Thursday, August 27, 2009

Archival Posting 1--The Letter

I will use this sight to form my own archives, to preserve moments of my past--as I think I have been doing all along. In the old days, I would have given these documents to the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and eventually, all will end there, but for now, I will gather them here as I find them--in what remains of my New York life here in Melbourne.

What prompted me to do this in this clearly stated way is the discovery of a letter from the first woman I loved, Carol Betty Lipman who died in 1965, tucked away in a slim, black hardcover book, Six Nonlectures, by e.e.cummins. Carol and I had met in Queens College in 1960. We were both English majors, she struggling, I devouring all I could. An unlikely couple, we shared a mutual love for literature and I, being slightly older and more widely read, became her prompter as we both prepared for the culminating comprehensive examination that all English majors had to pass to get their degree. I was already living alone on the lower East Side, Carol still lived at home with her family in Jamaica Estates, Queens. I was the hippy commie, she was engaged to a medical student and had a diamond engagement ring to prove it. Both our lives changed when we became lovers, deliriously so in some ways, very difficult in others. The letter is after we had separated, when Carol had fallen in love with another woman.

From the inside front cover:
"...and will somebody tell
me why people let go...

"(we're everything greater
then books might mean)...


"true lovers in each happening of their hearts
live longer than all which and every who..."

Dear Joan,
Now it's true I didn't write any of this and I ought to be original but you introduced me to it and I want you to know I appreciate it, and we read it all together so why not repeat it? So--

expand y o u i
into we
and in
vest i
gate the
verse as us.

Love, Carol

The Letter-- all this written in Carol's small neat handwriting, blue ball point ink on a page torn from lined small pad--

Dear Joan,
Every day I think to myself--how is Joan--what is she thinking? I wonder if I can ever really be happy, Joan. There are always so many problems. I would have called you tonight but every night I say to myself--she will ask you why do you call and whatever I answer means nothing to her anyway. If I say, I was worried about you, you would say you don't have to worry about me, Carol. And if I said I was thinking of you, you would remain silent. And whatever else I might say would certainly upset you--so you see, I do not call you. I try not to be selfish although I would like to hear your voice. I miss you.

I wish our lives could meet sometimes but when they do, it is then that we are most apart. I think we are together in our separateness. It is quite sad to think that but I know it is true. I feel so much a part of you at times, Joan.

Please stay well Joan. In spite of what you may think, I still love you in my own way and I think you know that.

Why am I doing this, writing these words tonight onto this screen, a screen Carol never lived to see, to whom am I sending these words from a young lesbian woman to another, this tender page of loss and connection just newly brought to light so many years later? I know all that Carol said is true, I know that I have never forgotten her in any day of my subsequent life, I know I have often asked myself, have I used the years I had and Carol didn't in a way that brought meaning to life, I know that her death so young, so fearful, so shining in her countenance, was the first huge obscenity life made me witness. You too must have letters like this, from a time so long ago, but living anthems to lives and touch, to joy, and regret for broken things. Remember, Carol, how we curled around each other in the late afternoon violet waves of Riis Park, free to kiss and taste the salt on our bodies, on this patch of Brooklyn gay beach, our legs intertwined below the water, so young and free, delighting in what our courage had brought us--sunlight and glowing touch--and we were young, so young, riding home in your red convertible to my East 6th street crumbling apartment where your red car was the banner of another world. I stood at the window, watching you drive away, back to your family in the rich part of Queens, my body still trembling at your kiss. Always, Carol, Always--as long as I have words, you will live. With the top down, your arm around me, and the future always a promise.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bits and Pieces 1

I will use "Bits and Pieces" for short moments of information, reflections, tendernesses.

We believed that the election last year was the most important, and now I think the next election will be the most important for the kind of future America will have. Will the courage of the dream last? Will the haters, the ranters, the birthers, the fearful twist America into their image?

I just wanted you to know that I have started to post some of my more recent writings and talks on this part of the website. If you go to the posting "Books, Birds and Rosa," you will find the article I wrote for the Australian Jewish Democratic Society's Newsletter in May. I will add the speech I gave as part of an event commemorating Stonewall here in Melbourne very soon.

I have added images of my brother to the posting of his loss. I had never seen these images before and they are the only ones I have. My niece, Robin, so kindly sent them to me.

I am putting more and more of my writing about Palestine/Israel on the website including images and words about our monthly demonstrations.

My darling, La Professora, works in the garden every Saturday, her one break from ceaseless work at the University, while Cello and I stay close, catching the fallen branches, wondering at how she knows just what a tree or the soil or the brick path needs.

