The Poetics of Coming Out and Being Out: Feminist Activism in Cis Lesbian and Trans Women’s Poetic Narratives
- I venture out,
- away from the clearly marked path
- to explore what lies beyond.
- The grass is lush and green.
- The meadow fragrance
- makes me dizzy with delight.
- I am captivated
- by a rainbow in the distance.
- I run towards it
- with all my might,
- drawn like a magnet…
2. Data and Methods
The common bond that unites all of us who read this paper is that we identify ourselves as Lesbians. We support one another in our growing pride in choosing and pursuing the way of life that being a Lesbian entails. We no longer request, we demand, that society accept us. We know we are right in what we are doing—and we also know from painful experience that ours is a rough road and will be for at least another generation.
Some of us have the luxury of being out at work. Some of us can dress comfortably—in proper “dyke fashion” I suppose—because our jobs allow us to do that. But no all of us are that lucky. Some of us wear skirts and panty hose because that is appropriate for our jobs—and who has the right to criticize us for that?
Some of us hold down true establishment, patriarchal jobs. That is a choice we have made. We may or may not be right about that. However, I might point out that that establishment money goes a long way towards supporting women’s bookstores, Michigan, and many of our important causes. If we allow our groups to be made up of women who agree with us on every issue, our support groups will be small indeed. Diversity has helped us grow strong enough to make the changes which we must make if all of us are to survive. We demand acceptance from outside; let us begin by accepting one another.—P. (WEB 1984)
3.1. The Politics of Belonging and Home: Coming Out as Lesbian and Feminist
- Coming Out
- To be among my sisters
- Give a new dimension to myself.
- To be where I belong
- Can’t be compared
- With anything on earth.
- A realization of a self
- Lost in a stranger world
- Who found a place
- To be fulfilled and rest.
- I search my entire life
- Among different dimensions
- All of them enriched me
- Preparing me for this occasion.
- I knew very early in life.
- That I was different
- And I fought with all my heart
- What I thought was strange and
- Only when I allowed myself to
- drift free in those tumultuous
- I was carried away by nature
- To the mystic oasis.
- It was meant to be mine
- And the happiness and peace
- I felt, assured me
- That the search was over.
- I was at last home!
“For Its True Name Is Love”: How Storytellers Use Nostalgia and Home
- Deep Inside/Please Look
- Please begin to look
- deep inside
- don’t be afraid
- of what you’ll find
- beneath the brainwashed surface
- of your mind
- I can see what you feel
- (you can’t deny what shows in your eyes)
- It has survived
- since the Amazon gays
- through the dark ages
- and the Puritan days
- It cannot be destroyed
- but it can be denied
- You’re only cheating yourself
- if it stays hidden inside.
- It’s been smothered by fear
- and hate and lies
- through centuries on earth
- it’s had to wear a disguise
- But it’s time to come out now
- let not hate and fear prevail
- for its true name is love; and
- it will not fail
- The Beginning of Home
- It was seven years ago
- when we walked into that room.
- We were the new womyn in town then
- Curious, excited, and desperate for the company
- of womyn.
- A woman at the bookstore
- had told us about Salon
- so we drove across the bridge
- walked into that room
- and we knew, then, that we had found them.
- “Whew, beebee,” she said to me
- with relief in her eyes.
- “there are dykes in Florida.”
- A week later we again
- made that trip across the bridge…
- It was the beginning of family.
- It was the beginning of home.
- …I grew into separatism and left this place
- to grow in other ways.
- …There are reasons for everything
- they say.
- There must be reasons I went away
- and reasons I returned
- And, most important,
- there are reasons why I love you.
- You’re strong and brave
- Feisty and powerful
- Intelligent and gentle
- supportive and challenging
- I can grow here, in this soil,
- fed by the energy in this room,
- watered by the tears we shed together,
- nurtured again and again by your affection.
