Femme Friday — Jewelle Gomez

I have here on my desk a signed copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Jewelle Gomez’s novel, The Gilda Stories, a treasure in 1991 when it was first published, and a treasure still. I had the great good fortune to take part in an all-day workshop Jewelle co-led at the Creating Change conference last Thursday. (Having inadvertently left my copy behind, I rushed off to Giovanni’s Room during lunch and, thank goodness, Jewelle’s book was in stock!) The workshop, “Thriving: The Eric Rofes Legacy: Envisioning a Transformative Queer Movement Focused on Sex, Health, Politics, and Liberation”, points to the focus of Jewelle’s activism which is expressed in story and direct action: sexy, wholesome, politically wise and profoundly liberatory.

“Hold out your hand, doesn’t matter which one,” said Jewelle last Thursday, in a closing ritual. 40+ queers reached out. Jewelle read the words of her ancestor, Chief Seattle, about connection, then cast a lifeline out to us. She told us we are connected, now, and that we are all holding onto the lifeline. To remember that, to envision the connection when we need strength and support. The love and power in that room at that moment was queer magic that I will never forget, that is sustaining me now as I write and that will continue to do so for life.

And now you, dear reader: hold out your hand!

Deep gratitude to Jewelle Gomez!

One summer evening BC (before cell phones), my home telephone was out of order so I strolled down to the corner in the musky urban night air of Manhattan to call a friend from a phone booth. As I was talking two male passersby started telling me in lewd detail what sex acts they would like to perform on me. I thought about the fact that women go through this debasement regularly, routinely. How we usually steel ourselves and block it out. But this time, on that evening long ago, rage welled up in me like a tidal wave. I told my friend on the other end of the line to hold on.

I turned on the two men and began screaming like a mythical banshee. I could see that they thought I was overreacting – they were “just being guys.” But my harangue exploded uncontrollably, stripping away their macho posturing. One man yelled desperately to the other, “Brother, she’s crazy!” He clutched at his friend’s arm and they fled down the street away from me. I was shaking with the pen-up fury of all the women who’ve ever been harassed on the street. I came back to myself when I heard my friend, terrified that I was being murdered, shouting my name through the telephone receiver. I thought with shock that if I had had a weapon in hand I would have gleefully beaten or shot or stabbed or bombed those two guys. Instead I went back to my flat and wrote the first installment of what would become The Gilda Stories. –The Gilda Stories, Forward, July 2015

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

Published in: on January 27, 2017 at 1:19 PM  Leave a Comment  
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