Who are we without histories? We don’t raise our young, don’t usher them to adulthood. Queerness is a legacy that must be found, uncovered, claimed. I’m always hunting for herstories. Desperate to know where we came from, to see myself, my life, my hand-built family, reflected in the lives of others that came before. I’m always searching for proof that someone has done this, that we are not alone.
This weekend I went to one of my favorite queer places in all of NYC, The Lesbian Herstory Archives. It’s somewhere that I don’t spend nearly enough time (something I hope to oneday change), but one of the places that I’m always so grateful to know exists in the world, and more specifically in my city. I remember visiting the first time years ago when Kestryl and I were just in the beginning stages of planning our move to New York. It was the first time I’d been to Brooklyn, the first time I’d been anywhere dedicated to the preservation of dyke history. I was enthralled. This weekend was the archives annual book sale, an event I somehow manage to miss every year but was determined to catch at least part of this weekend. I’m very interested in queer herstories, the act of remembering, and the importance of preserving whatever glimpses of that past we’re able to come in contact with, and for me books play an important role in that. In these older books I mourn the lesbian feminist presses that are gone, and take great pleasure in the early words of so many authors who have shaped my conception of self, and paved the way for me to tell my stories.
There is something magical for me about walking into the Archives. I’m acutely terrified of death, I’m also profoundly afraid of being forgotten. While the archives do little to curb my death fears, their existence is a profoundly poignant reminder that there are others committed to ensuring we are never forgotten.
I walked away yesterday with five new books: three from the 80’s and two from 1965. These little treasures are currently sitting on my coffee table as I make my way through their stories, both the ones literally printed on the now brittle yellowed pages, but also the ones deeper than the typeset. These are the stories about the time and place where these books were written, and what they have to say about a dyke cultural legacy.