Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sinister Wisdom

There was a time when I read every lesbian journal, lesbian newspaper, article about being a lesbian etc that came along. In my early lesbian world, the world of 1979 – 1989, which I still think of as my glory days, nothing got by me politically. I was at every march, clomping along in my Doc. Martens at every demonstration. I had an opinion on every single thing connected to being female that you could shake a stick at. I was out at meetings 6 nights a week, organizing, writing, and arguing with other lesbian feminists about the burning issues of the day. I went to every single Women’s conference in the United Kingdom, even the ones in London which, for a lesbian living in Leeds, West Yorkshire, was kind of like a lesbian living in Boston, going to San Francisco for the night.

I have felt very out of the loop in recent years, catching little bits of news online, keeping up with the main stories, renewing my HRC membership each year and supporting causes financially in whatever way I can. But I have not read much lesbian-specific writing for a long, long time. There’s some history to this, and I think in part it’s to do with being involved with a partner who is closeted and transgendered. My life has become increasingly bound up with being a psychotherapist, and with my family – particularly my responsibilities as an active grandmother of a small child. Mr. Lesbian also does not understand my particular brand of lesbian feminism, and can’t understand why I see being a lesbian (which if asked s/he would probably describe as “just what people do in bed”) as so central to who I am. Anyway, while being so family oriented is fulfilling in all kinds of ways, I greatly miss being in the thick of all-things-lesbian in the way that I used to be.

So if you remember, I’m from the United Kingdom. The UK is a small country (really – it’s only 600 miles long from tip to toe and 300 miles at the widest point!) and, back when I came out, the lesbian feminist community did not have much in the way of financial resources. We didn’t have glossy journals or magazines back then. So, when British lesbians would visit the US of A and return with (what seemed at the time like) the myriad journals and magazines that American lesbians had access to, they were passed around the community until they had to be scotch taped back together.

I remember well the first edition of “Sinister Wisdom” that I ever saw. It was in 1981 and my friend, Saffron, had just returned home from an extended visit to the USA. (She had changed her name from “Pat” to “Saffron” after spending 3 months living with dykes in the mid-west USA and then complained that the American pronunciation with its long lazy “a” and drawn out drawl had sounded so much more romantic than the Yorkshire pronunciation, with its abrupt, short “a” sound and truncated busy-sounding, hasty ending – and if you don’t know what I mean, ask a Brit to say the word for you!) She brought with her numerous journals, one of which was Sinister Wisdom. It was the first time I had ever seen any of Tee Corinne’s magical photographs, and to read a journal that was dedicated to lesbian art and writing was so exciting it was almost a religious experience. After moving to the US in 1984, I had more access to lesbian journals, and for a while subscribed to Sinister Wisdom, but when I fell on hard times for a while, my subscription was one of the first things to lapse.

I assumed that Sinister Wisdom, like so many other journals and magazines and lesbian presses, had gone out of business. Wrong assumption! Imagine my delight when, cruising around the internet, I came across the Sinister Wisdom website. I immediately filled out a request for a subscription, expecting to be notified that the website was old and that the journal was no longer in print. But no! I receive a prompt response telling me that they received my request and asking me which issue I would like to begin my subscription with. I can’t wait for my first issue. I have all kinds of expectations, but one of the things that I am beginning to realize is that being involved in the politics of being a lesbian and a feminist shaped me in ways that I do not yet fully understand, but have come to realize that the absence of this involvement leaves a large hole. It is my hope that Sinister Wisdom will fill some of that void and will be a way for me to travel back to the lesbian I was from the lesbian I became.


Blogger WordsRock said...

I was grateful to Sinister Wisdom when they accepted something I'd written for their edition on "Lesbians Mothers and Grandmothers."

That gratitude aside, it's an interesting publication filling a worthy role. Glad you have re-discovered it.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Sapphique said...


I will have to order that copy given that I am both a mother AND a grandmother and would very much enjoy seeing that issue. ALso glad to hear from another lesbian who likes SW. I'm so excited about the new subscription.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous sharon said...

hey I miss your words...........please post something, anything lol....I keep checking and am looking foward to your next entry!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Sapphique said...


Thank you for your encouragement. I am in the middle of buying a house with Mr. Lesbian (given my most recent post, I'm still unsure whether this is a good thing)and have been pre-occupied. I promise to try and post more frequently. Meanwhile, thank you so much for your words and keep reading!

9:44 PM  

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