I am using this place, undefined and yet in my hands, to archives these precious images that my niece, Robin, so kindly sent me after my brother's death. I will add images of him to the moment when I wrote of his death. These moments here had been lost to me, particularly the images of Regina, my mother, the woman in blue and green shift, the woman with a Chesterfield cigarette always in her hand, the woman who became a grandmother for Robin and Lisa, the first conventional domestic role I have ever seen her in. These images were taken in New Jersey home of my brother and his first wife, Carol, where Lisa was born. Lisa, who know is so ill and who still has hope in her eyes in the first picture with dear Robin, my final connection to family memory. The year is perhaps 1964--Robin will have to help me here--I am in my work clothes, the brown suit, my fem self so clear, a young woman I never had seen myself to be, always believing I was graceless. But it is the red, white lined swim suit that brings back the taste of a kiss, of a young fem's desire in the sun. That is the exact bathing suit I was wearing in the black and white photograph that is in the archives in Brooklyn, taken on the gay working class beach of Riis Park in circa 1960 where Carol Lipman and I kissed in the Brooklyn sun, held each other in the gentle surf along with all the other gay women and men occupying their known and harassed part of the Brooklyn shore, police and bashers in the waiting. That red two piece suit cheap and long lasting so simple a flag of pleasure, of desire, unafraid but knowing and my mother's legs and feet, her bunyioned toes reaching towards my so then unmarked body, my mother's body that I always remember clothed for work, for her battle in the man's world of the garment industry, her too tight shoes, her small body armored in girdle and full line bra, her body, all prepared to "earn a living" as she said so many times between puffs of smoke and bouts of Scotch. Here I see her reclining, her dress hitched up so air and light can touch her, her daughter at her feet, her daughter who so often and for so many years fled her body, her chaos, her loneliness. Now my niece, Robin, the survivor of so much, puts us back in the same frame. I think of Colette whom I am rereading and these images as working class Jewish fractured family sensuality, Colette's so loved Riviera mountains and sea replaced by a grubby New Jersey back yard, the sea by a child's cheap wading tube, but the bodies of mother and daughter, and the writing that would come from the opening up of want in dangerous places. Regina, her hair carefully done, her one extravagance, given back to me, so small, so real, so worn, now so dear as I almost 70 try to understand where bodies go.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Palestinian Gays under the Hijab" by Nisreen and Dayna

I am posting here Nisreen Mazzawi's outrage at the refusal to allow gay Palestinian leaders speak at the recent rally in Tel-Aviv.

August 16, 2009

"While we all are shocked by the shooting attack at the gay youth center in Tel-Aviv last week, that as result of it 2 young people lost their lives, Palestinian lesbians ans gays need to face both the homophobic street and the racist leaders of the Israeli gay community who refuse to give the stage for Palestinian speakers, neither for the former member of the Knesset, Issam Machool, nor for representatives of Aswat--Palestinian gay women's group based in Haifa. For the organizers and by their words, "they can't go as far as this."!!!

What do they mean, by going "going as far as this?"!!!

While in the world the legend of the democratic country of the middle east keeps announcing its jingles regarding the tolerant city Tel Aviv that provides a shelter for the Palestinian gays running from their society and families,the Palestinian gay community and supporters are excluded on purpose from public events specifically from the solidarity anti-homophobic demonstration held yesterday in Rabin Square.

Although the stage was full of politicians, a few of them known as homophobic ones, the majority of the gay community in Israel believed their struggle has nothing to with "politics;" this is what explains the instant need for 'social peace,' that a gay activist and victim of the attack talked about, to distinguish it from the other peace, supposedly the 'bad' one, the forbidden peace.

Living in a conflict zone where people die and kill every day and violence is everywhere makes people less sensitive to violence surrounding them, less sensitive to gender violence, killing of women, to xenophobia, to racisms and to other's lives. This is how a thousand people and more can be killed in less than one month in Gaza and all keep silent.

While the Israeli society, including the Israeli gay community, choose to ignore the increased level of internal hate and violence affected by the level of the occupation and its violence, this violence keeps increasing and infecting others. Instead of facing this problematic and complicated situation, the leaders of the gay community chose to exclude Palestinian gays and their supporters and to push them back into the closet. This is easier and goes hand in hand with the legend the government creates and promotes.

The highlight of the event was the presence of the Israeli President Shiman Perez showing public solidarity to the gay community. Despite his former homophobic record, by his sentence 'we are the do-not-kill,' he re enforces the public blindness to the mass killing of Palestinians that occur often and frequently by the government of this country...

