“I stand on the sandy road that runs between the two encampments, at the boundary of womanhood. I don’t want woman to be a fortress that has to be defended. I want it to be a life we constantly braid together from the threads of our existence, a rope we make, a flexible weapon, stronger than steel, that we use to pull down the walls that imprison us at the borders.” — Minnie Bruce Pratt (‘Border’, s/he)
This past September, the two of us were sitting on a park bench, and through the bushes, we could see the ocean. We talked about femme/butch politics, herstories, and lineages and how they connect to trans liberation. About how the current conversation on lesbian culture, trans life, and disputes over paths to liberation has roots in the Barnard Conference on Women in 1982 and the feminist sex wars. Today, people tend to either frame lesbian culture and butch/femme as “the past” and inherently cissexist or that trans people — trans women specifically, in addition to transmen and people on the transmasculine spectrum — are the reason why lesbian culture is threatened and disappearing. As new language develops out of trans, nonbinary, & gender-non-conforming communities as well as from divided (trans-woman affirming and trans-exclusionary) camps of lesbian feminists today, our bodies, identities, and sites of belonging are moved around amidst the push-and-pull of meaning-making and cultural struggles. That conversation spurred dreams of a potential writing project, and that has led to A Life We Braid.
We met doing political work a number of years ago, both of us members of a loose organization working to practice an intersectional organizing strategy against an anti-LGBTQ constitutional amendment in North Carolina. Our lives have changed a lot since we met: we are living on different coasts of the US, one of us is partnered and is a parent to two amazing young children and the other remains single and parents no children (but is an auntie to many). We come from different generations, different class backgrounds, different relationships to butch and femme. We’re both white and have different trans experiences. Over the years we have connected over writing, communications work, and finding ways to participate in the struggle to dismantle white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and homophobia.
Both of us are bookish and deeply smitten with our femme/butch and lesbian ancestry; we are each deep in individual projects that return to texts of the 20th century, particularly the 1970’s-90’s to reflect on and position ourselves and our communities in the current moment. In these re-readings, we notice how the struggles to support butch/femme, trans liberation, sex workers, and kink are intertwined in the past as well as the future. We know that we, together on a bench, have learned from each other’s excavations and are curious about what other people in our communities are also revealing as they move through the world with femme/butch identities.
A Life We Braid invites people who share the political vision and struggle with to join us in this conversation — these are people whose identity positions were left out of the canon of butch/femme, lesbian, feminist, and queer writing in the decades before (and after) our birth. We are interested in how race, class, partner-status, and the experience of being transgender influences contributors’ experiences of being situated within butch/femme lineage and identity. We’re interested in discrepancies between what you learned about femme/butch culture and what the archives (stories from elders, books, movies, slips of paper, photographs) tell you.
We are so excited to launch this project this LGBTQ History Month and can’t wait to share more pieces with you as we get them. If you are interested in submitting to the project, email us a “pitch” — a summary of the what-why-who — at firstname.lastname@example.org.