Happy Sunday everyone! Author Cherry Potts stopped by to share her thoughts about LGBT History Month!
LGBT History Month
by Cherry Potts
So: It’s LGBT History Month, and I started planning for that way back in December when I started booking readings (and readers–writers Clare Summerskill, V.G. Lee, Kate Foley, Rebecca Idris, V.A. Fearon, Catherine Blackfeather and actor Sarah Feathers, and my best girl, Alix,have all been very forthcoming with their time) for a series of events, and started blogging the Historical Birthday-Tea Party, a post a day for the year (in theory!) celebrating the birthdays of lesbians, wild women and fellow travelers.- pretty much any woman who might be or ought to have been a lesbian.
Identifying women from history as lesbian is quite tough, especially before around 1920, when the words weren’t there. This means that there is a tendency for historians to casually, carelessly and sometimes mendaciously assume heterosexuality. Well I choose, in the face of no evidence either way, to assume dykedom.
Have you ever played that game when you wander down a crowded street with a friend nudging each other and saying – ‘she’s one, she’s one, she’s definitely one’? Well, it’s like that, but on a big scale.
Cross dressers, romantic friends, outspoken critics of the status quo, pioneers – a lot of the women I’ve chosen to celebrate are feminists, a few self-identify as lesbians, but mostly they had intimate women friends, were impatient with men and did great things with their lives.
Sometimes the deciding factor is purely would I want to have a cup of tea with her?
Some periods of history and geographical areas are easier to research than others, and the internet is a great help, with entire texts of ancient books now available on line, I’m enjoying myself a great deal, and find myself mentally cheering every time I find a great quote that supports my theory. It isn’t academically valid, any of it, but I really don’t care, it’s about celebrating everything a woman can be, and as Alix Dobkin says, Any woman can be a Lesbian.
Coming back to LGBTHM and those readings: There is one still to go, at the Café of Good Hope in Hither Green SE136RT on the 26thFebruaryat 7pm with me, Rebecca Idris, V.A. Fearon, and Catherine Blackfeather.
I’ve been reading from my collection of short stories Mosaic of Air, which was first published twenty years ago, so it’s a bit of a museum piece all of its own – one story hinges on a public phone box not working, for example! As a result I did hesitate to republish Mosaic– a lot has happened in the last twenty years, and some of the issues I was exploring then have rather gone away… here. You only have to glance in the direction of Russia to know that it’s as bad, if not worse there than it ever was here in the 1980’s.
Some of the stories in Mosaic are based on historical figures: Exile is about Christina of Sweden 1626-1689, (you might have seen the Greta Garbo movie? Reasonably accurate except for the fact that her lover was actually a woman) and quotes more or less directly from her letters to her lover Ebba Sparre.
Even if I must face the fact that I may never see you again, I am equally sure that I shall always love you, and you are cruel if you doubt this fact. .. if you remember the power you have over me, you will also remember that I have been in possession of your love for twelve years; I belong to you so utterly, that it will never be possible for me to lose you; and only when I die shall I cease loving you.
The Ballad of Polly and Ann plays with ‘historical’ figures from folk songs about female soldiers and sailors going off to war in search of a loved one. I get audiences to try to guess which songs I’ve based the story on, and if they get it right they get a free badge – and if they are prepared to sing – a book! Behind the Mask and Penelope is No Longer Waiting riffle through the Iliad and the Odyssey to plunder Greek myth – I can find lesbians anywhere!