Growing up I didn’t have a SMITTEN

black lesbianGrowing up in Europe I didn’t have anything like SMITTEN. My ‘sources’ were hard to find and often took me to oblique and obscure bookstores that had tiny ‘feminism/Lesbian’ (as they were once twinned) sections. Within those sections I found little I could personally relate to. I read Radcliffe Hall’s The Well Of Loneliness, now considered the ‘Bible’ of lesbianism and whether right or wrong, it did set a stage for me, and I loved the style and emotions therein, but over all her book is also very sad, it talks of lesbians as ‘inverts’ who are women trapped inside men’s bodies wishing to live the life men live and love women like men do. That was not my feeling. I was a woman happy to be a woman who wanted to love another woman who was most definitely a woman. (It should be noted many lesbians prefer to identify on the masculine end of the scale and yet identify as masculine women and this is a legit form of love too).

Even now, many years hence, there are divides within the LGBTQ and even lesbian/bi worlds. For some, you are just not considered a lesbian unless you subscribe to some of the dress-code/tough-act code and you are objectified for wanting to take on some of the accoutrement considered ‘heterosexual’ by queers. Likewise, you may be typecast as ‘femme’ (or butch) even in today’s society, as much as anything because since legislation has legalized gay marriage and made it easier in some countries for LGBTQ it has been assumed LGBTQ doesn’t need the same resources and so, there are less lesbian clubs/places to meet than ever before, and more is conducted online which as we all know, can be very hit and miss.

I personally knew of four lesbians who were date-raped when they met their ‘lesbian’ date in real life, after meeting online. In all cases, it was a set-up and there were men involved who took advantage of those women and punished them for being lesbians and not attracted to men. You may think that sounds extreme but having worked at two rape crisis centers I can assure you, it’s as common place now as it was in the seventies. The idea that LGBTQ and lesbians don’t need a ‘safe place’ to meet other like minded people, is too optimistic, it assumes it is now ‘safe’ to be a lesbian, but as any lesbian will tell you, we still fear holding a woman’s hand walking down certain streets. That hasn’t and won’t go away.

Let us not forget, in the vast majority of the world it is still illegal, frowned upon, punished or made impossible to be a lesbian and LGBTQ only pertains to a small percentage of this world in terms of population. If you are an African lesbian, good luck, you risk your life admitting that. So our Western ideas do not apply to the majority of lesbians out there.

Little really good literature is lesbian or LGBTQ, indicative of the stereotyping of LGBTQ literature when it is published and the small minority size of each group. You really have to hunt to find excellent, really well written lesbian literature or poetry. It was my dream to put together a group of authors who embodied love between women and showed the variety and depth of that love. SMITTEN accomplished this with over 120 poets and artists contributing some striking, stirring poems, drawings and thoughts of love and attachment.

SMITTEN was created for those people though I am certain we do not reach nearly enough. But it was my dream that even if we reached a few, even if we reached a girl like myself who went in search of ‘real’ lesbian love in a book store, they could find it. Maybe we haven’t done enough but with every act we hope to raise the consciousness of all people not just LGBTQ. People who may assume because gays have the right to vote and marry  and are represented on TV in some countries that they are absolutely free of persecution. This is not the case and while there are many other such minorities who are objectified, ridiculed, stereotyped and minimized, it was my mission to highlight lesbians and women who love women because I am one.

SMITTEN may not have existed when I was really young and had no gay friends, no cohorts who were LGBTQ and no school friends who were even sympathetic or understanding of LGBTQ. I myself didn’t really know enough. I sought refuge in gay bars when old enough but often times found those as judging and uncomfortable as being the only straight. The stereotypes, expectations, reductions and cliches of being a lesbian were as backward among lesbians as among heterosexuals! We had no role-models, nobody to refer to and only a palpable sense of shame emanating from society en mass. Nobody in their right mind wanted their daughter to grow up to be a lesbian, wasn’t that just something that happened like a birth defect or because a mother didn’t do her job right? That was the thinking back then and back then wasn’t ‘that’ long ago!

Consequently I spent more of my youth trying to get by without examining my lesbian identity and enjoying what it could be like to love another woman. I look at photos of very young lesbians now and I envy them their freedom but I am not so naive to assume they are entirely free, as a minute after the photo is taken, they could be beaten up by a mob who didn’t like what they saw. It still happens.

SMITTEN defies the hate, bigotry and misunderstanding of lesbianism. SMITTEN isn’t about women fucking other women for porn. SMITTEN isn’t about stereotypical lesbians created by heterosexual men. SMITTEN isn’t angry and hateful as some feminist backlash can be. SMITTEN is about this: Love IS LOVE.

Please support SMITTEN by gifting it to an LGBTQ person you care about, or buying it for yourself irrespective of your gender and sexual orientation, because love IS love and it transcends everything. If you like poetry, or you support LGBTQ inclusion and visibility then your support of SMITTEN can person by person, change everything. And if you cannot do that, perhaps think of requesting SMITTEN from your local library or purchasing the less expensive Kindle version (although it should be said the print version of SMITTEN is sumptuous!). YOUR support helps little girls growing up today, grow up to have a VERY different outlook in life, one without as much fear and isolation.

SMITTEN is available in print at

SMITTEN is available in KINDLE at

SMITTEN’s authors interviews, poetry readings and photo archive can be found here

With thanks to Indie Blu(e) for taking a chance and publishing this incredible project.

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Wil Staley

I am a writer, painter, and more. I received my BA in Psychology, MA in Education, and 50 graduate credits in Counseling before coming out; as being queer was grounds for dismissal. I am now seeking my MSW, so I can help those marginalized by society and be a voice for the LGBTQ community. When I met my wife, I knew I had found myself and I’m learning to love the human I have become. Wil Staley

Do you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?

