And how dies the wise man? …as the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Compton Gage
I have chosen to use the terms lesbian existence and lesbian continuum because the word lesbianism has a clinical and limiting ring Lesbian existence suggests both the fact of the historical presence of lesbians and our continuing creation of the meaning of that existence I mean the term lesbian continuum to include a range—through each woman’s life and throughout history—of woman-identified experience; not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired genital sexual experience with another woman. If we expand it to embrace many more forms of primary intensity between and among women, including the sharing of a rich inner life, the bonding against male tyranny, the giving and receiving of practical and political support; if we can also hear in it such associations as marriage resistance and the ‘haggard’ behavior identified by Mary Daly (obsolete meanings ‘intractable,’ ‘willful,’ ‘wanton,’ and ‘unchaste’ a woman reluctant to yield to wooing’)—we begin to grasp breadths of female history and psychology that have lain out of reach as a consequence of limited, mostly clinical, definitions of ‘lesbianism.’Lesbian existence comprises both the breaking of a taboo and the rejection of a compulsory way of life It is also a direct or indirect attack on male right of access to women But it is more than these, although we may first begin to perceive it as a form of nay-saying to patriarchy, an act or resistance It has of course included role playing, self-hatred, breakdown, alcoholism, suicide and intrawoman violence; we romanticize at our peril what it means to love and act against the grain and under heavy penalties; and lesbian existence has been lived (unlike, say, Jewish or Catholic existence) without access to any knowledge of a tradition, a continuity, a social underpinning The destruction of records and memorabilia and letters documenting the realities of lesbian existence must be taken very seriously as a means of keeping heterosexuality compulsory for women, since what has been kept from our knowledge is joy, sensuality, courage and community, as well as guilt, self-betrayal and pain.
Adrienne Rich