Witness

for Liz

 Although the mean-spirited, straight, cis prurience of Diane Wood Middlebrook is the main thing that has stayed with me from her biography of Billy Tipton, I also remember the poignancy of how eager, shy and proud Billy was to finally have someone witness a queer life lived in so much secrecy. Billy can finally say to someone, “This is what I did; this is how I did it; these were my triumphs; these were my questions; these were times when I was lonely, troubled, didn’t know what to do, but somehow I got through…” In this case, Billy’s witness is cravenly untrustworthy, but at least she was a witness.

Yesterday, I kissed my sweet hubby goodbye at 4:30 am and watched as she was carried off in the cab for the first leg of her trip to Texas, where she will be keeping her mom company through hip surgery. Luckily, given I was immediately very lonely, I had a femme lunch scheduled with Liz Nania at my favorite queer café, the Diesel.

“Talk to me about queer culture,” Liz said. What a treat to get right into it with another femme artist, deep thinker and generous organizer of queer community who had just scored the cutest bag at a neighboring thrift store!

One of the things that surfaced in the following conversation was family. Running through queer history is the theme that we do our best to take care of each other, with whatever resources we have. I’m thinking Contact Dykes from Lesbian Connection; Houses in ballroom culture; rainbow flags, pinky rings, pierced ears and hankies and so many other signs and signals helping our people find each other. Finding each other, most of us know – especially those of us who’ve been around a while – is essential. Finding each other is life saving.

For several years, our library has run a Queer Book Group, a delicious mix of queers of all ages and so much fun that Tex and I recently started holding an offshoot at our house: Historical Queer Book Group. One of the core members of both groups is in her early 20s. When she emailed yesterday that she needed a temporary place to stay due to a break up, there was no hesitation from me or from the other home-owning dyke couple she’d reached out to: of course you can stay with us! We understood that her friends were unlikely to have room for a sudden guest. Here was a moment when we older queers could step in, be there in our successfully married, 30-years-down-the-line queer lives. And be there to witness.

So this morning, I got to talk literature over breakfast, and last night, I heard a little about the breakup and talked a little about my own experience in queer love and heartbreak.

“This is why I love the intergenerational part of QBG!” she said at one point.

My house guest is at work right now, and I’m working from home. Tonight we’ll meet up at QBG and then she’ll ride home with me in the Femmemobile.

I just know we’ll have a lot to talk about.

 

 

 

Aaaaand…I know you wanna know what we’ve read in QBG and HQBG! Here it is:

HQGB

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

The Faggots and Their Friends Between the Revolutions by Larry Mitchell

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

 

QBG (a very partial list)

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie March

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Under the Udala Tree by Chinelo Okparanta

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on March 29, 2017 at 12:26 PM  Leave a Comment  
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