glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Winant, Fran (b. 1943)  

Poet, painter, and activist Fran Winant was one of the early participants in the Stonewall-inspired gay rights movement of the 1970s. Through her poetry and visual art, she helped define the role and sensibility of lesbians in the contexts of gay liberation and radical feminism, especially during the 1970s and early 1980s.

A native of Brooklyn, Francine Ellen Winant was born on October 28, 1943. As a child, she showed precocious talent for both writing and drawing. Somewhat late in pursuing higher education, she received a B.A. in studio art from Fordham University in 1975. She also attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

One of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, Winant early embraced the gay liberation movement that emerged in the wake of the Stonewall Riots. The following year, she appeared with other members of the group on the "Come Out" poster designed by Peter Hujar, announcing New York's first gay pride march. Her exuberant poem that records the event, "Christopher St. Liberation Day, June 28, 1970," is a celebratory anthem that captures the upwelling energy of the moment: "our banners are sails / pulling us through the streets / where we have always been / as ghosts / now we are shouting our own words."

Winant had a natural affinity for the convictions driving the gay and feminist consciousness-raising efforts of the 1970s. She had been writing poetry since childhood, but had been unable to share her deepest desires. To express her feelings about women, and to keep her classmates from discovering them, she invented a secret language, which she describes as "a metaphor for an inner language of the socially inexpressible." The new political fervor of the 1970s afforded a long-awaited opportunity for Winant to speak out.

Recognizing the need for lesbians to shape their own identities, Winant joined RadicaLesbians when it split off from GLF in 1970, and helped organized the first all-women's dances and poetry readings in New York. Hers was one of the early voices to articulate the new movement's vision for lesbians.

In "Christmas" (1973), Winant recalls older lesbians who walked "shoulders tense motions awkward / two women / both staring down at the ground / unable to push back / one more hostile glance." In "Happy New Year" (1971), she depicts two older women in a bar, "their hands on the table / like exposed weapons." In her tribute to "Gertrude and Emily" (1973), Dickinson's story is characterized as the "myth of a spinster / wounded by emotions / too deep for physical touch"; while Stein is described as one whose consciousness "couldn't be allowed to make sense."

In the early 1970s, Winant and her then-partner Judy Grepperd founded Violet Press in order to publish Winant's poetry, as well as that of others. Among the volumes of Winant's poetry published by Violet Press are Looking at Women: Poems (1971), Dyke Jacket (1976), and Goddess of Lesbian Dreams (1980). The Press also published Winant's and Grepperd's anthology of lesbian poetry, We Are All Lesbians (1980).

A member of the Feminist Lesbian Art Collective (FLAC), Winant began exhibiting her paintings in 1974. These are personally charged and often symbolic of both a spiritual and physical bond between humans and animals. In numerous portraits of her dog Cindy, such as "Dog with Secret Language" (1975) and "The Kiss" (1981), a spare use of brush strokes effectively renders canine body expressions from interesting perspectives.

The secret language she invented in childhood, a blend of math- and Greek-like symbols, is often worked into the backgrounds of her paintings. Her passion for animals is inextricably linked with her feelings about how gay men and lesbians are denied full humanity in a society that allows the "murder" of less visible, and therefore unprivileged, species.

Winant's art work has appeared in groundbreaking exhibits, such as "A Lesbian Show" (1978); "Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presences in Contemporary Art" (1982); as well as in the "Lesbian Art and Artists" (Fall 1977) and "Sex" (May 1981) issues of Heresies magazine. These outlets provided not only space for the artists' work, but also forums for helping defining lesbian art. Like those of many of the other artists and curators who participated in these pioneering exhibits, her priorities were not those of an art world professional seeking commercial success. Rather, she participated in these endeavors in an effort to help create and enable a women's art community.

Winant is also author of two plays, "Closer Since the Shooting" and "Play 1,2,3,4," both performed in New York in 1969.

Winant received an Isaacson Poetry Award in 1968; a New York State Arts Council CAPS grant in 1978; and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1989. Her poetry has appeared in many anthologies, and her art has appeared in numerous exhibitions, including several at the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation in New York.

Ruth M. Pettis


Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Literature
Popular Topics:


Williams, Tennessee
Williams, Tennessee

Literary Theory: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer

The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance

Romantic Friendship: Female
Romantic Friendship: Female

Feminist Literary Theory

American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969
American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Erotica and Pornography
Erotica and Pornography

Mishima, Yukio
Mishima, Yukio

Sadomasochistic Literature

Beat Generation
Beat Generation


   Related Entries
arts >> Overview:  American Art: Lesbian, Post-Stonewall

Since Stonewall, lesbian artists in America, from installation artists to filmmakers and photographers to performance artists and painters, have become increasingly diverse and visible.

literature >> Overview:  Journalism and Publishing

The gay and lesbian press is of prime importance in sustaining a frequently embattled minority and has been crucial in the development of a national mass movement for gay rights.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Lesbian

Since the 1960s, the general trend in lesbian poetry has been collective and political rather than purely aesthetic.

literature >> Dickinson, Emily

Emily Dickinson's poems and letters to her sister-in-law Susan are both passionate and elusive in their homoeroticism.

social sciences >> Gay Liberation Front

Formed soon after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the short-lived but influential Gay Liberation Front brought a new militancy to the movement that became known as gay liberation.

arts >> Hujar, Peter

Photographer Peter Hujar created stark, stunning, affecting , and sometimes disturbing images in black and white.

social sciences >> Radicalesbians

A short-lived but important group, the Radicalesbians was instrumental in bringing visibility to lesbians in the American feminist movement of the early 1970s.

literature >> Stein, Gertrude

In addition to becoming--with Alice B. Toklas--half of an iconic lesbian couple, Gertrude Stein was an important innovator and transformer of the English language.

social sciences >> Stonewall Riots

The confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 mark the beginning of the modern glbtq movement for equal rights.


Chapman, Frances. "No Threesome." Off Our Backs 3.2 (October 31, 1972): 19.

Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Coote, Stephen, ed. The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse. New York: Penguin, 1983.

Hammond, Harmony. Lesbian Art in America: A contemporary History. New York: Rizzuli International, 2000.

Hogan, Steve, and Lee Hudson. Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. New York: Henry Holt, 1998.

Jay, Karla, and Allen Young, eds. Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation. New York: New York University Press, 1992.

Pearlberg, Gerry Gomez, ed. Queer Dog: Homo/Pup/Poetry. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1997.

Tedrowe, Melissa. "Fran Winant." Gay and Lesbian Literature, Volume 2. Sharon Malinowski, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998. 384-86.

Winant, Fran. Dyke Jacket: Poems and Songs. New York: Violet Press, 1976.

_____. Goddess of Lesbian Dreams: Poems and Songs. New York: Violet Press, 1980.

_____. "How Many Extinctions?" Art Journal 55.4 (Winter 1996): 62-63.

_____. Looking at Women: Poems. New York: Violet Press, 1971.

_____, and Judy Grepperd, eds. We Are All Lesbians: A Poetry Anthology. New York: Violet Press, 1973.


    Citation Information
    Author: Pettis, Ruth M.  
    Entry Title: Winant, Fran  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated January 20, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.