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I have explained what I know over and over, in every way I can, but I have never been able to make clear the degree of my fear, the extent to which I feel myself denied: not only that I am queer in a world that hates queers, but that I was born poor into a world that despises the poor.The need to make my world believable to people who have never experienced it is part of why I write fiction.
I have known I was a lesbian since I was a teenager, and I have spent a good twenty years making peace with the effects of incest and physical abuse.
But what may be the central fact of my life is that I was born in 1949 in Greenville, South Carolina, the bastard daughter of a white woman from a desperately poor family, a girl who had left the seventh grade the year before, worked as a waitress, and was just a month past fifteen when she had me.
In my lesbian-feminist collective we had long conversations about the mind/body split, the way we compartmentalize our lives to survive.
For years I thought that that concept referred to the way I had separated my activist life from the passionate secret life in which I acted on my sexual desires.
They, those people over there, those people who are not us, they die so easily, kill each other so casually. By the time I understood that I was queer, that habit of hiding was deeply set in me, so deeply that it was not a choice but an instinct.
Art Of Problem Solving Amc 12 - Our World Dorothy Allison Essay
I pressed my bony white trash fists to my stubborn lesbian mouth. We were the they everyone talks about—the un-grateful poor.The first time I read the Jewish lesbian Irena Klepfisz's poems I experienced a frisson of recognition.It was not that my people had been "burned off the map'' or murdered as hers had.I was convinced that the fracture was fairly simple, that it would be healed when there was time and clarity to do so—at about the same point when I might begin to understand sex.I never imagined that it was not a split but a splintering, and I passed whole portions of my life—days, months, years—in pure directed progress, getting up every morning and setting to work, working so hard and so continually that I avoided examining in any way what I knew about my life. I ignored who I really was and how I became that person, continued in that daily progress, became an automaton who was what she did. We die so easily, disappear so completely—we/they, the poor and the queer.Hide, hide to survive, I thought, knowing that if I told the truth about my life, my family, my sexual desire, my history, I would move over into that unknown territory, the land of they, would never have the chance to name my own life, to understand it or claim it. my lovers and friends have asked me the many times I have suddenly seemed a stranger, someone who would not speak to them, would not do the things they believed I should do, simple things like applying for a job, or a grant, or some award they were sure I could acquire easily.I have loved my family so stubbornly that every impulse to hold them in contempt has sparked in me a countersurge of pride—complicated and undercut by an urge to fit us into the acceptable myths and theories of both mainstream society and a lesbian-feminist reinterpretation.The choice becomes Steven Spielberg movies or Erskine Caldwell novels, the one valorizing and the other caricaturing, or the patriarchy as villain, trivializing the choices the men and women of my family have made.That fact, the inescapable impact of being born in a condition of poverty that this society finds shameful, contemptible, and somehow deserved, has had dominion over me to such an extent that I have spent my life trying to overcome or deny it.I have learned with great difficulty that the vast majority of people believe that poverty is a voluntary condition.