When I came out two months earlier in San Francisco, that spring of 1975, one of the things that was most important to me was to meet another Asian lesbian, of which there seemed none at the time. Only one name was ever mentioned, but I never got to meet her, someone named Sapphire, before I left California to live on womens’ land. And then one hot afternoon a big boat of a car came up the road and an Asian woman emerged looking for Kate. Suddenly I found myself looking face to face and exchanging words with this woman in a moment strange—not only because this was the only other Asian face I'd ever seen in the whole state—but because I found her beauty undeniably captivating. At once I knew that this was Sapphire.
Still being so new to lesbians, every time I met some it was an event of note and aroused great anticipation, fear, and excitement. Sapphire was an imposing figure with a stunning mane of thick, lustrous black hair that swept down the length of her back. Her presence commanded attention. (Actually I am taller than Sapphire but low cabin ceilings and my sense of invisibility led me to believe that all lesbians I met that summer were taller and bigger than they were).
I thought we'd have an instant rapport based on our common upbringing in the San Francisco Chinese-American community, based on the voluminous reading I'd done about lesbian feminism… about the Movement… reading poetry about us being common loaves and an army of lovers. The concept 'Sisterhood is Beautiful' was an ideal we strove for in all parts of our lives. I had harbored secret hopes that I'd find in Sapphire a fascinating, powerful, older Asian sister to look up to… or at least make a friendly acquaintance with.
– Canyon Sam
DEFINITION OF TERMS
In the 1970s, gay replaced homosexual as the term of choice from within the community. Initially, gay was predominantly used as an umbrella term meaning both gay and lesbian people. When the phrases gay rights movement and gay liberation movement are used, it refers to the fight for gay and lesbian rights. As the 1970s progressed, lesbian activists preferred to be identified as lesbians, rather than gay or gay women. Outside of the broader meaning of the term gay in "gay rights movement" and "gay liberation movement" or in organizational names from the 1970s (such as the Gay Liberation Front and National Gay Task Force), when the term gay is used in this text it refers specifically to gay men.
Although the term LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) has been used throughout the text, it is not a term people used in 1970s. Transgender and bisexual activism emerged in the 1970s, but each functioned on the outskirts of the gay liberation movement. In fact, in this era, transgender and bisexual activists often faced discrimination from gay and lesbian communities. Transgender is used in this text as an umbrella term that covers all people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior differs from those typically associated with the sex they were at birth. Queer was considered a derogatory term in the 1970s, unlike the positive all-inclusive meaning it has today.