Sunday, January 04, 2009

Amazon Trail: Susan, We Hardly Knew You

By Lee Lynch

Can you imagine what it would have meant to a gay kid with writing ambitions to have known that Susan Sontag was a lesbian? My anger over our inflicted secrecy has no bounds. I didn't know, could only suspect, given the society we live in, that a person like Susan Sontag might be gay. Ms. Sontag had no expectation of making her proclivities known, probably couldn't fathom that possibility and, given the negative attitudes toward homosexuality when she first became a lover of women, why would she want to? Could she have achieved the intellectual stature she did if her orientation had been known?

I think of Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O'Donnell dancing with glee before hundreds of thousands of viewers, out as out can be, their comedy in full flower, riches piling up around them, respect and adulation surrounding them. But more, I think of the young dykes they have freed by being out, the permission they have given, by being their full selves, for all gay people to be ourselves.

As accomplished and influential as Susan Sontag, thinker, writer, human rights activist, was, I am saddened that she was silenced by a gay-hating culture. I wonder if her path would have been easier, her steps along it lighter, had she been born in the decades of the liberation movements, as Degeneres was. I wonder if we would have had those movements without her liberal insights expanding world culture. I wonder if it took hiding her private self to set the rest of us free?

As free as we can be as the year 2009 lumbers through its infancy. Israel is in Gaza, rooting out its oppressors. The vote that ended gay marriage is being challenged in California (thank goodness Del Martin lived long enough to marry Phyllis Lyon). Caroline Kennedy may, if she becomes a New York State senator, continue her family's broadminded dominion. As free as we can be at a time when a gay pride sticker on a car incites four males to attack a lesbian in the San Francisco Bay area or when two transgendered people are shot in Memphis, Tennessee.

I am so angry at a society that forced my unknown gay ancestors into closets. What a tragic waste of energy that any gay aunt had to spend even a moment of her time pretending to be straight – what's so incredibly great about being straight? What a horrifying waste of intelligence: inventing secrets in order to hide and, as a result, denying generations of gays our heritage.

We are a strong people: talented at survival; clever at making up lies; geniuses of disguise. If, ages ago, we could have combined the intellect of Sontag with the comedic joy of Degeneres and O'Donnell, we'd no longer be squandering energy climbing Sisyphean mountains of law to win birthrights assumed by non-gay North Americans.

Regardless, we have made great progress. That we can even be thinking of same gender marriage boggles my mind. Yet, as reported at "On Top Magazine" , strong forces want to take it all away: last month "… the Vatican said it opposed a United Nations resolution calling for the universal decriminalization of being gay. They said they feared it would lead to gay marriage … Sixty-six nations have signed on to the non-binding statement; not among them is the U.S."

The Vatican is not exactly a relevant institution for me, but it makes the rules for one of the largest religions on earth. The thinking it represents leads to exactly the emotionally tortured kind of lesbian relationships we can read about in Susan Sontag's newly published journals (Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963, Susan Sontag, Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Those relationships should be a thing of the past. Gays now should have a decent shot at healthy unions.

In my early years, the dominant culture taught me, all gays, to hide everything real about ourselves. Telling the truth was not an option; we had a heavy habit of dishonesty. Lies flew to my lips sooner than truth. I never knew what harm I was doing to others as well as to myself. Later we rebelled not just against the world that sought to repress us, but against our own disease of internalized homophobia. We were able to see the value of our humanity. When Ms. Sontag came out, how could she imagine that disclosing her sexual preference could have had as powerful and positive an effect as her mind?

