An LGBTQ writing group in Exeter.
This is where we are.
We’ve been meeting regularly now since last October, and as the group has grown, got to know one another we are heading towards making a zine.
We started by creating LGBT timelines.
This was a great way of introducing ourselves and making a few discoveries or remembrances along the way. It had a powerful impact that I hadn’t quite anticipated.
There were icons and iconic ‘queer’ moments; like seeing Annie Lennox for the first time on TV, watching this androgynous creature was revelatory to me as a teenager, growing up in a knackered seaside town. Not even really knowing what androgyny was and that it existed as a word. Back then. Parlance being what it was where I was.
These moments opening up a lens to a wider world of possibility.
KD Lang in that barber chair on the front of Vanity Fair with Cindy Crawford towering over her. Yes. Really!
Dancing for the first time with another woman to Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Nothing Compares To You. Women on the run. Women whose lives I couldn’t comprehend.
Moments into the unknown.
Anna Friel and that kiss. Funny that we still look back to that moment in popular culture.
There are things we leave out. We are aware of this.
There are attempts at coming out.
Stories of coming out.
First loves and families.
Moments moments of falling in love.
Living in one’s LGBT skin.
Stories falling out from stories as we talk about what has emerged in front of us.
These LGBT timelines provided us with something familiar and distant, making us remember, making visible our LGBT maps or make-up, our own DNA if you like. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Starting to tell one another these stories, we realised that there was something about keeping them close and dear to us, as they were personal to that moment and so we have kept them there. I feel very privileged having heard them, looking back.
Then we found more to tell and write and find through writing.
We played with different ways of creating text and that delicate thing of sharing words committed onto a page. With folk we didn’t know. For some it was the first time. For all a tentative act.
Speaking words out loud.
I kept on talking about notions of being visible and invisible as a gay woman and what that might mean.
I’ve thought a lot about when I make myself invisible as an LGBT person whilst running this project. If that is possible as of course signs are significant if you know how to read them.
But it’s not just in the context of myself, but when thinking about all I’ve researched and read about LGBT individuals in Russia, responding to Gay Pride being banned for 100 years and how that must feel, like a sting, like a wound, whilst researching for this project called: We’ll Meet In Moscow.
What can that possibly feel like? Invisibility then might be a blessing rather than something to be wrestled with.
How then can we interpret this into writing? Where are we visible and invisible?
It is emerging in the writing the individuals from Out of Print are producing. Sometimes it has held us up. Sometimes it is a red herring. Always interesting when this happens.
We’ve talked a lot about lesbian fiction and stories about women who love women, characters that shine, books and writers that have had influence on us, or opened doors when things seemed bleak and representation removed always always to the margins.
Sometimes there is security in those margins as well. In not being seen. For it is a space we can at least own or feel safe in. Which is what perhaps led me to the idea of making a zine. A pop-up publication with a limited print run to celebrate these voices. In that time-honoured tradition of subcultures way back when they were around.
It is a beginning.
Out of Print is the name of the group.
Inspired by a discussion about women writers and lesbian books going out of print, not being visible, going out of sight, of those stories not even being there in the first place. It seemed fitting and appropriate when Sue said “what about this?” It stuck and it has meaning and resonance and this is just a beginning in not being out of print if you like.
It is also inspired by the groups demographic.
We are a group of lesbian and bisexual women.
The original call-out was to LGBTQ folk across Devon, but this is how it has panned out.
The writers are: Kate Honey, Christina Clover, Sue Ifold, and Jane Begley.
They have been generous to work with and I am really excited about what the zine will look and feel like. The content is varied and exciting and unique. For it is our voices that populate it.
In the tradition of zine-making, it will be raw in places and experimental in others. There might be some scribblings in and some scribblings out!
We are launching this first zine on Monday 29th February from 6.30pm in the bar at Exeter’s Bike Shed Theatre. Come and join us and buy a zine. There will also be readings of six new short LGBT plays in the main auditorium at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 for the new plays www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk
Natalie McGrath. 11th February 2016