Lepa Mladjenovic 's Speech for the San Francisco Dyke March, June 28, 2008
Dear lesbians whose love for women is kissed by the sun, embraced by the moon, brave lovers of women who were never meant to be, as our lesbian poet told us 20 years ago, here we are--here I am among you--where do I come from? My homeland was a small country called Yugoslavia which fell apart through the war into seven smaller countries during the 1990s. And I come from one of them, Serbia, whose previous regime started and carried out that war.
In wartime--what did we lesbians see?
Of many things, we saw that the moment the universal soldier takes a gun to kill--he makes many enemies and lesbians are among them. War reduces one's identity to only a few symbols, to the nationality of one's name, to religious or tribal symbol. War reduces women's bodies to a battlefield and leaves zero space for lesbian desire.
What did we learn?
--that we lesbians need to be in the anti-war movement, that we must collaborate, ally ourselves and get together with feminists, peace activists, anti-fascists...and some of us did exactly that. Together with Italian, Spanish, Israeli feminists we created the network of Women in Black against War and many women around the world joined in.
--we learned that women's solidarity and lesbian solidarity can be a fact of every day life. Throughout the Yugoslav wars, lesbians and anti-war activists were crossing borders, arriving at odd places to support our voices of resistance. I would not have survived all those years of pain if there had not been many lesbians and activists who came to protest with us, who sent us books of poetry and lesbian cartoons, who came to bring us chocolate and coffee and listen to our stories.
The war in the region is over,
where do I come from?
From Europe and then a little further--South Eastern Europe..
where countries are less regulated by the rule of law and are less supportive of lesbian rights.
I come all the way from Eastern Europe to agree with you, to say:
yes, we need dyke marches,
we over there need you to be here, so that we over there can feel more powerful and less alone!
We need dyke marches to point out that lesbians are discriminated against as women first of all, and that every discrimination crosses through our women's bodies--our direness, our disability, our race, our nationality...and makes each discrimination feel especially humiliating as we still live in a man's world.
We need dyke marches to remember:
--in the city of Chennai in India, two women, who loved each other from the age of 18, living under hate and pressure from their families, on the 17th of May 2008 embraced each other, poured kerosene on their embraced bodies and set themselves on fire. A week later a group of brave feminists organized a press conference and announced that from January of this year, six other lesbians have set themselves on fire in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and that in the last 10 years in the neighboring state of Kerala, 35 lesbian couples have committed suicide.
We need dyke marches to support each other:
--in the town of Bishkek in Kirigizstan, on the 8th of April 2008, five policemen interrupted the meeting of the lesbian group Labrys and interrogated them for four hours. We who have lived through totalitarianism know the only purpose of the police in this case is to produce fear in disobedient citizens. Aren't we those ones? Disobedient Kyrgistani lesbians, disobedient African lesbians, disobedient Latina lesbians...
We need dyke marches:
so this dyke-togetherness, this fantastic feeling of energy from today's march can inspire us to invent unconditional friendship for ourselves, so that we create our own best friend inside ourselves who will tenderly accept every emotion that arises and with an open heart and open mind gently take care of ourselves. So that we can breath out homophobia and cherish the wild Amazon in our soul:
We need the San Francisco Dyke March;
--and I will remind you of hundreds of lesbians from small towns on all continents of the world who will be sitting in dark internet cafes, on the last computer by the wall, in a corner, scared and excited, watching all of us here on youtube--celebrating their lesbian desire as we celebrate our courageous love today.