Intersectionality and Divergence – My Life in the LGBT and Labor Movements

Donna Cartwright

April 8, 2018

Looking back on nearly 25 years of involvement in the LGBT movement, and 45+ years in the labor movement, I am struck by the way those paths have crossed, intertwined and separated over the long term. This arc took me into unexpected territory, where queer identities, once deeply hidden and guarded, have achieved wide mainstream acceptance and support, while organized labor, once powerful and self-confident, now struggles to maintain its existence.

I went to work in my first union shop as a copy editor trainee at the Baltimore Sun in May 1969, barely a month before the Stonewall uprising that launched the queer activist movement into mainstream attention. At the time I didn’t identify as gay, but I understood that I had a gender issue; I thought even then that there was a relationship between gay/lesbian people and those who were gender nonconforming, although I would have been hard put to explain it. I know I felt a sense of satisfaction when I read about Stonewall.

However, my attention, as a convinced socialist, was largely focused on becoming a rank and file labor activist; a few months later, at the age of 22, I was a founding member of International Socialists (I.S.), a group best known for its focus on working in labor to build a radical rank-and-file movement from below...

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