Just back from our four days in Brighton and what a gathering it was, this 18th year since its inception Lesbian Lives conference. However tired I was, however worried I was about my place in the new lesbian world, saying yes to this invitation from old Irish lesbian activist friends to dare the gods once again and transverse hemphispheres--always with La Professoressa by my side--proved a most wonderful venture. Now whenever doubt hits, we will look at each other as we do, and just say, "Remember Brighton."
With another history of liberation rolling all around us, in a Square in Cairo, within our Brighton moment, I found once again, the richness of lesbian imaginings, transnational, trans gender, trans borders. New lesbian histories and the old, never old in the lived courage of hard lives and robust spirits, but lined lesbian bodies suited and frocked, well worn with their ssocial struggles for more equitable times--in all the systems that take our lives, economic, gender, racial.
Before I launch into details, which may take several postings, I want to embrace the women, the butches, the fems, the boyz, the gentlemen, the no gender labelled people, whose bodies I held in my arms, whose spirits gave renewed life to mine. As a gray morning light falls into our lounge room here, I see once again, and even more feel the warmth of Marie, her beautiful fem body held close to me, letting her know she will always be my kin, one of the many "daughters" if I may so, that I found in this old town by the sea; The Irish activist circle, Marie, Izzy and Liz and their friends, my new friends and Janet--originally from Wales--and her friend, all of us sitting outside in the pale sun, warming each other with the tales of our lives written in our eyes, in the cut of Izzy's well worn suit, in the lilt of voices created by Irish struggles, Janet always positioning her wheel chair to bring her body into the stories we were telling. They warmed me, held my body in their love and gave me for those moments, my sense of what kind of family my queer life has made possible. With the red head by my side, I could have sat at that little aluminium round table for the next twenty years, but for activists, the next moment carries movement. I carry with me now the presence of Campbell, tall and dapper and oh so kind who brushed her/his lips to mine, who carries multiple histories, multiple complexities, some created, some of the bone, in her elegance; I carry with me Camel's laughter as she offered her technical support, and I lifted my breasts to her--and always the four Catherines/Katherines and Olu and Ermi who held the workings of our days together in their hands and hearts, to old friends like Sue whom I have known since 1988, and new like Ulrika and Eva from Poland, speaking early in the morning about hard and necessary ideas, her lovely hands running through her hair as she rushed to give us her thinking, so needed. And the young woman sitting in front of me in that session who lives in my heart now--all her histories--Switzerland and Morocco and familial--fierce in her independence from all labels--I must stop now, the day light is pouring in and La Professoressa is walking through the room, waiting for her time on the computer, but to you all, know that you touched me, that my body was yours for those days, and you held it with life giving love.
On a cold, rainy Thursday we rolled our small suitcases down the cobblestone streets to St Pancras International Station, boarding the 12:55 to Brighton. Packed deep in my suitcase was a tiny memory stick with a revamped version of the Butch-Fem slide show I traveled far and wide with in the 1980s and 90s and a stack of supporting materials--my new text, the words of Jul Bruno, Sandy Kern, and other moments from "Persistent Desire." I did not read from these excerpts but carried them with me like old friends. So much I want to say about what it meant to once again fill a large auditorium with larger then life faces and bodies, of Carol, my first love who died in 1966, Mabel Hampton and Lillian Foster--an earlier draft--here I became too tired to continue but I will)