The Fire that Forged Bravery
On the first day of school in 1992, when broke poets could still afford loft shares on Avenue B, Kelly Cogswell scrounged a subway token to get to the first-ever Lesbian Avengers action in Middle Village, Queens. Right-wing groups in New York had raged for months about the Children of the Rainbow Curriculum, a Board of Education-approved teaching resource with a few optional pages of gay-friendly content. In Middle Village, the epicenter of the rage, the newly organized Avengers appeared outside an elementary school with a brass band and lavender balloons imprinted “Ask about lesbian lives.”
In her memoir “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” Cogswell describes how awkward she felt, even as she pretended to act cool, like she did this kind of thing three or four times a week. She still cringed at the word “lesbian” and wouldn’t wear the T-shirt that said, “I was a lesbian child.” “Eating Fire” goes on to narrate a lifetime passion for street activism, performance, and lesbian visibility that often transforms the performer as much as the audience.