Lesbians and Exile: a Call for Words

Posted on February 18th, 2013 by Lauren Gutterman


There is much pressing at me now that I have found my words again–sometimes along with the rest of me they go on a walk about, freed from linear forms to shape shift and touch the thinking of other times, Heine, Elizabeth Bishop, Tolstoy, Judah Waten. Much has happened in the communities I have carried to you here; I am thinking in particular of our Croation comrades who tried to launch a feminist, queer journal called Sex and the thugs who had to smash such an opening of doors. I will write about this and bring you our friend’s voices soon–I want them to know, and I am thinking of Lepa and all we met in Belgrade–that I have not forgotten what happened. But now I need to deliver this call to all of you who might be interested, yourselves or friends. Yasmin Tambiah, a lesbian writer friend and I are co-editing an upcoming issue of Sinister Wisdom on the subject of Lesbians in exile. Here is our call for words:

Joan Nestle and Yasmin Tambiah are calling for writing exploring the many faces of exile and displacement as seen from a lesbian perspective: the loss of national selves, the loss of known boundaries, the burdens of of war, the impact of dislocation, of geographical shifts, and the insights resulting from such changes. We are looking for writing that discusses the more recognized journeys of exile–the loss of national and cultural sites of being–as well as exchanges of know territories for unknown or less familiar ones, such as the movement from a rural world to an urban one or in the other direction. What does it mean to lose a community that has given you life, but one from which you flee? What do you take with you, what do you leave behind and what becomes transformed through such movement? We also see questions of exile rising in experiences of gender and the body. Perhaps one might say that to be a lesbian, to be queer, is to live in a permanent state of exile, but is this still true? What kind of exiles are experienced in bodies that face daily challenges of mobility and other kinds of functioning? Fiction, memoirs, creative non-fictions, short essays, taped thoughts and conversations, letters, e-mail ponderings-all welcome. We need your words by June 1, 2013. Please send questions and offerings to exilesinwis2014@gmail.com or to Joan.jessbsimple@gmail.com and please reproduce this call if you can and tell friends.

Our biographies:

Yasmin Tambiah grew up is Sri Lanka and lived there before and during the war years. She has spent long periods of her adult life in the USA and Australia, with stints in India, Trinidad and Europe. She is a researcher and writer.

Joan Nestle, born in the Bronx, lived most of her life in New York City teaching students from all over the world; her own provinciality ended, she hopes, when she met her Australian lover, Dianne Otto, and moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2001. At 72, she is most grateful when she is forced to see with new eyes that which she thought she knew. Co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives and author, editor of 9 books exploring the lesbian body and imagination.

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