walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

_Dear John, I Love Jane_

Subtitled: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women

A collection of essays as described by the title and subtitled, edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre with an introduction by Lisa "Sexual Fluidity" Diamond.

I'm never quite sure what I should say about myself when reviewing a book like this. I am a woman married to a man, so the assumption is going to tend to be that I identify as heterosexual and the assumption is wrong. Just 'cause I'm monogamous doesn't mean I'm not still bi- and poly. You don't need to speculate about whether I'm reading this book because I'm Figuring Something Out because I figured all that out a long while ago.

The editors picked a diverse group of contributors: women of color, women in interracial relationships, women born in a variety of decades, in a variety of regions. Women who ultimately identify as lesbian. Women who insist on not being labeled. Women who identify as something they would probably call bisexual, only bisexual has such a bad rep in so many communities and such a lot of silly expectations associated with it that it was rejected out of hand. If I have a complaint about this book, it's that latter: all the women who reject the word bisexual, because they have ideas about what that word means that strike me as every bit as prejudiced and wrong-headed as the prejudices about being lesbian or whatever that they had to get over in order to have any personal integrity, find love, have hot sex, etc.

Good collection, good stories, kind of annoying to slog through all the anti-bi propaganda. _Profoundly_ annoying little epilog at the end by Baumgardner about how "Falling in love with a woman, as a woman, is deeply linked to feminist endeavors". I _hate_ ideas like that. They do a massive disservice to feminism and warp politics and personal connection in ways that damage both.

To be utterly clear, however, I don't think that Lisa Diamond or her idea of "sexual fluidity" should be blamed for the anti-bi propaganda. I was wondering about that, and will probably get her book to find out for sure, but my sense is that she's desperately trying to help women who are getting railroaded from the "you must be straight" camp to the "oh, okay, you must be lesbian" camp when in fact their identity either is genuinely changing at one or more points in their lives (not due to choice!) or their identity is a poor match for either (ditto). That does shine through, ultimately, making this a very worthwhile read. More nuance in coming out stories is a good thing.

A number of the stories involving younger women (born after 1970ish, say) with relatively straightforward lesbian sexual identity sound like classics from a bygone era: they didn't even let themselves know how they felt about women because they were part of a community (Mormon, Evangelical, etc.) which was going to toss them if they didn't put up a very convincing heterosexual front. Poly- is touched upon briefly in one of the younger women's stories, but is part of a community she participates in rather than something she adopts.

For all Baumgardner speculates that "I imagine you may have gotten it in order to support or understand a loved one who has a story similar ... Or, more likely, you are living a story similar to", there's a lot of enjoyment to be found in these stories by anyone who enjoys a good story. Try not to get too bogged down in the politics of it all. (On sale as an ebook for the kindle for .99.)
Tags: book review, sexuality
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