Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Books and movies to get you out of the closet

Where is all the literature for lesbians in SA? It's not something you readily find in your local CNA, I tell you. You frequently need to go underground to find out how to dig it up. Ironically, I’ve found that 15 or so years ago, it was more available at a good book store than it is now. I’m thinking of the Adams in Durban’s West Street. I vividly remember the gay and lesbian section – on the top floor right in front of the tills. I crept in there many times after shedding my school uniform for something less obvious!

It was there that I bought my first lesbian novel. And what an expensive novel that turned out to be. I had to buy about three other heterosexual books at the same time just to get past the cashier. It was all too much for a shy 17-year-old!

Anyway, it was well worth both the cost and the effort. The book is treasured to this day and also taught me a fair amount about ‘what to do’!

It’s at the top of my list (because I am feeling sentimental):

Lesbian Literature 101 (please email me your favourites so that I can add them too!)

Choices – Nancy Toder

My next best author has to be Sarah Waters. No self-respecting lesbian hasn’t heard of her. She has written the brilliant Fingersmith; the weird Affinity; the gorgeous Tipping the Velvet (also a delicious BBC TV series) and more recently, The Night Watch – which I enjoyed, but felt ended too soon.

I loved reading a very well-worn copy of Radclyffe Hall’s classic: The Well of Loneliness.

And of course, there’s Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle. All of the above are essential coming-out reading material!

Then there is Hood by Emma Donoghue. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It tells the story of the lonely widowhood a closeted lesbian goes through when her lover dies.

Mindgame by Yang-May Ooi is a surprise find. I love thrillers but there are hardly any lesbian characters in this genre. Mindgame is the exception. I also happen to have an autographed copy of the book, which makes it extra special!

What Comes Naturally by Gerd Brantenberg. Lots of truth in this one!

On the movie scene, there are a handful that spring to mind:

The classic Desert Hearts – it is a must-see!
Tipping the Velvet (as mentioned above)
Gia is worth seeing for Angelina Jolie alone.
Kissing Jessica Stein is sweet and very mainstream (pity about the ending!)
If These Walls Could Talk 2 – is gritty and moving
The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love (loved this!)
It's in the Water (hilarious satire!)
Saving Face (a surprise find - gentle and funny)
The L-Word (see previous entries)
The Truth about Jane
Goldfish Memory
When Night is Falling
Fire (Indian love story - very good!)
Fingersmith (wonderful. Didn't disappoint!)
Chutney Popcorn
Claire of the Moon - another classic. Made in 1992.
A Family Affair (average movie)
Loving Annabelle (Teacher-student theme. Hmm!)
D.E.B.S (a spy spoof with a love theme)
Lost and Delirious (set in a private school for girls)
Nina's Heavenly Delights
Red Doors
Girl Play
Queer as Folk (for the boys)

Any suggestions of your own? email

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Friday, December 8, 2006

Seasons and reasons.. more poetry!

(This poem has been doing the rounds on the e-mail for some years now, but I still love it. We can all relate, I think, to the reason, season, lifetime relationships!)

A Reason, a Season, a Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason, you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people any way; and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Same-sex humour...

Some queer quotes

My cousin is an agoraphobic homosexual, which makes it kind of hard for him to come out of the closet. ~Bill Kelly

My lesbianism is an act of Christian charity. All those women out there praying for a man, and I'm giving them my share. ~Rita Mae Brown

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? ~Ernest Gaines

If homosexuality is a disease, let's all call in queer to work: "Hello. Can't work today, still queer." ~Robin Tyler

I'd rather be black than gay because when you're black you don't have to tell your mother. ~Charles Pierce, 1980

Drag is when a man wears everything a lesbian won't. ~Author Unknown

My mother took me to a psychiatrist when I was fifteen because she thought I was a latent homosexual. There was nothing latent about it. ~Amanda Bearse

Some women can't say the word lesbian... even when their mouth is full of one. ~Kate Clinton

No matter how far in or out of the closet you are, you still have a next step. ~Author Unknown

In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation. ~Simone de Beauvoir

Pronouns make it hard to keep our sexual orientation a secret when our co-workers ask us about our weekend. "I had a great time with... them." Great! Now they don't think you're queer - just a big slut! ~Judy Carter

I can't help looking gay. I put on a dress and people say, "Who's the dyke in the dress?" ~Karen Ripley

Do you have a quotable quote you'd like to add? E-mail me on

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

All about... poetry....

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from "The Invitation"

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Let's start at the beginning...

Last Thursday, 30 November 2006, was an historic day for South African gays and lesbians. The Civil Union Bill was signed into law by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, meaning that ho-ho-ho-mosexuals can now, legally, tie the knot. 'Tis indeed the season to be merry!

Jokes aside, this is really amazing. We're among a handful of countries in the world to have passed such legislation. But gays (and I use this term to include lesbians) will know that the law may be signed but the reality is that there is still much discrimination and hatred out there.

We are a long way off from living in a tolerant society. Pockets of tolerance exist, but it is still dangerous in South Africa to proclaim you are a woman-loving-woman or a man-loving-man.
This blog is not about politics though. It is about history, or her-story! It is the culmination of a long-standing dream to capture a slice of the South African gay culture and identity and I hope you will take part.