“The worst thing done to us in the nam of a civilized society is to label the truth of our lives material outside the legitimate subject matter of serious writers. We are not supposed to talk about our sexuality, not in any more than the most general and debased terms, our passions reduced to addictions or the subject of poorly thought out theories of deviance and compulsion, our legendary loving relationships rewritten as the bland interactions of best friends or interlocking systems of dependence and necessary economic solutions.
I need you to do more than survive. As writers, as revolutionaries, tell the truth, your truth in your own way. Do not buy into their systems of censorship, imagining that if you drop this character or hide this emotion, you can slide through their blockades. Do not eat your own heart in the hope of pleasing them. The only hope you have, the only hope any of us has, is the remade life. It is the only way we will survive, and trading any of us for some of us is no compromise. It is the way we will lose our lives, all our lives.”
“I found the words in the books my stepfather hid between the mattress and the box springs. The words were there with the pictures and the terror. Dykes, queers, sex. They’d beat me up and leave me, fuck me up and hate me. I’d wind up in a mental hospital, never get a job, have to be supported by the family for the rest of time, and anyway, never, never amount to anything. I wanted to grow up to be smart, rich, educated, and independent. I wanted to go as far away as possible from the bare dirt that marked the front yard of every house we ever lived in. Mama nodded, encouraged me, and somehow along the way, sex and bare dirty yards got confused. Mortally confused.
…Sex was dangerous, a trap, trashy as drinking whiskey in a paper cup or telling dirty stories in a loud whisper. Sex was a sure sign of nothing better to hope for. ‘You’re different,’ my mama said, her hand on the back of my head squeezing love into my brain, but her voiec was sad enough to break my heart…
I did not let myself for a year. Cold, dry, not touching. When I woke up sweating and aching, I made myself lie rigid, staring into the darkness until balls of light moved across the ceiling. I read more than ever, developed what my mama called a smart mouth, as well as insomnia. If I couldn’t sleep without it then I would not sleep.
That was the year Granny told me how someone had killed my wild aunt. They had found her truck run off the road and her in the ditch without her overalls. …She had been raped…If you didn’t do it with boys, they might do that to you, something so terrible grown men would hesitate to repeat the details.
Not just trashy then, evil. I was evil, dangerous to myself and the world. So I collected evil women, stories, books, history. I fell in love with Elizabeth I who burned her enemies, the dark queen of France who poisoned hers, the Gypsy girl in the story of the Snow Queen who carried a knife and knew how to use it, and a rough-mouthed cousin who had a line of scars down both arms. Witches, black pools of darkness, endurance. In the fantasy story, Apache girls went out in the desert to lie with their vulvas facing the moon. I opened all the windows, lay down on the hardwood floor where my sisters couldn’t see, not really caring if they did. I felt as if I hadn’t slept in a year. A fever was rising inside me, heat coming up my throat. The moon pulsed into the room. Looking at it, I could make out the pattern of a face, a lily in the bright burning disk. I reached down and cupped my sex, fingers moving where they had not touched in so long, a tiny cry of grief sounding low in my belly.
Sex, then, no matter how dangerous. Sex, then, no matter what the cost. Never again, I promised, would I allow anyone persuade me to rob myself. I rolled over so my hips could press against the grain of the wood, my knuckles grate and press, my mouth breathe earth and wood heat…”
--Dorothy Allison, Skin: Talking About Sex, Class, and Literature