Three poems

7 10 2010

GUEST WRITER – Bella

Perfection

Perfection
Lies in the
Warmth of your embrace.
In the fullness of your lips
As you kiss,
In your eyes
Deep dark and honest,
In your curves
Your smooth skin
Long legs
And the sweet taste of heaven
That lies between.

Forever after

You tell me
While looking deep into my eyes
That I’m beautiful.
That you wish we’d met before
That you couldn’t imagine life without me.
That’s I am what you’ve been waiting for.
You tell me I’m enchanting.
And that you’ve never met anyone like me.
And that you will always love me
Forever and ever….

I smile and hold your head close to my chest.
I’ve heard those words before.
And in the eyes and hearts and minds of the people
Who spoke those words,
I ceased to be
All that.
I wonder,
How long,
Before you don’t want
Our forever after…

Wife

“Married?!?
Myeeeee child…congratulations!”
So what are you now…
Mrs…Mrs. who?”…
“Weeraratne” I say.
“It’s a perfectly good name.
Didn’t see any point in changing it”.
“Hmmm..”
She’s not amused.
“So, you cook?”
It’s the question I get asked most often.
“No” I reply,
“My husband does”.
She looks horrified.
“You clean then?…
And do the washing?…”
It’s inevitably the follow up question…
“Not really..
We’ve got people for that.”
She’s livid.
You’d think I killed someone.
“That’s not marriage.”
She snorts.
I’ve heard this too many times now to lose my temper.
So I smile politely and make an excuse to leave.
It annoys me,
Talking to women,
Who weigh and value a woman’s worth
On how many meals she can cook
Or how many dishes she can clean.
I hope she doesn’t have daughters of her own…





Come out and play

4 10 2010

It’s the eve of the opening of the Commonwealth Games 2010 and I can’t help thinking that the slogan for the games is so GAY! And I mean ‘That’s so gay’ in a wonderful way. The slogan, ‘Come Out and Play’ means only one thing to me…that too many athletes are in the closet and its time to come out of there and join the play!

In fact, when the Solidarity Gaymes was held in Sri Lanka in 2008, the same slogan was used to promote the event.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=30385828330

I’m not sure which came first, the CWG slogan or the Solidarity Gaymes one, but which ever it was, the same words have totally different implications, depending on the reader.

But then I can’t even think straight.





The Association for the Freedom of Femme Women

26 09 2010

Article I

Name

The name of this association is the Association for the Freedom of Femme Women (AFFW) which is designated an unincorporated nonprofit association created under the laws of the Worldwide Commonwealth of Homosexual Women.

Article II

Intent and Purpose

It is the intent of the AFFW to achieve Total Freedom as defined by our membership, which definition may be subject to change according to additional requirements and needs raised by membership from time to time.

The primary purpose of the AFFW shall be to secure full and total freedom as defined by our membership, (specifics of which are set out below), chief of which is to free ourselves in every way from, and cease to be subject to, the general supervision and control of men, butch women, and other authoritarian individuals and organizations that may seek to prevent us from exploring and expressing our thoughts, our emotions, our will and most of all our sexuality, in any way we see fit.

The AFFW shall consist of Femme Women joined by mutual consent for the common, nonprofit purposes of educating and rendering assistance to fellow Femme Women and providing an accessible source of information pertaining to Femme Women and the public whenever possible.

While the AFFW does not discriminate against others on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious affiliation, ableness, national origin or other personal factors, membership shall be open only to those women identifying as ‘femme’, who are of the opinion that we are an unseen and oppressed minority whose needs are not being addressed and whose rights and freedoms are gravely compromised today.

Article III

The Definitions of Total Freedom

1. We shall be free to walk anywhere at any time without being subject to comments, jeers and other offensive remarks about our hair, clothing, breast size or any other personal characteristic from any man or woman.

2. We shall not be made to feel guilty in public or in private for our choices of sexual partners, by any man or woman.

3. We shall not be expected or obliged to be consistent about our choices of male and/or female sexual partners. It shall be understood that an FW shall enjoy perfect freedom to choose and discard partners as she thinks fit and shall not be mentally or physically penalized or punished for such actions by anyone.

