The notion of a ‘gay literature’ is a product of precisely these discourses of power. It was invented to cement the idea that real literature is straight. In this scenario, gay literature is a niche product that only those directly affected need to bother about.
– Robert Gillett, co-editor of Queer in Europe: Contemporary Case Studies
We’ve reached the end of Pride Month, so of course I went looking for a quote from a queer writer to go with all the rainbows! But finding the quote above lead me to an amazing piece by German journalist, publisher, writer, and translator Stefan Mesch called Queer Literature, Queer Art: Quotes & Statements. Stefan writes:
For three days in July 2016, the “Empfindlichkeiten“ literature festival/conference at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin invited nearly 40 international writers, scholars, artists and experts to discuss the aesthetics, challenges, politics of and differences within queer literature.
He goes on to say that he compiled his favorite statements written by all the guests before the conference into his article, and I’ve decided to share a couple of the most intriguing and interesting ones below. You should definitely check out the full text to read all of the powerful comments!
But of course we need to have some artwork too, and this week I’m sharing the colorful works of American deviantartist Winters-Hart. Up first is the only dragon this week, but I thought her Muse Dragon perfectly combined thoughts on writing and Pride Month!
[…] sexual and romantic relationships between women have been close to invisible. They are largely absent from both the historical record and the literary canon. This absence damages our sense of ourselves, our sexuality and our place in the world. It is as if our lives have been outside the range of human experience until the last fifty or sixty years.
We need a lesbian history. But finding it is a bit like searching for buried treasure without a map. There are, however, clues; hints of the past left in diaries, letters and newspaper reports. Novelists are using these glimpses of our lesbian/queer ancestors to rescue the hidden history of relationships between women. [Like] literary historian and novelist Emma Donoghue, writers are “digging up – or rather, creating – a history for lesbians.”
– Hilary McCollum, author of Funny Peculiar
Then we have Winter-Hart’s beautiful Whales of the Sky, that might as well be rainbow dragons dancing in the clouds.
The paradox that all those who are oppressed sometimes feel: the belief that their oppression offers them an extraordinary tool for personal growth and creativity. In Spain, during the 1980s, it became fashionable to cynically state that “we lived better fighting against Franco” and to insist that censorship forced the great writers to hone their intelligence and imagination.
The question could now be reformulated in this way: would gay literature disappear in a hypothetical egalitarian world? Would there cease to be a specifically homosexual creativity when not just legal discrimination, but also social homophobia, disappeared? I don’t think that any reasonable human being would lament that loss, in the case of its ever occurring.
– Luisge Martín, author of The Same City
For some 200 years, a particular variant of violence against lesbians was the assertion that we didn’t exist. Until the mid-eighteenth century, sex between women carried a death penalty just as it did between men.
It was in the Enlightenment, oddly enough, that male philosophers, jurists and theorists of femininity became persuaded that sex between women could be nothing more than preposterous ‘indecent trifling’. Trapped in their phallocentric worldview, they abolished the penalties for lesbian sex beginning around 1800, because in their opinion there was no such thing (the English and French penal codes had never even mentioned it in the first place).
Women-loving women disappeared into non-existence, reappearing in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novels as ghosts and vampires at best, in any case as imaginary beings. […] My work is dedicated to giving the women-loving women of (early) modern Europe back their voices and making their stories known.
– Angela Steidele, author of In Men’s Clothes
‘Empfindlichkeiten’ [translated to English as ‘sensitivities’] – the motto of our conference hurts. In German, this is a charmingly provocative neologism in the association-rich plural form. Yes, we ARE sensitive. We lesbians, gay men and other kindred of the polymorphously perverse. Not just sensitive like artists are said to be, but over-sensitive in the pejorative sense.
And we have every reason to be. Not just in all those countries in Eastern Europe or Africa where people like us are once again being, or have always been, marginalized, beaten, raped and murdered. The massacre in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida on 12 June 2016 is sad evidence that homophobic violence remains an everyday occurrence in liberal western countries too. In places like Germany, where it lies dormant alongside gay marriage, it can all too easily be reawakened (AfD, Pegida, Legida).
– Angela Steidele, author of In Men’s Clothes*
All of these commentaries are powerful, and I hope you enjoyed reading them and even might click on the links to the authors themselves to learn about queer writers from all around the world, or once again check out Stefan’s full article for more!
As for my own writing update, I’m really happy to report that the island writing experiment produced an amazing (though rough) new chapter for Finding Dragons! I’m excited to add it to my first draft — and I’ve proven to myself that I CAN write and blog at the same time, and I intend to keep it up!
But as always, real life can throw a wrench in the best laid plans… July is a little crazy because my husband and I are jaunting off on a long-overdue (and overseas!) vacation, but I plan to pre-write a few posts and will still have the July birthstones out on schedule, never fear!
But for now, that’s it for me — thank you for reading, I hope you had a happy and safe Pride, take care, and as always, stay creative!!
*While there were many great examples in Stefan’s article, I really enjoyed both of Angela Steidele’s quotes, so that’s not a typo — I used her twice.
Robert Gillett quote image created on Quozio.com
All other artwork in this post is by Winters-Hart
Muse Dragon, Whales of the Sky (Digital), Eastern Star Butterflies, and Rainbow Paw Prints