For the Palestinian gays who live and struggle for their lives under the occupation, Tel -Aviv is not an alternative or a safe shelter. The few who succeed in making their way to Tel-Aviv end up living and working in the streets...

In fact, for the Israeli gay community and its leaders, the Palestinian gays including those who are citizens of Israel are excluded and not welcome. The leaders prefer to keep them in the closet, to push them back there and this way they can keep telling their legend the way they like. If it was up to them, they would put them under the Hijab...This way they can be the only ones who can tell how Palestinian gays and lesbians look and they will have a good excuse to attack and occupy their countries and societies as they believe they are the protectors of freedom.

While we believe homophobia is equal to racism and hate is equal to murder and murder is equal to murder, the majority of the Israeli gay community choose not to see the link and to ignore other kinds of violence abundant in the Israeli society.

The killings broke the image of the paradise for gays in the Middle East, and as a result it created a wave of worldwide international solidarity. Seeing all these people going out in solidarity make us wonder regarding the message of this unity. Is it mourning the loss of the non realistic image of the gay paradise in the Middle East or is it a call for raising voices against homophobia infecting all the societies around the world?'

copyrighted by Nisreen Mazzawi, feminist activist for peace and environmental-social justice, August 16, 2009

The Voice of ASWAT, the Voice of Palestinian Gay Women

August 2, 2009

A Horrendous Crime of Hatred Against Gay and Lesbians in Israel

Aswat- Palestinian Gay Women laments the tragic death of the two youngsters at the Tel-Aviv gay center Saturday evening.

Aswat harshly condemns the horrendous attack on the center of LGBT community in Tel-Aviv, resulting in the killing of gay and lesbian activists and severly wounding several others. We call upon our partners and supporters to fight all forms of crimes of hatred, specially, ones directed the LGBT community.

We are utterly appalled by this crime of hatred that marks an extreme escalation of homophobia in our community, particularly, that it occurred in Tel-Aviv, supposedly a symbol of pluralism and diversity.

The horrific crime followed a wave of massive incitement of hatred against the LGBT community in Israel, and it is unfortunate that the Israeli government condemns these crimes but frequently tolerates verbal attacks directed from seniour government officials against the gay community in the country.

Aswat stands in solidarity with all LGBT organizations and activists in the country, Palestinians and Israelis alike, against the atrocious killings of innocents. We will march together, hand in hand, in Haifa, in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem against hatred and discrimination and raise our voices, the voices of justice and freedom.

In solidarity with all victims of the Crimes of Hate

Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women

website: www.

Aswat Believes in the Power of the Movement
My communications, print outs pile up beside the computer and so does my anger, sadness, determination. What does all else matter if in our own times, knowingly, we allow the suffering of a people in our name. Hatred, streets, doorways guarded by guns, walls shutting away a people's pain so normality can flourish on the other, freedom of movement, of expansion, of dreaming, of consuming, but this is not a normal society--evicted Palestinians sleeping in the street across from their ages old home, now newly occupied by a settler family whose teen age children come to the gates of their new home to sneer at the now homeless family--they should go away, all of this is ours. These children will be the future of this "normal" country."
I grew up in the Bronx in the 1940s where many of our neighbors had the blue numbers of their deadly dispossession on their lower arms--reaching for pickles or bread revealed the grocer's miraculous history of survival--and the word that reaches out from that time now is "rokmunis," the feeling of another's pain, much of the Bronx ran on rokmunis. Occupation is built on the absence of this word. Articles after articles, those articles I read through every night, depict its loss in this "normal" land. Palestinian workers rising before dawn to wait hours in steel chutes before they will be allowed into Israel, workers told they are not allowed to bring food or beverages in with them, no home cooked meals to make their day of labor easier; the face of a young Palestinian-Israeli child whose family has been told she can no longer attend a day care center because her kind are not wanted--what is normalized in Israel is hatred, fear and exclusion of difference. And yet so many other Palestinians/Israelis struggle to make the unseen seen, to monitor the acts of cruelty, to intercede, to keep alive another kind of national vision, another kind of human heart.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Homophobia is Racism--Racism is Homophobia"

