Home' LOTL : Jan 15 Contents If women don’t want to call themselves “lesbian,” cer-
tainly it saddens me, [but] it’s an ahistorical position—it’s
their historical position. Somehow, we have to find a way
to not turn off from listening to each other [just] because
they don’t use the noun that [you want them to]. The wisest
thing is to listen and to get to the deeper part of the story.
If the woman or the person in question doesn’t want to be
called a lesbian, listen to their next sentence. And then to
those of us who do call ourselves lesbians, it sort of means
that we present our ideas and our feelings and our body in
a way that they can find a touch in it, as their voices touch
me. There’s a lot of thinking to be done as to what is re-
ally being said behind those statements. It’s almost a fear
of disappearing, like being butch isn’t good enough. You
really just have to be honest to your own politic and your
own history and not bully anyone out of or into anything.
Does feminism still have a place in queer poli-
Articulating woman-ness is important, and so is articulat-
ing the feminism of queerness. Because queerness without
feminism will never carry us through these days. Feminism
can’t be erased. It’s like the oxygen we breathe. So, even the
women saying “I ’m not a feminist”—they’re saying that is a
feminist act. They can announce that they have control over
their identity. That’s a feminist principle. I think we just have
to keep explaining; they can’t take territory from us that we
don’t give up, and we must never be ashamed of saying “I ’m a
feminist.” There were women who tried to run me out of the
word “femme.” Life is a chance to discover oneself and one’s
connection to others. You lose your life if you run out of fear
of what others think they see.
Has there been a resolution in terms of how the
community sees your identity?
It still fascinates me because it’s always shifting, but no:
There are people who disagree with me, and I just have stood
my ground. I am who I am, and I’ve made a life’s work out of
it. I ’m a ’50s femme. I ’m going to tell you a story. Di, who is
12 years younger than me, she was part of a pioneering gen-
eration of Australian feminism...I meet her in 1998 and we
become lovers. She identifies as a Marxist lesbian-feminist
and knows nothing about the butch-femme stuff. I thought,
How am I going to make my desires have meaning to her?
She’d never used a dildo before; she’d never worn a harness.
I come home from teaching and there she is, sitting on the
couch, wearing a pajama top, a harness, and a huge dildo, and
reading the paper. So we start to make love and I’m on top
of her and I look down at her face and she has this huge
smile. Now, I ’ve been with butch women and what a dildo
meant to them was an extension of their bodies. And in the
midst of things I was curious what it meant to her, so I said,
“ Honey, what are you smiling about?” And she said, “ I ’m so
happy to be able to make love to my ’50s femme.” It was such
an important moment, because it told me something—that
I’m a ’50s femme no matter who I’m with. It’s an act of the
imagination to enter into all histories.
Do you think young queer women know who you
are—the work you’ve done?
I never take for granted that anyone should read my work
or that it has any special truths in it. But when a young woman
does read it and says she has found some truth in it—no, no, I
would much prefer to listen. I won’t be here to see the fruition
of your lives. I want to listen to them. You can’t tell a young per-
son, a person who’s entering history in their own time, who they
should be and what they should listen to. I do think intergenera-
tionality is crucial. That is a gift to ourselves.
For you, it’s important that lesbian history is seen
as a living thing.
Yes, I was inspired to co-found the Archives by what came
out of the generation of women I met in the bars when I was in
my teens and they were already in their 40s and 50s, and I saw
such incredible undocumented courage. These were taxi drivers,
sex workers—all kinds who never get included in history. So the
Archives were a site of social history. So it’s an activist site. And
we took our banners into the streets. The LHA banner was in
the streets for the anti-apartheid movement, Reagan’s invasion
of Central America...We never had a constricted view of what
the Archives meant—a living, sharing of touch, of the mind, of
the body. We had a saying: “Send us something in the language
you make love in.”
What do you think of marriage equality being the
focus of LGBT rights?
I don’t want to get married. For me, it’s not on the top of my
priority list. It’s become the main focus, but what happens to
these other things? We’re going to create new exiles. So if you’re
a real lesbian, you get married? Then we’ve created our own
spinsters. Now I really am a spinster—a lesbian who doesn’t
marry! All this normalising...The real challenge is, how do we
give the things that marriage gives to people to anybody? So, im-
migration rights—why should you have to get married to have
them? The issue is, you either join with the haves or you try to
start movements, and movements take a long time.
Is ‘queer’ a viable politics? Can it change the system?
I love “queer.” I see “queer” as meaning that which deviates
from the script. Political resistance is “queer.” You live the best
way you can, with the biggest awareness that you can, and try to
mitigate suffering, if you can. That’s what it means to be human.
There’s no purity to one position.
You’re on Facebook and you blog. Is social media
making us compassionate or cruel?
All our creations are of the imagination—they can go in
either direction. I have seen the efficacy of organising dem-
onstrations through social media. But social media is quick
and it can lead to hardened positions. It calls for great agility
of the mind. As a writer, I resist the short, instant message. I
write in paragraphs. I’m sending out memos to the world.
lotl.com • Lesbians On The Loose Magazine
8/12/14 2:20 PM
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