Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Julia and Mario: History with all Its Contradictions and Connections

Julia Penelope Stanley and Sahli Cavallo, with Deb and her beloved car, Pigpen, c.1977 transporting the early archives back to New York from Nashville, Tennessee where Julia and Sahli were living

In the midst of my journey with the papers of Pinchus Goldhar, came two renewed historical moments in my life. They both came to me through that unique and perhaps now fading messenger service, Facebook. The first, prefaced by a familiar but not immediately placed photo, asked me if I was the Joan Nestle of the old days and told me there had been big changes is his life. Then I knew. Mario Costa who was the author of the message was an old lover of mine when he lived as MaryAnn Costa. The photo of the round faced, mustachioed man came to life and I saw my old friend in his new but perhaps also old self. The next day brought me another message of change, a sad one. On the Lesbian Herstory Archives page, I read of the death of an old comrade in the creation of LHA, Julia Penelope Stanley. It was the ensuing discussion in those short bits of feeling and thought that prompted this reflection on the frailties of our certainties and how hopeful this can be, reflections on what I always wanted LHA to be and as an after thought, how I would like to be remembered by my queer-lesbian world. Not with encomiums that I was good for all lesbians, as some said of Julia's work, for this would not be true. Just as Julia's work caused pain to some, closed doors on creative thinking on sexuality and gender differences just as she opened doors on language so would mine be a mixed legacy. Let me, I would say us, remain the problematic figures our times and desires made of us. This is the true richness of archival habitation.

In the aforementioned exchange of memories of Julia there was one that prompted this response. Elliot writing about that last point of contact between Julia and myself, a telephone exchange at the new archives in Brooklyn when I happened to be staffing, spoke of being present when Julia called LHA, he spoke of the rift between us and Julia's disenchantment with the larger lesbian community at that point. It was his word, healing, that brought to mind again, that call, and the feelings that flooded me when I heard Julia's voice that afternoon.

First,  I had known Julia a little before the first Gay Academic Union Conference in 1973, a large woman with a definite manner who I knew as Penny-- perhaps we had over lapped at some stoned gathering in the late 60s--a butch woman with a boyish face, wearing khakis and moccasins, who spoke with a definite twang and loved nothing more then her new automatic typewriter that moved its little globe of letters across the pages in breath taking speed. Julia never stopped writing it seemed. Out of that conference came the CR group that was to give LHA life.

I think I can see clearly the meeting in 13A, (think is all I can offer, now at 72 and this is why other recollections are so important)  Julia sitting on a chair and I below her on the shag rug, Deborah Edel and Naomi and other women sitting in the circle, talking about the loss of lesbian cultural products that even then in the early 70s we were seeing all around us. We were a mixed lot, historically, and this was good for the beginnings of the archives. My thinking about the goals of the archives was influenced by my reading of de-colonizing literature while Julia's was taking wing from cultural feminist thinking. You can find Julia's voice in the LHA's first newsletter statement of principles, her language of the indictment of patriarchy for the silences surrounding lesbian lives while I would have added, vice squads, Puritan women's movements and other anti-sex forces of the State. Deborah Edel will have to tell you more about this because the summer of 1973 when LHA'S position papers were written I was not sitting around the table but off traveling across the country with a new lover, Valerie, in a rickety old car she had just learned to drive.

The image that introduces this journal highlights another principle of the archives that did not make it into the newsletter. We decided that LHA had to outlast our own personal dramas, the blows that brought so many other lesbian feminist projects of those times to an early end and it was agreed that relationship problems could not hold the archives hostage. In the year pictured above, the archives existed in four plastic boxes, the collection that now fills four floors in Brooklyn started in those boxes which Julia and Sahli took with them to Nashville when Sahli started graduate school there. It soon became clear that things were not working out as they had hoped; the boxes had to come back to New York and so Pigpen, the archives best friend in those days, went into action. The rest is a kind of history. Mary Daly plays a part, one summer week Deb and I spent in Provincetown and visited with Julia, but that is another story. As Julia and I did our cultural work, our separation grew wider and wider. We wrote of different histories and in the process, I hope, helped to create a fuller one. I grew tired of Julia's separatist rants while she took a paycheck from a State University while I am sure she was dismayed by my sexual writings. Many years of separation with a silence between us.

