It may be the last. Editor Lise Weil is stepping down after her monumental commitment to the magazine that has been vanguard as much as a feminist classic. The last two issues on lesbian identity -- from the seventies to now -- are a breath of fresh air in our back-lash-polluted culture. I am lucky to be part of this last grand departure with an excerpt from the novel I just finished.
The journal with a mission:
"TRIVIA publishes feminist writing in the form of literary essays, experimental prose, poetry, translations, and reviews. The journal encourages women writers to take risks with language and form so as to give their ideas the most original and vital expression possible. TRIVIA's larger purpose is to foster a body of rigorous, creative and
independent feminist thought."
Here is Lise Weil in her intro to the fresh-off-the-press issue:
Trivia 11, the second in our two-part series "Are Lesbians Going Extinct?", has ballooned steadily over the past weeks and months to become our longest issue yet, thus taking much longer than we expected to edit and upload. The upside of this delay is that I'm able to share some impressions of the "Lesbians in the '70s conference" which took place October 8-10 at the CUNY Graduate Center, and which materialized out of an impulse very similar to the one that gave birth to these two issues. As Andrea Freud Lowenstein from the planning committee noted in our programs: "This conference is a way to… make connections between who we were as dykes in the '70s and who we are now, when you can get a degree in queer studies, many young women find 'lesbian' a needlessly restrictive label, and those who do locate themselves on that end of Kinsey's scale sometimes seem to just wanna get married."
The conference took place over two almost unbearably intense days, followed by a concert/reading on Sunday morning. The organizers had expected 250 attendees and the event attracted over 400. The joint was packed, and not only with lesbians from the '70s; lots of young, or younger, women were there to learn about or share research they'd done on lesbian lives in those years. And there were so many workshops and panels happening concurrently over the two-day period that conversational exchanges in the halls and elevators tended to consist of "which one are you going to next?" The ones I attended were bristling with a kind of energy I haven't felt in so long I'd almost forgotten how uplifting it can be—and how badly I miss it. (Last time was the Montreal Feminist Book Fair in 1988; I had high hopes for the National Lesbian Conference in Atlanta in 1992 but that one was, alas, too dominated by the oppression police to truly lift off.)
This weekend had a festival feel to it; as in addition to workshops, panels and plenaries there were performances and screenings, a poetry reading Friday night, and another one on Sunday along with music by Alix Dobkin and Linda Tillery. In Dobkin's workshop on Saturday she asked for descriptions of our first encounter with women's music. So many hands shot up I never got to tell mine (I came home from a Holly Near concert and announced to my boyfriend I was moving out), but the stories that were told were all so vivid and powerful and poignant I didn't even mind. So many stories that would otherwise not have been told. So many impassioned testimonies that would never otherwise have been heard. I would continue to be struck by this throughout those two days. Not unlike what I've felt putting together these last two issues of Trivia.
As for our "Are Lesbians Going Extinct?" panel, featuring four contributors from Trivia 10 (including me) with me as moderator, so many women crowded into the narrow room that it seemed half ended up sitting on the floor. Maybe a dozen had to be turned away, and a small group kept showing up at the door as soon as the fire marshal was out of sight. Under the circumstances, the title of our workshop seemed mildly ironic and I had to open with words to the effect that rumors of our extinction had been greatly exaggerated. The panelists—Elana Dykewomon, Elliot BatTzedek and Carolyn Gage—outdid themselves with their passion and eloquence, and the discussion afterwards was so animated it would have, I'm certain, gone on for hours had we not been thrown out of the room. The same can be said for the break-out session I organized for the following day, into which even more women crowded than the first one. More on that later.
Throughout the conference, I would be struck by how much the discussions mirrored, and were illuminated by, the writings in these past two issues of Trivia, with their long, lingering backward glances. Often I felt myself wishing I could just insert large swatches from those articles into the conversation. At Saturday's plenary session, historian Lisa Duggan opened her talk by summing up with marvelous succinctness the two main competing narratives about '70s lesbians:
#1. They were dogmatic, dumpy sexless lesbian separatists and cultural feministswith no race or class politics, followed in the 1980s by radical, witty politically sophisticated sex radicals.
#2. They were creative, utopian lesbian visionaries with radically egalitarian politics followed by narrowly pragmatic assimilationist LGBT reformers and corporate sellouts who have forgotten feminism.
Any reader of Trivia 10 and 11 will see elements from these narratives scattered throughout these two issues: the repeated lament for the loss of those "creative, utopian visionaries," and for the assimilationist tendencies in both ourselves and the culture that have hastened that loss, alongside complaints that "lesbian" has today become a dogmatic straitjacket, narrow and constrictive."
TRIVIA# 11, the longest issue of TRIVIA ever, features twenty-one
writers from the U.S., Canada and Australia responding—in powerful,
often edgy prose and poetry—to the question "Are Lesbians Going Extinct?"
Sima Rabinowitz, Verena Stefan, Kate Clinton, Lauren Crux, Sarah
Schulman, Susan Hawthorne, Arleen Paré, Renate Stendhal
, Urvashi Vaid,
Erin Graham, Bev Jo, Christine Stark, Elana Dykewomon, Sharanpal Ruprai,
Elizabeth X, Lyn Davis, Monica Meneghetti, Betsy Warland, Lise Weil,
Harriet Ellenberger, Chocolate Waters
Read it at http://www.triviavoices.net