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social sciences

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Jay, Karla (b. 1947)  
page: 1  2  3  

Some of the Lavender Menace demonstrators, including Jay and Rita Mae Brown, formed a new group, the Radicalesbians, for woman-identified women. The lesbian separatist stance that the organization adopted disturbed women like Jay who wanted to work together with gay men in the struggle for equal rights, however. The Radicalesbians' numbers quickly dwindled, and the group was short-lived.

After a brief sojourn in California, during which she was active in the Venice chapter of the GLF, Jay returned to New York, having been awarded a teaching assistantship in French at NYU in the fall of 1971.

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Jay found a calling in education. She "would spend more than a decade working as a migrant laborer in the fields of academe, with part-time positions at several different universities" while pursuing post-graduate studies. She earned a master's degree in comparative literature in 1978 and a doctorate in 1984.

In 1975 Jay began teaching at Pace University, where she has risen to the status of Distinguished Professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has founded and taught numerous courses in Lesbian and Gay Studies, Women's Studies, literature, rhetoric, and creative writing, and has received honors including the university's Kenan Award for Excellence in Teaching (2000) and the Diversity Leadership Award (2004).

An an author and editor, Jay has made significant contributions to the field of GLBTQ Studies. Her first book, Out of the Closet: Voices of Gay Liberation (1972), an anthology that she co-edited with Allen Young, remains in print and was included on Publishers Triangle's list of "the one hundred most important gay and lesbian books ever published." The two also collaborated on After You're Out: Personal Experiences of Gay Men and Lesbian (1975) and Lavender Culture (1978).

Jay's dissertation on the writers and lovers Natalie Clifford Barney and Renée Vivien, published in 1988 as The Amazon and the Page, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, as was Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions (1990), which she co-edited with Joanne Glasgow. Jay won the award in the category of Lesbian Studies for Dyke Life: From Growing Up to Growing Old (1995).

Jay has also written articles for numerous publications, including Ms. magazine, the Village Voice, The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, and the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. Her fiction and satirical writings have been published in Women of Mystery, Lesbian Self-Writing, and Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, among others.

Jay has served on the editorial or advisory boards of numerous glbtq and women's publications and also on the board of the Lambda Literary Foundation. Her work for equality has earned her many awards, including the Medal of Honor from the Veteran Feminists of America and the Michael Lynch Service Award from the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Modern Language Association. She has also been chosen as the Grand Marshal of the Stonewall Pride Parade on two occasions.

In recent years, Jay has been speaking out on behalf of people with disabilities. In early 2004 she lost her near vision due to a rare condition known as choroidal neovascularization. Several operations have brought no improvement.

To Jay, among the most distressing consequences was her inability to read the majority of printed matter. She discovered that very little glbtq material exists in the National Library Service's offerings of talking books and magazines on tape. She therefore called upon the Lambda Literary Foundation "to take on literary accessibility for the blind and visually impaired as one of its missions."

Jay has been frustrated by the frequent lack of accommodation in public areas, a common problem for people with invisible disabilities. "Being a lesbian has helped me in this regard," she stated. "I already know what it's like to be different in ways that others can't see."

Jay is the life partner of Karen F. Kerner, an emergency medicine physician and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia. The couple officially registered as domestic partners on May 1, 1996 in New York City, where they reside.

Linda Rapp

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literature >> Overview:  Awards

The contemporary literary awards given specifically to honor glbtq books may be seen as an outgrowth of the modern American gay rights movement, so intertwined are they with the movement for equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Butch-Femme

Butch-femme identities are controversial and difficult to define with precision, but both roles subvert prescribed gender and sexual expectations; ultimately, the butch-femme dynamic is a unique way of living and loving.

social sciences >> Overview:  Disability Issues

Disabled queers not only face physical obstacles and the prejudices of the larger society, but also sometimes feel marginalized and isolated within the glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Bars

The centrality of gay and lesbian bars to glbtq culture has been reduced in recent years, but they continue to fulfill important functions; and, in many areas, they remain the most visible manifestation of glbtq presence.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Studies

Gay, lesbian, and queer studies are separate but related fields of cultural inquiry that attempt to establish the centrality of gender and sexuality within a particular area of investigation.

social sciences >> Overview:  Lesbian Feminism

The dominant ideology among politicized lesbians during the 1970s and 1980s, Lesbian Feminism was based on the premise that lesbianism and feminism were inextricably linked.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, the clinical process of treating mental and emotional health problems, has recently been energized by a movement to depathologize homosexuality and to enhance the dignity and self-respect of glbtq clients.

social sciences >> Overview:  Separatism

Separatism refers not only to attempts to create alternatives to straight society, but also to exclusionary practices within the glbtq community itself.

social sciences >> Overview:  Tomboys

Although tomboys must contend with the often false assumptions that they are lesbian or want to be male, for many the tomboy stage is the first manifestation of a gender-fluid life journey.

social sciences >> Overview:  Women's Liberation Movement

The Women's Liberation Movement, which flourished during the 1970s, constitutes the largest and most widely publicized social movement of women in history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Women's Studies

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literature >> Barney, Natalie Clifford

In addition to being the muse and inspiration of other writers, American expatriate Natalie Barney, known as the Amazon, was a poet, memoirist, and epigrammatist in her own right.

literature >> Brown, Rita Mae

Lesbian poet and novelist Rita Mae Brown, best known for the highly successful Rubyfruit Jungle, resists neat categorization.

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.

social sciences >> National Organization for Women (NOW)

The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966 with the goal of bringing about political, social, and legal equality for all women.

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 >> Vivien, Renée

Renée Vivien, who had many affairs with women, openly celebrated lesboerotic love in her poetry and dreamed of women-controlled spaces in an era when most women were still domestically confined.

literature >> Winant, Fran

During the 1970s and early 1980s, poet, painter, and activist Fran Winant helped define the role and sensibility of lesbians in the contexts of gay liberation and radical feminism.


Duberman, Martin. Stonewall. New York: Dutton, 1993.

Jay, Karla. "Confessions of a Worrywart: Ruminations on a Lesbian Feminist Overview." Sisterhood Is Forever. Robin Morgan, ed. New York: Washington Square Press, 2003. 212-221.

______. Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

______. "When Darkness Falls: A Journey into Visual Disability." Chronicle of Higher Education (January 20, 2006).

"Karla Jay: Distinguished Professor of English, Pace University."


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Jay, Karla  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated August 6, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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