4. We shall not be expected or obliged to regularly cook for our partners and/or families unless we voluntarily choose to perform such activity.

5. We shall not be expected or obliged to indulge in any domestic activity including all general housework, child care, pet care, car care, garden maintenance, marketing or any other household activity, unless we voluntarily choose to perform such tasks.

6. We shall not be expected to desire children or to bear children unless we voluntarily choose to do so.

7. We shall not be expected or obliged to manage household accounts, bill payments, bank matters or the organizing of fund-raising or other events or any other secretarial activity unless we voluntarily choose to perform such tasks.

8. We shall not be expected or obliged to host social gatherings, dinner/lunch parties or any other activities unless we voluntarily choose to perform such tasks.

9. We shall have the right to refuse to perform any such voluntarily undertaken tasks at any time we wish.

10. We shall have the right to dress as we choose at all times. This clause shall include all related matters pertaining to length of hair, length of hemline, showing of skin and all fashion choices regarding dress, shoes and accessories.

11. We shall reserve the right to colour and maintain our hair as short or as long as we wish, at any time.

12. We shall have the right to go to work or not, as we wish. We shall have absolute freedom in our choice of profession. We shall not be expected or obliged to share finances unless we choose to do so.

13. We shall have the right to absolute privacy including our mail, email, mobile phone and all other personal communications.

14. We shall enjoy the right to maintain as many friendships as we wish. This shall include anyone we choose, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious affiliation, ableness or national origin.

15. We shall not be interrogated or subjected to bullying or mental or physical harassment of any sort whatsoever, by anyone, including our partner/s.

16. We shall not be expected or obliged for any reason to stay in any relationship that we have chosen to abandon.

17. We shall have the right to demand sex as often as we require it.

18. We shall not be expected or obliged to offer sex unless we wish to.

19. We shall not be judged for any choices we make. Instead we shall at all times expect the love and support of all those around us that we deem our friends and family, this organisation included.

20. These articles shall be subject to change as and when the membership sees fit.


IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the undersigned have executed these Articles of Association

on this__________ day of ______________, 20__.

______________________________

President (or alternate title)

ATTEST:

______________________________

Secretary-Treasurer (or alternate title)





You might as well be straight!

7 08 2010

Strange things flash about your mind while doing the most mundane things. Like when I was toasting bread this morning and remembered me’s cartoon on the butch-o-sphere. And it struck me in one clear line why I dislike butches (and other women but mostly butches) taking butchness too far.

IT IS NOT PLAY

Half the time I can’t say why I am attracted to the women I am attracted to. I don’t know why, but I can say what I like. A woman’s body in men’s clothing. Make up on a butch woman. But when it gets to the point where the lines are too clearly drawn it is not play anymore. ‘Eeek this is girly’ and ‘oh you are wearing flowery prints’ and ‘eewww look at your hairstyle, it’s too femme’ becomes the same as masculine vs feminine becomes the same as male vs female. When you stop playing, you might as well be straight!





Beyond gay

5 07 2010

Last Thursday evening we were all invited by the Deputy British High Commissioner to a reception hosted by him as part of Colombo Pride. Now for those of you who are wondering what Pride is, it’s a huge celebration of being gay/lesbian and everything in between – an event held in the months of June and July, all over the world.  The concept is new to Sri Lanka but many people at the event last week were quite aware of what Pride was all about.

In between the rush for the fried prawns and the downing of unlimited refills of red wine, we watched a film called  Beyond Gay; The Politics of Pride. This documentary takes a good look at the role of Pride events all over the world. The narrator – Ken Coolen from Vancouver takes us on a journey from Sao Paulo in Brazil, where 3 million people join the flamboyant parade, (most of them shirtless); to Warsaw in Poland, where the shirt wearing Catholics, nationalists and skinheads vastly outnumber the handful of courageous marchers. Things are far more exciting in Moscow where Russian activists risk their lives and eventually get arrested, but do it just to mount their 10-minute demonstration.

