Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sinister Wisdom: Lesbian Theories/Lesbian Controversies

From Sinister Wisdom #75 - an issue that I guest edited.

Notes for a Magazine

For me, the sites and moments of controversy are where some of our most important thinking and forward motion happen. They are also times that require extraordinary personal and community risk-taking. They create discomfort and, inevitably, pain. They also open new opportunities, new futures, and new ways of seeing the world.

When Fran Day asked me to guest edit Sinister Wisdom, I was honored, and in the issue that I agreed to edit I wanted to tackle some of controversies in the Lesbian community. Controversy is an important part of our community and has been no stranger to these pages during their august history. To me, many of the controversies arise out of our theories about the world and Lesbians in the world. Sinister Wisdom has a long been an incubator of important theories in the Lesbian community.

Theory, while sounding high-falutin’, is just a word to describe an analysis of a set of facts in relationship to one another. Lesbians have always had a profound stake in theory because we have so often been excluded from analysis. Here at Sinister Wisdom, theories begin, end and are grounded, ultimately, in Lesbians—Lesbian lives, Lesbian experiences, and Lesbian perspectives. Placing Lesbians in the center of theory, that is taking Lesbians as a starting point and the focus of the journey in thinking about theory, is a radical act. This radical act of Lesbian centrality has been repeated, explicitly and implicitly, throughout the history of Sinister Wisdom. The journal is a space where Lesbian ideas and Lesbian theories are expressed and explored by Lesbians and for Lesbians. Here in these pages Lesbian theories have been created, expanded, evaluated, and discussed, and with the Lesbian theories, controversies have also erupted. This issue continues that important dialogue about theories and controversies in our community.

One of the first people I spoke with about the issue is Catherine Crouch. I wanted to include her story about what happened with her film The Gendercator, which was a flashpoint in the controversy about transgender people and Lesbian communities. Catherine’s interview with Robin Epstein as well as information about her film, The Gendercator, is included in this issue.

Also tackling transgender questions are Carolyn Gage and Bev Jo. Carolyn’s one act play, Bite My Thumb, is a provocative exploration of gender and identity. Interestingly, the play has been optioned for a film by Catherine Crouch. Bev Jo’s article INSERT TITLE also grapples with the controversies surrounding transgender people and inclusion.

Three contributions from Australia provide important perspectives on controversies that may be less familiar to North American readers. Jean Taylor writes about Lesbian solidarity with aboriginal people in Australia. XX writes about XX. Chris Sitka contributes a compelling piece about Parthegenosis.

Finally, fiction and poetry are included in the issue. I am quite excited about the excerpt from an important book that Undine Pawlowski and Donna Giancola are writing titled Her Underground. This book builds on important work of Mary Daly and others in remembering and envisioning a world in which patriarchy is no longer.

Putting together this issue of Sinister Wisdom was an honor and a wonderful experience. I am grateful to all of the contributors for their work in the journal. I also honor the people who declined to contribute to the journal in solidarity with bisexual and transgender people who do not have a voice in these pages. Finding a space to sit in this work as a writer and activist who cares passionately about both the Lesbian community and also about a broader community that is bi and trans inclusive has never been easy for me, and I appreciate the loving challenges and opportunities given to me while assembling this issue. Finally, I thank Fran Day for the opportunity to participate in this community in this way and for her work in sustaining the visions and commitments of Sinister Wisdom.

Julie R. Enszer
September 2008

You can order a copy by emailing me, or subscribe online at

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