Each year Lambda Literary honors writers in the LGBT community. The 2014 ceremony took place in June in New York City. Congratulations to all the talented writers who went home with an award. I was a finalist in the Lesbian General Fiction category for my story collection SURVIVAL SKILLS, and for this I am grateful and proud.
What a wonderful opportunity we writers have: to illuminate, to educate, to foster understanding. The stories in SURVIVAL SKILLS explore all sorts of partnerships because that is the world we live in. The relationships in these tales are neither explained nor defended; people simply fall in and out of love with whomever steals their hearts, as they always have and always will. I want only to connect, to reveal not our differences but our commonality.
I have not always operated so quietly. Like other gays and lesbians, I have been ridiculed, sidelined and outraged. I have marched, donated, signed petitions, written letters. In 1978, I attended what was then called the Gay Freedom Day Parade. Harvey Milk rode in that parade, the first openly gay councilman. “Stop Brigg-otry” buttons were handed out, along with flyers that read, “Tell Anita Bryant You’re Against Discrimination – Vote June 7.” My partner and I carried a large homemade sign: “Our Love Will Defeat Your Hate.” The first rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, made its debut that summer, and everywhere you looked you could see those rainbows waving in the blue sky. Talk about pride.
People are both strengthened and comforted by their own ilk, which is why being part of a team feels so right and is furthermore necessary if changes are to take place. The trouble is, identifying as a team member and being recognized as one can build the very fences we want to take down.
As a lesbian—and I flinch at the label, wishing I didn’t need to use it—I have been offered an interesting perspective. Most of the people I meet are uncomfortable with secrecy. I have found that if I share my own life as readily and matter-of-factly as they do theirs, they are relieved, even grateful. What we have in common, which is nearly everything, is what they hunger for. What we all hunger for.
For many in the LGBT community, bridging the divide is not so straightforward, and I don’t want to minimize their struggle. But tremendous social progress continues to be made, and I hope that my stories, in their quiet way, are playing a part in this evolution. I am a lesbian author and a Lambda finalist. In the bigger picture, in the best of all possible worlds, I am a writer.