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Within the many years of LGBTQIA literacy, there have been many authors that have gone against the norms of what was expected for them to write about. Authors such as Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, and Carl Wittman went against what was expected in that time and era of their published poems and books. Being a LGBTQ author back in the days where sexuality was hushed more than shown publicly was a big deal. ‘Coming out’ was a slap in the face for society and those around you, especially if you had a family and kids. In many of the poems published by some LGBTQ authors, the reader can see that the writer is crying out for help and wants to be free – free from the shackles that society has put on them, mentally and physically.

Adrienne Rich:

Born May 16th, 1929 – Died March 27th, 2012.

Poet, Essayist, and Radical Feminist. 

Adrienne Rich was the first LGBTQ poet that I’ve ever read, and her work speaks volumes. Within her ‘Twenty One Love Poems’, you can see that she is craving and wanting to come out and tell the world about her lover, but due to her situation, she unfortunately can’t. This reoccurring situation affected many authors in this time, making them vulnerable to whatever happened to them during the time that they wrote and published their work. For example, in Adrienne Rich’s ‘Twenty One Love Poems’, we can see that Adrienne Rich wants to come out and tell her husband that she is in love with her husband, but unfortunately she cant because she is frightened to tell her husband who she really is. Within her poem, she says: ‘You kissed my hair, to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem, I say, a poem I wanted to show to someone… and I laugh and fall dreaming again of the desire to show you to everyone I love, to move openly together in the pull of gravity, which is not simple, which carries the feathered grass a long way down the unbreathing air.” This lets the reader know that she felt some way about not being able to be out to come out to her husband, and also not being able to live freely with who she was. She published Twenty Two Love Poems which the reader can see that they are about a lover who she is currently seeing and can’t tell the person she is with about what she feels and how she feels.

Carl Wittman: 

Born February 23rd, 1943 – Died January 22nd, 1986

Member of the national council of Students for a Democratic Society 

Activist for LGBT Rights

Carl Wittman’s “Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto”, this article / selection of work describes the change of the times during the times of the Lesbian and Gay liberation period. The author includes how times have changed not only with the way society treats the LGBTQIA community, but how they feel as well towards each other and those not within the community.  Carl mentions; “ In the past year there has been an awakening of gay liberation ideas and energy. How it began we don’t know; maybe we were inspired by black people and their freedom movement; we learned how to stop pretending form the hip revolution. Amerika in all its ugliness has surfaced with the war and our national leaders. And we are revulsed by the quality of our ghetto life. Where once there was frustration, alienation, and cynicism, there are new characteristics among us. We are full of love for each other and showing”. The literacy and liberation era of the LGBTQ community were slowly opening up because of these changes within the community. The struggles that they went through and continue to go through, no matter the change of the times, can be seen and was written about in these times. This article written by Carl, shows how yet another writer didn’t care about the norms of the society and wrote about how they felt. For Carl to write this and not care about the backlash that he would face because of this, shows how fearless the LGBTQ community was when it came to writing how they felt and what they felt.

Radicalesbians: Group formed in New York in the 1970’s.

The there’s “The Woman who Identified Woman” article by Radicalesbians. This piece describes the do’s and donts when speaking to a lesbian, and also the way that lesbianism is somewhat similar to homosexuality. In this passage, the writer exclaims that; “ It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy. Those sex roles dehumanize women by defining us as a supportive/ serving caste in relation to the master case of men, and emotionally cripple by demanding that they be alienated from their own bodies and emotions in order to perform their economic/political/military functions effectively.”  This article or selection of writing was published around 1970, which was a very fragile time in society to even publish any writing like this. In 1970, to be openly Queer, Gay, or Lesbian was even punishable by death if someone knew about your sexuality. But, to have a writing telling society about what to say and how to say it to a person whose sexuality they didn’t even agree to was even more brave.

Dennis Altman: 

Born August 16th, 1943 

Australian academic and pioneering Gay rights activists. 