Vigil in Tel Aviv
I want to include here a talk, given by Tamara, a queer activist from Tel Aviv, at a demonstration held in Berlin on August 7th and distributed by Rela Mazali and Jewish Peace News.
"Last Saturday a nightmare came true: we were hunted down.
A faceless man went into a room full of youngsters and opened fire.
Now 2 of them are dead, many wounded. Some teenagers outed on a hospital bed.
When the news of the murder came, it was all too easy for me to picture the scene--I used to spend most of my waking hours in this secluded basement flat in central Tel Aviv, the offices of the Israeli GLBT association, Haaguda, working on Pride and AIDS awareness events.
We felt very safe there. Confident. We had the City of Tel Aviv on our side, hanging rainbow flags on demand. We had the police doing our bidding instead of detaining and forbidding.
Ok, we had to swallow a few LGBT-phobic jokes from officers, bureaucrats and commercial sponsors. But we thought it was a small price to pay for tens of thousands marching in the streets of Tel Aviv, safe and proud, giving courage to countless kids across the country.
The price we paid now isn't small. It is immeasurable. The life of 2. the health of 15, a collective trauma.
I do not feel safe now in Tel Aviv. Our strong hold. Our ghetto. I feel grief stricken and furious and betrayed.
I want to know who was this man in a ski mask dealing death, in whose name? Was it a homophobic zealot? a Fascist? A crazed family member or even a lover? How can I spot this kind and seek shelter when I recognize danger?
Maybe I should simply watch out for men with machine guns.
But this is far from simple in Israel, where most young men are drafted at 18, many issued a gun. Reserve soldiers--the entire able-bodied male population--often take their gun home, too. There are guns on the bus, guns in cafes, guns in restaurants, guns on the trains and the beach. Security guards and police have pistols. Settlers carry fire arms where ever they go.
In fact, there are probably only 3 segments of the population in Israel that are less likely to have access to guns: work migrants, Palestinians and ultra religious Jews.
Yesterday, the Israeli police accused the LGBTQ communities of prematurely calling the murders a hate crime. Of inciting hate against other minority populations.
I agree with the police--it is too easy to point the finger at the extreme religious parties. Or at immigrants. Better look for the real villains: better accuse the policemen who on Sunday called the supporters of the evacuated families in East Jerusalem, "filthy faggots," when many of them had arrived directly from from a memorial demo protesting the murders in Tel Aviv/ Better investigate law enforcers calling conscientious objectors "stupid dykes" while smashing their heads on the pavement. Better beware of the police arresting and bashing queer activists in central Tel Aviv on the very same day as the murders, after they tried to protect refugees and their children from being deported.
Better point the finger at the soldiers who kill peace loving men and youth in non violent demos in Palestine and round up others in the dead of night.
I accuse them of creating a society of hatred and brute force where no minority is safe.
But it is also too easy to blame the police. The police are only a symptom, a tool of the government and the state. The same government who did nothing when calls for our blood were heard from its benches. The same state whose president, Shimeon Peres, objected in 2007 to the Pride Parade in Jerusalem--where 3 people had been stabbed only 2 years earlier.
Many of us in the Jewish LGBTQ community in Israel believed we would be safe if we would "be like everyone else," be mothers, soldiers, consumers. Be poster girls and boys for "the only democracy in the Middle East." Be a tourist attraction.
We were told that we could be safe if we distance ourselves from an hint of otherness. Because "the other draws fire."
We are not safe. we are being murdered. And in order to protect our self we should be nothing like every one else. We should demand they put away the guns they use to shoot us. We should denounce violence and repression of other minorities. We should honor the murdered by remembering--Homophobia is Racism. Racism is Homophobia."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"I Cannot Go Back to the Old Reality"

To honor our young queer people, I will bring you words of the Tel Aviv community as they come to me--I will try not to tell you what connections to make. I thank Il-il for her permission to share this letter with you.

Dear Joan,

The last days have been so exhausting. I've not left the LGTB center in Tel Aviv for 3 days so far, only to go home, change and sleep for a while. There is so much to do, so many teenagers overflowing the center, crying, aching for friends, talking, sharing and just trying to hang out in a safe place. So many radical queer people trying to find their space, to speak, to ache without forgetting our unique identities. "Forget that you are women, trans, butch, femme, religious, secular, Palestinian, Feminist," some rich gay men told us who decided they should lead the way. "This is the time to forget your voice, let us speak," they told us. But we are not quiet, we are raging, more then ever. We have so many demonstrations, so many activities, meetings and actions.

I do not know how tomorrow will look. I cannot go back to the "old reality," the feeling that we are safe in Tel Aviv. I've read "Stone Butch Blues," I've read your "Bathroom Line," and I thought it's history, it's far away. But no. Now it is here. Now in 2009, in Tel Aviv, LGTB youth is being murdered. Kids I've worked with are hospitalized, or having to visit their friends in hospitals only because they were at an LGTB youth activity. Most of them had to come out of the closet on Saturday night, after they were shot and their parents found out they were not where they though they were, in all meanings.