The phone rang on that afternoon in Brooklyn in the mid 1990s, and I picked it up, getting ready to give out the directions of how to get to the archives, when I realized it was Julia on the other end. She sounded tired, worried, not sure how to go forward, a different Julia then I had ever heard. I thought of her as a bully so encased in her certainties, but here was a different woman. She was in a quandary, wanting nothing more to do with the lesbian community and here I do not have a clear memory of what specifically had happened, but what she wanted to talk to me about when she discovered it was I who had answered the phone, was what to do with her papers, she wanted to clean them out but she also needed money and the university had offered her some--again this is all from my memory--I told her how important she was to the lesbian community, she sounded so betrayed, that she should think carefully about what she wanted to do, and as a working class woman, I knew the pressure of needing money. She must do with her papers what suited her best but she should always know how important she was to the history of lesbian feminism in America. I said these words because I was sitting in a building filled with the complex stories of all our positions in the Sex Wars and beyond, and this fullness of differences let me let go of my own dedicated certitudes. Julia was in pain, and all I wanted to do was lessen it. Our conversation was healing, in Elliot's words, for both of us. Contrary to what was said in the Facebook discussion, Julia never gave her papers to LHA and I assume they are in the University of Nebraska Archives. We do have her early writings when she was sitting before that magic machine churning out her manifestos.

As I have said, I received another message on that day, from Mario Costa whom I have written about in "Doesn't She Ever Stop Talking," telling me of his new life. One of the most fervently held positions of what I call now "reactionary feminists," shared by Julia, was and is their refusal to accept trans people into the human liberated family. I await to hear from Mario about his journey, from the Italian working class butch woman who took me to the Bronx to meet her Mom to Mario, the person he is now--but all together I have known this person almost the longest of my time on this earth--Mario knew the first woman I loved, Carol, and that is going back to the early 60s. In my ongoing fem lesbian life I have been privileged to work with many transgendered people--Rusty and Chelsea, who spent hot summer afternoons in the archives basement sorting newspapers, Clare and Riki with whom I edited "GenderQueer: Voices from beyond the Sexual Binary," with now men who as women worked at the archives; through the years of my queer life from the bar days to now, I have walked these shifting sands of gender and sexuality. I thrive in this terrain. I always wanted LHA to be a place where the past was cared for while the future was listened for, where no nomenclature, even the word Lesbian, was assumed to always have one meaning. The archives I l believed must never be a cloistered place of assumed positionings, but always ready to welcome both in person and in documents the changing lives of queer, women, lesbians, biwomen, trans people, intersexed people and all other kinds of selves that the future may hold, all those who want to be included in a place called the Lesbian Herstory Archives where the word Lesbian stands for the largest of its possible meanings. I have journeyed with Julia Penelope Stanley working feverishly for the kind of world she wanted and I have made love with MaryAnn who is now Mario. How rich my life has been.

Džulija i Mario: Istorija sa svim svojim Kontradikcijama i Vezama

Joan_NestleU sred mog druženja sa opusom Pinčus Goldhara odigrala su se dva obnovljena istorijska trenutka iz moga života. Oba su mi došla putem tog jedinstvenog i možda sada već jenjavajućeg servisa, Fejsbuka. Prva poruka, praćena poznatom ali ne i momentalno prepoznatom fotografijom, pitala me je jesam li ja ona Džoan Nesl iz starih dana, i saopštila mi da je u njenom životu došlo do korenitih promena. I onda sam znala. Mario Kosta, potpisnik te poruke bio je moja nekadašnja ljubavnica, iz vremena dok je još bio Merien Kosta.

 Fotografija na kojoj se videlo okruglo lice brkatog čoveka odjednom je oživela, i ugledala sam svoju staru prijateljicu u njenom novom, ali isto tako i starom biću.lhaslideshow_064Sledeći dan doneo mi je još jednu poruku promene, ovoga puta tužnu. Na stranici sajta Lesbian Herstory Archives, pročitala sam vest o smrti stare drugarice još iz doba stvaranja Arhive, Džulije Penelopi Stenli. Diskusija koja je usledila nakon kratkih momenata navale osećanja i razmišljanja bila je zapravo okidač ovog razmatranja o krhkosti naših izvesnosti, razmatranje toga kako sam oduvek želela da lezbejska arhiva izgleda, i nakon toga, kako bih želela da me se moj queer-lezbejski svet seća. Ne uz hvalospeve kako sam bila dobra za sve lezbejke, što su neke tvrdile za Džulijin rad, jer to ne bi bilo tačno. Isto kao što je meni Džulijin rad nanosio bol, zatvarao vrata kreativnom mišljenju o seksualnosti i rodnim razlikama, čim bi otvorila vrata jeziku, tako bi i moj rad bio jedna pomešana zaostavština. Dozvolite mi, rekla bih i dozvolite nama, da ostanemo problematični likovi, likovi oblikovani našim dobom i željama. To je pravo bogatstvo arhivskog staništa.

