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“You Know, Where They Keep All the Lesbians?”

by Chanel Dubofsky

July 22, 2011 | 5:52 pm

Reposted from my blog, Diverge (www.idiverge.wordpress.com).

On Saturday, I spent a long time at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. It makes me feel so hopeful there, my thoughts get so much larger, my imagination comes off its leash. It’s full of pulp novels, photos, posters, oral histories, diaries, music, fiction, autobiographies, and basically anything else you would find in an archive. There is a delicious purple couch and a kitchen and a long, curved staircase and shelves and shelves of book with yellow and green pages from the 1970’s that smell old and wise. All the fiction, biographies and autobiographies are shelved by first name, not last, a holdover from 70’s radical feminism, which I love. (Subversive feminist action: Reshelve all your books in this manner.)

I read two essays while in the Archive, both from Voices from Women’s Liberation, possibly published in 1971. (Yes, I opened it and inhaled, which is what one should do with old books.) I made a plan to volunteer there, and thought about some things.

1. What I was wearing that day, which is dangerously similar to what I’m wearing today, and what I wore yesterday, which are these shorts I made out of a pair of corduroy pants, some flip flops, and a purple v neck shirt. I felt really attractive and confident in those clothes, the way I often feel when I’m wearing clothes that are comfortable and modest (not by religious standards, but by my own). It seems to be curious to others that I dress in a manner that may not attract men. What does it mean to feel good in clothes we’re not “allowed” to feel good in? What about feeling good in bodies that we’re not supposed to love?

2. This is a conversation I’ve been having often,  about when it’s okay to claim a queer identity. Apparently, there’s an essay out there by a white Dude, who’s straight, and identifies as queer. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, send it to me. I’m thinking about whether, because my politics are queer (as in radical, out of the mainstream, anti essentialist), it’s okay to identify that way, even if I want my sexual partners to be male bodied. If I claim that identity, am I an imposter? Who does it matter to? If I’m perceived as queer anyway (because of politics, appearance, etc), how much heterosexual privilege do I really have?

Easy questions, obviously. I expect you all to have answers.

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