Father Tony

Our Personal Comfy Folks - an open question.

Filed By Father Tony | February 02, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: assimilation, lesbian communiities, nuns, seminary

This NY Times article about lesbian communities is a must-read. Like convents of nuns, they are becoming extinct. The article opines about the lack of new and younger members but I think the big issue is the comfort we each feel when surrounded exclusively by own "own kind".

No matter how often we'd like to join hands with the world in its diversity and teach it to sing by sharing a coke or gleefully proclaiming it to be a "small world afterall", we all relish the ability to celebrate our sameness just as much as our diversity. I first realized this when I went to live at a seminary at the age of fourteen. Seven hundred men, most of them gay, all under one roof. No women. The air was thick with queenly masculinity. I never felt more at home.

As a post-priestly adult, I am comfortable with women, I celebrate with them, and I value my women friends deeply, but the comfort I feel in an all-male environment like the locker room of the gym is indisputable, and I don't think I should feel guilty about that.

Does growing up mean extending our comfort zone to encompass people of different color and sexual expression and identity? Sure, but do we ever stop pining for a kitchen filled exclusively with the scent of our own kind? Are some of our efforts at inclusion and assimilation deluded?


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How is this helpful to our greater LGBT community and being accepted as first class citizens like everyone else. These women are in the closet and living in lala land. Separatism is wrong whether it be lesbian feminists or wealthy priviledged people of color flying in for a weekend NGLTF conference at at five star hotel.
How strong are the ties that bind them together ? I had two friends who lived in a woman only community and one stepped in a hole on a land and brought a suit for negligence against the founder of the commune.

Charles;
They are from an age where many Lesbians were separatists and the idea of communalism was the height of true Lesbian separatism.

There has always been a sort of tendency for Lesbians to form supportive large groups dating back to at least the 1750's in Paris(the Anadrynes, they still exist, btw...I belong)

No one has a real obligation to be out, and certainly there were many in the 60's and 70's who were not(Rock Hudson, Roy Cohn, J Edgar Hoover--so the phenomena is not exclusively Lesbian)

Flip side of that argument is that there have been very out women back as far as the 1780's, the Anadryne member Francoise Raucourt was so notoriously out that the rector of the Madeline church refused her body entry for her funeral in the 1820's and a mob of tens of thousands forced the doors to bring her in for her service.(The King ultimately ordered the rector to perform the requiem mass.)

I've been thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately. It was spurred on by a short film that was included in my January Ironweed DVD. It was about a camp ground in Northern California that became an "affordable" housing alternative.

It was the New York Times, so the article didn't go into how they handle sexual tension/rivalry.

Do men have similar communities (outside of a monastery or boot camp)?

With the right geography and mix of personality I'd consider it for myself.

Father Tony;
the Lesbian separatist communal movement was a product of the second wave separatist Lesbian feminism of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was built on a worldview that itself was predicated on a confrontational relationship with patriarchy. That outside patriarchal world was perceived as dangerous, hostile and threatening to women, to feminism, and to the feminine spirit. Some residue of this continues today.

I have a friend, who has remarked to me that she only feels truly free to be an open Lesbian in Provincetown during Women's Week. This type of feeling arises from the old siege mentality of separatist second wave feminism in its more extreme form.

I'm not certain, Tony, whether not desire to be in his sister court or brotherhood with the commonality of interest or lifestyle results separatist exclusive rethinking as opposed to the comfort of something familiar, something that you can find within yourself

I would respectfully point out to you, however, that your comfort in the locker room probably isn't comfort; in your case, you randy lad, it's probably lust.

Father Tony;
the Lesbian separatist communal movement was a product of the second wave separatist Lesbian feminism of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was built on a worldview that itself was predicated on a confrontational relationship with patriarchy. That outside patriarchal world was perceived as dangerous, hostile and threatening to women, to feminism, and to the feminine spirit. Some residue of this continues today.

I have a friend, who has remarked to me that she only feels truly free to be an open Lesbian in Provincetown during Women's Week. This type of feeling arises from the old siege mentality of separatist second wave feminism in its more extreme form.

I'm not certain, Tony, whether not desire to be in this sisterhood or brotherhood with the commonality of interest or lifestyle results from separatist exclusive rethinking as opposed to the comfort of something familiar, something that you can find within yourself

I would respectfully point out to you, however, that your comfort in the locker room probably isn't comfort; in your case, you randy lad, it's probably lust.(sorry for corrected version, I was using a dictation system and it sent before proofing)

Maura, you read my beads! And correctly!

It's important to look at the ECONOMIC ramifications of communities like this -- not just those for lesbians, but also for gay men, as well as bi and transgendered people. The problem is this: long-term sustainability of communities like this is very shaky, especially for the low-income people who might want to participate in these communities. "Low income" could include everything from retired couples to artists, writers and craftspeople who don't make a huge living.

