Personality Complex: Eli Clare Dives Deep Into the Muddy Waters of Identity Politics

By pattrice | 18th Jul 2008 | Filed under Book Review, Interview

by pattrice jones

This interview and book review was originally published in the December, 1999 edition of LesbiaNation.

In her recently released book Exile & Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation (South End Press), lesbian feminist and disability rights activist Eli Clare explores the political and emotional terrain of disability, class and sexual orientation by means of personal narratives. In sometimes surprising ways, Clare brings together issues that on the surface seem separate but which she sees as parts of a devastating unified field: environmental destruction and the sexual exploitation of children, homophobic violence and the economic exploitation of workers, cultural bigotry and the exploitation of natural resources.

Some of us, Clare maintains, are more scarred by these things than others, but none of us are unscathed. As she points out, our bodies can be and are “stolen, fed lies and poison, torn away from us…. Stereotypes and lies lodge in our bodies as surely as bullets.” But Clare is not content to simply catalog the damage; she insists that “the stolen body can be reclaimed.”

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Interview with Jill Johnston

By pattrice | 18th Jul 2008 | Filed under Interview

by pattrice jones

This is the transcript of a 1999 interview with lesbian feminist author and activist Jill Johnston. An edited version of the interview ran in the webzine LesbiaNation accompanying this profile of Jill Johnston.

pj: I’ve heard more than one lesbian of a certain age say, “there wouldn’t be a lesbian nation if it weren’t for Lesbian Nation.”

JJ: I saw myself as spearheading something back then, but there was also a group of us. I mean, there was a consensus. It’s just that I happened to have a voice, I had already established a space in a newspaper which was a radical newspaper so therefore I just happened to have that vehicle. A lot what I wrote depended on the people I knew who kept informing me of things I might not have known about. So it wasn’t me alone. And, of course, it was entirely dependent on the consensus that was developing. Any regrets that I might have are purely professional in that I did go way out on a limb and then created problems for myself.

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Jill Johnston: (Con) Founding Mother of the Lesbian Nation

By pattrice | 18th Jul 2008 | Filed under Feature

by pattrice jones

This profile originally appeared in 1999 as a featured article in the short-lived webzine LesbiaNation.

To say that Jill Johnston is a writer who was one of the earliest and most influential lesbian feminists is a little like saying RuPaul is a singer who had a hit record and big hair…true enough, as far as it goes, but by no means the whole story. Johnston’s 1973 Lesbian Nation inspired a generation of lesbian activists (not to mention the name of a certain website), but the book is both more and less than the political treatise one might expect. Similarly, Johnston herself is a paradoxical figure who contradicts all stereotypes about lesbian feminism.

Johnston was a popular columnist for New York’s Village Voice when she gained notoriety by becoming the first mass media journalist to come out as a lesbian in print. She immediately became a center of controversy not only in the “straight” world but also among feminists and early gay and lesbian activists, such as the members of Manhattan’s Gay Liberation Front.

Many factors fueled the fires. As Johnston notes in Lesbian Nation, her “east west flower child beat hip psychedelic paradise now love peace do your own thing approach to the revolution” was not yet backed by a sound political understanding. At the same time, she stepped right into ongoing struggles between homosexual and heterosexual feminists over the role of lesbians in the feminist movement.

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