U gorepomenutoj razmeni sećanja na Džuliju, bilo je jedno koje je i motivisalo moj odgovor ovde. Dok je Eliot pisao o mom i Džulijinom poslednjem kontaktu, telefonskom razgovoru u prostorijama nove arhive u Bruklinu gde sam u to vreme radila, govorio je o tome kako je bio prisutan kada je Džulija nazvala arhivu, govoro je o jazu između nas nas dve i Džulijinom tadašnjem razočaranju u širu lezbejsku zajednicu. Njegova reč je bila ta isceljujuća stvar koja me je podsetila na taj razgovor, i na osećanja koja su me preplavila kada sam čula Džulijin glas tog popodneva.

Kao prvo, poznavala sam Džuliju samo površno pre prve Konferencije Gej Akademskog saveza 1973. Krupna žena, otresita koju sam poznavala pod imenom Peni – moguće je da smo se srele na nekom od razuzdanih okupljanja kasnih šezdesetih – bučica dečačkog lica, nosila je kaki pantalone i mokasine, govorila sa naglaskom i obožavala svoju automatsku pisaću mašinu koja je otkucavala slova na papiru neverovatnom brzinom. Izgledalo je kao da Džulija nikada nije prestajala da piše. Iz te konferencije izrodila se grupa za podizanje svesti koja će kasnije udahnuti život lezbejskoj arhivi.

Čini mi se da jasno mogu da vidim sastanak u 13A, (‘čini mi se’ je jedino što mogu da vam ponudim, sada kad imam 72 godine, i zato su ostala sećanja toliko važna), Džuliju kako sedi na stolici, i sebe kraj nje na tepihu, Deboru Edel i Naomi i druge žene kako sede u krugu, i razgovaraju o nestanku lezbejskih kulturnih proizvoda koji smo već tada ranih sedamdestih zapažale svuda oko nas. Bilo nas je raznih istorijski gledano, i to je bila dobra stvar za začetak arhive.

Moja razmišljanja o ciljevima arhive  bila su određena isčitavanjem radova o dekolonizaciji književnosti, dok je na Džulijina uticala kuturna feministička misao. Džulijin glas možete pronaći u Arhivinom prvom biltenu, u deklaraciji o principima, njen jezik osude patrijarhata zbog tišine koja  okružuje lezbejske živote, dok bih ja uvek dodala i odeljenje za poroke, Puritanski ženski  pokret i ostale snage Države koje su seks smatrale velikim problemom. Debora Edel bi vam morala ispričati više o tome, jer u doba kada su pisana dokumenta u vezi sa pozicijama Arhive, dakle u leto 1973, ja nisam bila tu, već na proputovanju po zemlji sa svojom novom partnerkom, Valeri, u pomalo raspadnutom starom automobilu koji tek što je naučila da vozi.

Fotografija s početka ove priče stavlja u prvi plan još jedan princip arhive koji nije ušao u bilten. Odlučile smo tada da Lezbejska arhiva mora da odoli našim ličnim dramama, udarcima koji su doveli do brzog kraha mnoge druge lezbejske i feminističke projekte tog doba, i imale smo dogovor da međuljudski problemi ne smeju da koče i ometaju rad Arhive. U godini sa slike, arhivu su činile četiri plastične kutije; kolekcija danas ispunjava četiri sprata zgrade u Bruklinu, a započeta je u ovim kutijama koje su Džulija i Sali odnele u Nešvil, kada je Sali tamo krenula na doktorske studije. Uskoro je postalo jasno da se stvari ne odvijaju baš kako su zamislile; kutije su morale biti vraćene u Njujork, i tako je Pigpen, Arhivin najbolji prijatelj iz tih dana, krenuo u akciju. Ostalo je na neki način istorija. Meri Dejli je isto odigrala ulogu, jednu letnju nedelju Deb i ja smo provele u Provinstaunu i išle u posetu sa Džulijom, ali to je ipak neka druga priča. Kako smo se Džulija i ja bavile radom u kulturi, jaz između nas je postajao sve veći. Pisale smo o različitom istorijama i u tom procesu, nadam se, doprinele kreiranju što potpunijeg narativa. Dojadili su mi Džulijini separatistički izlivi, dok je bila na platnom spisku državnog univerziteta, dok sam s druge strane sigurna, da je njoj smetalo moje pisanje o seksu. Mnogo godina razdvojenosti uz jedno veliko ćutanje među nama.

