Witnessing Herstory at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference

I suspect that back in late July of 1969, no one would have foreseen what a late July in 2015 would bring, less than 50 years later.

But some of the folks—some of the women—who were instrumental in seeding, agitating, and actively fighting for the changes we’ve seen and are grateful to have, were gathered in one room to celebrate both their achievements and the ones of the generations that have followed.

And I’m certain that none of them, nor us, would have imagined the Golden Crown Literary Society—both the organization, and its annual event this year—would be home to perhaps one of the most historic moments in modern queer history.

Yes, the Golden Crown Literary Society Annual Conference (held this year in New Orleans, next year will see it in DC), which includes an award and recognition night, was home to the regathering of queer icons:

Lee Lynch, whom I had the honor of presenting an award to for her non-fiction work, An American Queer; Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina (as well as other titles), was not only the Key Note speaker, but also accepted the Trailblazer award for Joan Nestle—founder and original curator of the Herstory Archives; and Rita Mae Brown, who received the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award for her classic work, Rubyfruit Jungle.

Lee Lynchleelynchphoto by Sue Hardesty

These women were quite literally at the forefront—the birth—of the queer rights and women’s movement.

What they went through both personally and professionally to not only tell, but live their truths, was outstandingly courageous, and especially considering that it was during a time that not only was being queer grounds for being jailed in so many places, but also women weren’t allowed to have things as simple as credit cards without either a husband or a father to get it for them.

To see them in this gathering of queer women—and some queer men—queer folks identifying, self-describing, proudly themselves, and gathered together—not to secretly gather, nor to plan tactics, but to openly celebrate our lives, our stories: our history, past, present, and future.

Joan Nestlejoannestle

Part of that present and future history included an award given to Jacob Anderson-Minshall (in conjunction with his wife, Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-at-Large for The Advocate), making him the first out transman to receive a Goldie (as the awards are affectionately called) for their non-fiction work Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders

Rita Mae Brown was as passionate as the character she created and received the award for. “You’re alive—you fight. You keep fighting.” She reminded us all to continue to speak our truths, to tell our stories and that if we are “defined by our oppression,” then we are still oppressed.

Rita Mae Brownritamaephoto by Darlene Vendegna

Carleen Spry, Director of Outreach for the GCLS said, “We’ve seen history made this year on a national level. And we’ve seen history at the Golden Crown Literary Society 11th Annual Conference, in the gathering of these trailblazers. I felt privileged to experience and be a part of this historic event.”

Karin Kallmaker, author of 18th & Castro (among many others) presented the award to Joan Nestle. As she said, “It was inspiring and challenging to get such an amazing woman into PowerPoint. Joan broke ground for all of us.”

Dorothy Allison, in accepting the award for Joan Nestle, spoke about the beginning of the Herstory Archive, taking a moment to ask Lee Lynch if she remembered those magic moments in that living room/dining room.

“Oh children,” Dorothy said, looking out on us with wonder on her face, “I wish you could have seen that living room,” just as much as she wished Joan could have been with us at that moment to see what’s become of the movement she helped form.

As Sandra Moran, author of Letters Never Sent says, “Dorothy Allison’s work, both as an author and as an activist, has had so much impact on so many of the women at the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. To have the opportunity to introduce her and to hear her speak with so much beauty and passionate intensity, was amazing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I don’t think any of us will forget.”

Dorothy Allison and Sandra Morandorothyallison

On the other side of the give-and-give love fest, Lee Lynch herself says, “The Golden Crown Literary Society is a powerful organization for lesbians. Attending is a rejuvenating, inspiring experience enhanced by the contact with other dyke readers and writers. I staggered home after a tsunami of love, gratitude and respect that washed over bright, talented and impassioned 350 women.”

But ultimately, Kris Dresen, graphic novelist and creator of Max & Lily – The Complete Collected Strips, sums it up best: “This was my first GCLS, let alone Goldie Awards. To find myself in a room with Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, and Lee Lynch as Joan Nestle was being honored was slow to sink in but mind-blowing to realize. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am so glad I was a part of.”

And I, like Dorothy Allison, wish we could have all been there.

Following is a list of all the winners; for further information about the Golden Crown Literary Society, visit them here and/or email to inquiries@goldencrown.org


Debut Author:

Just IntuitionMakenzi Fisk

Never Too LateJulie Blair

Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition YearsCF Frizzell


Romantic Suspense/Intrigue/Adventure:

The OneJM Dragon

SharpshooterLeslie Murray

SwitchbladeCarsen Taite



UndoneEM Hodge

Kissing Keeps us AfloatLaurie McFayden



The AcquittalAnne Laughlin

Left FieldElizabeth Sims

The Consequence of MurderNene Adams


Young Adult:

Double Exposure Bridget Birdsall

Riding the RainbowGenta Sebastian

Just GirlsRachel Gold


Anthology/Collection (Creative Non-Fiction):

Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across GendersDiane Anderson-Minshall and Jacob Anderson-Minshall

An American QueerLee Lynch



The Magic HuntLL Rand

The Devil You KnowMarie Castle

Dogs of WarGeonn Cannon



Heart’s SurrenderEmma Weimann

Best Lesbian Erotica 2014Rachel Windsor

EscapadesMJ Williamz


Dramatic/General Fiction:

The War WithinYolanda Wallace

Loved and Lost Stephanie Kusiak

Everything Carole Wolf


Anthology/Collection (Fiction):

Wicked ThingsJae and Astrid Ohletz

Unwrap These PresentsAstrid Ohletz and R.G. Emanuelle


Historical Fiction:

Tangled RootsMarianne K. Martin

Waiting for the ViolinsJustine Saracen

The Bright Lights of SummerLynn Ames


Traditional Contemporary Romance:

Kiss the GirlMelissa Brayden

NightingaleAndrea Bramhall

The Midnight MoonGerri Hill


Science Fiction/Fantasy:

FutureDykeLea Daley

Return of an Impetuous PilotKate McLachlan

Rabbits of the ApocalypseBenny Lawrence


Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design:

EverythingAnn McMan designer


Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award:

Olive Oil and White BreadGeorgia Beers


Lee Lynch Classic Book Award:

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown


Trailblazer Award: Joan Nestle


GCLS Directors Volunteer Award: Watty Boss