly captures the evolution of the lesbian rights movement in the United States from its modest beginnings to a potent political force within the span of a couple of centuries serves as a fitting conclusion to this essay: