Queer Fringe Festival

This Pride Month, venues and artists across Cardiff collaborate for the first LGBTQ+ Fringe Festival in Wales.

Headed up by the team behind The Queer Emporium, the festival spans the entire city and includes theatre, comedy, live music, film, drag, visual art exhibitions, dance and digital arts. More is still be added so come back to see whats on each day!

Queer Fringe Festival

@QueerFringeFest

Sapphic Link Love #11

From Ancient Rome to Judith Butler in this issue …

Cheryl Morgan blogs about the evidence for women loving women in Ancient Rome, Tribade Visibility Day

The Paris Review has a great piece on The Fabulous Forgotten Life of Vita Sackville West

them, 100 Years Ago, this Lesbian Doctor Helped Contain NYC’s Typhoid Epidemic

TIE Campaign podcast has episodes on Lesbians Against Section 28 and Anne Lister

A long and detailed article in Out History, A Tribute to Phyllis Lyon (1924 – 2020)

The Advocate, Netflix Doc Reveals the Queer Romance Behind A League of their Own

Interesting interview with Judith Butler about her latest thinking Judith Butler wants us to reshape our rage

A lovely blog from Torch, Women Retold: Eurydice and Portrait of a Lady on Fire

And a nice interview with the poet Jackie Kay, DIVA meets LGBTQI literature royalty, Jackie Kay MBE

Sapphic Link Love #10

Elizabeth A Lynn, ‘Watchtower’ (1979) #20BooksOfSummer

Ryke wakes after the battle is over, to find Tornor Keep has been overrun by the forces of a Southern conqueror, Col Istor. As one of the few surviving warriors, his life is spared so that he can assist with the transition to Istor’s rule, his obedience secured only by the conqueror’s promise not to harm the old lord’s heir, Errel. Ryke agrees to the terms and is horrified when Errel is forced to act as the Keep’s jester.

Just as it seems that resistance is hopeless, a pair of sinister messengers arrive, bringing an offer of truce from another keep. Ryke is surprised when Errel proposes asking for their help to escape, but all is not as it seems, and Errel knows more than Ryke can imagine. So begins a journey South to meet the dancers of Vanmina, a journey that challenges everything Ryke thinks he knows about the world. But before too long they will have to return to the North and face Col Istor again.

Watchtower is the first book in Elizabeth A. Lynn’s acclaimed trilogy, The Chronicles of Tornor, and it won the World Fantasy Award in 1980.  Lynn is one of many well-regarded women writers who were publishing science fiction and fantasy before the 2000s, but whose work is now rather neglected and in danger of being forgotten. Considering the way that women writers have been treated by SFF, it seems sadly appropriate that Watchtower is partly set in a ruthlessly patriarchal society where women are not truly “seen”.

I really loved Lynn’s short stories in The Girl Who Loved the Moon, so I was looking forward to starting on The Chronicles of Tornor. Watchtower is superbly written, at least on a level with Le Guin’s Earthsea in terms of quality. It has a compelling story and interesting main characters. It even has queer characters and a lesbian couple, although this is not too surprising when you realise that Lynn wrote A Different Light, one of the first science fiction novels to feature openly queer characters, and after which a famous gay bookshop was named.

I’m not a fan of high fantasy, but I did enjoy Watchtower and will read the rest of the trilogy. If I have any criticisms, I thought the middle section dragged a bit and Ryke does have to “hold the stupid ball” a lot for the plot to work.

Just a note, there are some depictions of rape during war towards the end. It’s not too much, or too graphic, but just be aware if you’re thinking of reading this and it’s something you’d prefer not to come cross unexpectedly.

Recommended if you like high fantasy or want to explore the writing of women fantasy and SF authors from the 1970s and 1980s (who are not Ursula Le Guin).  

20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge

Sapphic Link Love #9

Dyke Camp

Dyke camp could also be an oversized basketball vest that hangs low over the armpit and reveals sideboob, or a stacked heel that adds to your height. A dyke camp vision is greedy: it asks for more not in the sense of adding endless details like camp might, but in making things bigger, blowing things up. Dyke camp is simultaneously self-conscious of and delighted by its own visibility.

Dyke camp doesn’t care what others think. It is not particularly interested in being palatable for or even attended to by straight people. As with camp, it’s more like blaring the Batsignal. Dyke camp is showy gestures, a certain hunch of the shoulder, a crooked grin, a beckoning hand, exaggeration, over-amplification, studied disinterest in clothes and very keen interest in everything else. A walk that looks like a dance.

The Outline, Notes on Dyke Camp

A Trip to Gay’s the Word

Photograph of 5 books in a pile, with titles by Sarah Schulman, Jane Traies, Jill Dawson and Amy Bloom

A pile of lesbian books!

We were in London briefly last weekend, me for a work conference and my partner, lucky thing, to see the new production of All About Eve starring Gillian Anderson and Lilly James. But of course we still found time to visit Gay’s the Word bookshop in Bloomsbury, where I treated myself to a few books that I’ve had my eye on for a while.

Sarah Schulman is one of my favourite lesbian writers and I bought her two most recent books. Maggie Terry (2018) is a crime thriller about lesbian PI with addiction issues, while The Cosmopolitans (2016) is a historical novel about the friendship between a black gay man and a middle-aged white woman in the 1950s.

I’ve heard good things about The Crime Writer (2016) by Jill Dawson and White Houses (2018) by Amy Bloom. The first has Patricia Highsmith moving to a cottage in Suffolk to try and finish a novel while also carrying out an unhappy affair, only to find herself the protagonist in a thriller. The second is a love story about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist, Lorena Hickok.

Now You See Me: Lesbian Life Stories (2018) is a collection of personal accounts from older lesbians edited by Jane Traies and looks absolutely fascinating.

I could have spent a lot more, but thought I’d better stop there. So much for not buying any more books until I’ve made a dent in my TBR pile!

Sapphic Link Love #6

Ransom Centre Magazine, The Ransom Center will digitize the papers of British author Radclyffe Hall and partner, artist Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge

Autostraddle, Revisiting “Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist” in a World Needing Her More Than Ever

Terri Windling, Hen Wives, Spinsters and Lolly Willows 

iNews, The lesbian ‘blood sisters’ who cared for gay men when doctors were too scared to 

Glasgow’s LGBT book success

What a lovely story.

Glasgow’s LGBT book shop a ‘wonderful success’

The owners of an LGBT book shop in Glasgow say they could not have imagined how successful it has been.

Category Is Books, on the city’s Allison Street, opened three months ago and is Scotland’s first LGBT bookshop in more than 20 years

 

Sapphic Link Love #5

June Jordan, ‘These Poems

Casey, The Canadian Lesbrarian, Viscerally Real Queers, Dyke Processing, Kink, and Disability in Jane Eaton Hamilton’s novel WEEKEND

KQED, Rebel Girls from Bay Area History: Pat Parker, Lesbian Feminist Poet and Activist 

New York Review of Books, Alone with Elizabeth Bishop

LA Review of Books, Taking Responsibility, An Interview with Sarah Schulman

Sapphic Link Love #4

Autostraddle, The Gay Love Stories of Moomin and the Queer Radicality of Tove Jansson 

NPR, New biography of Lorraine Hansberry

Autostraddle, Portraits of Lesbian Writers, 1987 – 1989  (these are awesome)

The Rumpus, The Queer Syllabus: The Watermelon Woman by Cheryl Dunye

Folk Radio, Grace Petrie: Queer as Folk review

Sapphic Link Love #3

The Rumpus, The Inadvertent Postmodernist: An Interview with Sarah Schulman 

Julie R. Enszer at Lamba Literary, Lying With Women: Meditations on Barrie Jean Borich’s Writing, Lesbians, and Liberation

Sandra M. Gilbert, The Treasures that Prevail: On the Prose of Adrienne Rich

Jana Funke, The World and Other Unpublished Works of Radclyffe Hall

Sapphic Link Love #1

Some things I’ve found interesting recently

Anne Lister and a Theology of Naming Lesbians

Interview with a Queer Reader – Julie Rak Talks Women’s Bookstores, Gay Biker Books, Finding Your Own Queer History in Books, and More!

