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05 December 2009

Beth Elliott (1950 - ) singer, activist, writer.

++ revised August 2011.

Beth transitioned to female in her late teens. She became a hippy singer/ songwriter, sometimes using the name Mustang Sally, and antiwar activist. One of her songs, “Teen Love” was a doo-wop lesbian love ballad.


She was the first woman under 21 to be an officer in the pioneering lesbian organization, The Daughters of Bilitis, where her transition was known, and where after a heated controversy, she had been accepted. In 1972, she was vice-president of the San Francisco branch.

Bev Jo,  who had been a friend of Beth’s at college just before she transitioned, and, who was now active in the lesbian separatist Gutter Dykes Collective, accused the adolescent Beth of sexual harassment. Beth was was expelled from the Daughters for not being woman-born.

In 1973, Beth was one of the organizers West Coast Lesbian Conference held at the University of California, Los Angeles, and had played benefits to help finance it.  However the Conference split over whether Elliot should be allowed to perform. The Gutter Dykes protested the presence of a ‘man’.  Two-thirds of the women present voted to allow Beth to remain, and she performed as had been arranged, but she left after the performance.  The keynote speaker, the heterosexually married Robin Morgan, incorporated the protests into her speech the next day, and referred to Beth as a ‘male transvestite’ and as a ‘rapist’.

Beth was also a founding member of Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club, an activist in the California Democratic Party, a Director of the California Committee for Sexual Law Reform, the lobbying organization that won repeal of California’s sodomy laws in 1975.

She put out an album, Kid, Have You Rehabilitated Yourself?  but the women’s music distribution channels were closed to her. In the 1980s she played bass for the all-women new wave band Satin Food Stamps; in the 1990s she was in the dykeabilly The Bucktooth Varmints with Anderson Toone; she did backing tracks for the drag king musical Hillbillies on the Moon, which again featured Anderson Toone. Her recent CD, Buried Treasure contains the tracks from Kid, Have You Rehabilitated Yourself?, some Satin Food Stamps tracks and some others (listen to previews of it at www.cdbaby.com/cd/bethelliott).

Beth was blacklisted by lesbian publishers, and was still traumatized by the 1973 events, until 1985 when she was profiled in Telewoman with a pseudonym and no photographs.  This eventually became the book, Mirrors, but that took another decade.  Bev Jo denounced Beth in 1985 and again in 1992, and this contributed to the decision to issue the book as 'told to Geri Nerrick'.  The 2011 re-issue of Mirrors clarifies that Geri and Beth are the same person.

Beth has been a writer for a variety of publications including a weekly column for three and a half years for the Bay Area Reporter. She has also written for off our backs and FrontPage Magazine.  She has recently written lesbian science fiction.

Beth is a keen softball player and hiker, and has traveled the world chasing and photographing solar eclipses. She is also the historian and genealogist for her long-time California family, which finally accepted her back. 

*Not the artist, nor the other singer with the same name, nor the romance novelist.

4 comments:

  1. The amazing thing is, some 2nd wave feminist transphobes are still spewing their hatred about Beth: http://themagazineproject.com/2010/11/transwomen-are-merely-castrated-men/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gina, When you first put up this link, the comments about Beth were there. Now they seem to have been removed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. They removed just about everything they could to make themselves look better at the same time that they closed commenting. Its quite sad that they were so infuriated by opposition to their clear transphobia and mysandric paranoia tirade, that the best they could do was glorified censorship.

    It's hilarious if you look at it from a comedic perspective, but since that was actually their message to send, its just sad.

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  4. I'm sure there will be more comments somewhere. I posted to the ba-sappho announcement list recently (7/22/11) about the new edition of Mirrors, and the fan got hit pretty badly, if you know what I mean. Predictable spew from Bev Jo, and friends of hers incensed that I would defend myself against the bizarre account of me in her highly edited life narrative.

    It feels incredibly surreal. For this I've gone and outed myself?

    Oh, https://www.createspace.com/3624772, or search the U.S. amazon.com mirrors portrait.

    ReplyDelete

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