Ah, Susan, thank you for your journals, for telling us your secrets. You demonstrate with your words how right they were to muzzle us. Openness is the gay world's most powerful tool for change. Your silence may have protected you, but revealing your lesbian self protects those who follow you.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2009

January 2009

Lee Lynch is the writer of more than a dozen dyke books, among them "Sweet Creek", as well as book reviews, articles, feature stories and a syndicated column. You can read more about Lee here . You can check out her Lee's Myspace page . And visit Lee's Tripod homepage. Lee's most recent book, The Butch Cook Book, Edited by Lee Lynch, Sue Hardesty and Nel Ward, is now available at:

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Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2009

By the LNews Editor

"And the Top 10 Lesbian Resolutions for 2009 (from some other lame-ass lesbian site) are...." (drum roll, please)

10) Exercise, Eat Healthy and Lose Weight
9) Save Money
8) Pursue a Passion
7) Set Positive Goals
6) Volunteer
5) Nurture Relationships with Friends and Lovers
4) Join the Fight for Lesbian/Women's Rights
3) Meet Someone/Find a Girlfriend
2) Come Out Already
1) Stop Smoking


Enough with the sound effects. And this list. It's all just too much self-improvement. Going for all 10 at once? That's just too much drain on the personal fortitude. Besides, if I actually accomplished all of those, my friends wouldn't recognize me and would probably try to have me committed to the nearest Rubber Ramada.

To achieve success, you need goals that you can actually accomplish. You know how you are, and grand plans go awry so quickly! Here are a few suggestions for your New Year's resolutions:

1) Invest in a pack of Nicorette and see if it actually has an impact on your regular intake of cigarettes. If so, proceed to taper off.

2) Put a rainbow sticker on your car if you don't already have one. Live in a non-gay-friendly zone? Donate a few bucks to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and they'll send you that blue sticker with the yellow "equals" sign on it, aka the "Stealth Pride" sticker.

3) Instead of stalking chicks through the Craigslist personals, become a chick magnet yourself by being yourself fully and completely. Stop trying so hard and you'll lose that stench of desperation. Seriously, have you ever been tempted to answer an ad that read "Depressed and Lonely"? No, you haven't. Be your own self-sufficient and friendly loveable self -- and love will find you.

4) Invest in your rights by throwing a few bucks at an organization that's fighting for your cause. Rallies and protests may be cathartic, but it takes lawyers and judges to overturn old laws and give you the rights you deserve. Even if you can only spare $5, it's worth it.

5) Start giving other people compliments more often. Every now and then, tell your friends, lovers and co-workers something you really like about them. Examples: "Damn, you've got great hair!" or "That idea of yours was just awesome!" or "Honey, when you walk, it's like watching two love-crazed weasels fighting in a gunny sack, and it makes me tingle in my swimsuit parts."

6) Help somebody who's too proud to ask for help. Don't make a big show of it, either. Just be humbly useful. You never know when helping out a swamped co-worker might gain you a skill that makes you promotable later.

7) Once a week or once a month, do something you've never done before. Sign up for some workshop or training session at the local college, Parks and Recreation or Home Depot. Eat a weird tropical fruit you've always passed by on your trips to the grocery store. Get an old Girl Scouts manual and try to earn a merit badge.

8) Improve your living space. Weed out the superfluous from the essential. Keep the sentimental value stuff, and donate everything that's not really necessary to Goodwill. Hit the dollar store and buy frames for those really great photos you've taken. And be sure to put dates and notes on the backs of those pix for later.

8b) Improve your emotional space. Make a memory box, and separate it by exes. List what was good about the relationship, what positive things you got from it and why you're glad it's over now. Then bury that box deep in your closet.

9) Get serious about your money issues and start throwing wads of cash at your debts. If you only pay the minimum, you're actually paying interest plus $5 toward the actual dept. If the amount you owe is $500, and you only pay the minimum, you'll be paying for... decades. Literally. Paying off a credit card makes Visa/Mastercard, etc. your bitch -- instead of it being vice versa. Every dollar you throw into that IRA is one less package of Ramen you have to eat when you're 80.

10) Get in touch with your inner Amazon. If the first thing people notice about you is the size of your body (as opposed to your great hair, dazzling smile or sparkling wit), yeah, it is time to tone up your bod. Strive to be strong and healthy. Make BBW stand for "big BEAUTIFUL woman" instead of just "slang term for enormously fat woman."

11) -- Know you are appreciated, just because you're here reading this. YOU are what makes keeping LNews going worth the effort!

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