re-birth | nedjmam


"I write to
forget my name."

I was not born on November 6th, 1999 but almost ... Anyway this day a birthday for me because for the first time in a strictly lesbian context I was amongst so many lesbians from the Maghreb, and for most of them Algerian. Unusual situation for me whose lesbian circle was rather totally Caucasian, due to circumstances rather than choice. Yet, in a feminist surroundings, I already experienced the limits of the Caucasian feminist groups so that as soon as possible I preferred to act with (young) Womyn from the Maghreb, in organisations for Migrant womyn. If these groups gave me more satisfactions ... I felt alone as a lesbian, alone in this dominantly heterosexual circle because even if they were feminist organisations the lesbo/homophobia was latent.

My first lesbian experience learned me lately what by chance I lived so little, racism, classism, arabophobia combined with islamophobia, and of course the lesbophobia of the French society, despite a false discourse of "tolerance". This love affair surely started under the rags of exoticism. Both of us were feminist activists : she was fascinated and puzzled by the situation of Womyn under Islam. This should have alerted my vigilance. Blind by my intellectualism, I didn't recognise this attitude as exemplary of the point of view of the heiress of the Philosophy of Enlightenment the distant countries characterised by their so barbaric customs and practices !!! Since we had the same intellectual formation and academic cursus, both philosophers, I though her understanding was near mine. But what was undermining this relation but escaped from my acuteness was this gap ... produced by her socialisation, her education. It took me years to understand it well... with a lot of pain, because I had the refutation of all the French society and school delude/d us with, all this mystification that blinds us on ourselves, our story, the story of our parents/ancestors, and of the His/herStory in its whole. I had the illumination - to use their presumptuous terminology - a lucidity on this mystification, whereas the strangeness of my academic cursus kept me aloof from the confrontation to the reality. My parents, fierce and proud Algerians, after fighting so hard for the liberation of their Land, had to leave it for France in the sixties for economic reasons. In France, to keep their dignity, they worked hard to educate us even if my mother was a housekeeper, without any education and my father a worker in a fabric. Paradoxically, I was confronted to the harshness of this duplicity when I reached the highest in the academic cursus. Yet, in this cursus, the close characters were rarity : Nayla, daughter of an internationally known Tunisian sociologist ... Even if our familial social class separated us, we were sisters in the exchanges, in the sociability ...

A lot of my story takes sense by this unexpressed quest of something that will have to do with my sisters' laughter, my mother's humour, the womyn sensuality, this closeness of our body without modesty, these silences, these perfumes ... And on November 6th, I found what I was looking for without knowing it ... This gathering reconciled me with myself through these laughters, these sweet exchanges, shared this day. I'm not lapsing into a form of saintliness ... I don't deny that these relationships are also objects of the ordinary stories ... have they been friendship or love affairs. But these potlucks in a lesbian context are irreplaceable, precious, even more vital. Since this Group exists, since we organise some events - social, political, cultural - I still remain fascinated when I see all of us : all this/our beauty stands out so strongly. In this extend I may talk of a re-birth ... the sweetness of our language - even if some of us are so-called "Migria" to quote our cousins still living in the bled, in our motherland country - this language we can't share with no one else. It just reminds me of my own experience, when I first stayed in Algeria : so strange and exciting to be amongst my people, this sameness because we all speak the same language. Feeling to be free from so deep oppressions ...Feeling hat reminds me of the one experienced by the African American writer Maya Angelou when she was travelling for the first time in the Black African country, Ghana :

" ... a knot in my stomach, which had bunched all my remembered life, had unfurled. I realized I hadn't seen a white face for over an hour. The feeling was light and extremely strange." ( The Heart of A Woman )

Participate to my re-birth a second main element : my direct exchanges with Arab Lesbians when I was last spring in San Francisco, and our e-exchanges with Arab Lesbian all other the World. These two major events helped me to reduce the contradictions, the tensions, the dissatisfactions I may feel as an Algerian lesbian, descend from North-African migrants, born and grown in France, still living in France.

(Re) compose, negotiate these different levels of our social and subjective construction, keep together the links to our community, act with them in their struggles that remain deeply ours, and live our sexuality that more than a sexual practice questions and aims to subvert our heteropatriarcal, heterosexist and lesbo/homophobic societies. This is our deal, the challenge under which we submit our lives, when we intend to maintain all part of ourselves. Today the sign of (re)conciliation are numerous : our increasing number of groups, our international gatherings, organisation like El Fatiha that saves - in the deep meaning - a lot of us from a kind of schizophrenia, from the impossibility to make choices between these several parts of ourselves, our lives. We are at least VISIBLE in the public space as Arab, Muslim lesbians, gays, bi/trans/sexuals.

In a near past my pain wrung from me words like those I put on exergue of this text. Today I write to save my last name from the effacement, from the deformation it has so often be the object - from black polish to harissa ... sometimes even without any petty intention to mock .... I will end this text under the so meaningful ( for me in my process of life, of lesbian, of lesbian from forced migrations ), so powerful Warrior, fierce Woman so commitment in the struggles of black lesbians and lesbians of color, Audre Lorde :

"Zami. A Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers.
Once home was a long way off, a place I had never been to but knew out my mother's mouth. I only discovered its latitudes when Carriacou was no longer my home." Zami : A New Spelling of My Name.

"At the dawn of the words
in their identation

Paris, December 2001

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