Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Politics of the Heart: Why Is It Shocking When a Lesbian Leader Falls in Love with a Man?

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Politics of the Heart: Why Is It Shocking When a Lesbian Leader Falls in Love with a Man?

Article excerpt

SHOCK WAVES PASS THROUGH SOME ENCLAVES OF THE LESBIAN community every time it happens, and it has happened not infrequently. Jill Johnston, whose book Lesbian Nation provided both a name and a stirring concept for the community in the 1970s; Holly Near, whose lesbian-feminist songs made ubiquitous background music for the early movement; Jan Clausen, who wrote stunning poems for women-identified women and cofounded Conditions, arguably the most intelligent dyke journal of her era; Susie Bright and JoAnn Loulan, who taught both lesbians and queer grrrls how to make love and feel gay about it--all have commanded devoted audiences in the community and even represented lesbians to the world outside, and all have fallen for men.

And why not? Who in all honesty and fairness can't acknowledge that the heart refuses to be obedient to politics, that theory is one thing and life is another? Observation tells us that the neat categories of sexual identity are often an illusion. People in real life can move in and out of those categories, spending one portion of their lives as straight and another as gay and then perhaps straight again, or vice versa, or all of it at once, or none of it at all. So why should it be shocking or upsetting to many in the lesbian community when a sometime leader admits to having fallen in love with a man?

Clausen, confessing her relapse into heterosexuality several years ago in the now-defunct Out/Look magazine, wrote of one lesbian friend who had tried to be sympathetic but couldn't suppress the cri de coeur "You get the feeling that pretty soon you'll be the only one left." Clausen's response was to hope for a social transformation that would remove the dread or loneliness her friend experienced about having chosen lesbianism; but, Clausen wrote, she herself must "continue to insist on being all the parts of who I am."

Who could not feel some admiration for such a courageous personal stance that honors the heart instead of an external demand that one fit consistently into some category? Yet how can "social transformation"--that consummation devoutly to be wished that would permit women to live free of "dread" when they choose lesbianism--be effected?

Since the '60s it has seemed that the best way to effect such a transformation is through political movement. …

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