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Reclaiming the L-Word

Sappho's Daughters out in Africa

Alleyn Diesel

Publication Year: 2011

This brave and moving collection of stories by South African lesbian women from different backgrounds reminds us, again, that rights are never finally won in legislatures or in court rooms. They are won by people exercising them. The authors of the stories and poems in this book have done just that. They have stood up to celebrate the dignity of lesbian women in South Africa. Each contribution is different. And each intensely personal. And each one reminds us of the urgent need for us to stop hate crime and to create a safe society for all LGBT South Africans.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

As I write this we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 and the subsequent release of Nelson Mandela. What a truly remarkable journey we have made from our dim past! We celebrate, among many things, a Constitution that has been rightly lauded...

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pp. xi-xviii

Although lesbians have existed in Western societies throughout the centuries of written history, at least from the time of Sappho, the woman-identified poet of the island of Lesbos in ancient Greece (7th century BCE), their...

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pp. xix

To all the women who have bravely and enthusiastically agreed to contribute to this collection, my heartfelt thanks. I know that some have found it quite alarmingly demanding, and at times, like myself, experienced...

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Pulled out of the closet into my family's embrace

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pp. 1-9

I thought deeply about the invitation to be part of an anthology of South African lesbian writing. I liked the fact that the book would attempt to provide a set of stories about positive, strong and successful women. I could...

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I have truly lost a woman I loved

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pp. 10-26

I take photographs to remember those who cannot speak freely and to be remembered. I believe photography to be my fi rst language, a calling that I received from my ancestors so that I could voice my issues and concerns. Whatever I have captured and still capture is for the world to see that...

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The dog, the cat, the parrot and the pig and other tales

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pp. 26-43

On a smog-filled Friday afternoon in July we loaded our three dogs into our cars and drove out of Johannesburg. In the heavy traffic I lost sight of Karen who had our highly-strung bearded collie with her. I was travelling with our Maltese and the Boston terrier. Both were lying...

1st March

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pp. 44-45

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A comfortable fit

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pp. 46-52

I was born in 1949 in East London. My partner, Marian Nell was born in Johannesburg in 1945, the year World War II ended. We are both of Ashkenazi (East European) descent, second generation Jewesses, born in South Africa. Our grandparents were part of one of the many exoduses...


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pp. 53

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Finding the real me in a storm of violence

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pp. 54-58

My name is Marco and I come from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I am a 39-year old black lesbian born into a family of eight, of whom only five survived. Gender violence has been so much a part of my life that...

Left hand lesbian

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pp. 59

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My journey

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pp. 60-67

I was born and brought up in Ladysmith, and attended the Ladysmith Secondary School, a public school which comprised mainly Indian pupils, although there were a few black and coloured kids as well. After finishing...

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Orientation quiz

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pp. 68-88

I think it is a fair remark to say I have a little bit of a rebellious streak in me. If there is a general expectation that something can be done only in a prescribed manner, I will always try to do it differently, to prove the opposite. In Afrikaans...


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pp. 89

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Who are you to tell me who I am?

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pp. 90-94

On the 7 March 2004 when I was seventeen years old I started hating all men. It took one man to make me hate all men. I hated him so much. The only thing I could think of was killing him. On that night I made a promise to myself that I’d never associate myself with any other man....

Closeted love

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pp. 95

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A life in-between

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pp. 96-111

I lived a heterosexual life until I was 45, so this cannot be an exclusively lesbian tale. I can’t say for sure that I haven’t always been one, but reached the point where all the past strands of inner dissonance I experienced when with boys and men, the too often reckless and dangerous...

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Living a lie: Issues of identity

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pp. 112-119

Why do I want to use a pseudonym for my story? I think there are a number of reasons. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and she said at times she wondered if I was homophobic. I laughed my head off. “Why do you say that?” “Because you...

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Does your mother know that you're out?

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pp. 120-143

One of my earliest memories is of me and my paternal grandmother sitting on the floor arranging regimented rows of lead soldiers in bright European uniforms, as we imagined they might prepare for battle. Born in...

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The "Steve" in me has a right

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pp. 144-158

Twenty something years ago, a child was born. The child was named and recorded as a girl in the hospital files and based on what the doctors had seen. And, because children are only differentiated by the two sexes (male or female), and...


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pp. 159

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Then and now

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pp. 160-168

My story and how to write succinctly about 56 years of a very varied life? Nevertheless I will try. The Gamsu family, my paternal Grandmother’s side of the family, are descended from the scholar Nocham Ish Gamzu who lived in the first century...

Love letter

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pp. 169-192

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Discovering my identity

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pp. 170-198

I come originally from the rural area of Elanskop in KwaZulu- Natal, where I grew up in a family of seven: my Mom, my granny and my siblings. Our family was strongly religious and I went to the Roman Catholic...

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Looking for Mister - or is it Ms? - Right: On being classified lesbian

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pp. 176-182

Getting married is something I know a lot about. I have organised or helped organise at least six weddings. Five of these have been my own. By now I have enough wedding dresses to open a bridal hire shop. It’s a joke amongst...

Come to me

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pp. 183-208

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Thinking through lesbian rape

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pp. 186-199

While South Africa celebrates ten years of freedom and political democracy, there are those within our borders who are still outsiders, who have yet to find substantial meaning in this celebration. Despite formal...

Additional Reading, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781920397890
Print-ISBN-13: 9781920397289

Page Count: 226
Publication Year: 2011