- You were each a star to guide me
- Home to you. where I belong
The world is becoming more open, informal and connection to events more accessible… Salon, in the beginning was a unique forum and meeting place. There were few places for women to interact. Through Salon, people gained friends who formed changing and expanding networks… It would be preferable to have Salon continue in some form that fulfills a present need. It is also imperative that women wanting to see this continue become involved to some degree. Those who carried the burden for others to enjoy all those years have served so remarkably well and they need relief. Whatever evolves, Salon has been a wonderful, enriching, powerful, meaning[ful] force in so many lives. And those who began it and maintained it for so long deserve our deepest gratitude.—D. (WEB 2000)
3.2. Tumblr as the Entry Point for Understanding Radical Feminism Online
“It’s Not All about “Genitals”: Narratives and Audiences in Online Spaces
And as a lesbian, I much prefer women. This is not about genitals. But I simply much prefer being with women. I prefer how they think, behave and treat me as another woman. I don’t want the casual sexism that men routinely display. I love women. And yes I love sex with women too. I am not interested in penis in vagina sex. I love making love to a woman and having her make love to me in return…To simply talk about lesbianism as if it was all about genitals, shows a deep lack of understanding of what it actually means to be a lesbian.
And what are we to think? Because if we begin to piece together all of the instances of violence—the rapes, the assaults, the cripplings, the killings, the mass slaughters; if we read their novels, poems, political and philosophical tracts and see that they think of us today what the Inquisitors thought of us yesterday; if we realize that historically gynocide is not some mistake, some accidental excess, some dreadful fluke, but is instead the logical consequence of what they believe to be our god-given or biological natures; then we must finally understand that under patriarchy gynocide is the ongoing reality of life lived by women…
3.3. Tumblr as the Entry Point for Understanding Trans Feminism Online
3.3.1. Changing Up Audiences, Recentering the Body: Trans-Feminist Narratives Online
From my own personal analysis and conversations with fellow trans women I’ve seen how complicated our lives are and my personal theory is that we internalize things at a deep subconscious level based on our true identities. This leads to how often times people can sense something different about us before we come out. Or how often we share experiences with cis women.
- How to Love a Trans Woman
- If she offers you breastbone
- Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
- Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
- Than the flesh that rises to meet it
- Let her ripen in your hands.
- Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
- A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
- Would you think of her as less a woman then?
- Then think of her as no less one now
3.3.2. “It Is Time for a Feminism of the Monstrous”: Trans-Feminist Narratives Online
It is time to look the monstrous in the eye. It is time. It is time to say that we are beautiful in our fierceness, and that we are our own. We are not the rejected of what we can never be. We are what we were meant to be. We are not pieces of wholes thrown together incorrectly. We are not mistakes.
I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body. This body is no man’s; it is mine, it is me, and there is no man in that equation. And I am not trapped in it. There are a million and one ways out of this body, and I have clung to it, tooth and claw, despite an endless line of people and institutions who would rather I vacate the premises, and have sometimes been willing to make me bleed to convince me they’re right.
This body is mine, and I claim it and its bruises, and it is not a man’s, and I am not trapped here. I have looked leaving my body in the eye and I have said, in the end, hell no. There is too much to do, too much to love, too many who need one more of us to say hell no and help them say the same. It is time for a feminism of the monstrous.
- this is where i keep my courage
- i do what few could do
- this is where i keep my song
- a voice that changes hearts
- this is where i keep my strength
- i swallow all your hate
- this is where i keep my love
- a place where lips can rest
- and if my body’s strange to you
- its only cause you lack the joy
- of knowing me like before
Conflicts of Interest
- Abbott, Sidney, and Barbara Love. 1973. Sappho Was a Right-On Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism. New York: Stein & Day. [Google Scholar]
- Atkinson, Paul A., and Amanda Coffey. 1997. Analyzing Documentary Realities. In Qualitative Research: Theory, Method and Practice. London: SAGE, pp. 45–62. [Google Scholar]
- Baker, Phyllis L. 1996. Doin’ What it Takes to Survive: Battered Women and the Consequences of Compliance to a Cultural Script. Studies in Symbolic Interaction 20: 73–98. [Google Scholar]
- Bettcher, Talia M. 2014. Trapped in the Wrong Theory: Rethinking Trans Oppression and Resistance. Signs 39: 383–406. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Boellstrorff, Tom, Bonnie Nardi, Celia Pearce, and T.L. Taylor, eds. 2012. Ethnography and Virtual Worlds. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Bowen, Glenn A. 2009. Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal 9: 27–40. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Browne, Kath. 2011. Beyond Rural Idylls: Imperfect Lesbian Utopias at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Journal of Rural Studies 27: 13–23. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Compton, Julie. 2019. ‘Pro-Lesbian’ or ‘Trans-Exclusionary’? Old Animosities Boil into Public View. NBC News, January 14. [Google Scholar]
- Corbin, Juliet, and Anselm Strauss. 2008. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. [Google Scholar]
- Costill, Albert. 2014. 50 Things You Should Know About Tumblr. Search Engine Journal. January 9. Available online: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/50-things-know-tumblr/84595/#comments (accessed on 29 July 2018).
