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Gender Wars History Series: Bev Jo Von Dohre's Story
Correcting the record
One of the best parts of doing the kind of writing that I do is that it has given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. Among those I have now had the pleasure of corresponding with is Bev Jo Von Dohre, a long-time Radical Lesbian Feminist Activist who has personally witnessed some of the events I’ve talked about in my pieces on the history of the gender movement.
What caught Bev’s eye, in particular, were two posts I made for my Gender Wars History Series about a trans-identified man who calls himself Beth Elliot. Born Elliott Basil Mattiuzzi, he was one of the first prominent examples of men calling themselves Lesbians and trying to play an active role in the women’s and Lesbian movements.
The first post was about a letter that Elliot had written to the radical feminist newspaper It Ain’t Me Babe in 1970. In the letter, Elliot describes himself as a transsexual and writes about how he met a woman named Bev who “was different than any other girl I’d ever known before - she was a person. She did not play the role-games society demands.” Elliot claims to have fallen in love with her and says that the two had been good friends for two years. That woman was Bev Jo Von Dohre.
Elliot continues [typos/misspellings in the original]:
Bev had the effect of a catalist on me. When we met she was beginning to “come out” and this dealt a fatal blow to whatevr male ego I’d been conditioned to have. She turned me on to my own bisexuality, which led me to realize that all my life I’d given a woman’s love, which helped me to realize flash on the idea that if I really were female, despite my body, then my life made sense, whereas it made no sense otherwise.
Despite Elliot’s romanticized view, Bev told me quite a different story. She says that she and Elliot met at the University of San Francisco and he tried to pressure her to be his girlfriend. She declined and told him that she was in fact in love with her best friend, Marg. She did try to be his friend because she felt sorry for him but, contrary to Elliot’s claims, the two were never close.
Bev also clarified that she was not “beginning” to come out by any stretch of the imagination. “I'd been telling girls I was in love with for years,” she said, “and I had felt madly in love with other girls from my earliest memories.”
She even noted that Elliot came to her as a typical heterosexual man and had no idea what a Lesbian was at the time. “I just can't get over the arrogance when they go from knowing they know nothing to playing the experts on our lives.”
However, Elliot’s version of events was recently parroted by trans-identified male “Susan” Stryker in issue 128 of Sinister Wisdom, which describes itself as “a multicultural lesbian literary & art journal.” Stryker interviewed Elliot for the piece and echoed many of his lies about his and Bev’s relationship. Though Bev wrote to Sinister Wisdom with a rebuttal to the lies that Stryker had published, editor Julie Enszer refused to publish her words. So, Bev decided to set the record straight with her own Substack post, Truth Versus Lies, in which she wrote:
Stryker uses Elliott Basil Mattiuzzi’s lies to erase me and also our Lesbian history. (Soon after Elliott stalked me into the Lesbian community, he re-named himself “Beth Elliott,” which I believe was to have a name as close to mine as possible, just as he tried to dye his hair a similar shade of red.)
Elliott has been stalking me since I said no to him when I was 17, in 1968. The last time I saw him was at a Lesbian event, in 2019, just before the lockdown, where he put "Beverly" on his nametag and sat at the table I was at with friends. (There were witnesses.) He also has shown up when I posted in a local Lesbian list about events and would sit at the table I was at, daring me to tell him to leave.
Bev also counters the lie that she and Elliot “came out” together and that there was any flirtation between the two of them during this mythical joint coming out.
Unfortunately, these early years of acquaintance would not be the last of her and Elliot’s entanglements. The second post in my history series went over the controversy that Elliot caused at the 1973 West Coast Lesbian Conference, where he was slated to perform.
From early on, Elliot has styled himself as a folk singer, though Bev also told me that, “He was never really a folk singer because that would mean learning to sing on key and play guitar, which he never did, and even now, all these years later, he bellows and bangs on his guitar.” She added that she had never heard of him in any of the many women’s and mixed musical groups she knew.