The highlight of the film for me and for many others was the coverage given to Colombo Pride. The biggest surprise was to see someone we were all acquainted with onscreen and a long section on Pride in Sri Lanka! I was so happy to see Mount Lavinia beach and a gang of familiar brown-skinned people flying kites by the sea…

The movie is somewhat grim in parts (the Sri Lanka bit was grim, grim, grim) but also jubilant in others. I left the room holding hands with my queer brother who had tears in his eyes! Oh these drama queens! But speaking of queens, it was great to see a large turnout of men in drag, some of them so beautiful they put the women present to shame.

It’s not surprising that many people don’t know about Pride or the events in Colombo, after all Pride events here are only advertised in the mainstream media, after they take place, in order to protect the identities of the participants. Also, Pride in Sri Lanka is obviously not conducted exactly as in the West. Here it is a closed affair, mostly patronized by city-based English speaking people who can afford to attend many of the events organized. But it is still a valid celebration of what and who we are. And the courage and passion of every participant is very real. We hope that this event will one day be more inclusive and reach a wider audience around the island as well.





All time favourite books…

26 06 2010

1.

A word child Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch is possibly my favorite writer and this may be my all time favourite book. It is the first book by her that I ever read, and I like it because it deals with obsession, guilt, human nature, time and love. It is the story of an (anti) hero – a man who works with and is fascinated by words, who is doomed to repeat the most significant mistake of his life. Murdoch writes brilliantly as always, and she always lets her readers draw their own conclusions.

Written on the body Jeanette Winterson

I like Jeanette Winterson’s preoccupations with love, loss, magic and quantum physics. But also because this is one of the few books that ever made me weep.

Tortilla Flat John Steinbeck

This review says it all.

“What it’s all about are friendships and the dynamics of interpersonal dealings between immortal characters. Immortal in that every generation has their Pilons and Dannys, and of having things that you can hold in your own hand versus things that cannot ultimately be bought or sold. The appeal is due in part to the similarities in our own lives and in the lives of others. In every Steinbeck novel is a little gift of insight. This has many.”

Also although the book is set in California, it always reminds me of Sri Lanka and people I have known.

2.

John Irving

Lets just say I love all his books – I love the bears, the sex workers, the boxers and the struggling authors that live in every one of them. He is a master story teller and wonderful entertainer. I loved The Hotel New Hampshire most of all: it made me think about the attraction of the forbidden.

Graphic novels

I love graphic novels. My three favorites are The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman and Kari by Amruta Patil. Although very different, they each deal with something close to my heart or something I am fascinated with. There is something wonderful about this art form that appeals to me. It’s like reading a movie. When I was a teenager, I read the movie “Grease” as a comic and ever since then I have actively searched for this form of writing/drawing.

Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides

I loved this book because it made me question my assumptions about sex and sexuality. I read it early in my coming out days and it threw open a whole plethora of questions. The fact that I still remember the story line and can easily recall some of what I felt when reading it, reminds me that it was one of my favorite books!

3.

Daughter of Fortune Isabel Allende

Most times the books we read resonate because of the particular moment we read it in I think. Every time I think of this book, I remember the road to the library in Harlem and the book’s beautiful thick cream pages with large letters. The prose is lyrical; it makes you want to visit Chile, and is sweeter and more romantic in mood than The House of the Spirits. I discovered my love for magic realism with this book.

The Harry Potter series JK Rowling

I love the magic in these books – witches, wizards, beasts that talk, spell making, all of it. I like the author’s use of the many classical mythological references in the naming of things, it adds layers of meaning. My favorite book is the first one and I don’t think the entire series is perfect, but it is still a series I read over and over again, especially when I feel sad.

A short history of nearly everything Bill Bryson

If you are wondering why I am including a pop-science book in this, the answer is I am a geek. The other answer is that it is a well-written book on science and makes things from super-volcanoes to atoms to black holes seem more titillating than porn.





Man and man, woman and woman

16 06 2010

Politicians in Iceland have passed a law legalising gay marriage…

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/06/11/icelands-parliament-unanimously-approves-gay-marriage/





And everything in between

8 03 2010

“Butches are known by their appearance, femmes by their choices.” Joan Nestle

I like girls. The experts around me sometimes tell me I am a butch dyke. I intensely dislike being told who I am and what my own little personal definition is going to be. I am extremely wary of being defined at all but writing this forces me to look at this matter of identity.