Remembering Beth Brant 

Why the UK’s biggest lesbian archive is so important

He’s Here! The Phantom of the Opera!

“The queer is the taboo-breaker, the monstrous, the uncanny.  Like the Phantom of the Opera, the queer dwells underground, below the operatic overtones of the dominant; frightening to look at, desiring, as it plays its own organ, producing its own music“, Sue Ellen Case, ‘Tracking the Vampire’ in Differences (1991) (p. 3).

The other day, an online conversation reminded me of my teenage love of musicals, in particular, my obsession, between the ages of nine and thirdteen, with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.  My cooler friends were into Les Miserables, which even I had to acknowledge had a better score than Phantom, but I’ve always had a taste for glamour,  the gothic and, of course, the queer, and on all those fronts, Phantom won hands down.

My early love of Phantom is an example of how queer kids often cultivate interests that appear acceptable on the surface  of things, but privately rewrite their meaning to meet their own emotional and erotic needs. No one objected to my love of Phantom because an interest in musicals is considered acceptable for white, middle-class teenage girls and because they assumed that I identified with Christine and her romance with Raoul.

In fact I identified passionately with the Phantom himself, the queer figure who lurks underground (and outside heteronormativity) and who exerts a mesmerising power over beautiful women, a figure who isn’t what he appears to be and who hides a terrible secret under his mask where he bears the mark of his ‘queerness’. The Phantom/Angel of Music/Erik allows us to face our fears of being literally unmasked and seen for what we really are.  I even had my own Phantom of the Opera mask and hat.

In attempting to drop a chandelier on Christine’s bland boyfriend, Raoul (see video below), the Phantom in his role as return of the repressed, acts out a queer rage against the dominant discourse.  From a feminist perspective, (and I’m sure there must be cultural critics out there who’ve talked about this), the Phantom can also be seen as an avatar of Christine herself, since the death of Raoul would save her from the fate of a dull marriage to a painfully boring man that awaits her and will undoubtedly end her singing career.  The Phantom may be creepy, but at least he wants to unleash Christine’s creativity and show her what she can achieve.  In gothic and horror fiction, the queer monster often allows women to dally with possibilities beyond heterosexual marriage, but only within the context of a parasitical or vampiric relationship that threatens to destroy them.  For the monstrous queer figure, the attempt to express him/herself through the woman ultimately it leaves him/her voiceless.  If you’re interested, Rhona J. Bernstein’s book, Attack of the Leading Ladies is very good on this special relationship between the monster and the ‘leading lady’.

When I was thirdteen, the Phantom got dumped for Madonna, and when I was fourteen I took up with the Rocky Horror Show, but that’s a whole other post.  For now, here’s the original video starring an unblinking Sarah Brightman as Christine, a rather stiff and awkward Steve Harley as the Phantom, and the most amazing mullet on the guy playing Raoul.  It now looks like a particularly bad Meatloaf video, but I loved it at the time.

Politics round-up

From The Hathor Legacy, On Rejecting Men and Rape Culture and also Beware False Allies

From Madhushala, Perfect Women in Chilly Climates

Too Young to Wed, a multimedia presentation on the predicatment of child brides around the world

This is so sad,  What the young victims of Utoya believed in

From Beyond Clicktivism, on the unfairness of “austerity”, Who Pays the Bill?

This handy chart will tell you which people can define your gender and sexuality (hat tip the Queer Scholar)

A short post about Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948)

Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) is pure Southern Gothic, so the question of whether or not you’ll enjoy it will probably depend on your feelings about that particular genre. You can usually expect an intense, overripe, lyrical style of writing, a cast of eccentric characters and a lush, but sinister landscape, of all which are present here.