Dennis Altman released a book entitled “Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation” which within the title itself is going against the norms of literacy. Within the book, Altman writes about what it means to be a homosexual, and how society should see things from the LGBTQ perspective. Altman writes; “ To be a homosexual in our society is to be constantly aware that one bears a stigma. Despite the recent upsurge in open discussion—- the love that dare not speak it’s name, said one observer, has become the neurosis that doesn’t know when to shut up—- there is little genuine acceptance of homosexuality as a valid sexual and social life-style. As a homosexual I am constantly made aware of my parents, in my own uncertainties as to how I am affected by a book like this, written under my own name. Over the past few years I have come to realize that my homosexuality is an integral part of my self-identity, and that to hide it can only make my life, if less precarious, more difficult and unsatisfying. Yet I have not totally escaped the necessity to live a double life, at least in certain situations, nor rid myself of the tenseness that results from being constantly with people who assume everyone is straight and are incapable of the imagination or empathy necessary to transcend this attitude.” This quote from this novel is both informative and to read this selection of text back in 1993 would have been mind-blowing. The fact that Altman uses his name, writes about how it feels to be a homosexual, and to call out society about how they assume everyone is straight and how they don’t accept homosexuality, is also a huge situation. Altman not only writes against the norms of society, but to write about what it feels to be a homosexual in a mostly heterosexual world is how every writer should write; rough, raw, and honest.

Audre Lorde 

Born February 18th, 1934 – Died November 17th 1992 

Writer, Feminist, Womanist, Librarian, and Civil Rights activist. 

Audre Lorde is a poet that also went against societies norms, especially in her poem “Coal”. While reading this poem, someone without a ‘third eye awakening’ would think this was just a poem about someone’s skin color, and that’s it. While reading this in class, I noticed how she uses the word ‘open’ constantly, as she refers to ‘how a diamond comes into a knot of flame, how a sound comes into a word, colored by who pays what for speaking’. She refers to being ‘open’, which gives the reader some time to think about the times of when this poem was published (which was 1968). From reading this poem, I can see that she wants to be as ‘open’ as the metaphors that she described, and how her skin color forbids it. When Audre Lorde says ‘Some words bedevil me”, this made me think of how eager some people were to come out and say “Hey! I’m here, I’m Queer, get used to it!”, but they couldn’t. This poem is a form of reaching out to the reader, and having them experience her reaching out and telling them what she is but only they know. Lorde is saying that because of her skin color, she can’t openly say that she wants to say. In 1968, being black and Queer made you an instant target for hate crimes, killings, and etc. This hasn’t changed much in 2017, but the LGBTQIA community is more accepted now more than anything.

Judy Grahn

Born July 28th, 1940 

American poet and author

Judy Grahn wrote poems, but not just any poems, she wrote poems that were hardcore and straight to the point. One of her poems, which says ‘I’m not a girl, I’m a hatchet, I’m not a hole, I’m a whole mountain’, and then ends with ‘I’m a straight razor, look at me as if you had never seen a woman before, I have red, red hands and much bitterness’. To write something so vulgar and honest, was not only brave but life changing. She says she has red hands, which could symbolize that she has red hands from struggling so long with who she is and what she is, and also from dealing with the battle of trying to live her life how she wants to live it. She says ‘she’s not a good lay, I’m a straight razor’, which symbolizes that she is not easy, and that she is not to be played with. Society as we know it is not used to hearing a woman speaking like this, which makes Judy Grahn’s poem a masterpiece. Her poem is letting the world know that she is not to be played with in any shape or form, and that she will not feel inferior to what society has to throw at her.

 Kitty Tsui

Born in Hong Kong in 1952 

Poet 

Kitty Tsui wrote a poem entitled ‘The Chinese Banquet’ back in 1983, which told the story of how it feels tocome out to your Chinese parent, who expects for you to be a doctor and drive a nice car. Kitty Tsui writes; “you’re twenty six and not getting younger. What are you doing with your life? You’ve got to make a living. Why don’t you study computer programming? She no longer asks when I’m getting married. One day, wanting desperately to bridge the boundaries that separate us, wanting desperately to touch her, tell her: mother im gay, mother im gay and so happy with her. But she will not listen, she shakes her head. She sits across from me, emotions invading her face. Her eyes wet but she will not let her tears fall.” In many foreign families, being apart of the LGBTQIA community is not only frowned upon, but can have you shunned from the family and possibly killed. For Kitty to come out to her mother during a formal gathering, filled with Chinese family stereotypes of what it means to be successful in America, was a huge step. While reading this poem, it makes the reader see that even within minority families they can still come out to their parents, and also be brave about it.

There were many writers within the LGBTQIA community that spoke up about what they believed in, and didn’t care about who read it or how they perceived it. These writers paved the way for many writers today, and also showed the world that you can write raw and rough, while also getting your point across in the right way.

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