I am not very keen on anything that categorises people although I know it is inevitable. (Virtually every choice in life puts one into some demographic or the other after all). But I don’t think that the relief of conformity that comes with embracing these groupings is worth the blocking of other information that goes with that decision…like evangelical christians and gay people, who often seem to have so much in common – we tend to interact with our own groups almost exclusively and so continuously reinforce what we already choose to believe and feel. I do not choose the titles of butch or femme or any other for myself. But I do see that people very consciously choose and need religion and other groupings to belong to and that they may also need the reassurance of clear definitions of identity in their lives.

Years ago, I have to admit to doing my share of clomping around in Doc Martens, jeans and shirts in the fiery heat of Colombo, simply to broadcast the point that I was a dyke and I would dress as I pleased. But now I really don’t care about any of the accessories, for myself or for others. I like girls…femme, butch, whatever they choose to call themselves. But I like them for their characters, their humor, their strength and their tenderness to me. I am attracted to butch girls’ androgyny and the huge energy they have, which I do not possess myself. I am also attracted to femme girls’ knowledge of their own power, their lack of need to explain themselves and their desire for butch girls. It is these things that I love, not their definitions of themselves.

Here are some generalizations of my very own. Butch girls are sometimes thorny, controlling and insecure. They are also competent, logical and sometimes dearly loved in the mainstream world where they could have close male friends. They are resilient, having spent lots of time trying to lure girls into bed and have a good sense of humor from learning to handle rejection since they were ten.

Butch girls are usually strong and are frequently into competitive sports. They are ferociously attached to their personal fashion choices and wear their pants and shoes and hair like weapons against a hostile world. Since they are visibly different, they have to fight harder.

Femme girls are delightful. They are quite aware of their massive power which they are capable of using quite ruthlessly when necessary. They also possess the softest hearts and can be persuaded into the wildest activities, sexual and otherwise, by smart butches. Since they do not have to deal with the battle against the mainstream world as much as butch girls do, femme girls are often more relaxed about themselves and their choices. But this also means they are not always forced to think too deeply about these choices and what they imply. Femme girls are usually gorgeous and funny and in many ways are quite like straight girls, except that they are fatally attractive to butch girls and they know it.

Femmes are perhaps best described as lesbian, bisexual, and queer women whose manner and style falls along the lines of what is traditionally considered feminine. Whereas butches are sometimes accused of trying to be men, femmes are sometimes accused -by other lesbians -of donning accoutrements of traditional femininity to pass as straight in the mainstream world. Actually, however, femme lesbians subvert prescribed sexual and gender roles by co-opting conventional ‘womanly’ traits to indicate their attraction to other women.

(http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/butch_femme_ssh.html)

This may not always be true in real life but it is a revolutionary idea so I like it.

And then there’s all that lies between…the soft butch girls sexy in short skirts, the strong femme girls in charge of their lives – and all the physical and emotional characteristics that we lesbians exchange and share. And in the end I don’t think there is any final definition of femme or butch that covers it all anyway. How could there be?





Obsessively queer?

7 01 2010

This is an ongoing conversation between the three of us over a period of time, which is why it is somewhat rambling and disjointed. But we felt it raised some interesting issues and differing viewpoints that may open up more debate as a post…so any interesting comments are welcome, as always.

The conversation started as a debate around this:

http://alphafemme.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/a-femme-without-a-butch/

>> I say we are compulsive and obsessive about our queerness. By obsessive I mean we – all of us who identify as gay/lesbian/queer…we obsess about ourselves… our lives, the politics, our partners, the breakups, the freedoms we lack, the fight for rights, the sex, the books, the movies, our friends…it goes on and on. This is also tied into the way we define our entire lives and selves by the fact we are queer. We end up not having much in life that’s not connected to our sexual preferences in some way and I suspect that’s weird too.

I think it’s all too disconnected from the world we actually live in, whether we like it or not and that troubles me even in my own life. I want to feel I’m part of the whole world or at least know what’s going on in all of the liberal world. And that includes the politics, the music, the literature, the art, the sports, the news, the science and technology, the environment and human nature in general. All of it.