Capote never allows himself to topple over the edge into overwriting, but he hovers around it, as if to let you know that he’s in control of his craft, which he took extremely seriously. This is his first novel.

After the death of his mother, thirteen year-old Joel is sent to live in a dilapidated mansion with his mysterious father, stepmother, Miss Amy, her decadent cousin Randolph and their black servants, 100 year-old Jesus Fever and his granddaughter Zoo.  As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that more than one inhabitant of the landing is mad and Joel is also haunted by the strange appearance of a ‘lady’ at one of the upper windows.

All of the characters are memorable and the children are particularly well-written. This is very much a post-Freudian tale of queer childhood.  In Joel and his friend, Idabel, I thought Capote really conveyed the painful confusion of children on the cusp of adolescence confronted with the secrets of an adult world they can’t quite understand, both resenting and desiring the inevitable loss of innocence that will come with that understanding.

Idabel is the most resistant, but as a (transgender?) tomboy who utterly rejects the requirements of adult femininity, she has the most to lose.  At the end, Joel seems to find some place for himself in his love for, and identification with, the effeminate Randolph, but Idabel, who has no such model, can only run away and disappear from the text.  In the openly homosexual and oddly nurturing figure of Randolph, Capote provides Joel with a kind of mentor, which is not to say Randoph is perfect. We don’t know how much of his story to believe and he seems to desire to control Joel and separate him from other people, but at the end there is also a feeling that Joel will gain the upper-hand in the relationship.

An important work in in the history of LGBT literature.

Not a Lesbian … but: The Case of Lily Rush

When I’m channel surfing for something to watch I sometimes stop for Cold Case. It has an interesting premise (of old unsolved cases) and it generally deals with LGBT issues much more intelligently and sensitively than other crime dramas (CSI I am looking at you).

This is why it’s weird to find the representation of the main character so frustrating.

She’s a classic example of the cultural phenomenon that I like to call “not a lesbian, BUT! I use this phrase to refer to ostensibly heterosexual female characters who are heavily coded as lesbians through the putting into play of recognisable culture signifiers.

Lily Rush  is almost a textbook case:

  • She’s ‘unlucky in love’.  Lily can’t seem to figure out why her relationships with men keep failing. She dates and she’s a little concerned about the passing of time, but somehow she just can’t settled down and make it work.  Dating men just gives her a bemused expression.
  • She puts her career before her personal life. The ‘not a lesbian, but’ character is often a workaholic without any children.  The narrative implies this us a metaphor for her avoiding other issues in her life. What could those be, we wonder?
  • She thinks of herself as ‘one of the boys’.  She likes to hang out with men, especially her male work colleagues, another lesbian stereotype.
  • She has, to some extent, a masculinised appearance.  This varies in degree from representation to representation, but in Cold Case Lily always wears nicely tailored suits and sharp shirts. The only thing saving her appearance from ‘professional lesbian’ is the long hair which may well be serving exactly that purpose.
  • She rescues animals! I threw my hands up in despair the other night when she took one of her slightly bewildered dates back to her apartment and we got to see inside.  It was tumbledown, a mess and full of one-eyed cats that she rescued from the pound.  She even has a freaking’ lesbian apartment!  The guy didn’t seem to take the hint when she blew him off for the sake of the cats – they might get disturbed by his presence. Yeah, nice excuse Lily, wish I’d thought of that one.

So while I enjoy Cold Case, I do spend quite a bit of time muttering “Just make her a lesbian already will you!” That narrative closet is bursting at the seams.

But seriously, I’m not sure whether the ‘not a lesbian, but’ figure is a sign of representational conservatism, or progress for lesbians on TV, or not.   On the one hand, they were doing the same thing with Christine Cagney in Cagney and Lacey way back in 1982, so you’d think they’d have moved on a little by now.  But, then again, perhaps this is a necessary step on the slow road towards the mainstream T.V show that finally has the guts to make the main female character into an out lesbian.