- Crawley, Sara L., and Kendal L. Broad. 2004. Be Your (Real Lesbian) Self: Mobilizing Sexual Formula Stories through Personal (and Political) Storytelling. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 33: 39–71. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1990. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review 43: 1241–99. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Crossley, Alison Dahl. 2015. Facebook Feminism: Social Media, Blogs, and New Technologies of Contemporary U.S. Feminism. Mobilization 20: 253–68. [Google Scholar]
- Crowley, John. 1999. The Politics of Belonging: Some Theoretical Considerations. In The Politics of Belonging: Migrants and Minorities in Contemporary Europe. Edited by Andrew Gedds and Adrian Favell. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 15–41. [Google Scholar]
- Daly, Mary. 1989. Boundary Violation and the Frankenstein Phenomenon. In Gyn/Ecology. Boston: Beacon, pp. 69–72. [Google Scholar]
- Diamond, Timothy. 2006. Where Did You Get the Fur Coat, Fern? Participant Observation in Institutional Ethnography. In Institutional Ethnography as Practice. Edited by Dorothy E. Smith. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pp. 45–63. [Google Scholar]
- Dworkin, Andrea. 1982. Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics. New York: Perigee Books. [Google Scholar]
- Earles, Jennifer. 2017. Reading Gender: A Feminist, Queer Approach to Children’s Literature and Children’s Discursive Agency. Gender and Education 29: 369–88. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Earles, Jennifer. 2019. The “Penis Police”: Lesbian and Feminist Spaces, Trans Women, and the Maintenance of the Sex/Gender/Sexuality System. Journal of Lesbian Studies 23: 243–56. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Frye, Marilyn. 1983. The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory. Freedom: The Crossing Press. [Google Scholar]
- Fitzpatrick, Cat. 2015. Beyond the Cliches: How the Trans Poetry Community Is Finding Its Voice. The Guardian, November 25. [Google Scholar]
- Garber, Linda. 2012. Identity Poetics: Race, Class, and the Lesbian-Feminist Roots of Queer Theory. New York: Columbia University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Giardina, Carol. 2003. Origins and Impact of Gainesville Women’s Liberation, the First Women’s Liberation Organization in the South. In Making Waves: Female Activists in Twentieth-Century Florida. Edited by Jack E. Davis and Kari Frederickson. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, pp. 314–19. [Google Scholar]
- Godwin, Sandra E. 2004. Managing Guilt: Personal Responsibility Rhetoric among Parents of ‘Troubled’ Teens. The Sociological Quarterly 45: 575–96. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Goldberg, Michelle. 2014. What Is A Woman? The Dispute between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism. New Yorker, August 4. [Google Scholar]
- Goulding, Christina. 1999. Heritage, Nostalgia, and the ‘Grey’ Consumer. Journal of Marketing Practice: Applied Marketing Science 5: 177–99. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Hart, Matt. 2015. Youth Intimacy on Tumblr: A Pilot Study. YOUNG 23: 193–208. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Ignatieff, M. 2001. Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Jeffreys, Sheila. 2014. Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism. Abingdon: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Koyama, Emi. 2003. The Transfeminist Manifesto. In Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century. Edited by Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier. Boston: Northeastern University Press, pp. 244–63. [Google Scholar]
- Lorde, Audre. 1970. On the Night of the Full Moon. In Cables to Rage. London: Paul Breman. [Google Scholar]
- Lorde, Audre. 2003. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. In Feminist Postcolonial Theory. Edited by Reina Lewis and Sara Mills. New York: Routledge, pp. 25–7. [Google Scholar]
- Linden-Ward, Blanche, and Carol Hurd Green. 1993. American Women in the 1960s: Changing the Future. New York: Twayne. [Google Scholar]
- Loseke, Donileen R. 2016. Symbolic Interaction and Narrative Productions of Meaning in Public Spaces. Studies in Symbolic Interaction 46: 423–44. [Google Scholar]
- Loza, Susana. 2014. Hashtag feminism, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and the Other #FemFuture. Ada 5: 1–29. [Google Scholar]
