LGBTQ+ History Month
October 1, 2018
People who identify—consciously or subconsciously—as members of sexual or gender minorities have been around forever, but our history has barely begun to be captured in the creative writing arts. Still, the literature that does exist is stunning, although my own exposure to this literature extends back only a couple of decades. In that time alone, however, the rich choices among outstanding fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction are varied and delightful. You’ll see an excellent compilation of the “best of” these twenty years in the New York Times article by Concepción De León, “20 Years of L.G.B.T.Q. Lit: A Timeline,” published on June 23 of last year.
In March of this year, when for me “AWP” was largely just the acronym of a conference that I was attending in Tampa, I had the great pleasure of being featured on a Red Hen Press panel along with one of my favorite writers, Rita Mae Brown, whom I’ve admired since first reading Rubyfruit Jungle, her 1973 tale of growing up in America as a lesbian. Cherríe Moraga, a Chicana feminist, playwright, and writer, completed our panel. I had not known Cherríe or her work before, but we immediately connected. And spending some time at the panel with Rita Mae was such a thrill, seasoned by many a chuckle.
One month later, by a twist of fate too complicated to explain here, I was to become the Interim Executive Director of AWP—a position I still hold. I too am a writer, although not at the accomplished level of either of my Tampa co-panelists, but when I was at that conference, Red Hen Press had just released my memoir SELF-ish: a transgender awakening, which recounts and muses upon my experiences as an openly transgender woman who grew up in a Marine Corps family and then lived and worked in Africa for fifteen years. Through being at that conference, and in my subsequent role at AWP, I quickly came to realize that the LGBTQ+ community of creative writers, poets, publishers, agents, educators, and students is very much “alive and well” within the AWP membership.
As a distinctive literary community, we are bringing our community’s experiences, insights, passions, struggles, and injustices to light through our work. We are the voices of a living history that is only now claiming a prominent space in the psyche and consciousness of North America. Each “letter” under the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) umbrella is unique, yet the diversity of experiences, voices, writing techniques, and sensibilities is hardly monolithic even within each “letter.” I invite all of you to engage with our literature, our creative spirit, our humanity, as together we at AWP celebrate the start of LGBTQ+ History Month.
Chloe Schwenke, PhD
Interim Executive Director, AWP