A Woman Like That: Lesbian And Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories

A Woman Like That: Lesbian And Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories

by Joan Larkin


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The act of "coming out" has the power to transform every aspect of a woman's life: family, friendships, career, sexuality, spirituality. An essential element of self-realization, it is the unabashed acceptance of one's "outlaw" standing in a predominantly heterosexual world.

These accounts — sometimes heart-wrenching, often exhilarating — encompass a wide breadth of backgrounds and experiences. From a teenager institutionalized for her passion for women to the mother who must come out to her young sons at the risk of losing them — from the cautious academic to the raucous liberated femme — each woman represented here tells of forging a unique path toward the difficult but emancipating recognition of herself. Extending from the 1940s to the present day, these intensely personal stories in turn reflect a unique history of the changing social mores that affected each woman's ability to determine the shape of her own life. Together they form an ornate tapestry of lesbian and bisexual experience in the United States over the past half-century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380802470
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/24/2000
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,154,086
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Joan Larkin is a Lambda Award-winning poet and co-editor of three previous anthologies, including the groundbraking Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time. Her most recent books are Cold River and Glad Day: Daily Meditations for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People.

Read an Excerpt

This Song Is Dedicated To The One I Love

Bertha Harris

Pretty girls deserve more of the things of this world than the rest of us. They shouldn't have to do the dirty work, they shouldn't have to work hard for a living; instead, they deserve to marry up, then get treated right when they do. Sometimes, though, pretty girls are so hot they can't think straight; their brains are lodged up there between their thighs, tucked in out of sight in the tail-end of their torsos. Mary Zuleika cloaked hers in peach silk panties that were tight in the crotch, loose in the leg. Tap pants.

I lived with Mary Zuleika for only sixteen years, but we lived up close against one another. It was as if a heavy-duty band of ectoplasm--that fleshy emanation from the entranced medium to the participant in her séance, the one who wants to know why--roped us together. She used it to impress, wordlessly, certain words on me: on the tabula rasa which was my mind. She also used it like a leash; I might as well have been her dog, slavering for handouts one minute, cringing in submission at her feet the next--or going barking mad when she denied me any attention at all. Mary Zuleika was my mother. I suppose she was. I have only her word for it. The words she taught me were dirty words: fuck, pussy, cunt, etc. I overheard them; she was talking to herself.But in the spirit of "waste not, want not," I wrote the words down.

I was in the second grade at St. Patrick's. I was six. One day a little girl named Lucy, to whom I'd given my heart, my love and devotion, wasn't there. "She ain't sick," said Mary Zuleika; "her mama and daddy got killed in a wreck.Now she's an orphan in the orphanage. You want to go see her?" John and Mary Zuleika never took me anywhere they could help not to. The Catholic orphanage was fifty miles from their front door, which was 603 Pilot Avenue, Fayetteville, North Carolina. Its parlor was paneled in golden oak; its scent was furniture polish and bouquets of flowers. It was spacious and peaceful. I thought that Lucy must like it there.

"You watch that door over yonder," Mary Zuleika told me. "Lucy's going to come through that door."

"I don't know about this, Zeke," John said. I hated how he called her "Zeke." They followed a nun out the other door, then she shut it behind them.

Lucy never appeared. John and Mary Zuleika were angry when they reappeared. They wanted to have a fight on the way back to 603 Pilot, but John had to keep his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road; and to make things worse, he had to pull over and change a tire, then drink from the pint of gin in the glove compartment. It was his nerves.

The visit to Lucy was, I've lately decided, a mind fuck: they either tried to get the orphanage to take me or to take me back, and the nuns had told them to fuck off. No wonder they felt like bell.

I didn't decide that Lucy was dead. I kept on waiting for her.

It's not so much that pretty girls deserve to get fucked--although they're asking for it-while they're young and still pretty and tremendously hot enough to bum with the desire to get fucked: it's that if they don't, they'll never get fucked at all, the same as to be fair--pretty girls. I'm nothing if not fair when it comes to pretty girls.

Mary Zuleika Jones was a pretty girl who was hot and let it show. She had a sense of humor--that is, she made fun of females who had to make do with nothing but other females, and she made fun of genuine old maids, especially the ones who had to work hard for their livings but then spent every last cent, selfishly, on themselves. She made fun of old maids because they were selfish. They didn't know the meaning of having to make sacrifices the way she wound up having to do. Every time she whipped me, she spoke from her heart: "I cain't have nothing," she cried out to the beat of the switch against my legs; "why cain't I have nothing and you think you got a right to anything you want?"

In the summer of 1949, the polio epidemic happened. I was eleven. The Health Department warned everybody to keep their children in their own yards or in the house, No going swimming at the town pool or going to the picture show or church or having any contact with any other children unless they belonged to the family. This was something new. Usually, it was a typhoid epidemic; the Cape Fear River would overflow and get inside the drinking water, so we got painful inoculations that made as feverish. just a sandy driveway separated Mary Zuleika's house from the house next door where the girl next door lived. I did what I usually did during the long, humid summers: I squatted down in the sandy driveway and used a stick to divert or destroy the industrious ants laboring to perfect their ant-hill homes.

One afternoon, John's cousin Frances Catherine drove in the driveway. Fanny was that particular selfish old maid Mary Zuleika made fun of Fanny was a treasured bookkeeper for a plumbing supper. She drove her fine car fast; she bought herself diamond rings and brooches, and she lived in a big two-story white house by herself. She was always in a thrilling state of happiness. Fanny had brought me a present. To get me through the epidemic, she said. It was a book, It was Mistress Masham's Repose by T. H. White. There wasn't a single book in Mary Zuleika's house; I had never had any books but school books, which were strictly on loan and had to be turned back in to Sister at the end of the school year without a single mark or break in the spine.

Mistress Masham's Repose was about an orphaned little girl who's bespectacled, gawky, lonely, scared. She's captured by the tiny, almost invisible, descendants of Gulliver's Lilliputians, who become her loving friends and transform her fear into happiness. I already needed glasses; the world was a blur. "We need a lot of other things around here besides glasses that make you took ugly," said Mary Zuleika. And Lucy was the orphan, not me. Fanny was my godmother. "You're going to turn her into a bookworm and drive her blind," Mary Zuleika told Fanny, "and you spoil her." Fanny didn't take offense...

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Woman Like That: Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book! Every one of these women show how important it is to be true to yourselves and your feelings in the priceless stories that were meant to be told to the entire world!
ehough75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an ok book. I don't know if I classify them as coming out stories. They were more of first experiences with a woman. Still very important a persons life and worth telling. However most of these stories were vague and lackluster.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago