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The content of this blog is unabashedly lesbian feminist in perspective. If that offends you, leave now.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Re/membering Knoxville Butch-Femme Herstory

Attending Ann Brummitt’s receiving of friends sent me hurtling back in time, remembering my late 20’s here in the Knoxville lesbian community. The good times, friends and loves sprang from having our own space at The Point After. 
“Womonspace” it was called in other, more progressive communities. Here in the state that boasts the corporate offices of the Southern Baptist Convention, the lesbian feminist movement just never seemed to make it. 

While there were memorable, if sporadic, womyn-oriented events such as those handled by various womyn including Randy Hoffman for many years and various other activists who impacted the community on a short-term basis such as University of Tennessee students, mostly graduate students back in the early to mid-eighties. As an undergraduate representative to the UT Commission for Women, I became aware of the disconnect between the community and UT that persists to this day. While the LGBT community is coming alive and more active than ever on campus, it is all, well, in house. 

That brought me to memories of “The Point” as it was frequently called, located just off "The Strip", the heart of UT's night life. Memories of good times and bad, the rich textures of a lesbian community that was  predominantly butch-femme lesbians who didn’t know they had even missed anything called the lesbian feminist movement. I remember the bar's whole layout: the dance floor, the booths and tables, the bar, the pool tables, and “the line.” The line, of course, lead to the ladies room, but which gave one an excellent view of the entire bar. So, if you wanted to check somebody out or keep tabs on your partner, you went to the bathroom a lot just so you could get that view. This was a well known fact.

My experiences there made Joan Nestles’ writings (Restricted Country and many other titles) resonate with me. So what if I was in the mid-80’s in East Tennessee and she spent her time in a lesbian community in the 1950's Northeast? Her descriptions of the wimmin in her life seemed very familiar to me. She helped me feel validated as a femme. She gave me vision to know that I can define myself. No one else can.

But it was the butches who stole my heart. Such wonderful, glorious female masculinity, that strength that emanates from each and every one of you is the stuff that kept me strong when I became weak, the rock solid encouragement, the supportive partner – these traits are exquisitely beautiful to me. 

Of course, anyone who knows me knows that the love of my life has been by my side for the last twenty-one years, and we’re hoping for twenty more. Thank you, Sam, for being my rock.

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