Regardless, Elliot did put on a short performance at the conference, but he left shortly after. His presence was protested by a group called the Gutter Dykes (of which Bev was a part), and keynote speaker Robin Morgan also references him in her speech:
Are we, out of the compassion in which we have been positively forced to drown as women, are we yet again going to defend the male supremacist yes obscenity of male transvestism? How many of us will try to explain away—or permit into our organizations, even, men who deliberately re-emphasize gender roles, and who parody female oppression and suffering as “camp”? Maybe it seems that we, in our “liberated” combat boots and jeans aren’t being mocked. No? Then it is “merely” our mothers, and their mothers, who had no other choice, who wore hobbling dresses and torture-stiletto-heels to survive, to keep jobs, or to keep husbands because they themselves could get no jobs. No, I will not call a male “she;” thirty-two years of suffering in the androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the name “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister. We know what’s at work when whites wear blackface; the same is at work when men wear drag.
Bev had much to say about all of this, as well. Apparently, though Elliot passed himself off as one of the organizers of the event, he was nothing of the sort. The actual organizer, Jeanne Cordova, later refuted his lies and demanded a retraction and apology.
In her Substack piece, Bev also writes that:
Yes, I and many Lesbians at the conference were upset that a man was given space and time to perform at a rare Lesbian event. We did not "threaten" anything. We protested. Since I was in the unique position of knowing Elliott personally from before he claimed to be a woman and Lesbian, and knew that he was as far from being a Lesbian as a man could get, I felt I had to speak out. (When he stalked me into the Lesbian Feminist community, he immediately got into power positions, as men do.) Three of us who were Lesbian Separatists formed the Gutter Dyke collective (named by our poverty class member to reflect her and our working class cultures). We later wrote about the conference in our newspaper, Dykes and Gorgons, in 1973. Every Lesbian I remember at the conference protested Elliott being there since he clearly was a man.
Bev discussed the events of the conference in the 1973 May - June issue of Dykes & Gorgons, a Lesbian Separatist newspaper. In fact, she also did the beautiful original cover art for the issue.
She did say that, despite Elliot’s presence, “It was wonderful to meet Separatists from all over the world, including the Family of Woman Lesbian Separatist band with Linda Shear.”
Regarding Morgan’s speech, which Stryker claims was influenced by Bev and her fellow protesters, she writes in her Substack:
Robin Morgan did not spend "hours of consultation" with us (but why does Stryker think he knows what we did when he wasn’t there, except to insinuate that we influenced her?) Robin used her Feminist common sense and own awareness about men like Elliott in supporting all the Lesbians at the conference to not have a man invading our space. Her speech was important and accurate though Stryker gave a "trigger warning" for those too fragile to read that a man cannot be a woman. I don't know who her reference to a "San Francisco Lesbian being pressured to let a man rape her" was about, but I have never said Elliott raped me or tried to. (He wouldn't dare.) But I agree that men forcing their way into our few precious and rare spaces against our will is a form of rape.
Just as Stryker pretends to be a historian, he also pretends to be a Lesbian. In early 2022, he was a keynote speaker at the 25th Lesbian Lives conference at the University of Cork. He and Elliot have both spent their lives coopting women’s and Lesbian spaces and stories.
Bev deserves to have her voice heard too, especially considering what Elliot has put her through. In her Substack piece, she writes:
Elliott has doxxed me – putting my location and other personal information online, knowing I’ve already gotten rape, mutilation, and death threats from his trans brethren, endangering me and other Lesbians in my life.
Elliott also harasses other Lesbians and is openly racist (in his writings and comments). He so terrorized an African-descent friend a few years ago that she changed her phone number. (She had seen him grooming a young woman and warned the woman who then went to Elliott, so he called my friend and yelled at her. She does not scare easily. But underestimating these men is dangerous, as more are finding out.)
The way that trans-identified men infiltrate women’s spaces and try to silence our voices today is nothing new. Ever since women, and especially Lesbians, started carving out places for ourselves, these men have used the fantasy of “gender identity” to claim that they belonged as well. Bev has been saying “no” to Elliot and men like him since the 1960s, and we need more women and Lesbians to be willing to stand up and do the same thing today.
“Everything else he's written that I know about is a lie,” Bev told me about Elliot. “I never dreamt that not wanting to hurt his feelings 55 years ago would lead to all of this.”
A lifelong Lesbian, she also described the ways she’s been close with other women throughout her life. “Lots of special closeness with so many of those women,” she said, “and nothing like that with Elliott.”
She’s right—these men will never know what it’s actually like to be a woman, much less a woman who loves other women.
I am grateful that my work has connected me with people like her—it is easily one of the most fulfilling parts of being involved in the gender debate. I’d rather not be arguing every day that men aren’t women and people can’t change sex, but the connections I have been able to make are a significant silver lining.
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