Biographical / Historical
Joan E. Biren (1944-), also known professionally as JEB, is an internationally recognized lesbian photographer and documentary artist. She grew up in Washington, D.C. graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1966. She later pursued graduate study at Oxford University and the American University. Biren was a vocal and out lesbian joining the women's liberation in the late 1960s and the lesbian movement in the early 1970s. A member of the Furies, she was an associate of authors Rita Mae Brown and Charlotte Bunch
Biren became known for her photographic documentation of late 20th century lesbian culture. Biren published two collections of her photography: Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians (1979) and Making a Way: Lesbians Out Front (1987). Biren pursued filmmaking in the 1990s through her company Moonforce Media, Inc. She produced and directed the documentaries, For Love and For Life (1990) about the 1987 March on Washington and A Simple Matter of Justice (1993), about the April 1993 March on Washington. She is the creator (writer, director, and producer) of the award-winning film, No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon (2003) on two pioneers of the LGBT movement.
Over many years she assembled a collection of ephemera and materials relating to queer film. One of the accepted definitions of the word queer is, "Of or relating to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered people". "Queer film" may be defined as any film or televised entertainment that has as a part of its subject matter or story line anything having to do with or pertinent to homosexuality (male or female), bisexuality, or transgendered people. Biren named her collection the Queer Film Museum and it was displayed in her home. The sign she created and hung on the basement door leading downstairs to the display of her collection (and coincidentally her laundry room) was meant to be ironic and read, "JEB's Queer Film Museum, Dirty Pictures & Clean Laundry". Biren amassed her collection, mostly by purchase, over the course of many years.
Some of the titles in the collection classified as "queer" were not specifically produced with the homosexual audience in mind but have come to be identified with homosexual culture, Greta Garbo's 1931 film Queen Christina for instance.