Every kind word I read makes me feel so empowered and excited. I feel excited that newspapers, hegemonic newspapers in Israel and internationally will not stop writing about it. I feel excited to see the list of volunteers that I helped organize today, getting longer and longer....

Il-il K.

However this story unfolds, whomever the shooter is, and why the bullets flew, there is no going back--little by little, the Queer body is emerging as part of a national discourse on the possibility of difference within in Palestine/Israel and beyond.

United Voices

Horrendous Crime of Hatred Against Gays and Lesbians in Israel

Aswat- Palestinian Gay Women- laments the tragic death of the two youngsters at the Tel-Aviv gay center Saturday evening.

Aswat harshly condemns the horrendous attack on the center of LGBT community in Tel-Aviv, resulting in the killing of gay and lesbian activists and severely wounding several others. We call upon our partners and supporters to fight all forms of crimes of hatred, specially, ones directed against the LGBT community.

We are utterly appalled by this crime of hatred that marks an extreme escalation of homophobia in our community, particularly, that it occurred in Tel-Aviv, supposedly, a symbol of pluralism and diversity.

The horrific crime followed a wave of massive incitement of hatred against the LGBT community in Israel, and it is unfortunate that the Israeli government condemns these crimes but frequently tolerates verbal attacks directed from senior government officials against the gay community in the country.

Aswat stands in solidarity with all LGBT organizations and activist in the country; Palestinians and Israelis alike, against the atrocious killings of innocents. We will march together, hand in hand, in Haifa, Tel-Aviv, and Jerusalem against hatred and discrimination, and raise our voices, the voices of justice and freedom.

In Solidarity with all victims of the Crimes of Hate

Aswat- Palestinian Gay Women

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Tragedy of Israel, of All Our National Violences

A letter received, August 3, 2009, after the attack on a gay youth center in Tel Aviv:

I just wanted to share with you that my boyzfriend and I are taking this especially hard because we were physically attacked ourselves a month ago when we went to support the pride parade in Jerusalem. A group of young boys were actually sitting in the streets waiting for the queers to pass by after the parade. My boyfriend, me and 2 other friends (a dyke and a transsexual woman) were attacked for passing by in the "Holy streets" and looking nothing like the normal passers. It was not serious physically, but emotionally it was shocking and horrible.

We have been through a really hard time after that and had trouble going out without being afraid, but we got an amazing support from our community (at least from most of it) and we just stated feeling better, but now with the shooting I am back to being afraid to leave my house.

Usually, I am going to demonstrations and very active in the community, but until recently I was fighting for "others," less fortunate, and couldn't imagine something like this happening. It is the worst feeling--not fighting back for myself, but I just ran out of strength. If you consider in the past few months, we heard about more and more violent attacks that didn't register anywhere because it was only beatings which on one reported, it's not a total surprise. I am sorry for not having more comforting news. Love, Y.

So much I wanted to tell you of, it has been a long while, but first today, my words of solidarity with the Queer community of Tel Aviv, of Israel, with the queer community of the world--we know in our hearts daily violences contort our lives in every corner of this world, and that violence, the armed expression of hatred, flourishes as both a national policy and a private hell for those deemed not fully human. My friends in Palestine/Israel, my peace activist friends, have known for a long time that the violence of the occupation, its checkpoints and house demolitions, its forced evictions and impenetrable walls, its injustices piled on injustices, like crumbling homes, cannot be contained. Like soldiers returning home from war who turn their killing ways on their wives and friends, violence as national policy opens the home streets to blood letting of all sorts-if you hate, if you see an unrighteous enemy, blow them away.

To the Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer community of Tel Aviv and Israel: We are standing with you in solidarity in this time of great sadness and mourning. We joins thousands of Queer people and others around the world who refuse to let hatred destroy the beauty of human love. From Alex Nissen and Joan Nestle, Women in Black, Melbourne, Australia

I want to say that I carry always in my heart the young gay people I met in Israel in 2008. I saw your beauty of body and heart, and to think that such courage and hope should be so endangered deeply saddens me but I know our collective strength.

I think of the recent propaganda campaign by the Israeli government to paint Israel as the gay loving country of the Middle East, I think of the furor in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade when dissenting queer Jews refused to wave the distributed blue and white Israeli flags as they marched in the Jewish contingent and instead held signs questioning the morality of the occupation. The internal conflicts within Israel about what is a human life reveal what seeps through armed walls and the guns of soldiers, always powerful, focusing on the nationally hated other, the Palestinian. Dissent, queerness, the naked body--now more then ever.