Literary Lesbians

Karla Jay, Ph.D

Pace University professor Karla Jay spent several decades doing loud and proud activism in the LGBT rights and women’s rights movements in New York, and her resulting achievements are many. In 1969, Jay joined the feminist group Redstockings and was the first woman chair of the Gay Liberation Front in New York City following the Stonewall riots. Since that tumultuous time in our history, Jay says, “I feel we’ve achieved rights beyond what I thought would be possible in my lifetime.” Yet her work isn’t finished. Jay has been calling for people to come out of the closet in her writing since 1972 with the publication of Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation, co-written with gay activist Allen Young. They followed that with After You’re Out; Personal Experiences of Gay Men and Lesbian Women in 1975. Jay's goal—to inspire everyone to come out, has yet to be fully achieved. “I have to say that the primary goal of the liberation movement of the early 1970s, which was for people to come out, is still way behind," she says. "Lots and lots of people are in the closet still in varying degrees. It’s sad that people won’t stand up and say who they are.” One look at Jay’s credentials will tell you she’s not afraid to say who she is. She is a trustee of the Lambda Literary Foundation and vice-president of its board. She was on the first board of directors of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY. Jay has been on the advisory or editorial boards of Ms. Magazine, Lesbian Review of Books, Lambda Book Report, Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, Concerns, and the Journal of Lesbian Studies. Among the many awards she has received are the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in Lesbian and Gay Writing. Jay is Distinguished Professor of English and Women's & Gender Studies at Pace University in New York City. Additionally, she’s writing a series of mystery books and working on a collection of essays. –RD