Writing my way into history

There are many reasons why I write. I could call this part one of an epic series on the subject. But one reason that has been coming up quite a bit lately is to make a place for me and for others whose stories are often erased from history.

One of the recent events that inspired this post was Sunday’s Imagine How Free We Can Get: A Radical Queer Walking Tour of the Mission. It was part of the Queer Arts Festival, started at Modern Times Bookstore and was led by the wonderful Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Leah showed us vibrant corners of San Francisco’s Mission District that were rich with queer history. The only question was, why was this all a part of marginally recorded history? Why were so many of these stories, of places and events like the Catacombs and the Valencia lesbian stroll, made up of distant memories and attempts to recover what has been erased in the writing of history?

I’ve struggled with this issue a lot, feeling like I want to make an impact on a world in which the stories of people like me, women and queer people and people of color, are often silenced. So, though I’m not always consciously thinking “this will go down in history” as I write, I know that on some level each word I put on the page is driven by my need to put out the stories that won’t always be heard. They may not make it into history books or the canon of literature or any other realm usually dominated by heterosexual white men, but they’ll be out there, and the very presence of these stories in the world will declare that they matter. So that someday, maybe someone who has been told that her voice is unimportant will learn otherwise. Once we let our words be heard, they cannot be erased. They’ll keep echoing through our bones for as long as our communities’ hearts are beating.

This is adapted from part of a more personal piece I write in a Writing Ourselves Whole workshop:

I worry so much that my voice won’t be heard.

So then I write a stupid poem.

Go outside and read it aloud, look around and see people who don’t care about the world beyond their big toe.

Go home and throw away my stupid poem. They didn’t hear a thing.

Saw a house once where queer women used for fuck each other, just meet every Friday and fuck, as their way of getting their voices heard.

Had to put sound-proof glass in the windows, the neighbors heard their voices so much.

There’s a young white family living there now. Soundproof glass keeps the neighbors from hearing the wife’s cries at night.

It’s like I want my voice recorded as a part of history, but I’m afraid as soon as I speak, my words will go down into history’s basement, where queer voices, where voices of color can so easily be erased.

It’s like I’d rather not have them say, “this is what she said,” but “Listen up. She’s still speaking.”

How can I write in permanent ink? Ink that echoes, that trembles, that shakes so much it can’t stay on the page, but goes on and on to reach ears that haven’t even been born yet. To say, “Hey, baby. Someday you’ll feel different too, and that’s all right.”

Because if my words matter, then so do theirs. So does everyone who’s ever been silenced. Historians have erasers they use as weapons, but they’ve yet to meet the weapons of my words. If my words matter, then so do the voices of all those queer women who lifted their voices in ecstasy each Friday night, and so does the voice of she who cries within those walls now.

Once I was afraid to lift my voice. Today I say, Listen up. I’m still speaking. I never got to finish telling my story.

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Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 10:35 AM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. WOW!!! How amazing post is! i like your article on here very much. thank you for your sharing. and i think you can’t lose hope for my introducing. Welcome to visit mine


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