For decades now, the rising cost of real-estate and construction, and our country's obsessive focus on developing high-end properties and communities, has all but undercut the future for ANY kind of attractive low-end community living in the U.S. Not just for our separate communities, but for any mainstream communities as well, like those for artists or ethnic groups. At the moment, there is an excruciating shortage of low-end U.S. housing that is decent enough to anybody to live in.

Right in my home state, there used to be one of those old lesbian communities up in the mountains near Butte, in Boulder, a tiny town with little old houses and a hot-spring spa where women liked to congregate. Like many of those communities, it has a long history -- I heard about the "odd women" at Boulder when I was a kid. It deliberately established itself out there in the boonies so it could find very cheap housing and maintain a low profile.

Another such community, one for gay men, has existed quietly for a long time on the Russian River in northern California.

The situation facing such communities today is very changed from what it was 50 years ago. Unfortunately I don't see much of an economic trend in our "community" for developing and sustaining low-income housing and low-income communities, even though the low-income LGBT population is sizeable. We would need a kind of Habitat for Humanity approach with a community model, not a single-home model. But most of the economic image-making and rhetoric has been around how high-end and consumerist we all are.

In short -- it's all very well to talk about the political and social importance of these communities...but unless some LGBT people with money are prepared to put their money where their mouth is, and invest into low-income communities that are affordable and attractive, I don't see this idea going anywhere.

Anthony in Nashville | February 2, 2009 9:29 PM

This was a very interesting article that made me think about my beliefs in exclusive communities. I have often thought that gay people needed their own social and cultural spaces because there were some areas in which straights and non-straights were too different. As a black person, I already know the comfort and value of having "our own."

But I wonder if holding on to this idea is actually an impediment to progress, an acceptance of an inferior status in the sense that minority groups have to be hidden away. I never was able to live in a gayborhood, but I understand many are losing their numbers. It seems that "blending" in all its possibilities is all the rage these days and it makes me feel my quasi-separatist leanings are antiquated. Yet I also wonder if this trend towards homogenization is really just a trick to make us all better, more controllable consumers, since we have not really overcome, at least in terms of complete social and legal equality.

Additionally, doesn't this kind of self-segregation fly in the face of the idea of diversity that progressive people are suppose to espouse? When I observe society, gay and straight, I see groupings of people who may look different, but think alike, have similiar incomes, education, etc. Is that real diversity?

It's the dilemma that faces any marginalized group that begins to be more accepted by the dominant culture - to resist or to assimilate?

Anyhow, I was planning on writing my latest column in the gay paper here on this very article. From the length of this post, maybe I've already started! lol.

Interesting that the most ardent separatists--according to the article, at least--are the formerly married ladies. I think it's important to note the radical angle of lesbian separatism. It's not just any old separatism we are talking about here--it's women separating themselves. Men often move in quasi-separatist communities anyway. Just go to a gay bar on any given night and look around. Women claiming their own space seems freakish to people accustomed to seeing women regularly sacrificing themselves for others. And it seems even more freakish today, in our three-steps backwards world, where we can only vaguely remember political radicalism as a sentimental posture, or style of dress.

steve tabarez | February 3, 2009 1:15 PM

Interesting set of issues here, that really goes to the core of the fight for LGBTQ civil rights, and the right of the many facets of our community to remain distinct, and yes, seperate. I, too wonder about the convential wisdom off calling us a commnity. I do use that term, but more for a general term that many out of the LGBTQ umbrella can understand. Sometimes I think we adopt that single commnity tag so to make it easier for people to understand. As a mexican, my own community is lumped into those catch words of latino, or hispanic, allowing the greater society to simplify and categorize us, altho we are vastly different from one another. Just ask any Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, the list goes on. And,unfortunately, it allows americans to dumb-down so they do not have to think too hard about the differences, the tastes, the cultures that make each of our cultures distinct, and rich. In many ways,that same way of catgorizing LGBTQ's is quite inappropriate. I do feel that we are more of a host of communities. To lump us all together, as the same, may be in the long run be a disservice. Part of the problem with the great majority of straight america is that want easy answers. They do not view us as aminority, per se, as to them, they set distinction to easy identifiable, physical traits. COLOR, GENDER, RELIGOUS/CULTURAL DRESS, obvious PHYSICAL/MENTAL HANDICAP-get the picture? We are them, so they just can't relate to us being unequal. Sad, logic. Flawed, and untrue. Each of our set of commnities should feel free to encourage sameness, and relate, and yes, distance themselves from the others if they choose. As a mexican, I like Tony have to get back to my cultural roots, and as a gay amn, i need to distance myself from straight society, and as an overall member of my society I also need embrace them all. My fear is that we become too isolated, too seperated, and too distant to remain host of communities that need to seek civil rights for all of us. I must say, that I found the historical references fascinationg. See what I mean. Let's not distance ourselves too much.