- Maines, David R. 2001. The Faultline of Consciousness: A View of Interactionism in Sociology. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. [Google Scholar]
- McIntosh, Peggy. 1988. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies. Wellesley: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. [Google Scholar]
- Ng, Roxana. 1995. Multiculturalism as Ideology: A Textual Analysis. In Knowledge, Experience, and Ruling Relations: Studies in the Social Organization of Knowledge. Edited by Karin Widerberg, Marie Campbell and Ann Manicom. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 35–48. [Google Scholar]
- QSR International Pty Ltd. 2011. NVivo Qualitative Data Analysis Software. Version 10. Doncaster: QSR International Pty Ltd. [Google Scholar]
- Phelan, Shane. 1993. (Be)coming Out: Lesbian identity and Politics. Signs 18: 765–90. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Rapley, Tim. 2007. Doing Conversation, Discourse and Document Analysis. London: SAGE. [Google Scholar]
- Rapp, Linda. 2002. Rainbow Flag: GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. San Francisco: Wik Wikholm. [Google Scholar]
- Raymond, Janice G. 1979. The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. Boston: Beacon. [Google Scholar]
- Rich, Adrienne. 1980. Forward. In The Coming Out Stories. Edited by Julia Penelope and Susan J. Wolfe. London: Persephone Press. [Google Scholar]
- Scagliotti, John. 1999. After Stonewall. San Francisco: Kanopy. [Google Scholar]
- Schilt, Kristen, and Laurel Westbrook. 2009. Doing Gender, Doing Heteronormativity: ‘Gender Normals’: Transgender People, and the Social Maintenance of Heterosexuality. Gender & Society 23: 440–64. [Google Scholar]
- Sedgwick, Eve K. 1990. The Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Google Scholar]
- Seidman, Steven, Chet Meeks, and Francie Traschen. 1999. Beyond the Closet? The Changing Social Meaning of Homosexuality in the United States. Sexualities 2: 9–34. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Shapiro, Eve. 2008. ‘Trans’cending Barriers. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 16: 165–79. [Google Scholar]
- Smith, Dorothy E. 1990a. Texts, Facts and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling. New York: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
- Smith, Dorothy E. 1990b. The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. [Google Scholar]
- Smith, Dorothy E. 2001. Texts and the Ontology of Organizations and Institutions. Studies in Cultures, Organizations and Societies 7: 159–98. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Stryker, Susan. 2011. My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix—Performing Transgender Rage. Kvinder, Kon & Forskning NR 3–4: 83–96. [Google Scholar]
- #radicalfeminism. 2015. Tumblr. Available online: https://www.tumblr.com (accessed on 18 September 2015).
- #transfeminism. 2015. Tumblr. Available online: https://www.tumblr.com (accessed on 18 September 2015).
- Vogel, Lisa. 2014. Michfest Responds: We Have a Few Demands of Our Own. Pride Source. Available online: http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=67561 (accessed on 29 July 2018).
- West, Candace, and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. Doing Gender. Gender & Society 1: 125–51. [Google Scholar]
- WEB: Women’s Energy Bank. 1983–2014. Womyn’s Words. St. Petersburg: Women’s Energy Bank. [Google Scholar]
- Zimman, Lal. 2009. The Other Kind of Coming Out: Transgender People and the Coming Out Narrative Genre. Gender and Language 3: 53–80. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
© 2019 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Earles, J. The Poetics of Coming Out and Being Out: Feminist Activism in Cis Lesbian and Trans Women’s Poetic Narratives. Humanities 2019, 8, 122. https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030122
Earles J. The Poetics of Coming Out and Being Out: Feminist Activism in Cis Lesbian and Trans Women’s Poetic Narratives. Humanities. 2019; 8(3):122. https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030122Chicago/Turabian Style
Earles, Jennifer. 2019. "The Poetics of Coming Out and Being Out: Feminist Activism in Cis Lesbian and Trans Women’s Poetic Narratives" Humanities 8, no. 3: 122. https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030122