Beatrice | Life Stories #76: Kelly Cogswell
In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I interview memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, I’m joined by Kelly Cogswell, one of the earliest members of the first chapter of the Lesbian Avengers, founded in New York City in 1992. In Eating Fire, she talks about how this activist group sought not only to instigate improved conditions for lesbian women, but to transform the way they viewed themselves—one of the reasons she decided to become involved, she says, was to bring herself to become more comfortable with identifying as a lesbian:
“It was hard to come out. I didn’t have any trouble really accepting that I liked girls, but understanding what society thinks of you once you kind of accept it yourself, and want to publicly be yourself? That’s a different ball game. It’s hard.”
In our conversation, Cogswell and I discuss the issues and campaigns that brought the Lesbian Avengers together, as well as the internal conflicts that derailed the New York chapter’s momentum even as the organization itself was attracting members around the world—and how what was partially intended as a handbook for organizing direct action campaigns using the Avengers’ work as a historical example took on an increasingly personal component. We also talk about what’s changed for lesbians and the rest of the LGBT community in the two decades since the Avengers assembled, and why things like Russia’s homophobic repressions and Alec Baldwin’s insults matter.