Lesbian Phenomenology

tatiana de la tierra

Guadalajara, Mexico. This is the trip I’ve been waiting for. My first book has just been published — finally — and I am on a book tour to peddle my product, a lesbian poetic fantasy with a hot-pink lollypop cover ready to be licked by lesbian tongues.
why not admit that the tongue is the lesbian mascot?

A premiere showcase of authors, publishing houses, professionals, vendors and literary agents, and attended by over 400,000 people, the Guadalajara International Book Fair is the place to be if you have anything to do with the Spanish-language book industry. My book is in Spanish and English. It is a lesbian manifesto.

lesbian texts are passed from hand to hand and mouth to mouth between lesbians.

I’ve contacted lesbian groups in Guadalajara ahead of time, hoping to connect with local dykes, perhaps do a reading. I will be meeting with Diversiless, a new group with an artistic bent. Karla calls me at the hotel and we make arrangements to meet at 5 p.m. at the book fair the following day. I will be wearing red flower earrings, I tell her. I have curly hair and I am tall like a building.

I feel foolish standing around the food court, awaiting an unknown lesbian. Not that I haven’t done this plenty of times, though. Three cute young women approach me with curious eyes. Karla, Silena and Pola.

lesbian eyes contain the history that is never spoken and so they can ask questions and receive answers without a word.

We chat for a little while, have coffee. I like them a lot. They remind me of an earlier version of me, less jaded. They invite me for dinner the next day and pick me up at the hotel with more members of the group. Rosa Maria, an exotic dancer, is a charmer. Talks with her tits and rolls her eyes up in disgust. She is bitchy. Expressive. Sexy. Fun. Irma, her girlfriend, is quiet and serious. An accountant. We talk about lesbian groups, literature, recipes, music.

Diversiless has been together for around six months. Their name — diversity + lesbians — is fitting. They organize cultural events and want to participate in Mexico’s first dyke march, which will take place in Mexico City next year. They plan to publish a zine. They hope to be able to attend upcoming Latin American lesbian and feminist gatherings. Do it, I urge them, do it all.

lesbians persevere by repeating what they are: lesbians.

They’ve brought a digital camera and take turns taking pictures. Lisette photographs a glass of water with a slice of lemon in it. They have made arrangements for me to do a reading for them in Carmen’s artist studio. I’ve never met Carmen before, but I feel like I have.

The reading is on a Friday night on an outside patio. Pola, who is a poet herself, has read my book and introduces it in traditional academic Mexican style. I read beneath a lime tree. There is a dog who barks unless she is petted continuously, so people take turns petting her. There is a drunk dyke heckler whom everyone shushes. There are questions at the end, and a discussion. We hang out afterward into the night. I am beginning to have an odd pain in my lower back and mention this to Pola, who offers to come over the hotel the next day for a Reiki session. I say goodbye to everyone, genuinely glad to have met them and hoping to cross paths in the future.

what appears to be reality is broken.

Saturday begins with Pola hanging out with me on the king-size bed. We talk for hours in stream of consciousness about poetry and sadomasochism and Frida and Safuega and on and on. The little pain in my back is getting bigger all the while, and Pola does a healing energy session on me. I am anxious to get to the book fair. But I never make it.

Something else is happening, something I wasn’t planning on. The little pain gets eclipsed by chills, then a fever. Pola calls on other lesbians from the group, and they come throughout the day to take care of me. Later, I remember feeling each distinct muscle in my body on fire. I remember being swaddled in blankets, then being swathed with cold washcloths. I remember crying and grunting and being delirious and falling in and out of sleep all day. Karla and Adriana pack my suitcases for me. Irma and Rosa Maria get me a doctor and medicine and offer to take me to the airport for my flight out the next morning. It is a long day; it is a long night.

I smell sex in my hair when I awaken.

On Sunday, I am better, well enough to fly back to Buffalo, where I live. I remember why I went to Guadalajara — to promote my book. And I realize that even though I did meet with agents and publishers and vendors and librarians, it was the Diversiless dykes who took care of me like family, who stayed with me throughout the trip back, and who will remain with me from here on.
the tribe is where we always find each other, always search for each other: where we unite.

All italicized text is from For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology/Para las duras: Una fenomenología lesbiana by tatiana de la tierra (Calaca Press, Chibcha Press, 2002)

1 de enero de 2003, buffalo, nueva york

Originally published:

de la tierra, tatiana. “Lesbian Phenomenology.”  Curve Apr. 2003:  41