Absolutely! Most books for same-sex attraction focus on sex and erotica. Very little exists for same-sex love and companionship. Not only that, but I haven’t seen many books that have lesbian or bi characters who are just people; it almost always focuses on their sexuality. I think it’s important to remember we’re all just human and we are not our sexuality though that is an amazing part of us. Being a lesbian or bi is a normal part of life and I hope this anthology is able to portray that truth.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women?

This is such an honor to me. I’m being published alongside those like me who want to speak their truth for others. Not only that, but I can’t believe I’m in a book with so many amazing artists! I appreciate knowing so many other writers hope to make a change in the way our community is viewed.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

-Being a voice for anyone is incredibly important to me but being a voice for the lesbian/bi community is even more precious to me. I know what it’s like to be hated for something you can’t control and to lose many people close to you because you want to love another human who happens to be the same sex. I come from a religious community who turned their backs on me when I came out. I still had a few people who stuck around and taught me what unconditional love was really like and I am so thankful for them. I hope I can help give others a voice and let them know they’re not alone.

Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?

-Writing is really the only thing that has ever helped me feel my voice is heard and has made a difference. Being in this anthology will help my voice expand. I think anthologies like these are amazing because it caters to all types of people and offers many different styles of writing for our readers so they undoubtedly will find something that speaks to them and helps them feel heard.

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

-I had three accepted pieces and the poem “Nakedness” really speaks volumes. I wrote this to show others how beautiful love can be; how healing it is to be able to give your all to someone leaving nothing uncovered; even the painful or ugly pieces of life. My wife and her love took away the shame I felt in being out and open and the pain I felt growing up in trauma. I am forever grateful for her gentleness.

SMITTEN is now LIVE and can be purchased in Kindle and Print format!

Please support this worthy and important project by purchasing a copy or more. Your support goes a long way to helping the visibility of LGBTQ authors, poets and artists. For up to date information please go to www.indieblu.net

SMITTEN Poets READ: The Girl Who Always Cries – Crystal Kinistino

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

SMITTEN Poets Interview: Talia Rizzo

Talia Rizzo is a lesbian poet studying creative writing at the University of Denver. Her work focuses on her experiences as a queer woman, the complexities of family separation, and the power of images. Talia’s work can also be found in Levee Magazine, Foothills, and Prometheus Dreaming. When she’s not writing, Talia can be spotted among the Colorado mountains, taking in the sun with the wildflowers or skiing until her legs are sore.

1.How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you? 

I don’t want to say my poetry would be nothing without my experiences as a lesbian, but I’m going to say it. In some way, when I read old poems from five or six years ago and when I read the collection I am working on now while living in Spain for a few short months, I see different reflections of one another. Sexuality is everywhere and for that reason, each of my poems has some type of image that can be traced back to a specific experience, thought, memory, fear of being a lesbian in the United States. When I began writing poetry, it became a catalyst for me to understanding my identity and my past relationships with women and how they have felt in relation to the men I have been with. It gave me a chance to create, to sit and think for hours over cups of coffee about the intensity, the vivid colors I felt when I was with women, even if it was just their leg grazing mine under the table. Over time, my poetry has shifted and taken on different forms, some I don’t even understand yet, but one thing has remained the same—my life as a lesbian is at the core of all my work; it is the way my world is shaped, the lens on which everything is always seen.

2. Whom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Alicia Mountain and Pamela Sneed. They are my two biggest icons in every way and I aspire to be half the writers they are. They have each, in their own very different rights, mastered the art of image, of storytelling. If the man drinking a beer at the table beside me reached into my backpack, all he would find is their two very different and sensational stories—Sweet Dreamsby Sneed and High Ground Coward by Mountain. Mountain’s collection of poetry has come to me in every moment of need, over and over again, and still each time I am able to get something new from it, something I didn’t see before. Sneed taught me things beyond myself and gave me the chance to reflect on and be thankful for all the privilege I have been given in my life. Their images are relentless in the best way, so specific and subjective to each individual woman, yet so universal to the community.

7. What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women? 

It is absolutely thrilling. I am so excited to see all of their work. In countless ways, all lesbians, all bisexual women, all queer people are connected through a similar experience of identity, while simultaneously having so many individual differences. Love is both an individual and collective experience, especially when it comes to being a lesbian. I remember being eighteen in a restaurant with an old girlfriend and having to move tables because of a couple older, heterosexual couples next to us talking very loudly about how disgusting they found us. All we were doing was holding hands. I remember the way it felt when the waiters carried our plates full of food across the restaurant to a new table and every head turned to watch us get up and move. I remember my girlfriend’s eyes filling with tears and the excessive apologies of the employees. In some ways that night, a love I had never experienced before presented itself, as well as an experience I know is universal. As a community, we have been spit on, degraded, beaten, and killed for our sexual preference. While simultaneously, finding other people, other women, who love us, who accept us, who become a part of us. Being featured in SMITTEN alongside so many women from all over the world is an absolute honor for me, as all these words and stories bring us together—even when we are miles and miles apart.

SMITTEN is due out any day now. Please consider supporting this project by purchasing a book when it comes on sale. Even one purchase helps support the endeavors and hard work of these 120 authors and highlights the value of LGBTQ subjects. SMITTEN will be available via all good book stores please check the Facebook SMITTEN page for up to date information. 

SMITTEN Poets READ: Walking By Hot Topic While Announcing Queerness, or So I Hoped by Kelsey Hontz

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

SMITTEN Poets READ: Ephemeris | Morning Senses by Cristina DeSouza

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

SMITTEN Poets READ: Friday Karaoke by Kindra M. Austin

 

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/