I Know My Own Heart: Anne Lister and Terry Galloway

In honor of Valentine’s week, an ode to a woman who loved madly and deeply and had “the sexual ethics of a bonobo,” to quote Emma Donoghue. So, Anne Lister (1791- 1840) may not have made the best girlfriend in Yorkshire, England but this daring “Gentleman Jack” sounds like a helluva lot of fun on a cold winter’s night. Independent and unapologetic, Lister was also an incredible diarist of over 4,000,000 words (in code no less!) chronicling, in part, her sexual conquests and loves.   I had never heard of this “first modern lesbian” until I was shown this marvelous little clip from the recent BBC movie based on her life The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister:

This is why I am an ardent Anglophile. Too bad the film isn’t available in the States and while the diaries themselves have been de-coded and edited, they sound like a bit of a slog.  The Story of O this is not. However, fascinating to dip into if only for quotes like this one:

“I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.”–Anne Lister, Journals, Oct 29, 1820

And, in the spirit of many conversations we’ve had in book club about the role of wealth in lesbian relationships and society at large: Anne Lister, like Natalie Barney, was independently wealthy through an inheritance. And without the security of that wealth who can say how she would have lived and loved?

As for Terry Galloway, she’s lived and loved with an intensity and angst indirectly proportional to her wealth. I’ve been reading Mean Little deaf Queer all week in anticipation of book club on Feb 28 and have a swirl of thoughts about: how it feels to be deaf, the importance of our own individual stories, the power of breath and words and the stage. I promise to become more coherent in the coming week.

For those also reading, a few good links to Terry’s website and her publisher’s with some recent posts and videos from Terry about her cochlear implant surgery and its impact on her. After her descriptions of speaking, I was so curious to finally hear her.

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