QUEER HISTORY: Audre Lorde.
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I learned about the self described black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet Audre Lorde because it doesn’t seem like the mainstream queer community talks enough about our history, especially in regards to queer and trans people. But Lorde’s poetry and writing is vast and incredible and she spent a lot of her work focused on civil rights issues, feminism, black womanhood, and intersectionality. For many, she’s considered a hero and a scholar even decades after her death because of her work as an activist and her writings.
She was born in February 1934 as the youngest of three daughters to immigrants from Grenada and came to poetry early on in her life. Her first poem was published by Seventeen magazine when she was still in high school and as a child, she often communicated through poetry that she had memorized.
Lorde’s work covered so much of her life – she wrote of civil rights and feminism and battling breast cancer (of which she did die of in 1992). She sometimes wrote with anger – anger over white America’s fear of black Americans, over the police shooting of a ten year old black child. Her published work includes: The Cancer Journals, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, The Black Unicorn, among many others.
Audre Lorde was also an outspoken lesbian and a mother and her work also reflects her intersectional identity. Her timeless collection Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches particularly reflects this and continues to be an essential feminist read. In Sister Outsider, she writes about how poetry is not a luxury and how the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. She writes about the uses of anger, the erotic as power, and her experience being a black lesbian mother to a black son. This work is essential in any intersectional feminist education and discussion because it is intersectional at it’s very core.
To learn more about Audre Lorde, there is a two part Missed in History episode about her (part one and part two) but I also recommend reading her work. There’s also a film about her influence on the German Black Diaspora called Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years (1984 to 1992) and if you’d like to kepp her work going, there are several organizations in her namesake (the Audre Lorde Project and the Callen Lorde Community Health Center).