Telefon je zazvonio tog popodneva sredinom devedesetih u Bruklinu, i ja sam podigla slušalicu spremna da dam instrukcije o tome kako doći do Arhive, kada sam shvatila da je to bila Džulija. Zvučila je umorno, zabrinuto, nesigurna u to šta dalje, drugačije od one Džulije koje se sećam. Smatrala sam da je ona jedna otresita žena, ali tada, na telefonu, bila je to neka druga Džulija. Nije se osećala dobro, želela je raskid sa lezbejskom zajednicom, i ovde se već ne sećam precizno šta se tačno bilo dogodilo, ali ono o čemu je htela da popričamo kad je ukapirala da sam se ja javila na telefon, imalo je veze sa njenim radovima, ali joj je takođe trebao novac i fakultet joj je ponudio izvesni svotu – još jednom ponavljam, pričam ono čega se sećam – rekla sam joj koliko je ona važna za lezbejsku zajednicu, a ona je zvučila tako izigrano, rekla je da želi da dobro razmisli o tome šta treba da radi, i da ja kao žena iz radničke klase, razumem onaj pritisak koji se oseća kad nemaš novca. Rekla sam joj da sa svojim radovima treba da uradi ono što misli da je najbolje za nju, ali i da treba da bude svesna toga koliko je bitnu ulogu odigrala u istoriji lezbejskog feminizma u Americi. Ove reči sam izgovorila jer sam sedela u zgradi ispunjenoj složenim pričama o svim našim pozicijama u sukobu oko pitanja seksa (tzv. Sex Wars), i ostalih pitanja, i ta raznovrsnost naučila me je da ne budem toliko kruta u pogledu svojih ubeđenja. Džulija je osećala bol, i sve što sam u tom trenutku želela da uradim je da ga nekako umanjim. Naš razgovor je imao isceliteljsku moć po Eliotovim rečima za obe. Nasuprot onome što je izrečeno u diskusiji na Fejsbuku, Džulija nikada nije predala svoje radove Lezbejskoj arhivi, i pretpostavljam da se oni nalaze u arhivi Univerziteta u Nebraski. Ono što mi imamo su njeni rani radovi  dok je još sedela za onom magičnom pisaćom mašinom i izbacivala svoje manifeste.

Kao što sam i rekla, dobila sam još jednu poruku tog dana, od Maria Koste kome sam pisala u "Doesn't She Ever Stop Talking,"  u kojoj mi priča o svom novom životu. Jedna od najvatrenije branjenih pozicija onih koje danas zovem ‘reakcionarne feministkinje’, pozicija na kojoj je i Džulija bila, bilo je njihovo odbijanje da prihvate trans osobe. Čekam da mi se Mario javi i ispriča o putu koji je prešao, od Italijanke, bučice iz radničke klase koja me je vodila u Bronks da upoznam njenu mamu, do Maria, osobe koja je on sada – ali kad se presaberem, on je neko koga poznajem najduže od svih u životu – Mario je poznavao prvu ženu koju sam volela, Kerol, a to je bilo ranih šezdesetih. Tokom svog dugogodišnjeg fem lezbejskog života imala sam tu privilegiju da radim sa mnogim transrodnim osobama – Rastijem i Čelzi, koji bi provodili vrela letnja popodneva u podrumu arhive sređujući novine, Kler i Rikijem sa kojima sam uređivala ‘GenderQueer: Glasovi s one strane rodne binarnosti’, sa sadašnjim muškarcima, koji su kao žene radili u arhivi, tokom godina mog queer života od dana provedenih po barovima, do danas, hodala sam po ovom fluidnom polju roda i seksualnosti. Na tom terenu opstajem, rastem i razvijam se.

Oduvek sam želela da Lezbejska arhiva bude mesto na kome se brinemo o prošlosti, a budućnost osluškujemo, gde nijedan pojam, čak ni reč lezbejka, nema samo jedno, fiksirano značenje. Smatrala sam da arhive ne smeju biti zatvorena mesta u kojima su sve pozicije već dobro poznate, već mesta uvek spremna da prime, i osobu i njen rad, i na taj način dokumentuju promenjljive živote queer osoba, žena, lezbejki, biseksualki, trans osoba, interseks osoba i svih ostalih vrsta bića koje budućnost nosi, sve one koji/e žele da budu uključeni/e i postanu deo mesta koje se zove Lezbejska Herstory Arhiva, gde reč ‘lezbejska’ obuhvata najširi dijapazon značenja. Poznavala sam i putovala sa Džulijom Penelopi Stenli, koja se borila za svet u kakvom je želela da živi, i volela se sa Merien koja je danas Mario. Koliko je samo moj život bogatiji zbog toga.

Joan Nestle