And this attitude of all encompassing general interest in the world around us is what we risk when we find true love and get ‘married’. One gets driven (or willingly leaps) into that isolated space of queerness when one is actually partnered. I always see this in my own life… when I am single I am more involved and interested in more general issues and life around me, including the things of the male world. The male world is a huge one – in fact whether we like it or not, it is the world and it drives the space we live in too after all, wherever we are.

But at the same time, I support our difference too.

>> I don’t know if this is necessarily a bad thing. I think it happens constantly with small marginalised communities that face huge stresses and pressures such as ours. But at the same time, it is good to have a foot in the world external to our community. And I am not sure why you feel you wouldn’t be part of the whole wide world if you were obsessing about the queer world? Wouldn’t you still be listening to different kinds of music or watching diverse films?

>> Oh but we don’t listen to different kinds of music or watch diverse films. Not really. We just seem to give up on the larger media/art/literature world. (Or maybe we were not that interested in the first place.) Haven’t you noticed our fixation with the L-Word, Sarah Waters, KD, Melissa, Heather and Ellen and on and on?

I believe it’s only the fact that there isn’t a greater volume of lesbian themed movies, lesbian authors and lesbian music available that keeps us from confining ourselves totally to those categories for life. Really, we are practically fundamentalists when it comes to accepting anything that’s not within our safe zone. We become very selective about what we can bear to see and hear, which means we continuously reinforce what we already believe, while shutting off so much valuable information about so much else that’s going on. (I know there are exceptions. I am speaking of a general trend.)

But I also feel it is so hard to debate these things or even critique our community, as it is one that is struggling on so many fronts – being queer, being poor, being third world disadvantaged, being less privileged even in the circles we move around in, being women in such a horribly chauvinistic society, being discriminated against and put down as a matter of course…all the social and class issues we face. There is so much to battle against.

It is very hard, because we are not like a group of liberated dykes in the first world having an intellectual discussion about the finer points of the rights we already have. It is so much more basic and painful than that.

>> But we should continue to debate these things. We are not here representing the LGBT world. We are just three independent, very different women. Whatever we write is part of and representative of the gay community because we are writing it. We are not outside of it, in the same way that Shakespeare was not outside his social group when he wrote his plays. He was still a part of that era and his work reflects the ideologies at the time, and in the same way, our writing is not outside of our world, our community or society. Whether in support of or against, it is still affected by our involvement with the time and place we exist in.





Herstories

4 11 2009

A friend of mine was traveling to New York recently and because I wanted to grab the opportunity to order some good lesbian books online and have her bring them back home, I started my search very excitedly on Amazon. I typed in the search words ‘Asian + lesbian’ but very little turned up. I then added the word ‘South’ before ‘Asian’ to the search words… but again not much came up. So I added the word ‘queer’.

This produced far more results than the other categories so I started browsing the titles and reading the excerpts. But sadly in spite of the volume of results of the search, I found very little of relevance to my life…or to what I think is representative of my life.

I tried searching other online stores as well. All of them had a large selection of gay and lesbian literature and many of the titles seemed interesting. Most of the literature was out of America and not by Asian writers. I was looking for something more Asian – more South Asian really and more Sri Lankan to be precise. That would have been perfect.

And I was looking for something lesbian – not male-centric. Comics, novels, novellas, fiction, non-fiction, I searched all the categories but found almost nothing. Two choices did come up though: Facing the mirror: Lesbian writing from India which i have read and have no great opinion of and Stealing Nazreen – a novel which I have yet to read.

Besides these two books there was nothing of real significance – and certainly nothing from Sri Lanka.

And then it struck me. We need to write our own ‘Herstories’!

That is the only way we will gain more visibility through literature. It really is our responsibility – to ourselves and to the next generation of young soul-searching Sri Lankan lesbians – to make them feel less alone and that they are not the first to be this way and will certainly not be the last.

We need to write our stories to ensure we are not omitted from the pages of history. We have to create our own language where none exists – to describe our lives and what and who we are. We can’t keep expecting other people to write the stories of our lives when we are the ones living them. No. We have to write our own stories and our own histories…and the time is now.

So I sat down and started writing…