Speaking openly about her lesbian identity strengthens Tamarack Verrall's activism for women's rights worldwide.
“I am voicing this essential aspect of freedom, hoping that we can create a strong safety net together.”
I am an artist, a writer, a speaker, a dancer, a social activist, an environmentalist, an unabashed feminist, a lover of people, a lover of nature, a lover of peace.
There are other essential parts of me too that I often wait to tell people until they know me a little first. There is a part of me that goes to the core of my existence, that is precious to me, but is stillmisunderstood and taught widely to be fearedand mistrusted.
I am a lesbian—a woman whose deepest experiences in life are with other women. This is one of my greatest joys and a source of strength for me, but I don’treveal it right away because I don’t know yet what you have been taught.
To my global sisters, who have linked arms with me in our shared desire to end violence against women: The work that we are doing together is so critically important. I cannot bear the possibility of any barriers between us. I don’t want to lose any connections with you just because, ironically, my closeness to women is what is taught to be feared. I also don’t want to put you in any danger for associating with an 'out' lesbian.
But I must speak out. If you are surprised, you will now have a new context; if you are discriminated against, you will have an open ally; and anyone with questions will have someone very willing to answer them.
It is important to me to speak openly, from my own experience and from my heart. I belong to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and two-spirited (LGBTIQTS) community. All of us, in our own ways, are broadening understanding and proving that life is more complex and varied than we were taught.
I must speak out and identify myself so that I can work toward LGBTIQTS safety and freedom. I must speak out knowing all too well that my sisters are living through and dying from 'corrective rape', a brutal hate crime committed in an attempt to change someone's sexuality through sexual assault. I must speak out knowing that my brothers are thrown off rooftops for being, or for even being accused of being, gay.
I must speak out about the indignities my sisters and brothers face as they are forced to describe the most intimate details of their relationships to prove their refugee status when they are fleeing countries that would imprison or kill them.
I must speak out as I witness others of you in my cherished World Pulse community speaking out on this topic despite possible danger to yourselves. And I must speak out because I am in a privileged position to do so, while the vast majority of this community is not.
I have been 'out'since 1972. I have always cherished my freedom and knew early on that I was here to lead an unconventional life. I wasn’t lonely or unloved. I had plenty of offers of marriage from gentle, interesting, kind, and loving men. But between the ages of 19 and 22 I had a recurring dream that I had agreed to marry. This dream would immediately fill me with remorse and dread. In some of the dreams I ran out before the wedding dress was hemmed. In others, I would get halfway to the front of the ceremony, turn, and run. Always, I would jump in a car, drive off and go camping, wind blowing in my hair. It wasn’t until I accepted this dream as a message, that I found my way to the lesbian community.
We cannot all be “out”. Many have lost jobs, lost children, lost lives. I am writing this so that those without freedom to live their lives can find support, and so that all of us who want to be in touch can find and support each other. I have the safety to be able to speak openly, so I am voicing this essential aspect of freedom, hoping that we can create a strong safety net together, dispel the myths, and celebrate the wonder of all of our lives.
We have so much in common. Not all women who love other women are lesbians, but we all live in a world in which the deep love and trust between women is suspect, ridiculed, and all too often, severely punished. Not all unmarried women are lesbians, but as a lesbian, I am fully aware of how mistrusted an unmarried woman can be. Our society assumes that women who live without men have some deep fault, that we are dangerous, unloved, or that we are a threat.
The choice to live life unmarried to a man is still one of the basic human rights inaccessible to many women. There is so much resistance to women who live independently. Widows are thrown to the street, banished from communities, stripped of land and property, or locked up inside the house. Girls are threatened, tortured, injured, and even killed for wanting a modicum of freedom. I have met girls as young as 7 who knew they were headed for persecution. I have met women in their 90s who have had to hide.
Knowing how few women have any choice at all, I have consciously chosen to remain as independent and free as I can be. I have dedicated my life to creating change and working for our collective freedom and respect.
So many of us lesbians have been working in this way, not only for our own freedom, but for basic human rights for all. I welcome ideas on how to be sure that we include everyone in the work we are doing together. The very real and deep love that women have for each other is beautiful, powerful, and much needed as we work to heal a very broken and cruel society of people and a very damaged planet.
To this end, if you read about this important part of me and suddenly feelmistrust or feeltheneed to step back, I ask you to instead step forward. Ask questions, send me your thoughts, link arms even tighter. Now that you know me better, we can work more closely than ever together to free girls and women to make their own choices, to fully live their precious lives in exactly the way they choose.