“*Are Lesbians Going Extinct?*”—edited by Lise Weil and Betsy Warland and dedicated to Mary Daly.
In an essay written in 1983, Nicole Brossard wrote: "Une lesbienne qui ne reinvente pas le monde est une lesbienne en voie de disparition." (A lesbian who does not reinvent the world is a lesbian going extinct.) At that time, the phrase made very good sense. As writers, thinkers, activists, and in our day-to-day lives, we felt (many of us) compelled to reinvent a world in which we were for the most part invisible if not unthinkable, a world whose values we largely rejected. Today, over 20 years later, we are accepted, even embraced, by mainstream culture—as co-workers, wives, mothers, as TV talk show hosts and anchorwomen!—in ways we could not have imagined then. But how have we gained this inclusion? Have we gone quiet as lesbians (not denying our lesbianism but seldom foregrounding it)? Are we still reinventing the world?
As writers, are we inventing new forms? Is there still a radical edge to the word "lesbian"? Or are we now, by Brossard's definition, a disappearing species? Editorial - Lise Weil Lesbians might have been…great. As some literature is: unassimilable, awesome, dangerous, outrageous, different: distinguished. Lesbians, as some literature is, might have been monstrous—and thus have everything. Bertha Harris, "Notes on Defining the Nature of Lesbian Literature," Heresies 1977. What's easy to forget. What I tend, when I forget, to forget entirely. How BIG it was, the change we (Lesbians) stood for—and in many cases brought about—back when we were busy reinventing the world.
As big and as powerful as the energy produced by two women bodies in love, which to me at the time was clearly the most creative force in the universe. We were on the frontier of human possibility, challenging the most deeply held assumptions and divisions of mankind. We were breaking everything wide open. No part of human experience was exempt from analysis, revision: not the bedroom the boardroom the battlefield. And it was all of a piece—love, sex, desire, politics. That above all. For we were first and foremost a movement of lovers, our cry for revolution coming from the same place as those other more intimate cries of longing and discovery. Of Woman Born, Woman and Nature having exposed the lie of objective third person reporting, of objective truth. Ours was a movement that honored the subjective, the body, a movement that began in our cells in our bones in our centers.
The most thoroughly embodied revolution ever to emerge on this planet. Also the most precarious—because of, just for starters, homophobia, woman-hating, trivialization coming from every quarter and often from ourselves, not to mention all our own personal disabilities, which had a tendency to flare once collective passions subsided. Precarious because it all began with two women bodies in love, and bodies in love don't generally stay in love. Precarious because, having invested so much in each other, it was inevitable that sooner or later we would disappoint each other, would be disappointed. Sometimes bitterly, sometimes unbearably so.
Disappointed or not, most of us, as several writers in this issue attest, went on to make lives for ourselves that accommodated to, aligned with, the nonreinvented world. We forfeited, as Bertha Harris put it, our "unassimilability," the mark of our "greatness." Yet it's the mark of maturity, some would say, to accept the world as it is, not as we want it to be. And often, of course, it's a matter of survival. Either way, the result was that over time, this movement that began in our cells and soon expanded to fill the whole world, this wild embodied revolution, this magical gap in time, fell victim to what's been called the "outside-context syndrome," moved so far outside our present context that we could no longer perceive it. And truth be told it was easier that way, less painful. Because when it does come back—and it does, from time to time, music will bring it back, or dreams— it comes back entire, the mouth of my Lesbian Body opens up wide to receive it and it sweeps through my whole being. I'm in an altered state—"a dream child of desire"—and when I look down on the life I'm living now it pales in the light of then.
Of course the world now is on the whole a far more troubled place than it was when we were busy reinventing it. The stakes are higher than ever. And lately history, let's face it, has not been being made by us. In the months before and after Obama's election, it seemed the hopes of every shit-kicking Lesbian I knew, my own too—hopes not only for the US but for a future on earth—were pinned on the success of this one man. And no sooner did Obama fever die down than Captain Sullenberger landed his plane on the Hudson, bringing on an orgy of old-fashioned male hero worship. So lately it's been hard to ward off questions like: What lives did dykes ever save? What sort of healing force in the world did we ever amount to? What new world did we bring into being? When it comes back to me, when it all sweeps through me again, I have answers to these questions.
That lesbian movement of the 70s and 80s was the first and is still the most resounding YES WE CAN in my entire life, the first dawning of wild possibility.
Healing? We did it by the force of our hearing—as Susanna Sturgis recalls in "And Will Rise?" We did it by the force of our love: "I kissed her and I was immediately home… Everything made sense. I had no language for where I was or who I was but I felt comfortable in my skin for the first time in my life." (Margie Adam in "Lesbian: Going All the Way"). According to another writer in this issue, Trivia itself, back in its incarnation as a print journal, saved lives, just by arriving in mailboxes on a regular basis. And of course it could be argued that the election of a man who models abounding love and respect for his wife (who looks like a dyke) and adoration for his daughters was made possible at least in part by a strong lesbian/feminist movement.
With this issue of Trivia, with these two issues—for Trivia 10 burst its seams months ago and spawned a Part 2 which will appear in the fall as Trivia 11—we collect histories, conversations. We attempt to remember who we were, to say who we have become. We remember how big it was. How it was interrupted. How it was made small, both inside and outside us. We take stock of the ways in which it continues to ferment in us, and around us, and beyond us. We weave a thread of continuity. As Elana Dykewomon writes in "Who Says We're Extinct?": "We did it for love. We still do." TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism is an online relaunch of TRIVIA: A Journal of Ideas, an award-winning international feminist literary magazine published from 1982 to 1995, edited by Lise Weil. TRIVIA publishes feminist writing in the form of literary essays, experimental prose, poetry, translations, and reviews. The journal encourages women writers to take risks with language and form so as to give their ideas the most original and vital expression possible. TRIVIA's larger purpose is to foster a body of rigorous, creative and independent feminist thought. http://www.triviavoices.net/