Lesbian Authors on Alcoholism, Abuse, and Acceptance

Marianne K. Martin, author of The Indelible Heart, and Joan Opyr, author of Shaken and Stirred, reflect on the power of humor in overcoming life's tragedies. 



Opyr: Your stories arise from this closely-knit group of lesbians who experience a degree of affiliation that can only be described as family. Do you yourself have a group of friends like this? For me, your books aren't simply stories — they're also a kind of "It Gets Better" message. Even when you deal with incredibly dark subject matter, I always finish your books with a feeling of hope.

Martin: I was a lucky, blessed young lesbian, despite growing up in a world that demanded that I not recognize who I was and that if I did somehow make that recognition, that I reject it, and hide it from the rest of society. There was an alternative world, if you could find it, based on secrets, operated on trust and instinct, and communicated through signs and codes. I found that world when I was very young, through sports. That group of friends became my family. I had a team of lesbian mothers and big sisters. They watched over me, kept me safe, gave me rides everywhere, and made sure that I stayed out of trouble. I found that what I missed most when we went away to different colleges and jobs was that closeness, that security and trust that I had experienced with them. And that has definitely formed much of what I write. So many gays and lesbians feel isolated, so alone in their struggles and fears. I want them to know that we are here, we are everywhere, and that our best hope of making a difference is to do it together.

Opyr: I wished I'd had your network, Marianne. I wasn't ready to come out to my family — they're Southern Baptists, and I feared their reaction — so, I led a double life. I even married briefly. I wasn't confident enough in myself or in my family to come out until I was in graduate school, and then one after another, they all said, "I know. But thanks for telling me." Hell's bells! If they knew, I wish they'd told me! I hated hiding who I was. I hated dating men — I felt so dishonest. I never liked the feeling of using another human being as my cover story. And I loved women.

I remember coming home from kindergarten upset over some playground incident of sexism, and telling my mother, "I'm going to be a boy when I grow up, and no one can stop me!" I was going to marry the great love of my life at the time, an older girl named Beth Wilder, and we were going to be a family, the expectations of others be damned. My mother, to her everlasting credit, didn't argue with me, she just let me be me. That’s where I was lucky.

Martin: And we're lucky now to be able to write our stories, and send them out there to entertain and empower.

Opyr: And help us understand ourselves. Something I don’t see my psychology class doing right now. Art is so much more effective at that than psychology, don’t you think?

Martin: I do, yes. Analyzing what happened and why, verses feeling what happened and caring why. It gets right to the heart of why we write what we write. But, we have no more room to talk about it.

Opyr: You’re telling that to a Southern woman who believes it’s rude not to let everyone in on all the stories we shared.

Martin: Then you’d better get writing, Joan.

Tags: Books