Victoria Brownworth's now classic anthology “Coming Out Of Cancer” won a Lambda Literary Award in the anthology category in 2000 and even twelve years later is ground breaking in its own way. It's surprising in some way, that most people, whether they are gay, straight, male or female or the many varieties of those four things that people can be, don't realize that some of the most open early writing about cancer was done by the iconic and very much out lesbian, Audre Lorde in her “Cancer Journals.”Even as a person quite affected by cancer (I've lost two partners in a row to the disease and have been involved in health advocacy over the years) I didn't know that this was the case until relatively recently. And while I get annoyed with the book title's insistence that there is a lesbian cancer epidemic (this is simply not scientifically true) I understand why the author went with this hyperbole.
As inundated as we are with the “think pink” era that found everyone everywhere, walking, running, riding a bike, singing, drinking (yes I saw that fundraiser) to raise money for women's cancers, by which most people mean breast cancer, we've forgotten that when the Cancer Journals came out, less than three decades ago, no one was talking about cancer. No one was talking about any cancer. My grandmother, who had Hodgkins Disease in the 70s, never even said the word cancer. She only spoke of “those hard days” which I thought meant the Great Depression but now I realize meant when she undergoing chemotherapy.
This is why the stories in Coming out Of Cancer still seem so raw and fresh twelve years later. Relatively speaking, it's a conversation that has just begun.