While It’s Not Like I Knew Her is not autobiographical, I am roughly the same age as my protagonist, Jodie Taylor. And although I experienced none of the childhood brutalities she suffered, I knew the emotional and psychological burden of maintaining constant vigilance after having been labeled “peculiar”. Early in the book, an incident with a neighbor girl results in Jodie being told by her mother, Jewel, “Lord, baby girl, it’s starting to look like you’re going to need to take up far less space in this world. Double up on them clever lies you’re so damn good at. That’s if you figure on staying alive.”
As a teenager, I sat many an evening on pilings, watching the sun withdraw beyond St. Joseph Bay, and tried desperately to imagine a future from nothing at all. Everywhere I dared to search there were no stories that promised me a place in the world. My deepest longings were condemned as insane. I shared Jodie Taylor’s anger and despair, and her fear of being discovered.
So much of LGBTQ history has remained only with us, and I want to share our stories with others who wish to understand our history more completely. The damage of silence; our fears of sharing our lives, thus denying our full humanity, separating ourselves from those we are sure can’t love us. The result, I believe, is something akin to abandonment of self or soul. Jodie remarks that she made of herself a ghost. I have felt this, and I believe many others have as well.To deny our true self is to deny our full humanity.
Excerpted from interview with Judy Goodman, Jane’s Stories Press Foundation