I knew the question would come soon enough, and I knew that it deserved a answer. A real answer. A cut through the BS kind of answer. After all, it came from a reader I don’t know personally but one who I suspect is a cut through the BS kind of woman. She commented on last week’s post about the new anthology Talking Taboo: ”Are lesbian relationships discussed in your book?”
The short answer is not really. There are two contributors who identify as queer. There’s exploration of same-sex desire in contributor lizzie mcmanus’s piece. But there is not a single essay devoted to the topic of women in love with women who may or may not be in love with the church.
It seems an odd thing to have a book about taboo that doesn’t address one of the biggest ones out there. In fact, it’s something I regret, always knew I would regret. But that’s the rub of letting people speak for themselves. You can’t tell them what issue to talk about or where their comfort should reside. They get to choose, and you don’t get to treat them like mouthpieces.
We asked a number of women we knew who self-identified as lesbians if they would write for the anthology. One turned out to be over 40. Another didn’t have the time. A third agreed and then never turned in her essay. We were scrambling to get someone to talk about it, and yet we were met with the limits of time and who we knew and who we knew might know.
But still, I wish I had tried harder, been more explicit about our desire, asked more people, put a halt on the manuscript deadline. I wish that it had turned out differently on this one.
“You’ve got to be vigilant,” Claudia said to me in the airy meeting room of the Stone House where couches sagged under the weight of woolen blankets and tea steeped in mugs between us. Claudia is this beautiful Jewish woman with gray ringlets and an East Coast directness who runs a retreat center committed to over 50% of its participants being people of color. “Vigilance is the only way we’re able to have such diverse people in our midst.”
She explained further how there were the people who it was easy to work with because you vibe with their style or you already know someone who knows them. But this typically privileges the people who already similar to you if you’re white. or Christian. or a woman. or heterosexual. It’s the people you don’t know about, who you have to go hunting for, who you may even have to go out on a limb to work with, who offer the alchemy of “otherness” that makes for richer partnerships, deeper concoctions of truth – mine, yours, and ours.
It’s a vigilance I’m still learning. A fellow facilitator in my work at the Center for Courage & Renewal shared with me a question she asks herself all the time: “Who do I want to work hard to find ways to work with?” Even if it takes me initiating Even if it feels like tokenism at first. Even if it takes a really, really long time to see that it’s worth it.
There are a lot of things I am proud of the book for – for a publishing team spearheaded by two Muslim women at I Speak For Myself, Inc and a Sufi-Buddhist editor at White Cloud Press, for having two co-editors of different colors and ages, for having contributors with a wide variety of ethnic and denominational backgrounds, for having a foreword written by a young man named Andy Marin who runs a Christian bridge-building organization between the LGBT community and social conservatives.
But no, after all this, we still don’t have an essay written on first-hand experience of a lesbian relationship.
I hope it’ll be an important lesson and talking point for the book; some taboos are still taboo because we don’t yet have relationships with the people who are living them. The kind of relationships that are real.
The kind of relationships that slice through BS like a soggy stick of butter and serve it up on some taboo toast.